Citizens UK Catholic Socialist Teaching Conference

17 October 2014

Conference Room Abstract – photo by Tanakawho

Our Outreach / Development volunteer, Eva, attended a conference on Catholic Socialist Teaching earlier this month. She shared with us about the occasion.

It was exciting to attend Tuesday’s 8 October Citizens UK event on Catholic Socialist Teaching, hosted at Trinity School in Woodford, in Northeast London. The day brought together Catholic and Jewish community groups, with a Conference on Catholic socialist teaching in the morning, and solidarity action with Jewish groups in the afternoon, asking Redbridge Council to take in five vulnerable refugees from Syria.
The Conference was opened by Dr Paul Doherty, Head-teacher at Trinity school, who reminded us that Catholic socialist teaching is, in essence, written in the Gospel, calling upon the individual to destroy the old love of self and create a new love of the other. Catholic socialist teaching, like the Gospel, asks us to make a social action of involvement with the other.
After tea, we broke up in two groups. I joined the group of Sophie Stevens from Citizens UK, who made a short presentation of what it means to be a Leader. Sophie asked each of us to list one quality to describe a Leader. We came up with many: organised, active, passionate, team-oriented, firm, communicative, well-groomed, fair, courageous, creative, compassionate, patient, cooperative, articulate, trusted, listener, funny, soft-spoken, determined, outspoken, humble, intelligent… and concluded that no one person would possess all, but possibly some of these traits. Sophie concluded that since nobody is perfect, the only definition of a Leader is “somebody who has a following”. That was encouraging news, all of us in the room could be a Leader, as long as we had a following !
St Anne’s Catholic School Sixth Form students then presented a case study: the students had put together a listening campaign to understand the complaints by members in their community. The elderly in the community especially had felt intimidated by the students, and the poll made the students aware that together, each individual action of giving up a seat on the bus, or speaking with a quiet voice, could make a change in the community and in the perception of the school as a whole.
Before lunch, Citizens UK presented its Manifesto for Civil Society, inviting schools, faith communities, unions and voluntary organisations to participate in public life in anticipation of next year’s general election. After salad and pizza, Mgr Armitage offered the closing address, reflecting on the significance of Catholic socialist teaching for the Catholic and the wider community, as a tool to make a change. Finally, Daniel Macintosh of Citizens UK invited all present, to join in the afternoon action with Bet Tikvah, a Jewish community organisation, marking the Jewish festival of Sukkoth. The action was local, showcasing several tents outside Bet Tikvah synagogue, illustrating the living conditions of refugees and asking Jas Athwal, the Leader of Redbridge Council, to accommodate five highly vulnerable Syrian refugees. I’m afraid I missed this last bit, as I headed home with the national representative of St Vincent de Paul Society, musing that the day had been one full of inspiration, encouraging us to work with others, and join in solidarity to defend the cause of the poor and the wretched.

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