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Invitation to Mission: Growing our Lives Here

By Mark Brown and with his wife Claudia are friends of the Columbans and they have visited Columban projects in Peru.

8 July 2016:

Daily Mass was available again for those wanting to participate and it was, as the previous ones had been, a thought-provoking, spiritual way to start your day.

After breakfast, we all went to meet the staff at St Columban’s. These energetic and faith-filled people work hard behind the scenes allowing the Fathers, Lay ministers and volunteers to go about their daily projects.

Back to the meeting room we met with Ellen Teague of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation team of the British region, who discussed Laudato Si’ and its impact. Some of the discussion topics included: looking at the environmental impact of climate change on people, and not just the economy; how caring for the Earth is an important part of Catholic Social Teaching; climate change is human-induced; our “throwaway” mentality, loss of biodiversity, global inequality and social breakdown.

Ellen’s talk was divided into two parts, between and after which we were allowed to reflect on the discussion topics and asked to “show” our reflection through some form of art (painting, drawing, writing, etc). During these two reflection periods we were allowed to go anywhere on the grounds of St Columban’s. It was a beautiful experience and a time of solitude to reflect, not only on Ellen’s topic, but the week so far in the UK. A wonderful opportunity.

We had a feast for lunch (lamb, potatoes, carrots, dessert, etc) and were invited to share the meal with the Columban Fathers from the house, as well as Fr Sean McDonagh, Ellen and Fr Sean Dwan. The discussions around the various tables were very good.

The afternoon found us at Hope Garden, a home for destitute asylum seekers, where we met Mary, a volunteer. She is a very lively and spirited woman who deeply cares about the women seeking help. We had the opportunity to get our hands, faces, hair and clothing dirty or painted on.

Our projects included painting a fence, cleaning up the “rubbish”, trimming/cutting the hedges, cleaning out the shed and general tidying up. We were blessed with a wonderful treat of tea, scones and fresh raspberries picked from the garden.

One of the ladies present had lived at Hope Garden many years ago and told us her story. She continues to come to the house and meets with others, usually on Wednesdays, to work in the garden, have tea, talk and laugh. One comment she made stuck with everyone there: “We are growing our lives here.” So, the impact of this place on those it touches was very apparent to us.

Following our “work”, we visited Mauricio and Nathalie’s “allotment”, a garden area they have along with many other families. Their area was full of amazing vegetable plants and a few fruit trees. It was a nice place and Mauricio says it has a way of calming him after hectic work days.

After that we went to their house for pizza and a discussion led by Fr Martin Newell, CP, about his climate activist actions. All-in-all, another wonderful day seeing all parts of what the Columbans are involved with here in the UK.