EUROPEOutreach to the Homeless Shelter
Following on from the example of Pope Francis who constantly encourages followers of Jesus to look for ways to reach out to those on the margins of Church and society, the parish community in Quex Road, Kilburn, London, have taken upon themselves the task of helping at a homeless shelter in the next parish in Cricklewood.
We began by providing food one night a week, but this soon spread through an appeal in the Quex Bulletin. The generosity of people in Kilburn is outstanding. Now, we, as a parish, support Ashford Place, three nights a week, each night having its own team. There is a great atmosphere in the kitchen and in the dining room as we work together in cleaning plates, chopping vegetables, slicing chickens, frying sausages or hamburgers as we try to make a meal for the group of between 17 to 27 men and women.
Every Sunday evening the young people from Quex Youth Club and the Confirmation Group join in and help to prepare the food. It is fabulous to see the young people making such a fantastic contribution to the project. Some nights after the meal has finished and we have cleaned up with the residents, we have arts and craft classes, play bingo, take part in guitar classes or just sit around and sign together. Some of the nights the young people prepare some homemade cakes to share at the end of the meal.
With the support of the staff at Ashford Place the residents are helped to find rented accommodation and, if possible, employment as soon as possible. This means that there is a high turnover of residents at the Centre. It is great to see former residents coming back to join us for a meal.
The residents come from many countries and therefore speak many languages. At times the group is predominately Muslim and this means that the majority of the food has respect their rituals and customs. What is really striking each evening is how grateful the men and women are to the volunteers. They really appreciate that people they don’t know would go out of their way to feed them and befriend them.
The parishioners at Church donate the money each week to cover the costs of buying the food. There is a real sense of the faith community supporting this venture. This is a practical way of us reaching out to those on the margins of our community whilst making a difference in this Year of Mercy and helping to keep the flame of faith alive. (Fr. Terry MURRAY in Oblate Connections, February 2016)
Each Oblate community of the Polish Province has its own schedule of celebrations to mark the Congregations’ bicentenary. Three of them – the Provincial House in Poznan, the scholasticate in Obra and professors’ community in Warsaw – commemorated the first community of Aix-en-Provence in a particular way.
At Obra, on Sunday, January 24, after each Eucharist the parishioners and the MAMI communities were welcomed in the scholasticate cloister. There, they were offered cake and coffee. The Oblates were around to chat with guests and express personally their joy of 200 years of Oblate history. MAMI members stayed with us also for lunch and enjoyed the traditional afternoon recreation with the community.
The next day, January 25, upon entering the refectory, we found a touching symbol: two barrels and a piece of wood on top of them, clearly resembling the Founder’s recollection of the first days in Aix. Everybody could sign a petition to the vicar capitulars with an old style pen, presumably similar to the one used by Saint Eugene. There was also a small exhibition of original texts written by the Oblates in 1816 and photographs of our mother house in Aix.
In the afternoon of January 25, the whole scholasticate community went to the provincial house in Poznan, where the main liturgical celebration took place, with the auxiliary bishop of Poznan presiding (the archbishop couldn’t be with us as he was at that time on an official visit at the Vatican). The main celebrant was accompanied by Father Provincial, his administration and council and all the superiors of the Oblate communities in Poland. In the homily, the bishop referred to many aspects of Oblate spirituality which he perceives embodied in daily collaboration and help offered to the local church.
The Eucharist was broadcast worldwide by the Polish Catholic TV station and it was followed by several hours of conversations and interaction with the listeners of Catholic Radio. The Fathers gathered in an improvised studio at the Provincial House presented different aspects of Oblate history, spirituality and current involvements and were ready to answer any questions. It was touching to receive many phone calls from listeners who had a chance to meet the Oblates in one place or another and had warm words of appreciation for their witness of religious life.
A month later, on February 25, the professors from Oblate community in Warsaw organized a symposium on Oblate missions, with the active participation of the majority of the Polish Oblates involved in higher learning. The symposium was held at the Cardinal Wyszynski Catholic University, where the Oblates hold various teaching positions, especially in psychology, philosophy, patristics and missiology.
The day began with the Eucharist and then the participants proceeded to a comfortable conference hall. A series of papers was given concerning Oblate missions in each continent, as well as the charism of the Founder and Oblate missionary spirituality. Since the missionary themes were numerous, the last talk given by a professor from the Congregation of the Divine Word turned into an extremely kind appreciation of Oblate contributions to the development of missiology in Poland. Among many distinguished guest were the authorities of the Faculty of Theology, the director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the director of the Polish section of "Aid to the Church in Need” foundation, as well as several friends and collaborators, including professors, local pastors and sisters of religious congregations with whom the Warsaw Oblates are involved in their ministry. Everyone received as a gift the book published by the organizers of the symposium, with most of the conferences already printed and some extra texts concerning Oblate history. (Frs. Marcin WRZOS and Pawel ZAJAC)