Open meeting: 2 March 2013 – Milton Keynes

‘I will hold your people in my heart’

We began with a beautiful and contemplative prayer service prepared by Maureen Borbone, Luton, Northampton Diocese, who hosted this meeting. It perfectly set the stage, preparing us for a rich and informative day.

There were two short presentations, the first of which was an overview, presented by Teresa Wiseman, of the activities of the Northampton Diocese Justice and Peace Commission, based in Leighton Buzzard. This Commission was originally formed in 1986 and they, with the support of Bishop Peter Doyle, serve a rural diocese that have a Catholic population of about 3%. Their activities included among many others, support for Palestine, soup kitchens, fundraising, Fairtrade, support for Cafod’s ‘IF’ campaign, food banks etc.

Maire Hayes DHS, followed with a short resume of the activities of ‘Grassroots’, a Christian organisation in Luton, where she works in the capacity of the Spirituality of Justice, in the field of Inter‐faith. Luton is a multi‐ethnic and faith community, with e.g., 47 Mosques, and this alone highlights the reality of the many challenges this work represents. Maire is also the Diocesan Representative for Inter‐faith and the Religious representative member on the NJPN Executive. With Maureen Borbone, Maire has also been responsible for the success of Luton as the first Town to receive ‘Fairtrade’ status.

After these short but impressive presentations we were then treated to an excellent insight into ‘The Future of Europe’ by Bishop William Kenny CP, Birmingham, who gave a passionate and enthusiastic overview of the history and development of the EU (European Union), and the chequered relationship that Britain has and continues to have in Europe. He is both a member of COMECE, the Commission of the Conference of Catholic Bishops on the European Union, and of Caritas Europe. He has extensive experience of the workings of the EU and of Britain’s tenuous relationship within it. He treated us to a potted history of the beginnings and founding philosophy of the Union, which grew out of a passionate desire after the 1st and 2nd World Wars, and possibly effected by Catholic Social Teaching at the time that the World should never again go to war. Consequently Europe formed a Union based on the intention of Peace . This was a successful peace plan as the countries of Europe have not since experienced War.

The EU Peace Project is based on two things: knowledge of each other, and dependence on one another. This means that peace has to be worked at still:

We need to educate our people for peace.

Take part and responsibility in the society we belong to.

The project requires social cohesion.

And a recognition of the spiritual aspects of life.

Bishop William went on at great lengths to develop these themes and drew us in to an amazing insight into the depth of the problems but also the possibilities of a successful European enterprise. We were nearly brought to our knees in homage to him for the gift of his knowledge and appraisal of the ‘beast’ we call ‘Europe’. His honest assessment is that we will reject it at our peril!

The rest of the day was spent Networking, Notices, Events and Campaigns, NJPN business, and questions.

This was my first experience of the local face of NJPN and my overall impression was of respect and admiration for a group of intelligent women and men who are doing precisely those things in and for our society that Bishop William had described as imperative in and for the European project to survive, and which the title NJPN represents. It is crucial and critical for the future health of society here in Britain that you exist. You should be thoroughly proud of yourselves and I am not one bit surprised that you are seen as a threat by our Bishops!

I’d like to add how proud I was of the contribution made by the Northampton Diocese Representatives who generously and graciously hosted the event. Thank you.

Jackie Gleeson (Loreto, IBVM)