Anne is the Chair of NJPN. She has been involved in justice and peace work for over 30 years, having served on the J&P Commissions in Nottingham and in Hallam diocese.
Where do you think your commitment to justice and peace comes from?From people, shared experiences and from opportunities fo continuing education. I have been shaped by relationships with people who have loved me, by those who have shared my life experiences, by inspirational teachers, as well as the many men and women whose daily work for justice and peace is a model for us all. My first and most influential teachers were my parents. Memories from my early childhood include praying the Rosary together as a family, my father going to Mass before going to work, never passing by the Church without calling in to light a candle and say a short prayer. My mother died when I was in my early teens having been ill for a couple of years and I still have the daily prayer routine that she wrote for herself, a sort of personal office. She was a strong and faithful woman. My father was a man of few words and my introduction to Catholic Social Teaching came when I discovered a copy of Rerum Novarum on his bookshelf and he talked to me about the rights and responsibilities of working people and how he tried to put his beliefs into practice in his place of work. My parents instilled in me the importance of education and I am so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. It was in my convent school that I was first introduced to the ‘see, judge and act’ approach to social action. It was some years later whilst part of the North Derbyshire Justice and Peace Group that I became involved with Pax Christi, Amnesty International and CAFOD, campaigning against apartheid and the development of nuclear weapons. The Vatican Council documents Gaudium et Spes and Pacem in Terris called us to work towards a more just and peaceful world for all people. The sense of purpose and solidarity of those early years of my J&P life remains with me. At that time I wrote of my belief that concern for others was an important part of my Christian life – as if it was a choice. I now know that if I dare to say ‘I believe’ then there is no choice, the Gospel message is a call to work for justice and peace. I have spent my working life in education and that has been a wonderful gift. I was able to explore the development of religious education as experiential rather than only instructional, faith as dynamic and changing as in the work of James Fowler and this, together with the opportunity to study Scripture has been life changing. Discovering the great themes of the Old Testament and the words of Jesus calling us to follow Him have made sense of the sometimes frantic J&P activity and placed it where it should be – at the centre of the journey in faith and hope. Those teachers, who over the years have shared their knowledge and their faith, have inspired me more than they will ever know.
What for you are the most important areas of concern today?
A major concern would be the isolation of so many people within a society where communication should be so easy— vulnerable and lonely people, those who are seen not to fit in, or who because of past experience feel worthless and ignored, people whose human dignity is diminished with little hope of transforming their lives.
The inequality within our society is a concern, where the effects of our economic difficulties are being felt disproportionately by those least able to manage. Just as worrying is the seeming inability of the decision makers to recognise this reality. Another area of concern is aggressive nationalism which threatens the stability of our world and thwarts the efforts of peacemakers, as well as the continuing lack of a resolution for the Palestinian people. Equally important is the lack of respect for the natural world and the impact of our lifestyles on future generations
What sustains you in your commitment?
What sustains me is that sense of solidarity which comes from being part of a network whose members share a vision of a world where all people live with dignity and at peace with themselves and their environment. I am sustained by feeling the presence of God in the power of His creation, by the sea and in the hills, through music and the written word. Most of all I am sustained by the time I spend with my family and close friends even though our opinions may differ. I am called to worship God in spirit and in truth and many years ago I was told never to be afraid to say what I believe to be true. There have been and continue to be many times when I wished I had the courage to follow that advice. The Scriptures show us very clearly that the presence of God is to be found in the poor and disadvantaged, in the unclean and unwanted and that we are called to be open and non-judgemental. There are many people striving to live out the Gospel message in their daily lives and their example inspires and sustains me.
What are your hopes for a Church like ours in the 21st Century?
My hope would be that my Church could be a place of welcome and rest for all, an inclusive community where the vocation of each member was recognised and celebrated in a liturgy relevant to those it served. My Church would be a place of reflection but also a beacon of hope shining the light of Christ as it reached out to others and became a voice for the voiceless. The Gospel message would be proclaimed in a way that would challenge the listener to confront the unjust structures in our society. My Church would empower lay men and women equally by providing opportunities for continued education through Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching. The spirit of the living God would flow freely. We would truly be the people of God living out our Baptismal promises. We must continue to hope and pray.