Danny is National President of the YCW. Before this he worked with the Diocese of Westminster’s renewal project and was also employed in parish work. Danny is now freelance, working with dioceses and organisations to help them in their mission. Danny is co-founder of Million Minutes, which works to support projects that enable young people to transform their lives and their world, putting Catholic Social Teaching into practice.
Where does your commitment to justice and peace come from?
I was three years old when Pope John Paul II came to the UK, but without doubt it was this visit that laid the foundations for my work for justice. In Lincoln, where the family lived at the time, the parish set up a ‘Response Group’ as a response to the Papal visit. I was allowed to attend this Response group from the age of about twelve. The group met in houses to reflect on life and on how faith integrates with it. We lived our response in our own daily lives, and in our group activity of raising awareness and money for the terrible situation in Ethiopia following the famines of the 1980s. Reflecting now, I can see that the Response group in Lincoln was a great example of how a church can be vibrant and welcoming, living out its faith in life and fulfilling our common mission to work for the Kingdom in the world. It is that vision I have continued to strive to work for.
What for you are the most important areas of concern today?
Ten years ago I was walking with a priest friend in Manchester talking about life, the universe and everything. We got onto the subject of the Young Christian Workers (YCW), which at that point I knew very little about. He was then the YCW diocesan chaplain in Salford and from what he had seen he had become convinced that this could potentially be the method of re-evangelising the young people of our country. I realise now that this was one of the most important conversations I have ever had and was the beginning of an incredible journey. My journey over the last ten years with YCW, including five years as the National President has led me to see the reality of our own countries in the UK. I feel called to draw attention to and respond to is the situation of the poor here at home. There are plenty of people working for the poor across the world. For me, I hope I can be a positive voice, keeping the UK poor, especially our young people, on the agenda for our Church and for our civic leaders.
What sustains you in your commitment?
There are two main reasons why I keep going in this work and cannot see myself doing anything else. First, I have a deep rooted vision of how life can and should be, obviously inspired by faith and the vision of the Kingdom in the Gospels. Secondly, I’ve seen glimpses of where this vision has become a reality. Knowing that our work makes a difference, that the vision can be fulfilled, is what draws me on. I have great hope for the fruits of my work. I am aware of course that at times the work will only come to fruition years later, and I may not see it. This does not dampen my enthusiasm, in fact it gives me great hope, for it gives me the great comfort that ultimately its not in my hands but in God’s.
What are your hopes for a Church like ours in the 21st Century?
The Church is amazing. We are so easily led into conversations and thinking about the Church which become negative and pessimistic. But, when we stop and think, it is just awe inspiring. The Church at home and abroad is the most unique institution doing so much good and contributing to building just and fair societies throughout the world. I was recently in South Africa, part holiday, part work, and in both my relaxation and my involvement in a Church project out there, I saw a vibrant, beautiful Church, offering hope and joy to their country. I see this wherever I go; in the people and the faith stories of those I meet. My hope is simply that more and more people, especially those lay people involved in Justice and Peace, will resist the temptation to be negative, but rather celebrate the Church we are part of, realise we are all part of the problems with it, as well as the joys, and with great gratitude to God work to be a sign of hope and joy to the world.