New Middlesbrough Diocese Group Makes A Quick Impact

A few months back we reported that - after almost a decade away from having a group presence in Middlesbrough Diocese - the YCW has successfully formed a new group in St Patrick’s Catholic College, Thornaby. This followed the appointment of former YCW member, Damian McCann, as Deputy Head of the school and a visit up to the area from the National Team earlier this year.

Since then, the young leaders within the Group have been working hard to understand the SEE-JUDGE-ACT Method of the YCW and participate in enquiries and reviews of life. There are now 9 young leaders being trained through this and they have already begun to live out the actions called for in the Gospels.

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The first action focused on homelessness and followed a discussion around what is would feel like to be alone and away from family at Christmas time. In response, the Group have been supporting the Salvation Army raise money and awareness by holding a competition for the best ginger bread house. There was also a bake sale organised to add further funds for the charities’ work in this area.

In addition, the Group visited a local care home to have afternoon tea with the residents. The young leaders took time to reflect on this experience and understand the importance of taking time to visit those who are lonely.

One young person said: “Walking to the care home I was nervous, but when I got there I felt very welcomed.” Another added: “I was scared to go in, but I was fine when I started talking to them.” There was also a lot of fun during the event as the young people shared what music they are fans of and got the residents to join in. One young leader described this saying: “I think it is great that we get to share what is popular today with the older generation. I loved the trip and want to go again. The stories were great!”

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Finally, the Group looked at Matthew 25 and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. They explored what this meant around the issue of hunger. As part of the CAFOD harvest campaign, the Group collected for the harvest festival, made and sold soup during lunchtimes and made lunch for parishioners/parents. All this raised £192 for CAFOD.

COMECE Report Out On “Shaping the Future of Work”

During the Commission of the Bishop’s Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) organised inter-religious conference “Shaping the Future of Work”, Mgr. Antoine Hérouard, President of the COMECE Social Affairs Commission, officially presented the reflection on the changes in the labour world, encouraging the EU to shape the digital and ecological transformations of our economy and society aiming to the common good.

The conference was held at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 27 November 2018.

The report is the result of a year long process of consultation and dialogue that started in November 2017 with representatives of the European institutions and Catholic-inspired organisations and representatives of young European Christian workers movements – including the Young Christian Workers. 

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The COMECE document suggests 17 policy recommendations that range from the promotion of international labour standards and the social economy to special provisions on tax justice and workers in transition. Some of these include:

1) Ensure decent working conditions in all forms of employment: Workers should be entitled to a core set of enforceable rights, including health and safety protection, access to mandatory training and information, and access to adequate social protection.

2) Facilitate the exchanges of good practice on decent working hours: With the spread of mobile work devices a culture has developed of permanent availability. The EU should secure working hours that respect health and human dignity and include a “right to disconnect”.

3) Rethinking the notion of education: In childhood and youth, education lays the foundation for a self-determined life, but in a rapidly changing world of work it should become the constant element of working life. The European Commission should promote life-long learning schemes and assess the possibility of introducing personal learning accounts that workers could use to pay for education and retraining.

 Click the picture to download a copy of the Executive Summary with all 17 recommendations.

Click the picture to download a copy of the Executive Summary with all 17 recommendations.

Quoting the reflection paper, Mgr. Hérouard identified the challenges in the current shift and called the EU and its Member States to take the ecological and digital transition as an opportunity and to shape both trends towards a common European vision of a decent, sustainable and participative world of work for all.

During the conference, Mgr. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, President of COMECE, highlighted the role of work as an integral part of human identity and instrument to care for Creation and stated that “religions are called to remind Europe that our society is composed by human persons, not by statistics”.

The conference was co-organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the EESC, COMECE and its faith-based partners as a contribution to the recently launched ILO centenary initiative on the future of work.

The event gathered more than 200 persons from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths with the participation of Mairead McGuinness, First Vice-President of the European Parliament, Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee, Heinz Koller, ILO Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and MEPs Claude Rolin (EPP) and Patrizia Toia (S&D).

Sandbach IMPACT Group Prepares For Advent

As we begin the season of Advent, some of our Groups are using the time to support their parishes and develop their own leadership skills and confidence in organising events.

Joseph Cardijn placed a strong emphasis on young people engaging in Parish life, saying: “You don't find leaders—you form them. I am convinced that this first leader can be found in every parish in the world."

In Sandbach, the IMPACT! group decided to host Ecumenical Vespers for the first Sunday in Advent, making the parishioners feel welcome and encourage them to make time for prayer in the run up to Christmas.

As part of the day, the young leaders also helped with the catering and worked together to bake a number of mince pies. It was a learning experience!

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They also took part in the readings and prayers in church, which was a helpful way to get them involved and build upon their confidence in speaking in public and at Mass.

Fr John Marsland, National Chaplain of the YCW in England and Wales, said: “This is an excellent way of developing the young people into more confident leaders, who realise the benefits of working together to help others. It also connects their actions with a greater understanding of our shared faith, where so many find the inspiration to be the difference in their local areas.”

Oldham YCW Group ACTS To Support Local Women's Refuge

Since the creation of the new Oldham YCW Group in September, the young leaders have been working through a range of activities, including the SEE-JUDGE-ACT Method, to see how best they can be the difference in their local community.

To begin with, the Group took time to explore what issues are being faced in the area and used this information to begin a discussion about what other, more established, YCW Groups are doing across England and Wales.

Marc Besford, National Training and Development Worker, attended the initial meetings of the Group to help assist the young people get a deeper understanding of the movement and how it works. He was able to feed in a range of examples and this helped the Oldham Group steer their discussions during the SEE stage.

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Once the SEE stage was completed, the Group then turned to Matthew’s Gospel and the parable of the Sheep and the Goats to help them JUDGE how best they could respond to the variety of local issues raised during the SEE discussions. This passage of Matthew calls us to care for “the least of our brothers and sisters” because in doing so, it is as if we are caring for Jesus himself.

This call to help the poorest and most vulnerable inspired the Group to focus on how they can take concrete action to answer God’s message. However, it also gave them the opportunity to see where their impact could best be felt. This meant they wanted to find something that perhaps hasn’t received as much support as others.

Ultimately, the Group decided that they would help their local Women’s Refuge - a place where women and their children can take refuge when they are suffering from domestic violence and abuse. These refuges are vital lifelines for many women and in the run-up to Christmas, many victims will have to spend time away from family and friends in order to stay safe.

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The Group have now decided that they will collect items and put together some Christmas stockings for the local refuge. They are appealing for items at Church and hoping to deliver these gifts in the run up to Christmas.

Fr John Marsland, National Chaplain and Parish Priest of the Group’s parish, welcomed the Group’s first campaign, saying: “The efforts of the Group are a real inspiration and show how young people can used their leadership qualities to make a big difference in the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable. It is not just the gifts the Group will be giving that are important, it is the demonstration of love and compassion that they are showing that is truly important.”

YCW Attends Annual Conference Of GEPO

The European Group for Workers’ Pastoral Care (GEPO) met in Manchester between the 15th-17th of November for its annual conference to discuss topics around the theme of the Conference: “Social Europe, Workers’ Movements and Social Dialogue - A Common Vision for the European Social Foundation.”

The YCW were invited to attend the conference and represent a perspective of young workers in the overall discussions, which were themselves guided over the Conference days by the SEE-JUDGE-ACT method.

Day 1 - focusing on the SEE stage - included an introduction to the topic of social rights within Europe and a presentation from a British perspective on the current challenges being faced by workers in many industries today. Representatives from the GMB union highlighted the growing concerns about conditions within workplaces like Amazon and the gig economy.

Following this was a visit to the Co-Op HQ in Manchester, where presentations were given on the strengths of co-operative working and the positive contributions that co-operative ways of working have had on social rights.

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The following day used the JUDGE approach to look at several aspects around the development of a common social doctrine and future of European harmonisation. Three workshops were set up to allow more time to focus on several important issues, including: social dialogue, minimum wage and the balance between work and personal life.

During these workshops our National Training and Development Worker, Marc Besford, was asked to speak on the issues facing many young people across Europe. He outlined how the challenges of Brexit, Zero-Hour Contracts and young people unable to find a permanent posts are growing issues of concern. He also raised the increasing need to discuss the current state of young people’s mental health.

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On the final day, which looked at the ACT phase of the method, the conference began to map out their strategy for a common approach to their work across Europe. This began by setting out the various networks that each delegate could plug into, drawing on our partnerships and allies across the various movements and organisations.

The subsequent action was to decide upon a joint declaration of what the GEPO conference would deliver as an outcome and how this could lead to further collaboration in future. A central part of the conference declaration was the call for an agreement on “decent and good working conditions for each citizen, conditions that will allow everyone to enjoy a high degree of protection, to be able to participate in all aspects of social life and to aspire for themselves and their families to a happy life.”

This core tenant of a social Europe will need to be reinforced through a variety of other actions, including: meeting political parties to discuss European social rights; commit to using these rights to base future policies; mobilise and train members across Europe to join the campaign; encourage campaigning in European elections and make a firm commitment to the weakest and most vulnerable.

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Marc commented on the 3-day conference, saying: “This was a fantastic event to be part of and I was happy to be asked to speak up on behalf of young people and the many challenges they face. There is a lot of turbulence across Europe at the moment and the future of social rights need to be at the top of the agenda. Thank you to Kevin Flanagan and all those who helped organise the conference.”

MIND! The Gap National Action - Garden Project

As part of the “ACT” stage of our national campaign called MIND! The Gap, which focuses on young people and mental health, we are soon to be launching the first part of our response as a National Team.

Increasingly, mental health is closely linked to the whole question of the environment and communities we inhabit, a point that Pope Francis makes in “Laudato Si’” in relation to social media: “Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.”

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It is this melancholy and anxiety that we hoped to draw attention to and alleviate in our “Mind! The Gap” campaign. But it has also made our National Team reflect on how we use all of our resources – including the HQ – to create genuine and thriving communities.

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We have analysed the responses to our online survey and the suggestions regarding how we can raise awareness about mental health. Therefore, out of this project, one of the things we are exploring is a practical scheme to transform the garden which surrounds our HQ into a place of relaxation, peace and community for the workers, parishioners, young people in the area and all YCW members.

As you may know, our HQ is currently in the centre of Europe’s biggest industrial park, next to a busy daytime shopping parade, with effectively no communal green spaces to use. In many ways it can best summarised by Pope Francis’ description of our cities as “huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water (in which) neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.”

We are hoping that the garden will become an oasis of tranquillity and a space for reflection in the midst of a busy world. We would like to remind people that “Work should be the setting for rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God.” (Laudatio Si, 127)”

We would also see the growing garden and allotment aspects of this project as a unique opportunity to engage more deeply with former parishioners of St Antony’s, many of whom still regularly visit the site and have expressed their support for and willingness to help with the proposals.

Equally, we have had tremendous support from the local parish of St Ann’s (Stretford) who have helped fund some of our early survey work.

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St John Paul II reflected in his encyclical “Salvifici Doloris” on the topic of suffering, offering a hopeful view that there can be value, worth and purpose in suffering: “Whoever suffers from mental illness always bears God’s image and likeness in himself, as does every human being. In addition, he always has the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”

As well as this, within the YCW we have plenty of former members who live locally and are looking for ways to help support our movement, including grounds maintenance and fundraising.

Finally, with our growing number of groups we have plans to use our HQ more regularly for training and activities with you, our volunteers and young members. Alongside this project we are also looking at exploring other ways in which we can make a difference and use your passion and commitment to help young people who are suffering from mental health within your communities.