It is now almost exactly 12 yrs ago when we introduced and adopted our Parish Covenant with the Poor. It followed the signing in 1997 by our then Bishop Cormac of a diocesan-wide covenant which in turn was inspired by Pope John Paul’s letter calling for a commitment to overcome ‘intolerable social and economic inequalities in the new millennium.’ The Bishops then called for all Parishes to draw up their own Covenants and St Marys Covenant with the Poor was dedicated in March 2001 at a special Mass where our then PP Canon Tony Clarke signed it on our behalf. So on this Poverty Sunday it seems a good idea to review it.
Our Covenant pledges the parish to place concerns for the poor at home & abroad at the centre of our Christian life. It has 5 headings which provide an opportunity for all of us to express our concern in one way or another. It says that we will endeavour
- To become informed of the causes and reality of Poverty The media gives us headlines and graphic pictures of famine & suffering but perhaps we need to know more about the facts behind them.
- To bring to the Lord in our worship and prayer the needs of the poor. – Of course Prayer is essential in all we do.
- To encourage our young people to learn, pray and act always in the interest of the poor. When made aware young people can bring terrific commitment & enthusiasm to social issues.
- To give generously of our money & resources for the poor. Our parish has always been most generous in its’ financial giving whether its fast days, special appeals or giving to projects. But we also need to be generous with our time and it’s the last heading that can sometimes be seen as difficult and controversial.
- To challenge injustice through political & Social action in the light of the gospel & the church’s social teaching.
There is a famous quote from Bishop Camera of Brazil who said “When I give food to the poor they call me a saint but when I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist!” This is often the dilemma, a difficulty seen between prayer & giving on one hand and political & social action on the other. Taking action such as signing cards or petitions, writing to MPs, is often seen as being political & not part of the churches role. But Jesus said that he came to bring good news to the poor and to set the downtrodden free, and by instructing us to love one another he also calls us to see him in the hungry, the naked, the sick and the poor. It is a fact that poverty grows most where injustice thrives. Whether through corrupt government, commercial greed by big businesses, unfair trade rules by international bodies it is always the poor that suffer most.
Poverty can only really be tackled by looking at the root causes of it and this is what CAFOD and other development organisations are always striving to do as well as meeting the needs of the poor here & now. But they can only do this by having the support of everybody who believes that Poverty is wrong so that they can can put pressure on those who have the power to change things.
If every Christian in every church signed cards or sent letters supporting CAFOD or C Aid campaigns to tackle these injustices the situation of millions of our brothers & sisters living in abject poverty could be transformed. We should all support campaigns by CAFOD and others that aim to give, the exploited, the oppressed and the poor at home and abroad a voice.
Our covenant can hopefully help us all focus more clearly on the issues and encourage us to show our solidarity with the poor. It can be seen as a tangible way of putting Our Lord’s call into practical effect and really help us bring good news to the poor. Our covenant will be hung on the wall at the entrance to the church – please read and take action.