Paul Kelly is an active supporter at CAFOD in the UK. In this interview, he tells us about his involvement in the Livesimply parish award, an award that recognizes Catholic parishes’ efforts to live simply, more sustainably, in solidarity with others, while being conscious of the ecological challenge we must face as a society.
I’m Paul Kelly from Ansdell, Lytham St Annes in the north-west of England. It’s near Blackpool. I’ve been aware of CAFOD for many years but got more involved through joining the environment group of our Diocesan Faith and Justice Commission almost 10 years ago. That gave me lots of contacts, including the National Justice and Peace Network where I met workers from CAFOD’s head office. They inspired me to form a parish CAFOD group and get involved in Livesimply.
What is Livesimply Parish? How are you engaged in this initiative?
It’s an award that recognises a Catholic parish’s efforts at living more simply, more sustainably, and in solidarity with poor people worldwide. Our parish was asked to pilot the supporting material before the award was officially launched in May 2011, so we had a head start! We had to take stock of what the parish was already doing under the headings of living simply, living sustainably, and living in solidarity with the poor. It included worship, practical action and awareness raising. To get the award we had to plan some new actions under each heading and demonstrate our progress. For example we arranged for recycling bins beside our church hall; we planted a wild flower area in the parish lawns; we asked parishioners to fast from carbon as well as food on Good Friday by switching off computers, phones and TVs; we launched the Award in the parish on the Feast of St Francis and encouraged people to pledge personal actions to mitigate climate change.
Why is Livesimply Parish important, specific to your country?
Livesimply is special because it connects our everyday choices with the needs of people near and far. It helps me to feel part of something bigger, and that my own small contribution to caring for creation now and for the sake of our children’s children is so much more significant when it’s combined with the care and actions of lots of other people. So often I hear people question “why bother” because they feel the problems of climate change are too big to tackle, but through Livesimply we have learnt we can make a difference that matters.
How transformative is this initiative? how does it improve the lives of people?
Livesimply can transform the lives of the individuals in the parish, and of unknown people on the other side of the world! When I realised that the choices I make in the way I shop, the way I keep warm, the transport I use might literally be killing other fellow human beings, how can I not be transformed? Livesimply is about sharing that with the whole parish community. So much responsibility is a scary thought; we really need each other to gain the courage to act in solidarity for the common good. I often say to people I can’t change my lifestyle on my own. We need to encourage each other. Livesimply is one way of doing this.
How did Livesimply start? Was it difficult to put the initiative in place? Do you think this initiative can be replicable elsewhere?
It’s not a one-person project, but is best started by gathering together a group to start it all off. And it’s essential to get the support of the Parish Priest. But after that it works best when you try and involve as much of the parish as possible. Talk to existing groups as well as individuals. Let them come up with their own suggestions for how they could act more simply or sustainably – our altar servers found a way to recycle candle wax from spent candles. Tell everyone what you are doing. It takes about 6 months to find out all the things the parish already does, and perhaps another six to plan and agree some changes. How long they take depends on how complicated they are, but it should be possible to apply for the award after about 18months. There are lots of suggestions in the materials that CAFOD provide to stimulate ideas and guide the parish through the process. It’s not like an exam with only one set of right answers, but is a call to be more self-aware and make positive plans that are relevant to the particular parish. Setting your own objectives makes sure you can succeed! So anyone can do it!
A word for conclusion?
Livesimply is a brilliant scheme but so far less than 30 parishes have got involved. Now that the Pope has written Laudato Si’ to us all let’s hope more parishes take the time and courage to find out more about it. At least one Bishop in the UK has asked all his parishes to consider it, and perhaps more will follow suit. Sometimes people think the idea of living simply means the same as living primitively. We need to be careful to dispel that idea. God has provided us with a bounty that is more than sufficient for our needs now and in the future, and I’m sure he expects us to use our ingenuity to ensure everyone benefits from His generosity wherever and whenever they live. Thy Kingdom come…..
LiveSimply Catholic Parish Award