Carols, community action and peanut butter in Manchester

Carols by Candleight at Holy Name, Manchester
Carols by Candleight at Holy Name, Manchester

The Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy has been looking back over a busy year, which has seen a record-breaking Week of Guided Prayer, its very first Jesuit Mission visit to East Africa and the launch of several new projects. The Chaplaincy team provided a welcome to the Catholic students at Manchester Universities, which culminated with Carols by Candlelight last week, while providing initiatives which have enabled them to respond to the needs of the local community.

When they had finished weighing their donations from the recent December food drive at Tesco, for example, they calculated that they had collected an amazing two tonnes of food for the Manchester Central Foodbank. Between April and October of this year, the Foodbank – the first in the country to be run by student volunteers – provided 703 food parcels which benefited 949 adults and 499 children. “The main causes of people using our foodbank were delays or changes to benefits (46%), general low-income (19%) and homelessness (16%),” according to Co-ordinator Dan. “We are currently running low on soap, toothbrushes and shampoo; and in terms of food items, we are adding a new item to our food parcels, a jar of peanut butter!” he adds. “We would therefore be grateful for any donations of the same during this period.” He can be contacted on info@ManchesterCentral.foodbank.org.uk

Practical assistance for those in needStduents from the Manchester Chapaincy took part in their first East Africa Mission in Tanzania in 2016

Students from Manchester, along with Senior Chaplain Fr Tim Byron SJ, spent four weeks in Tanzania volunteering at St Ignatius Prep and Primary School in Dodoma (right).  "We feel truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to use our skills and talents to provide support in lessons and enhance the students’ learning," they blogged on their return.

Meanwhile, back home, the Catholic Chaplaincy elected Juliette Flach (below), who is studying Nursing at The University of Manchester, as the SVP President during 2016, and she says she has enjoyed the constant buzz of activity, from guest speakers to weekly Sunday meals (which she would highly recommend!). “I feel honoured to be involved in this charity which aims to provide practical assistance to those in need,” she says, "including weekly homeless runs providing food and essential items, a breakfast club at a local Primary school to help ensure all children have a good start to the day of work, visits to a care home for elderly residents and associations with L’Arche Manchester- where people with and without learning disabilities share life together.” If you are interested in getting involved, please contact svp.muscc@outlook.com

SVP's Juliette FlachAmong the new initiatives at the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy over the past year has been Greater Manchester Citizens, which helps to empower communities to come together and make a positive change - from businesses to education, and faith groups to community organisations. 2016 also saw the launch of Empowerment Plus, which explores opportunities for students after their studies. In addition to five follow up group sessions in the New Year, Empowerment+ will be offering two weekend workshops on ‘Finding a Better Job’. For more information, contact Hinna Parvez: hinna@religiousfreedomandbusiness.org

Humbled by the overwhelming supportDinner was provided for asylum seekers at Holy Name, Manchester, as part of the Boaz Night Shelter

Hinna was also the speaker at the Carols by Candlelight last week. As Coordinator of the Holy Name Refugee Night Shelter – and an asylum seeker herself – she spoke passionately about the needs of asylum seekers and the difference that the provision of a Boaz Night Shelter could make in Manchester. “There are 100,000 Refugees and asylum seekers in the UK today,” she told a packed church. “A major percentage of these are living in Manchester. Leave aside their legal processes, they are struggling at every point of life. They cannot get into paid employment as refugees; and with almost zero benefits from the government they cannot afford accommodation or healthy food. They have nowhere to go and no one to turn to - they end up on the streets of Manchester.”

This year, Holy Name Church signed up to offer a helping hand to these people who are living as refugees, seeking safety and shelter in our community and has hosted 12 destitute male refugees/asylum seekers in the church. “We are humbled by the overwhelming support from our volunteers from the chaplaincy and our parishioners,” said Hinna.

The Manchester Universities' Catholic Chaplaincy Christmas newsletter is available to download from their website.