The Faith in Politics Internship Scheme
The Faith in Politics Internship Scheme, provided by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales took nine recently-graduated interns in the academic year 2016-2017. These young people work in a variety of roles surrounding the Church and its social action work, with five interns working with Christian MPs and Peers, one with Caritas Social Action Network, one with CAFOD, and two in the Bishops' Conference and its agencies. Several months into the scheme, Rory, Laura and Katie reflect on what they have enjoyed and experienced so far.
The Faith in Politics scheme has four key aspects: professional work, academia, community living experience, and time for personal development. Outside of work hours, the interns take a postgraduate course in contemporary ethics at Heythrop College, University of London and attend regular events and talks on topics surrounding both political and church life. They are also fully involved in the community and work of the Catholic Chaplaincy for the Universities of London, including living in the building itself, near University College London.
Merging faith and work
Rory very much 'enjoys working, but also living with young Catholics from all over the world, all living out their faith in their daily lives'. It is Laura's first time living in a community environment and being in a 'big, diverse family, making friends for life'. As Parliamentary Officer at the Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Catholic Education Service, Rory has experienced 'a real diversity of experiences so far. No two weeks are the same and there is no set routine; there are always new opportunities, issues or ideas to explore in which the Church is involved'. He hopes that this merging of faith and work is something that he can carry into future careers and that he 'can still hold on to a strong sense of Catholic identity in work and daily life' in future roles, whether they are in church or secular environments. Laura works as an assistant to a member of the Labour Shadow Cabinet, which allows her to combine her faith and passion for politics. Her role in parliament has provided her 'with an exciting and invaluable experience in the parliamentary process and in public life, as well as allowing me to deepen my faith: as Pope St John Paul II said, we must incarnate the Gospel in our social and political lives'.
Links between parliamentarians and charities
Each intern has the opportunity to have spiritual direction from a member of the Jesuit community on how to develop their faith. Laura believes that 'the Jesuit order provide a superb example of the vital need for social justice in our life as Christians'. Katie, who is the policy, public affairs and communications assistant for Caritas Social Action Network, stresses the importance'‘that Catholic Social Teaching and ideas of social justice, that are important in Jesuit thinking, is represented on a political level'. She has 'enjoyed helping to build a link between parliamentarians and the charities on the ground, working with those on the margins of society'.
In a few weeks, the group will be travelling to Brussels, Belgium in order to meet those involved in the Church in Europe and experience the ever evolving relationships of European politics. In May they will be visiting Rome and the Vatican, before a final retreat at St Beuno's Jesuit Spirituality Centre. When asked about whether they have faced any challenges in the year so far, there was only one response – fitting it all in!
An edited version of this article by Nina Mattiello Azadeh was published in the Spring 2017 edition of Jesuits & Friends. Nina is Media Assistant at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales and a Faith in Politics Intern.