The Annual CAFOD Carol Service was held on Tuesday 15 December at St Teresa's, Upholland. Choirs and musicians from six schools led the preparation for Christmas, with CAFOD's work with refugees in Europe also a focus for reflection.
The music was provided by St John Rigby College and St John Fisher High School in Wigan, and the high standards set in previous years matched once again, not only with the entrancing singing and accomplished combined school orchestra, but also with two beautiful new entrance and blessing pieces written by James Gresty and David Wall of St John Rigby.
Brilliant singers from St Peter's and St Edmund Arrowsmith's High Schools joined to make a massed choir, with St Mary & St John's and St Teresa's Catholic Primary Schools both also outstanding with beautiful carols. The packed congregation of parents and local parishioners responded by joining them in three carols and all felt the Christmas magic of the occasion. The festive mood continued with mince pies and wine in the parish centre courtesy of St Teresa's CAFOD Group.
CAFOD's emergency programme officer Laura Purves, not long returned from the refugee landing points in Greece, spoke about the backing given to partner Caritas agencies in Greece and Serbia. She also highlighted recent work supporting refugees fleeing the war and atrocious conditions in the crisis affecting Syria, Iraq and other neighbouring countries. Laura said: "The boats just keep coming, with families with small children taking huge risks to reach a safe place. With the arrival of winter weather, the journey to Europe is becoming ever more treacherous. It is important that humanitarian agencies such as CAFOD are able to provide warm clothing, food and shelter to ease their stay in Greece and help them on their onward journey. This is done on the basis of need alone."
Laura earlier addressed a group from the Archdiocese's Justice and Peace Commission which is working hand in hand with ecumenical partners to prepare the response here in the north-west. Earlier this year Pope Francis encouraged parishes and religious orders to receive and support a refugee family. The prayers at the service reflected this close working of Church agencies both here and overseas and our hopes for the future. Justine Silcock, the Commission's co-chair, saluted the compassion of Catholics in the diocese and prayed for the success of this work next year.
Ged Edwards of CAFOD in Liverpool added: "The people of the diocese are helping to keep our brothers and sisters alive and help restore some of the dignity which they have lost in the most appalling of conditions. We would welcome support from people to give a little of their time to assist CAFOD making a real difference there and across the world. Please do contact us if you think you would like to help – via 0151 228 4028 or email@example.com."
More information on CAFOD's Refugee in Europe work can be found at cafod.org.uk/News/Emergencies-news/Refugee-crisis-in-Europe. CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International.
People and parishes interested in how to offer hospitality and assistance to refugees in the diocese should contact Steve Atherton, Liverpool Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission fieldworker, on 0151 522 1080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.