ST JAMES’S, SPANISH PLACE
Robert Rigby, Chairman addresses the gathering
This year’s Summer Gathering was held on Saturday 27th June at St James’s, Spanish Place. The central London location enabled a higher turn out than usual with some 50 members and their guests in attendance.
Mass was said by Fr Christopher Thomas our new Ecclesiastic Advisor, before the day’s conference opened. This year saw our new President Sir Edward Leigh MP attend, together with Fr Christopher both of whom helped ensure the day was fulfilling and thought provoking.
Sir Edward’s reminder to us of the difficulties, which Catholic MP’s face when it comes to debates about issues relating to human life, was telling. He spoke about assisted dying and said the debate to take place in Parliament this autumn would probably see the Assisted Dying (No 2) Bill 2015-16 defeated. However a similar Bill will undoubtedly be introduced in the future with an eventual outcome that could see the legalising of some form of assisted dying. He went on to speak about both migration and trafficking and although acknowledging the need to help in both areas from a Christian perspective, recognition had to be made on the enormous pressures migrants placed on the State and the need to have some form of control despite how painful this may seem.
Fr Christopher ensured we not only received a spiritual input but also a fascinating insight into his work at the Bishop’s Conference. He spoke about the political work being undertaken at the Bishop’s Conference, which included the assisted dying bill, international religious freedom, restrictions within prisons on collective worship, catholic education and human trafficking, providing much food for thought and interest in all these areas, for members. He also touched upon the Synod coming up in October and challenges around family life in today’s society.
Then followed an enthusiastic question and answer session on an eclectic number of topics, and Fr Christopher dealt with all the questions raised, none of which stumped him.
Unfortunately time did not allow us to discuss the Catholic Union and our work especially around the launch of the Catholic Union Charitable Trust (CUCT) and the very real challenges we face on increasing our membership base.
It is worth remembering back in February we formally launched the CUCT and produced the election pamphlet ‘Restoring Faith in Public Life’ which was distributed to both members and non members, together with an appeal letter asking for much needed funds. The response has so far been positive, although a follow up appeal letter will be mailed out in the summer.
We continue to seek new members and will be offering free membership to Members of Parliament and anyone under the age of 25. Our programme of picking off three or four Dioceses and approaching the Bishop in each and identifying potential ambassadors in those Dioceses has started and although slow, is showing some signs of progress. I would ask for any additional thoughts or ideas members may have which we can consider and hopefully implement in the coming 12 months to increase our membership base substantially.
The day was completed by all those who attended, moving to the Wallace Collection where a most enjoyable lunch was had by all, before members and their guests departed for home.
Robert Rigby, Chairman
12th July 2015
Photographs of the gathering may be viewed here, with thanks to Dylan Parry, Editor, Oremus (Westminster Cathedral Magazine).