The Diocese of Down and Connor held its third annual Faith and Life Convention yesterday, Saturday, 25th September in Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s College, Knock, Belfast.
With over 500 participants in attendance, the Convention gathered representatives from all parishes across the Diocese of Down and Connor and beyond.
The convention is a forum for people to gather and participate in a range of conversations about the meaning of faith and its relevance to their everyday lives.
Bishop Noel Treanor opened the 2016 Faith and Life Convention reflecting upon the current plight of refugees and asylum seekers. He stated that “In this Year of Mercy, we need to explore the social and societal implications of mercy, particularly for the displaced.”
This year, Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (UK) was the keynote speaker for the Convention and she invited all to reflect on the current refugee crisis and shared with participants her own journey of discernment that led her away from the political benches in parliament to her current role with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
During her keynote address, Sarah Teather reflected upon her own personal journey of faith; a journey that involved falling in love with God and his people and actively living out that love in her life. Inspired by the ministry of the Jesuit Refugee Service and motivated by the personal struggles of families seeking asylum, Sarah declared that immigration and poverty are the defining issues of our lifetime. She went on to explore the particular role of the Church in responding to the issues of immigration and displacement. Sarah explained that faith communities can provide a counter cultural response to society as they minister to those who are displaced by following the Gospel mandate to reach out to the stranger. She contended that in reaching out to the stranger in need, we are “entertaining angels without knowing it”. Sarah Teather concluded her address by reflecting on her current work with the Jesuit Refugee Service which she argued was distinctive in its relational approach to working with asylum seekers; affirming the dignity of the displaced through solidarity and accompaniment.
The keynote address was followed by a Panel Discussion on the theme “Faith in a world in need of Mercy” and the screening of a short film by Campbell Millar which followed the recent settlement of Syrian migrants in Belfast. Fr Tim Bartlett, Diocesan Director of Public and Social Affairs, sincerely thanked all those in parishes, schools and other charitable organisations for their coordinated response in receiving Syrian refugees into the Diocese.
In the afternoon, participants were able to choose from over twenty workshops which explored topics such as ‘Faith in a Broken Culture’, the pastoral response to suicide, ‘Faith and the Public Square’, ecology, ‘Faith and the Family’, ‘Making Good Decisions’, ‘Faith and Film’, youth ministry and ‘Encountering God in his Word’.
To find out more information, go to www.faithandlifeconvention.org
Notes to Editors:
- Since January 2016, Sarah Teather has been the Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the UK. She joined the JRS UK team from JRS International work that took her all over the world, visiting projects in the Middle East, East Africa and in key pressure points in Europe like Greece-Macedonia border and Southern Italy where refugees attempt dangerous crossings over the Mediterranean.
- Prior to joining JRS, Sarah served as a Member of Parliament for twelve years in inner London. Initially elected as the youngest MP in Britain, she went on to hold office as Minister of State for Children and Families, where she had responsibility for tackling child poverty, supporting children with special educational needs, and negotiated the end of detention of children in the immigration system.
- In the context of doing the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius in a 30-day retreat, Sarah decided to leave parliament taking with her passion for the poor and an assurance that working with refugees through JRS is how she wants to serve God.
- Fr Alan McGuckian and Paula McKeown (Diocesan Living Church Office) are available for interview upon request.
- Further pictures of the event are available upon request.