In celebration of Silver Sunday – 1 October 2023 – we have adapted this article from Mosaic, the Diocese of Westminster’s magazine which updates people on exciting projects they have helped fund through the Cardinal’s Appeal.
The Italian Church in Clerkenwell, built between 1887 and 1888, is an exquisite example of Arts and Crafts architecture in London. Designed by the Italian architect, Joseph Giovanni, today it stands as a beautiful testament to the rich history of the area, and the important role played by Italian immigrants in shaping the neighbourhood.
Nowadays, the Italian Church serves not only as a place of worship but also as a vibrant cultural centre for the Italian community in London. Recently a new project has been established which aims to encourage social inclusion by providing a meeting point for people who were lonely.
The Arts and Crafts project was set up by Caterina Cannas and Bruna Moreno and supported by the Cardinal’s Lenten Appeal – a fund built up from donations from ordinary Catholic’s across the diocese.
Caritas Westminster’s Development Worker in the area, Minet Masho, wanted to support the Italian church to become more inclusive and reach out to people, particularly those in the later years of their lives, who might be lonely and isolated. It was Minet who encouraged Caterina and Bruna to apply for the funding from the Diocese. She also encouraged them to use the Project Set up resources developed by Caritas Westminster, to ensure the project followed best practice.
Every week at least 10 regular attendees come together, to create a wide range of items from recycled materials, including beach bags, soap holders, bathroom baskets, and cutlery holders.
The project’s ultimate aims are to allow participants to learn new skills, tackle isolation, engage in meaningful conversations, and most importantly, have fun. The group produces a range of handcrafted items, and rather impressively, they have also made over 100 christening gowns. They also make beautiful white overshirts for every baby christened at the Church.
The group also celebrates each other’s birthdays, and on the last Tuesday of each month, they cook dinner together to celebrate the end of the month and the start of a new one. Strangers who once joined this group to combat isolation, have now become firm friends. Pina (74), a dedicated attendee for over five years, travels from Kingsbury each week. It’s an hour’s commute, which she takes to maintain a connection with her friends, who also travel in from other various locations, such as Islington, Walthamstow, and Cockfosters.
Participating in the club offers them an alternative to staying home alone. Pina expresses her enthusiasm, stating, “I like to stay all together; you learn so many things”.
Mena (63), another attendee, who joined post-pandemic, comes from Archway. She cherishes the opportunity to chat and spend time with the ladies, mentioning that they teach her a great deal. Currently, she is knitting and plans to try her hand at crochet next. Many of the items the ladies produce are available for purchase after Sunday Mass.
Caterina and Bruna are immensely happy to see the participants learn new skills, have fun, and share their achievements, which Bruna confirms that they take enormous pride in. But mainly, are just so happy to see people continue coming to the group.