Diocese of Westminster and Caritas Volunteer Service Celebrate Volunteering at Awards Ceremony


screenshot of social action awardsThis week is national Volunteers’ Week and last night the Diocese of Westminster held a celebration and award ceremony for volunteers, hosted by the Caritas Volunteer Service.

Volunteering has always been an important part of the life of the diocese, from those serving coffee at parish events, or stewarding large gatherings, to the many hundreds who give up time to support the vulnerable, isolated, homeless, disabled and refugees.

Pat Gaffney Tweet Social Action Awards 

This past year the work of volunteers has become even more vital as they respond to the extra needs and challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. All of them do what they do out of love – and are rewarded by a sense of fellowship and solidarity, which makes their own life more fulfilling.

Last night those present at the celebration heard about dozens of good examples of volunteers working in solidarity with the people they serve. Thirty nominations were received for the awards in four categories, many of them commending whole teams of volunteers. The range of nominations highlights the breadth of Social Action going on across the diocese, including befriending the elderly, supporting the unemployed, visiting refugees, running foodbanks, and serving the homeless.

In a recorded message, Cardinal Vincent Nichols told the volunteers that loving service is a golden thread running through our faith.

Bishop Paul McAleenan, who closed our celebration with a prayer, reminded us that it was St Paul who said:

“In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

Five awards were given, but all 30 nominated individuals and groups, and indeed all volunteers were celebrated last night, as John Coleby, director of Caritas Westminster, said:

“The event on Wednesday evening was a celebration of volunteering and service. It has been humbling to see the number of volunteers who stepped forward this past year. It shows how wonderful people are in a crisis and how by coming together we can make a big difference to people who really need our practical help and our friendship. Whether it’s food, clothing, shelter or help with employment or finances, our parishes and schools are helping. They are the ‘Good Samaritans’ helping practically but also providing a voice, friendship and accompaniment to those people while they need it.” 

The five awards went to:

St Philip Howard Social Action Award
Since the beginning of lockdown the school community at St
Philip Howard Catholic Primary School in Hatfield has created
a foodbank that is available 7am – 7pm for anyone from the
school or parish. This project was set up with the principle
of dignity for all, with products for their diverse community.
Susan Grace Social Action Award
Susan has always been an inspiring leader whose work in
the community has benefited hundreds of struggling families.
Since the start of lockdown, she has led a team which has
created a food bank to meet the needs of the local
community. Her vision of the Common Good has inspired
others to serve, with staff and students freely giving up their
time, including holidays, to help others.
JRS Emergency Response team Social Action Award
The Emergency Response Team was formed soon after the
start of the pandemic to help ensure that refugees experiencing
destitution were given items to meet their basic needs
during lockdowns. They have continued to do so over the
course of the past year, distributing 2982 parcels
between March 2020 – March 2021.
Auntie Muna Social Action Award
Since overcoming personal hardship and adversity,
“Auntie Muna” has devoted her life to helping others who
live on the margins of society, particularly mothers, children
and those seeking asylum – irrespective of their race or faith.
Anna and Maureen Finchley Food bank Social Action Award larger
Thanks to Maureen and Anna’s organisational encouragement, ideas and commitment, the Finchley Foodbank
has grown to support on average 400 clients every weekend. They have both been instrumental in
developing the food bank outreach to serve 8 times as many clients than before the pandemic.


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