This 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.
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: