St John Vianney in West Green is the first parish in the Westminster diocese to receive the Livesimply award. The parish also ranks fifth in the UK to earn the CAFOD award, by putting into practice three principles: living simply, living in solidarity with people living in poverty and living sustainably with creation.
The parish designed an action plan and a yearly calendar in order to cover specific livesimply activities. The calendar was their own choice to record and evaluate what was done and had to be completed. Parishioners had to demonstrate at least 9 ways in which they were putting into practice the principles of livesimply.
Recycle bins were installed and all the light bulbs in the hall of the church were replaced with energy saving bulbs. Special panels designed to maintain heat were also installed behind the radiators.
Parishioners have also learnt how important it is to link with other people and events in the church as well as in the community. The parish posted a list of local organizations in order to help parishioners choose a group with whom to volunteer.
In the process, the parish worked very closely with some groups involved in environmental sustainabilty in Haringey, such as Haringey 40:20 and Haringey Sustainable Group. They were very supportive and interested to work together.
“Each time we contacted a group they wanted to come and help” said Mariantha Fomenky who lead the Livesimply campaign for the parish with John Mooney.
With their partner organisations, they were able to hold workshops on how to save energy and to change energy supplies in order to save money.
Mariantha said they did not meet with any closed doors; “every time we knocked, someone was there to open the door and help. When we asked for recycled bins, for instance, we got them”.
More than 200 people in the parish committed to living simply. They now recycle rubbish, visit charity shops, eating leftovers, walking, cycling or sharing cars to church on Sundays. As challenging as it may seem, parishioners felt at ease with the campaign because they were already living simply.
One major achievement has been cutting the carbon footprint in the parish and in parishioners’ lifestyles. Using a carbon calculator for energy reduction proved to be very helpful and allowed parishioners to lower their energy bill. One parishioner is reported to have saved £60 a month on her electricity bill while another one has decided to use the dishwasher once a day rather than after every meal. Through the campaign, parishioners were able to get extremely valuable tips such as an insulation scheme put on by Haringey council.
John Mooney added that “there is an insulation scheme going on which people can sign up to in order to save energy”.
Some people even realized they did not have insulation at their house and decided to get it done.”So these are the things we let our parishioners know about: it’s about gaining the knowledge and passing it on to help other people”, said Mariantha.
By looking at their energy bill, parishioners were very surprised to find out about strains on finances caused by the cost of heat during the long winter.
Parishioners were encouraged to study the disproportions in the world by taking part in a ‘poor man rich man meal’ activity.
So after the award, what is the next step for St John Vianney?
The Livesimply campaign does not end with the prize; it’s an ongoing program. The parish is brainstorming a few ideas. All parties held in the hall are asked to recycle anything they use (bottles, cartons…). According to John Mooney, the introduction of food banks is on the agenda.
The parish is also contemplating the possibility to get officials involved as Mariantha Fomenky puts it. It’s about engaging “the mayor, the councillors or the MPs and people who have the power and who are influential in order to ensure that we can continue to live simply by getting what we need”. It’s all about encouraging people to join the campaign. For Mariantha, most people already live simply. The next step is “to live sustainably”.
Mariantha and John think it is crucial in their mind to get the parish priest involved and engaged. At St John Vianney, parish priest Father Joe Ryan has been very supportive and empowering, which has given the campaign such a great success.
Livesimply is about encouraging parishioners to live with creation, to be part of creation, to look at nature and to relax in the parks as part of God’s creation.
As a follow up, a vast program is being considered regarding parks and green areas. The parish is planning as well to talk about solar panels, bike racks. The parish is also planning to pursue Fairtrade by making sure teas and coffees served at functions are Fairtrade, this, in an effort to help small farmers get better prices and fairer deals.
The award is definitely not a full stop but a continuation; lots of good things have sprung up from the campaign at St John Vianney. They now want to think of new ideas and celebrate what they have achieved: they want to share their stories with other people so they can in turn, initiate something in their parishes and in their lives. The LiveSimply campaign has been an easy campaign for St John Vianney and has brought more friendship, more will to reach out and help each other.
Challenges may come up but St John Vianney organized at all Masses for instance silent time after Holy Communion for people to reflect on the challenges posed by the call to live simply. Difficulties may arise but so long as one has the passion it will be easy to achieve the principles of the campaign.
Said Mariantha: “the campaign helped reinforce community spirit. People, by coming to church already believe in the Lord. As a result we realize we can easily do things together, like recycle together or every first Sunday of the month pray together a God of solidarity and creation. The togetherness is there”.
For more info on Livesimply and how your parish can take part, please visit http://www.cafod.org.uk/livesimply