On Sunday 16 September, St John Bosco Church, Reading, became the first parish to be awarded the Livesimply parish award for their commitment to live more simply and sustainably and to stand in solidarity with the world’s poor.
After four years’ work they have received a national prize, which recognises the ways a parish can make a difference in its community and the world. Across England and Wales, one more parish has been assessed, another two parishes are being assessed, and nine other parishes are working towards the award. Find out how to become a LiveSimply parish >
Parishioners brought home-grown food to a special Creation Mass, which was taken afterwards to Reading Drop-in Centre. The Mass was followed by the presentation of a plaque commemorating their achievement by CAFOD Director Chris Bain.
Chris Bain congratulated the parish saying: “You’re an inspiration to us and you’ll be an inspiration to a whole host of parishes that come after. You can be justly and rightly proud of the achievements and how you have shown in the rest of the Catholic community in England and Wales what can be done if you work together.”
Like winning a gold medal
Rita Belletty, who runs St John Bosco’s LiveSimply Group, said: “Being the first church to receive the LiveSimply award is like winning a gold medal! Our efforts started back in 2008 when we decided it was time to do something about the threat to our planet, not just personally but also to spread the message. We formed the Climate Change Action Group, which later became the LiveSimply Group, and our focus has been on raising awareness, worship and practical activities.”
To apply for the award, St John Bosco had to take on three substantial actions under the headings of Living Simply, Living Sustainably and Living in Solidarity with People in Poverty, as well as at least six other supplementary activities. Parishioners also had to show that the actions they were putting in place were sustainable.
A major boost for the initiative came in June, when parishioners fitted 16 solar panels to the church roof. The £7,500 project was funded by the parish and generates four kilowatts of its own electricity.
Paul Draper, who managed the solar project said: “Our new panels will reduce electricity costs, attract Government Incentive Grants and pay for itself in ten years. They will also supply excess energy to the grid, and so directly contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.”
Encouraged by parish priest Father Chris Whelan, St John Bosco’s involvement in LiveSimply has been a team effort. Parishioners regularly opt to walk to church rather than to come by car and can often be seen out in the community picking up litter. The church also campaigns and fundraises for CAFOD and has an active Fairtrade group which runs a stall most weekends. Even the church flower arrangers have gone green, installing a compost bin to dispose of flowers and shrub cuttings.
The award is not the end of the process. St John Bosco will be continuing with its annual Creation Mass and Walk to Church Sunday and reaching out to schools, young people and other community groups.
Laura Bigoni, CAFOD’s Diocesan Officer for the Reading area, praised the dedication of St John Bosco’s parishioners. She said: “We are absolutely delighted that St John Bosco is the first parish in the country to receive the LiveSimply award. It is so well deserved, as they have done an amazing job in promoting ways to lead a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle. We hope this will set an example that other parishes in our diocese and throughout the country will be willing to follow.”