Cardinal Newman School students participate in Catholic Social Teaching and Social Organising event

July 4, 2024

A large group of young people and teachers, perhaps 150, stand outside a church hall labelled "Church hall of the Holy Apostles", smiling at the camera and with Citizens UK banners on which the word "together" can be read.

On Tuesday 2 July, a group from from Cardinal Newman Catholic School & Sixth Form College (CNCS) gathered with over 200 other young people, teachers and school leaders from all over England and Wales in the parish hall of The Church of the Holy Apostles, Pimlico. The event was arranged by a team of teachers and chaplains who work in Catholic schools and are engaged with Citizens UK to celebrate the existing Community Organising work taking place in Catholic schools, and inspire others to get involved. The event also served to launch a new ‘Catholic Social Teaching and Community Organising toolkit for schools and colleges’.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols discussed his previous work with Citizens UK and reminded everyone that we are all on a “journey guided by our faith, strengthened by hope, and led by our desire for charity and justice.” Following this, he offered his prayers and blessing for Citizens UK’s organising work in Catholic schools and colleges, including the new toolkit, and agreed to share our work with Pope Francis on his next visit to Rome. There is a hope that a delegation can visit the Vatican to share this work in person.

Raymond Friel OBE, chief executive of Caritas Social Action Network, reminded everyone of the upcoming year of jubilee and how schools can be ready to make pledges which links to their work with organising. He explained the connection between love and justice, and reminded everyone of Pope Benedict XVI’s call to have a “heart that sees”.

Anita Motha, chief executive of Million Minutes, celebrated the work of the different campaigns that young people had been involved in as well as reminding the young people that they are the “living catalysts for change”. “You are inspiring!”, she told the audience which contained over 100 young people.

Schools and colleges that were featured in the toolkit celebrated and shared some of their work during the afternoon, where they have been living out the principles of Catholic Social Teaching through the model of Community Organising. Andy Lewis, Deputy Headteacher at St Bonaventure’s, East London, said,

“It was a real coming together of so much great work - the achievements of these young people are incredible - securing the Living Wage at large companies, reduced bus fares for a whole region, ensuring greater funding for mental health support in schools. However it felt like only the beginning - we will now be working out next steps with the support of key Catholic organisations, and with the blessing of Cardinal Nichols, and look forward, in great hope, to sharing and celebrating this work with the Holy Father in Rome.”

Young people from Catholic schools, including from CNCS, confidently co-chaired the event and conducted a panel discussion with other young people engaged in Community Organising within Citizens UK chapters. One said: “Power can feel limited in this country, especially as we cannot vote, but when we work together we can be powerful,” while another said, “With our energy as young people, there can be a tsunami of change.” One student pointed out that young people are ready to “demolish the divides of our society and rebuild stronger.” and that, “Every win is a win, big or small, persist, try, try, try and try again.”

Grainne Byrd, CNCS Director of Faith and Ethos, said that students from the school, "co-chaired and presented at the event with wisdom, clarity and confidence." She added that: 

"It was a truly inspiring event. The stars of the day were the young people, whose vision of love and hope for the Common Good was such a welcome antidote to the self-interest so often displayed in modern politics.

CNS students Oliver, Annie and Jagoda presented Cardinal Nichols with a picture designed by a year 8 student, Erin, to commemorate the day.

Sources: Cardinal Newman Catholic School; St Bonaventure's, Forest Gate; Independent Catholic News