“Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice. Justice will never be fully attained unless people see, in the poor person who is asking for help in order to survive, not an annoyance or a burden but an opportunity for showing kindness.”
(Pope John Paul II, Centesimum Annus #58)
When parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Leicester were preparing for the new millennium they asked themselves how they could become an ‘Oasis in the Desert’. One of the answers was a parish project which has become known as ‘The Friday Drop In’.
The project started small but has grown in strength over the years, raising approximately £150,000. This money has been shared between the local poor through a variety of causes and organisation, and those living with poverty in developing countries, through generous donations to CAFOD and other groups.
Around twenty volunteers, parishioners and those who are not, turn up every Friday morning, some of them at 7.00am, to get the Parish Hall ready for the Drop In which is open from 10.00am to 12.00 noon. During the preceding week, people bring in nearly new clothes, small furniture, bedding, curtains, bric-a –brac and the like ready sale.
The hall is usually full on Friday mornings and the Drop In has become a social event for the people on the local estate. One ninety year old recently had her birthday celebration at the Drop In! Prices are low – you can buy a dress for 50p! Sandwiches, cakes, tea & coffee are available at minimum prices too.
Parish Priest, Fr John Joe Maloney says: “The Drop In project facilitates dialogue between the Catholic Church and the people who have no other contact with church. It has provided a gateway back to church for some Catholics who had lost contact. It raises the self esteem of the parish and gives hope to many people struggling with poverty at home and abroad. All in all it’s the best thing the parish community has done during the past fifteen years.”
In addition to the Drop In, each summer the parish runs a seaside outing which has people queuing for tickets. It also undertakes a Christmas Project, which this year raised over £2000 to help provide running water for a hospital in Ghana. A former altar server, now a young doctor, had worked at the hospital for 6 months the previous summer.
In the past year the parish has given £10,000 to the poor.