In the parish of St Benedict, we have been blessed, in the three years my wife and myself have lived here in Downham Market, in having two dedicated parish priests.
Firstly, Fr Michael and now Fr Erico. Fr Michael impressed me by his willingness to open discussion on matters that are challenging for the Catholic community. His homilies were well prepared, succinct and to the point. He showed a great deal of social awareness. Fr Erico has come all the way from Brazil to serve this parish and has brought the Brazilian warmth for us in the bleak autumn and winter
Fr Erico, in his Christmas Address during the Vigil Mass, reminded us ‘there was no room at the inn’ for Mary to have her baby and that for the poor and refugees there still is ‘no room at the inn’ today. An acquaintance of mine keeps reminding me of the advances in the development of health and welfare Western society has benefited humanity over the years. However, authentic sources tell us that in this country 1.3 million children will endure poverty over this Feast of ‘Good Tidings to all peoples’. Also, despite these advances, people are still being persecuted because they are the wrong colour of skin, belong to the wrong religion, have the wrong gender, practice the wrong sexual preferences, they speak the wrong language or have the wrong accent. Also, despite all advances, our society exploits the majority for the benefit of a so called ‘elite’. What is the ‘elite’? Which values and standards define the ‘elite’? The simple answer is power, power that is oppressive and aggressive and, if necessary, physical. Our systems of education are designed mainly to create ‘good citizens’ not to encourage pupils and students to develop themselves. Take, for example, the case of Brexit and how lies and stereotyping and scapegoating were the main tools of the gutter press. There are some good reasons against the EU, but discussion was overloaded by politics and conversation was mere an exchange of insults. Considering all this, Fr Erico’s message of openness is an alternative way. For Christians, he calls us to see everyone not as representing a stereotype but as the person of Christ standing before us requesting shelter. I have no doubt that people of other faiths and humanisms will translate this behest in in their own way. It is a challenging message considering what happened in Germany last week. There is no alternative way.
Mike Larcey, Downham Market