By Mike Weaver

Over 120 St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) members attended the Archdiocese of Birmingham Annual Festival Mass and Gathering on Saturday 23 September at St Chad’s Cathedral.

Holy Mass was celebrated by Bishop David Evans, assisted by Deacon David Fairbotham, the Birmingham SVP Central Council Spiritual Director. 

In his homily Bishop David said the witness and service of the SVP to those society despises, to the poor, to the lonely or forgotten, to those suffering and deprived is the work of Christ himself. Bishop David called on the SVP to continue to follow the call of Pope Francis and be a voice of the poor.

Following Mass members gathered to hear inspiring and moving testimonies from two speakers on the theme “Against all odds… “For when I am weak…….2 Corinthians 12. V10”. 

Firstly, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, Co-Chief Executive Officer of March 4 Life, spoke of her experience of being prosecuted and subsequently acquitted for praying silently within an exclusion area close to a Birmingham abortion clinic. On a second occasion she was again arrested, taken into custody and interviewed under caution by West Midlands Police. After many weeks Isabel was informed that she would not be prosecuted. 

Isabel explained that although many are concerned about restrictions on freedoms it is not until these restrictions affect us personally that we speak up. Sadly those who have lost their most fundamental freedom by abortion cannot speak for themselves. March 4 Life will be a voice for the voiceless. No one should be denied the number one freedom – freedom to live.

Secondly, Rachel Mackenzie, leader of the Catholic Charity Rachel’s Vineyard Birmingham, spoke of supporting those traumatised by an abortion. Any death is significant and grieving is a natural part of loss; but with abortion, the grief is complex. 

Rachel’s Vineyard Birmingham retreats enable those affected by abortion to work through the stages of grief – offering hope, healing and a path to forgiveness. In this way participants have the opportunity to experience the love and mercy of God.

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Pictured: Bishop David Evans with invited speakers Rachel Mackenzie, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce and Deacon David Fairbotham