St Vincent’s Crookes: Parish Urban Pilgrimage – in aid of the Cafod Big Lent Walk

At St. Vincent’s we have joined in Cafod’s Big Lent Walk in various ways for a few years now.

When discussing what to do this year, St. Vincent’s Live Simply group was inspired to organize a Parish Urban Walk. It would start and finish in the church garden after Sunday morning Mass, with prayer stops at various sites in or near the city centre which offer welcome and help for the vulnerable, the stranger and those experiencing poverty in Sheffield.  All were welcome to join, and of course it was not compulsory to do the whole walk of just over 11 km!

Reflection in the garden before the Walk.
Our first prayer stop was at Ben’s Centre in Broomhall, a place of sanctuary for the vulnerable and the homeless.  From there we walked on to St. Wilfrid’s, where we were welcomed with hot drinks and a comfortable space to eat our packed lunch. Louise gave us a tour of the multiple, wonderful facilities it offers (‘no space left unused here!’) and from an upstairs  balcony, pointed along the street to St. Wilfrid’s Place, where people with a history of homelessness can be offered up to two years supported accommodation, and assisted into increasing self-sufficiency.  A short walk and another prayer stop at St. Vincent’s Furniture Store, and then on into the town centre. On Chapel Walk we prayed outside Victoria Hall which welcomes asylum seekers and refugees and signposts them to services that may help them. A little further along we stopped outside the lovely City of Sanctuary with its bright windows and offer of welcome, company and food. Here, Melinda explained their efforts to help people who often arrive in Sheffield with nothing but the clothes they stand up in, and frequently nothing for their feet but flipflops. We walked round the corner to the Cathedral – bells pealing as if in welcome – and looked at the beautiful Hallam Window, depicting Our Lady and the Padley Martyrs and installed to mark the creation of the Diocese in 1980. Our final stops were at St. Vincent’s Place, where the history of St. Vincent’s parish began, and St. Vincent’s Mission Hub. Here we were welcomed by Fr. Lee with hot drinks and time and space to recover our energy. We were able to sit a while in the chapel, where a 24 hour vigil before the Blessed Sacrament was nearing its close. Father Lee blessed us and our pilgrimage, and we made our way back up the hill to our own St. Vincent’s, Crookes.It was a wonderful walk. It brought home to us the kindness offered by so many Sheffielders to their fellow sisters and brothers in trouble, the hard work done and the companionship shared. It provided encouragement to persist in prayer and practical effort to provide support. Moreover it supplied a historical perspective of poverty and immigration to the city over the past 2 centuries, and of the Irish Vincentian Mission’s steadfast spiritual and practical work to better the appalling living conditions existing in the Solly Street area in the mid 19th Century.It was a lovely privilege to pray, talk and learn together. It inspired a true sense of pilgrimage, and we consider we may well repeat it next year. Especial thanks are due to Tim and Katharine for organising the route, to Catherine for providing prayers, to Louise and Jo at St. Wilfrid’s, and Father Lee at St. Vincent’s Mission Hub, for their hospitality. Columba Timmins