During lockdown, two local parishioners, Lorretta Peck and Elizabeth Christy, both realised that prayer needed to be at the very centre of all our activities. They recognised the great need for us to feel the presence of God together as a community.
They never doubted for one minute that God hears our prayers. They also knew only too well, as health care professionals, mothers and women drenched in the daily life of our church, that there are many times when people find it hard to hear God. So, they founded a WhatsApp online prayer group, accessible to people in our diverse, scattered parish.
Saint John Fisher Catholic Community spreads across several West Cambridge villages. It is a young church founded just a couple of decades ago. We rent the church space from Churches Together. It is a beautiful, purpose-built community building, where the Catholic community celebrates daily Masses said by our parish priest from Sawston, the intrepid, dedicated and much-loved Fr John Minh.
The WhatsApp group has regularly involved people in a variety of prayerful activities. People have participated in monthly live meetings together in their homes, bringing great joy and support. Maria, one of the parishioners who belongs to the group, called it “a small group with a big heart that the community can rely on”.
In one year, the group of parishioners has been through so many life-changing events together, sometimes in person and most certainly virtually, from marriage, mental health, death or birth. All are lived together in Christ via this social medium.
Our group has been encouraged by St Paul’s exhortation in Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”. There are not only regular novenas, reflections and discussions, but also a conversation between each other and God that can be accessed at any time day or night. There are now about 60 members, and we receive many prayer intentions from far and wide.
We have had so much encouraging feedback from members. Claudia said: “This group has been my family outside my home country of Malta.” Najra, another group member, commented: “Everything feels less lonely.”
Those who could not access the online resources also benefitted. We delivered cards to let people know they were not forgotten during Advent, Lent and Pentecost. The group managed to support those who do not have social media with weekly phone calls or by posting newsletters to their address via the parish office
Most works of the Spirit develop organically, and we know that we can develop better integrated communication across our other media platforms to support others virtually too. Smaller linked groups such as our Confirmation Group have supported fifteen candidates to hopefully receive the Sacrament of Confirmation later this year. The candidates also managed to raise £270 for Missio via an online quiz.
We have had regular parish socials via zoom, out of which has grown a group of young people who have developed in confidence so much that they are now co-hosts on Radio Maria England, producing a show for young people by young people, called RMEY, Radio Maria England Youth.
The good thing about WhatsApp is you can join in whenever you like or need without feeling tied down. Love does the rest in its own time.
We will carry on praying constantly together, however God leads us. Whether Swieconka, novena, or rosary. Let’s keep trusting our living God together. Our patron, St John Fisher, teaches us that “a good man is not a perfect man. A good man is an honest man, faithfully and unhesitatingly responsive to the voice of God in their life.”
Thank you, St John Fisher Prayer Group, for helping us to help each other become good people in Christ.