Parish team phones hundreds of isolated members

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Parish team phones hundreds of isolated members

The parish team from Our Lady Immaculate and St Etheldreda in Newmarket is determined not to let the virus stop them in their tracks.

Using a rather out-of-date parish database, Fr Christopher Smith, Deacons James Hurst and John Morrill and parish secretary Rita Harben have phoned over 400 members of the parish who were living on their own or isolated.

They divided the work between them and managed to complete the task in two-and-a-half days.

“Every person who we rang was grateful for the call,” said Deacon John Morrill. “Quite a lot said that they had all the support they needed but were grateful to know that they were being remembered in prayer. One or two were worried about upcoming hospital visits and how they would get there.”

“In all we made 408 phone calls,” added Deacon James Hurst. “As there were many wrong or discontinued numbers, or people had gone away, we actually spoke to 150 people.”

Only one person asked for practical help – in the form a small white loaf and a copy of the Daily Mail. The rest had neighbours or family who were already looking out for them.

However, over 40 people said that they would appreciate an occasional call, and would like to have someone pray with them over the phone.

Nineteen of those who wanted calls were already being regularly contacted by the clergy, and the parish recruited 12 volunteers who will keep in touch by phone with the remaining 24 isolated members. The volunteers will end each call with a ‘Hail Mary’ and a ‘Glory be’.

Meanwhile the regular Thursday evening prayer group has become a skyping prayer group focused around a Lenten bible study programme called Opening the Scriptures: setting our hearts on fire (

The parish is also responding to the practical needs of poorer families in the town. Deacon James and the SVP group were already planning to serve hot lunches throughout the school holiday to all those who receive free school meals in term time, working with other churches in Newmarket, especially Newmarket Community Church.

With parents’ consent, local schools have identified those in receipt of free school meals and shared this information with the parish. As it is no longer possible to gather the children together, the parish is instead preparing lunch boxes for them.

A local businessman is underwriting the project, the SVP are acquiring the food and other essentials and parcelling them up, and volunteers from the Jockey Club are doing the deliveries.

Pictured above is Fr Christopher Smith from Newmarket parish at his installation by Bishop Alan