Nearly 200 parishioners of Our Lady of Kirkstall, Leeds, came together on Sunday 25 June for an afternoon that celebrated God’s creation. Inspired by Pope Francis teaching in Laudato Si and organised by the parish Live Simply group, the event was intended to bring people from the parish together for a fun afternoon inspired by the beauty of the world around us.
Preparations had begun more than a month in advance, reaching out to parishioners of all ages and asking them to contribute an item illustrating their love of nature – a photo, a poem, a painting, an artefact – so that these could be organised into a display. Over 50 contributions were received and the variety and creativity displayed was amazing, including needlework, ceramics, dried flowers and objects crafted from wood. There was even a poem in the form of a Japanese haiku! The display formed one of the focal points of the afternoon, and every contributor received a prize!
People were also invited to try out various creative activities, all of them linked to the theme of nature – such as making bees and flowers from paper, painting pebbles or sowing salad seeds. The children in particular threw themselves into this, while those more advanced in years were able to sit down and chat while they enjoyed a cornucopia of cakes, scones and strawberries.
Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was a visit by the “Wise Owl” birds of prey sanctuary based in Wakefield. The keepers brought five beautiful owls, varying in size and species, as well as a Harris hawk. Each was displayed in turn, while something of its rescue history was told. The children – and indeed the adults too – were rapt. Those who wished were able to don the leather glove and hold one of these lovely, patient creatures.
Throughout the afternoon, there was a very happy atmosphere and a feeling that parishioners were not just “visiting” an event but were owning it by their enthusiastic participation in all that was happening. With all ages represented from Our Lady of Kirkstall’s three church communities, the celebration bore witness to a real sense of unity across the parish. Truly a gift and a blessing!