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Passionists UK The Catholic Worker Farm provides a sanctuary for refugee women

The Catholic Worker Farm provides a sanctuary for refugee women

Photo by Henry Lockyer for Vice

Passionists UK The Catholic Worker Farm provides a sanctuary for refugee women

Oct 07 2021, 12:18 PM

The Good News has lead me to believe that it isn’t Good News for the poor if Christians don’t offer their lives in the sacrifice of service. 

I have often felt that my relationship with God would develop in proportion to my relationship with the poor – and that I might be able to address some of the issues regarding my own inner poverty. As Phil Berrigan said, “The poor tell us who we are.”

We started The Catholic Worker Farm in August 2006. At any one time, we live here with between 18-20 formerly homeless women and children.

We have lived with approximately 530 since we first began. Our Sisters, as we call them, share certain unfortunate difficulties. The two systemic political barriers are that they are not allowed to work, or to collect State Benefits. The other more personal traumas are that most have escaped human trafficking, honour-based and domestic violence, FGM and torture. (We have won the “True Honour Award” for helping women escape honour-based violence). 

They seek work if they are from Eastern Europe. Asylum or Leave to Remain in the UK under The Human Rights Convention if from outside Europe. Or The Domestic Violence Concession if they came to the UK on a Spousal Visa and experienced Domestic Violence. 

We write many letters and do administration tasks for our Sisters. We are often contacting Solicitors who might take their case. We also accompany them to their Solicitors, or sometimes chase up their cases as the need may arise. 

We offer them a bed, food and clothing, register them with a GP and get them free dental work. 

Spiritually and psychologically we offer group therapy, communal prayer, pastoral visits from local clergy, individual psychotherapy when necessary, yoga and choir.  

Culturally we share Birthdays, Halloween, Diwali, Bonfire Night, Christmas and Easter. 

Catholic Worker Farm, by Henry Lockyer for Vice

If they have children we help them to register at our local schools. We have found that many young children have had no access to education as a result of being homeless. If our Sisters have a child under 5 we contact the health visitor who assesses the needs of the small family. 

We have put many of our Sisters on the Hera courses to develop entrepreneurial skills. We have also taught dozens of our Sisters English, and some to read and write. 

We continue to help them understand British culture, multiculturalism, a strong work ethic and respect for other faiths (some of our Sisters have also become Christians). We have seen many broken women and children healed through our work. This has simply been through the love and support which we have offered and God has, in his love for the poor, graced. 

Almost all of our Sisters have received Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK and have gone on to successful careers, education, marriages and families. Many remain our friends and revisit us regularly. 

We need serious financial support as we renovate the empty house next door so that we can look after more mums with children. But a bright future awaits The Farm, as it has been purchased by Patriks Trust and constituted to serve the poor indefinitely. 

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