Official Opening of Fatima House
30th November 2016 – by Mauricio Silva
Fatima House, a house for refugees in Birmingham, is a collaboration between Columbans in Britain and other Catholic organisations in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Since it opened in July 2016, it continues to thrive and now has eight women residing there temporarily.
All the hard work in setting up policies & procedures and doing the necessary renovations/alterations to the building, are now paying off as we witness how well the guests get along with each other and enjoying the safety of the house.
On Sunday 27 November Fatima House was officially launched at an event held at St Anne’s Parish Centre in Birmingham. More than 70 people, representing different parishes and organisations in Brimingham, attended the event: among them we welcomed the Columban Director in Britain, Fr Peter Hughes, and Columbans who are supporting the project in different ways. Volunteers and members of Fatima House Committees prepared an evening of celebration , which was also attended by Fatima House guests and other asylum seeker friends. I had the privilege to welcome them all and to invite them to make of this an act of thanksgiving as we came to close the ‘Year of Mercy’. I thanked supporters and donors and everyone who has made it possible to offer a space of sanctuary to the women. Fatima House aims to be a ‘concrete sign of hope’ in the midst of the sad reality of destitution in the city. I also thanked our guests at Fatima House, whose determination and strength also offers hope in the midst of despair.
After the welcoming , Fr Jim Fleming SSC and Mgr Pat Browne led a service of thanksgiving which included a reading and reflection on 1 Corinthians 12, 4-11 as well as intercessory prayers led by attendees. Mgr. Browne highlighted the collaborative nature of this project, and how people bringing different gifts and talents came together to offer hope to those in need. The prayers, prepared by Fr Fleming, expressed the justice and peace orientation of this project. Mgr Timothy Menzes , on behalf of Archbishop Longley, led the final prayer and asked for blessings to the project. He congratulated all those involved in setting up Fatima House, especially in the face of the inevitable setbacks.
After that three volunteers (including lay missionaries Nathalie and Jay jay) led a series of 15-minutes tours around Fatima House. Small groups of attendees in turn were shown the common areas of the house, as well as one vacant bedroom . The feedback from this mini-tours was very positive and many felt moved by Fatima House’s response to the misery faced by our guests. In the meantime, in the main hall refreshments were served and attendees met the members of Fatima House committees as well as the guests. Many informal chats evolved around ways of supporting this initiative.
Overall, this was a fantastic event and a fitting celebration of the efforts of so many for the past 14 months. Columbans were also thanked for providing personnel to both managing and being in-charge of the day to day running of the project. At Fatima House we are conscious that we are dealing with a situation that should not exist, so we remain committed to providing support, but also challenge this unjust situation.
Mauricio Silva, Inter-Religious Dialogue Coordinator