Thursday, 7 February 2008

White Flower Appeal: Beverley

At the weekend I spent most of my time in Beverley, the birthplace of St John Fisher and also famous for St John of Beverley, whose feastday I have the great honour of sharing my birthday with. I was invited by Fr Roy Lovatt to do the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children's (SPUC) White Flower Appeal at the Saturday evening Mass as well as the two Sunday morning Masses. I'm pleased to say that the generous parishioners of St John's raised a total of £511.43 for the cause.

Fr Lovatt is a married priest. He was a Methodist minister, then an Anglican and then, in Spring 1985, he and his wife, Sue, decided they were ready to join the one true fold. He got permission to be ordained and received Holy Orders in 1990. Fr Roy and Sue have five sons, four of which I know well. I always enjoy visiting them when I'm around at home.

I arrived in Beverley from home (in Hull) late on Saturday afternoon, just in time for the start of the England v Wales game. By half time I was laid out on their living room floor sifting through thousands of lego pieces making a weird looking truck. It was great fun. After the disappointing result in the rugby, it was time to make my way into the church next door.

The appeal works by giving a brief introduction followed by a set talk about a few aspects of SPUC's work at an appropriate time during the Mass. Then, at the end, you stand at the back flanked by a couple of helpful altar servers with baskets and take the collection, giving leaflets and the White Flower stickers out and speaking to people if they have any questions. This year's talk focuses on the work of the society, particularly in the field of attempting to break the silence of women who are hurting after an abortion experience. Here are the relevant parts of the talk in full:

"Since the passing of the Abortion Act, 40 years ago, the lives of over six and a half million unborn children have been cut short. Their deaths have left deep wounds in society and few families remain untouched by the effects of abortion. SPUC works for the legal protection of unborn children, but there is another aspect to its work which is less well known, but equally important – reaching out to women before and after abortion.

For the past forty years the emotional pain of abortion has been largely hidden in silence. SPUC’s Silent No More Campaign is helping to overcome this silence. Women and men are now speaking out publicly about their experience in towns and cities across Britain. By sharing their personal stories and regrets in this way, the campaign reaches out to others who may be affected and are struggling in silence. Great courage is required publicly to declare regret for an abortion, and the brave men and women who do so need your support. These voices of experience need to be heard so that others may avoid making the same tragic mistake.

SPUC’s partner in the Silent No More Campaign is British Victims of Abortion, which is funded by the SPUC Education and Research Trust. It plays a key role in SPUC’s outreach work by offering free and confidential counselling and support. A Post-Abortion Helpline is available 7 days a week. The helpline number can be found in the White Flower Appeal leaflet.

Finally, SPUC believes women have a right to know the truth about abortion. Its Patient Information Service supplies GPs with a leaflet to give to patients who ask for an abortion. This means they are more likely to receive factual information about the development of their unborn child and what abortion, and its aftermath, really involve. Just as importantly, the leaflet explains who they can contact for support and help in a crisis pregnancy."

After Mass, I stayed for the rest of the evening and had tea with Fr and Sue, their sons Steve and Tom, as well as Sue's relatives who were staying at the weekend. Sue made a fantastic spaghetti bolognaise as well as numerous scrumptious sweets. Discussions included reports on how well the bishop's ordination in Middlesbrough and Mass with the people of Hull went last week. Fr Roy also told me about some fascinating history behind Beverley's connections with St John Fisher and St John of Beverley. Later on, Fr told me the fascinating story of his journey to Catholicism.

Fr Roy kindly gave me a lift back to Hull. In less than nine hours, I was back in Beverley ready to give the appeal at the other Sunday morning Masses. Despite not being a regular feature in the parish, refreshments were laid on after both Masses with the intention that people would meet me and ask any questions they may have about the work of SPUC. I was able to answer queries on our campaign against the Morning After Pill, SPUC's relationship with other pro-life groups and outline details on the society's Patients First Network.

After both Masses, I stayed for another delicious meal - Sunday lunch. Afterwards I enjoyed laughing at some "will it blend" clips with Steve, Tom and Fr before going back home to see mum, dad, sister and brother-in-law for the rest of the afternoon.

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