Meeting the needs of the vulnerable
This is a story about some of the work, experiences and activities of Nugent Care including Merseyside Faith and Light Group and Sister Eleanor Dalton.
Nugent Care is a charitable organisation which offers a diverse range of support to adults and children across Liverpool and throughout the North West of England. The origins of Nugent Care date back to the 1800’s and the pioneering work of Father James Nugent (1822-1905) in relation to child welfare, relief from poverty and social reform. The work of Father Nugent had a dramatic impact on the lives of thousands of vulnerable people and his work continues to this day through Nugent Care. Father Nugent’s importance to the future generations of Liverpool and the impact he made across the city not restricted to the Catholic Community is immense, Nugent Care strives to protect the principles that guided Father Nugent in the work of the modern charity.
Faith and Light is a Christian association that includes people with learning disabilities or learning difficulties, their families and friends.It is made up of local groups that meet regularly, usually every month, for friendship, worship and celebration.
Meeting needs then and now
Although Nugent Care is based around the work, faith and values of the Catholic Church, in its modern form Nugent Care is working in a much more diverse and ecumenical way. A great deal of the work of Nugent Care builds directly on the experience of Father Nugent in the 1840s where there were many human needs to be met. Of these many needs education was prominent and Father Nugent held the strong belief that the Church should drive forward social and moral reform. The early work of Father Nugent took place across an unconnected series of initiatives, tackling need as he became aware of it, however one of the lasting legacies of Father Nugent is the slogan “Save The Boy”, this went on to become a city wide endeavour across Liverpool which saw Christian and Non-Christian groups working together to improve opportunities for children. This is the foundation of the work of Nugent Care and its partners to tackle injustice, need and inequality in our society working in an ecumenical approach.
An inclusive approach – Faith and Light communities
There are number of really good examples to illustrate the ecumenical work of the modern Nugent Care but a truly enlightening case of these values of faith in action can be found in the day to day work of Sister Eleanor Dalton. As a member of the Sacred Heart of Mary order, with extensive experience of contact with the vulnerable and needy Sister Eleanor had heard many stories of families and individuals struggling with their everyday lives.
Sister Eleanor had long been influenced and intrigued by the Faith and Light communities and her early experiences as a catechetical worker with Nugent Care highlighted that there was the risk of children with disabilities and their families feeling excluded from worship and society in general. This was and is a big problem to try and solve, the issue of inclusion is still current but one step that could be taken was through the development of Faith and Light community.
Initially Sister Eleanor was seeing children and families who were preparing for Sacraments of Baptism, Communion and Confirmation. From the meetings with those first families, Sister Eleanor looked towards the communities of Faith and Light to create a supportive platform for people with learning disabilities along with their family and friends and others who feel vulnerable and excluded to come together regularly, for these 3 things:
- Friendship – developing and nurturing links to develop meaningful, supportive networks.
- Worship – sharing the opportunity to rejoice in ecumenical worship based on the teachings of the Gospel, entirely participatory and inclusive and using a wide variety of multi-media approaches, role play and drama to share the message that each and every one of us is loved by God.
- Celebration – sharing and appreciating the joy of coming together.
The Merseyside communities of Faith and Light have been championed in the catechetical work of Sister Eleanor to improve the experiences of disabled and vulnerable people, celebrate and value the uniqueness of each person made in the image and likeness of God and provide spiritual and pastoral support to enable people with disabilities to explore and share their gifts and faith in a relaxed and caring environment. This community has been developing over its 5 year history and in considering this short piece the views of members were sought out. One of the young women (accompanier) talked about Faith and Light as:
“A lovely way for people to come together, there is always a warm and friendly welcome and everyone tries hard to make sure that each meeting is not just fun but meaningful…I love the role plays, we have had drama groups come to help us all act out a bible story…everyone gets to take part”
“Faith and Light celebrates the talents that people have…in this community we have a lot of people who are good with music and so a lot of our activities are done with music…we even say our prayers to music”
Sister Eleanor Dalton building on links made through her work with Nugent Care has seen the development of two Merseyside Faith and Light Communities based on the international movement one from the Church of Christ the King in Liverpool another from Thingwall Hall. Over the past 5 years the Faith and Light groups have been developing and growing in both size and aspiration. The groups are keen participants in the annual Mass for and with People With Disabilities developing new links across faith communities in the local area.
Teamwork across denominations
The Faith and Light provincial community meetings are not led by one minister or ministry but rather a team of ministers from Anglican, Catholic, Methodist churches who together lead worship, discussion and activity around the similarities and differences across the churches. A really successful example of this can be found in the ongoing activities around the use of symbols. This has included the use of drama, music, symbol supported communication texts, songs and much more to truly enrich each gathering.
An exciting aspect of the Faith and Light communities is the commitment to making pilgrimage and a number have taken place over recent years. A group of 17 people from Faith and Light Merseyside joined international Faith and Light communities in Lourdes to celebrate 40 years of Faith and Light in 2011. This was an especially moving and pertinent trip for many given the links to the origins of Faith and Light and Lourdes. Among other gatherings and get togethers in recent years have been trips to Walney Island, Lancaster, Stockport, Wallasey, Lytham St Annes and London. The Merseyside Communities have also gone further afield to the annual Faith and Light Carol Service in York and to the Summer gathering in Garforth, Yorkshire. Preparation is also underway to support the welcoming of 250 delegates from 95 countries to Trinity University Leeds for the international meeting in July 2013.
Bill’s Faith and Light Experience
as expressed by Julie Niblock, Brothers of Charity, Merseyside
Shortly after joining Brothers of Charity Services, Bill started to attend the Faith and Light monthly meetings (he chose not to attend any other events or week end events). He appeared to want to be there, but was not a regular at first and sat at the back. He would not speak to anybody even when they spoke directly to them. Bill appeared very shy, possibly unsure of himself or others, but always seemed pleased to be at the meetings.
The information given by Bill’s support staff was that he was not religious. He had a strong dislike of prayers and church. Bill, however, never gave this impression in the way he spoke or acted.
After a while it became clear that some people attending our group knew Bill from some years ago, but Bill would never acknowledge them or confirm if he recognised them.
At every meeting people would greet Bill, ask him how he was and he slowly and gradually began to talk to people. He would always talk through me at first; that is, if he was asked a question he would look to me for an answer, I would help him out. Then when he looked to me, he would ask me to answer and again I helped him out. Soon he would look to me and laugh and I would encourage him to answer for himself. As he gained trust within the group he stopped looking at me altogether!
Bill was always asked, indirectly, to join us for prayers and he would shake his head. One day he came and sat with us. When we have a quiet time to listen and pray, we have tea light candles, the lights are dimmed and the group become instinctively quiet. One person will lead the prayer and invite anyone who wants to speak, say a prayer, ask for a prayer to be said or ask for someone or something to be remembered. This time becomes very gentle and spiritual without effort. Nobody is asked directly or in turn for input. At this time, soon after joining the group for prayer, Bill started to ask the group to remember someone or people who had suffered a tragedy he had heard of on the TV news. He now speaks at each meeting and asks for prayers or asks us to give a thought to the people he has heard about who are suffering.
Bill has gained so much confidence through the Faith and Light meetings. He talks now to the people he knew from years ago about the old days! He is the life and soul of the meeting at times. He is there early for every meeting, he opens up, sets up and greets. Bill now leads the talk we have first when everyone has arrived. We all sit in a circle and each person has time to tell us what they have been up to or what they are looking forward to or if they have any worries or concerns which they themselves will often want to share with the group. Bill facilitates this time.
It is good to see how Bill socialises with people now. But it is also great because he is such an active member of the group.
Being part of this community and network is so important to Bill’s wellbeing. He chats, laughs, lives and grows through this opportunity and I know because I have watched it happen.
Nicola Melia – Nugent Care
Julie Niblock – Brothers of Charity Merseyside
About Nugent Care
Today the wide range of services Nugent Care has to offer allows them to provide a highly individualised and tailored approach to all their service users. They work with children, adults and community groups through their homes, schools and community based projects throughout the North West, ensuring people’s rights, independence, interdependence, choice and inclusion are integrated into everything they do. As a social care provider, Nugent Care works at the heart of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. They strive not only to provide the best possible service to individuals and their families in these areas, but to generate interest, awareness and an understanding of the issues they face and the impact of this on their wider communities.
Nugent Care's Children’s Services programme includes residential children’s homes, a secure children’s centre, two schools for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and adoption services. They also manage Nazareth House Respite Centre. Their Adult Residential Services provide a range of nursing and care options, including specialist care for older people with mental health problems, people living with dementia, adults with physical and learning disabilities, adults with mental health problems who wish to return to independent living within the community and younger adults with acquired brain injuries, neurological disorders, physical disabilities and or challenging behaviour. Their Community Services have for many years been at the forefront of personalised, outcome focussed support for volunteers, community groups, Deaf people, people who are hard of hearing and people who have learning disabilities. These services run alongside support for homeless people and people in need of welfare advice or material aid, and drug intervention support.
All of the community service project teams are pivotal to Nugent Care’s response in meeting the challenges of people experiencing reduced life opportunities, and improving health and well being for all. Some of these services are non statutory funded so Nugent Care engages with the local public and business community to provide much needed funds and raise the profile of social issues in our local area. The Nugent Care Community Resource Unit has provided support to over 100 families and 60 individuals over the last year, covering a wide range of services, and is accredited by Liverpool and Sefton Supporting People Programmes. www.nugentcare.org