Photo Credit: Kenneth White
A Roman Catholic bishop and his Anglican counterpart have been inspired by an official international ecumenical mission partnership to create a joint project to address development needs of children living in poverty. In October 2016, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis jointly commissioned and sent out 19 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops to do joint mission across the world. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Saint John, Robert Harris, and the Anglican Bishop of Fredericton, David Edwards, were not part of that initiative; but inspired by it the two bishop – whose dioceses overlap – have signed a joint declaration to launch a child development programme.
The project, “Dads & Tots”, will work with single fathers from the Waterloo Village and South End neighbourhoods of Saint John, a port city in Canada’s New Brunswick province. The project will enable mentoring relationships with experienced fathers who can teach them parenting skills and facilitate weekly relationship building sessions whereby the fathers can interact with their children in a controlled literacy- and play-based environment.
The project follows the formation last year of a Saint John IARCCUM Group between the two dioceses. Dads & Tots has now begun as a six week pilot ahead of its permanent launch in January. It is being run by a specialist in early childhood intervention and will use facilities and equipment donated by the two dioceses.
It is the second initiative to be launched in direct response to the Common Declaration issued by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby at San Gregorio al Celio in Rome in October 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first official meeting since the Reformation between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury. The first, launched in September 2017, was the St Timothy Scholarship Programme in Malawi.
Both projects have been endorsed by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), an official international mission partnership between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.
“I am delighted that the second IARCCUM project to be launched in direct response to the Common Declaration issued at San Gregorio should be initiated here in Canada and seek to address the effects of urban poverty, which is a blight on our modern society,” the Catholic Co-Chair of IARCCUM, Archbishop Donald Bolen, of Regina in Saskatchewan, said.
The Anglican Co-Chair, Bishop David Hamid from the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, added: “We hope that the Saint John project, following on the heels of the highly successful scholarship programme in Malawi, will inspire Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops around the world to initiate their own joint outreach projects in response to the call from San Gregorio”.
The Declaration was signed on Monday (1 October) at St John’s Anglican Church in Saint John.