In mid-2017 our parish invited Sr Ann and Sharon Dunne from the Armagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre, to a sharing of ideas gathering.
At this gathering, requested by Fr Malachy Murphy PP and the Parish Pastoral Council, the parish discussed initiatives which had the potential to bring families together as a faith community.
After many suggestions, a WMOF Core Group was formed to co-ordinate the preparation of these initiatives within the parish. One of these activities was a Family Planting Day. The Parish has in its ownership a piece of forest land that had been neglected for some years. It was felt that with some community involvement this could be developed into a space for families to enjoy together.
The group set about recruiting some volunteers to clear the site of fallen trees, overgrown briars and weeds. Thankfully the recruitment process went well and several parishioners with tractors and spades set about the task ahead.
Volunteers came together and made paths and repaired and stabilised bridges throughout the forest.
After a month of clearing then came the time to plant. Through social media and parish newsletters we invited families to come along to the forest on a particular Saturday afternoon and, as a family, to plant shrubs or bedding plants. Families came in their droves bringing plants and shrubs of all shapes and sizes to plant in our new family forest area.
It is hoped that over the coming months and years the forest will host a variety of other activities, based around the family. We have an Easter Egg Hunt and a Family Fun Day both planned for this year in preparation for the WMOF.
As a parish we believe that by facilitating events in which families of all ages and types can come together in a friendly and joyful environment, we are doing our bit to live out the message of Amoris Laetitia in the Parish of Loughgilly.
Brendan McKiernan is the Parish Secretary for Loughgilly Parish.