Sue Allen, the Project Manager of Hope Community Project, has been honoured with a Benemerenti Medal from Pope Francis. She was presented with the award by Bishop David McGough at a special Mass to celebrate her retirement as she steps down after twenty years at Hope.
Friends and colleagues from Hope Community Project, the Infant Jesus Sisters and Father Hudson’s Care, as well as members of the local community, gathered at St Patrick’s Church in Wolverhampton on 24 January to thank Sue for her years of dedication and wish her well for her future. Fr Dawid Piskorz opened the Mass, saying they were gathered to thank Sue for giving her talents and skills over the years. Bishop McGough echoed those words, saying “we are here to celebrate Sue’s great contribution to this community.”
During the Mass, members of Hope Community Project brought forward gifts from the people of Heath Town to thank Sue for her work. The hymns and music were chosen by Trevor Stockton to reflect Sue’s personality and service to the community, and were led by members of Holy Trinity Church, an Infant Jesus Sister and Fionnuala Hegarty.
At the end of Mass, Bishop McGough reflected on the Parable of the Sower, which had been read during the service. He said that we are the ground on which Jesus sows the seed of the word and we have the good soil, rocky ground and thorns in all of us. But God enables us to work together to clear the thorns, move the rocks and together we flourish. In the work of Hope, he said, “the rich harvest of God’s love is lived out in the lives of so many. You are the rich harvest.”
To Sue’s great surprise, Bishop McGough then read a letter from Archbishop Bernard Longley announcing that Sue had been awarded the Benemerenti Medal in recognition of her service to Hope Community, the people of Heath Town and the local community. Accepting the Medal, Sue said she wasn’t expecting this. She said, “I am speechless – which is something my team won’t believe!”
There was a celebration after the Mass at St Patrick’s Church Hall, with speeches from Sr Margaret Walsh of the Infant Jesus Sisters, Kevin Caffrey of Father Hudson’s Care, Trevor Stockton of Hope and, of course, Sue herself. Sr Margaret gave an account of how Sue came to Hope, saying that it soon became clear that Sue and her family were God’s people. Sue thanked all who had supported her as she served the people of Heath Town, including the Infant Jesus Sisters, Father Hudson’s Care, Wolverhampton Homes, the City Council and the dedicated team of staff and volunteers at Hope. She said that no matter how people come to Hope, they are not the same when they leave.
Hope Community Project provides support services for people living in the Heath Town area of Wolverhampton. It works towards building an integrated community, reducing social isolation, raising aspirations, strengthening family relationships and helping people feel they are valued members of society. Hope is the last organisation still working in Heath Town, and is a key part of the community. Under Sue’s leadership it has contributed to the city-wide gang prevention strategy and supported local residents through the Heath Town regeneration. In September 2017 the project received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
The charity supports isolated older people through outreach, befriending and lunch clubs, assistance for families experiencing difficulties, and support for women experiencing relationship difficulties and isolation. It runs English classes and offers a home-visiting service to find local people who need their support. Children and young people can access social groups, workshops, holiday activities, and information sessions. To find out more visit Hope Community Project’s website.