On 13th February, members of the year 12 Peace and Justice League – Daisy Stoner; Alex Hogan; Sean Holder; Ruari O’Connor and I – went on a trip to the Houses of Parliament with Father Marco, for a CAFOD reception.
We all got the train to London Waterloo; stopped for a quick meal at Pizza Express and then got the Tube to Westminster. We arrived at Portcullis House, where we went through security checks. All was running smoothly, until we were told that the invitation had told us to go to the wrong entrance, so we had to quickly find a guide, who led us to the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. To say the Chapel was beautiful would be a complete understatement: its splendour was overwhelming. Decorated in a Gothic style, it is a lavish affair, with every inch covered in ornate carvings; paintings and vivid colours. As it was Ash Wednesday, arrangements had been made for Catholic Mass to be celebrated. The Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather sang a hymn, and we went up to receive Communion and the ashes.
After Mass was over, we went to Westminster Hall, where we saw the Labour politician David Blunkett and also met Dominic Goggins,Head of Government Relations at CAFOD. He told us a bit about the history of Westminster Hall, which is the oldest existing part of the Palace of Westminster, having been built in 1097.
From there, we went to the State Rooms in the Speaker’s House, in the House of Commons, for the CAFOD MPC Annual Parliamentary Reception. This was a reception to thank MP correspondents, who write to their local MPs about important issues on behalf of CAFOD.
We were not sure what to expect at first, when we entered the lavish and impressive State Rooms; we soon found that we attracted the attention of some people, as we were the youngest in attendance. As Alex Hogan said: “I think we all felt a little bit out of place amongst the many older CAFOD supporters there (calling us 'young ones').” However, we were soon made to feel welcome, and were even interviewed and photographed by representatives for CAFOD, who asked us about our opinions of the reception and politics.
It was very interesting to be around so many MPs and the CAFOD supporters who were in correspondence with them, as we could see for ourselves the difference that can be made by contacting your local MP on issues that matter to you.
The reception was drawn to a conclusion by a speech from the host, the Right Honourable Tom Clarke CBE MP, who is the Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of CAFOD. He thanked everyone for their attendance and talked about the positive impact that corresponding with MPs can have.
On the whole, the trip was an interesting experience. The atmosphere of Parliament was alive, with the eagerness for change palpable. The reception was an expression of gratitude from the MPs to their correspondents and it was encouraging to see that writing to your local MP can inspire them to make a change for the better.