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Travellers' Renewal

Author: Kristina Cooper

Travellers' Renewal

Kristina Cooper reports on how Charismatic Renewal has touched the Travellers’ Community.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has touched all parts of the Church bringing people’s faith alive in new ways. One of these groups is the Irish Travellers, whose women folk in particular, are a familiar sight at charismatic conferences and days of renewal.

For Margaret Doran, it all began with a conversion experience at Medjugorje in 1996 through adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Afterwards she found that she wanted to share her joy and love of the Lord with others in the Travelling Community. A gifted musician and songwriter herself, it was the praise and worship that drew her to CCR, first at the Euston Day of Renewal and then to other charismatic events.

Healing, Outreach and Retreats

Seeing lay leadership in action like this inspired her to found Travellers’ Renewal together with a small group of friends. The Lord had given her a healing gift so she would often visit Travellers’ homes and lead the rosary and pray for healing. This led to other outreaches and retreats and, in particular, an annual outreach to the Appleby Horse Fair.

The famous Yorkshire Fair draws up 20,000 gypsies, travellers and Roma from all over Europe to show off and trade their horses and celebrate  their culture. Margaret felt that it was important to have a Catholic presence there as their Catholic faith is an important part of many Travellers lives.

This was the fruit of a prophetic recurring dream she had had in which she had seen the Blessed Sacrament in a tent high on a hill. To her delight the local bishop, at the time, Rt Rev Patrick O’Donaghue, not only  gave her permission to have the Blessed Sacrament in one of the fields at Appleby but came himself the first year.

Over the years the Appleby outreach has grown. Myles Dempsey even came along one year, sitting in the tent, praying for healing in a deck chair.

Travellers' Renewal-Pride Of Place At Appleby Fair

Now, however, thanks to the support of the Catholic mayor Lance Thwaytes, now dead, instead of being hidden away among the mass of trailers and tents, Travellers’ Renewal have been given a prime spot near the crossroads of the town. This means everyone is aware of their presence.

The little tent, bedecked with religious banners and statues, provides a Catholic focus during the week of the Fair. With the support of the local parish priest, and volunteers from different religious communities, there are Masses, as well as  baptisms, first Holy communions, confirmations and rudimentary catechesis.

Social media has been a great boom for their work in more recent times. Margaret now has a Mothers’ Prayers Whatsapp group of more than 200 people, including both travellers and settled people where prayers,  talks, and  details of pilgrimages and events coming up are shared,  24/7. “I have learnt so much about the Bible through this,” she says.

'I am so upset that all our lovely things have now gone'

This year was the first time she and her husband were not able to be present at Appleby as, on their way there, their van, with all their statues and banners, was stolen. “I am sure God has a reason,” she says, “but I am so upset about all the lovely things that we have used over the years have now gone.”

Of particular note was a beautiful statue of Our Lady that her husband, who is very artistic had restored, totally rebuilding the statue’s face sealing inside it all the petitions they had received.

This summer Margaret  hopes to be at the New Dawn conference, where organiser Gary Stephens t is organising a special programme for the Travellers. This is being co-ordinated by Sean Booth, who has led well received bible studies for the Travellers at both Youth2000 and New Dawn in the past.

This will also be open to other participants too, which delights Margaret, as she has always sought to build bridges between the two communities, and for the goodness of the travellers to be appreciated by those outside.

Those who have statues, holy objects, religious banners which they feel Margaret could use for her ministry as well as rosaries, holy pictures to give out to the Travellers, can contact Kristina at kristinabcooper@gmail.com

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