BY Ian Dunn | September 9 2016 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Paisley parish rejects poverty label

Bishop Keenan surprised at results of deprivation report

St Fergus’ Parish in Paisley has been named as being in the most deprived area in Scotland—but the bishop who lives there says the reality is very different.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SMiD) report released last week states that Ferguslie Park, Paisley, is the country’s poorest area, where social deprivation drives up crime figures and leaves low-income families struggling. Yet Bishop John Keenan of Paisley lives in St Fergus’ Church, Ferguslie, and says that is not the place he knows.

“I live in the parish and it’s a lovely place to live,” Bishop Keenan said. “I was really surprised at this ranking. There’s a really great atmosphere about the place. Really quite peaceful. Everybody talks to everybody. St Fergus’ parish is great, St Fergus’ Primary is great. There’s a lot happening.”

He acknowledged the area does have ‘serious problems’ but said there was a lot of good happening, from both from the council and the local people.

“The last time this report came out four years ago, Ferguslie Park was bottom then, so people at St Fergus’ decided to do something. Fr Oliver [Freney] and the parishioners set up the Sunday Café. Whenever I go I’m amazed at how great it is. Everyone is there, chatting away; there’s a joy to it, an innocence.”

Parish priest Fr Freney said he was also disappointed by the report. “There are plenty of good people living in Ferguslie and people that do care about the area and put a lot of work into trying to improve it,” he said. “It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth to label the community so negatively.”

The parish runs a community café every week, which provides a three-course meal for anybody who needs it every Sunday.

“Currently there are eight volunteers who prepare food for 30-40 people that come for something to eat on a Sunday. It’s open to anyone in need. We also give food parcels away home with the people who come to the café,” the priest said. “We don’t see ourselves as a food bank—we are just there to give a hot dinner to whoever needs it.”

The community café relies on donations from a variety of sources including Tesco, who contribute through their food-share scheme. The Ferguslie parishioners show a great strength in helping one another, hosting the St Vincent de Paul Society who are there to support and look after families.

Just eight miles away from Ferguslie, also in Paisley Diocese, is Lower Whitecraigs, the area listed by the SMiD as Scotland’s richest. It’s covered by St Cadoc’s, Newton Mearns, and the parish priest there Mgr Thomas Monaghan said he believes that whatever your postcode is, we are all God’s children.

“I think it’s quite refreshing to hear that although both areas are from different sides of the extreme, the Catholic faith unites them in the diocese of Paisley,” he said.

Bishop Keenan added that one thing that came out of the recent Paisley diocesan synod was a desire among the laity to reach out beyond their parishes and help those less fortunate.

“Reaching out to the margins is something that came up a lot,” he said. “We need to embrace mutuality, and the parishes that have lots of resources looking at how they can share them with the ones who have less.”




—This story ran in full in the September 9 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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