One month on after the disastrous fire that consumed Grenfell Tower, the tragedy continues to dominate the news media and the charred Tower looms over the skyline at Latimer Road. As the survivors face the loss of their loved ones and the effects of the trauma, the pastoral and practical support of the community remains.
In the days following the fire, the extent of loss affecting our schools became apparent. Teachers, students and alumni from seven schools were among the victims. On 7th July, Cardinal Vincent visited St Francis of Assisi Primary School to offer prayers and support.
The sense of community among our schools was demonstrated in the outreach from all corners of the diocese. On Friday 23rd June, students from across the diocese showcased their creativity to raise funds for their peers. Some held non-uniform days, others sports and baking events. They tweeted their efforts using #Together4GrenfellDOW. The centre spread this month features some examples. Together they raised considerable funds for the Catholic Children’s Society’s work with the Grenfell students.
The Education Service has been working closely with the schools in the area to put in place provisions for the summer holidays, to give students a sense of normal routine and a welcome break. They continue to work on other support programmes for the schools in time for the new academic year.
As victims of the fire are identified, the task of providing pastoral care for the bereaved, often meeting several families on a daily basis, and of arranging funerals is now underway at the three parishes closest to the Tower. Priests have the difficult task of listening to harrowing tales and providing comfort for the families in their bereavement. As Fr Gerard Skinner explained, ‘this is why we are here.’
Over the past weeks, the community has felt the need to pray as Catholics and together with members of other faith communities. On 13th July, one month following the outbreak of the fire, St Francis of Assisi Church was the location of a Mass, celebrated by Bishop Wilson and priests from the area, for survivors, family and friends of those who have died, and the local community.
Earlier in the day, Frs Gerard Skinner, Peter Wilson and Peter Scott had attended a multi-faith service at the foot of the Tower. Following the service and at the request of some of the families of those who have now been identified as having died, they again prayed over the site of these deaths.
Since then, ecumenical and multi-faith prayers have continued regularly. As we went to press, Bishop John Sherrington and Fr Gerard Skinner took part in another multi-faith service on 27thJuly at the foot of the Tower.
This solidarity in prayer continues to be a positive force uniting the community and, while it is still early days, is surely a necessary salve for the deep wounds created by this tragedy.