04 August 2020, The Tablet

Following the Pope's commission to strengthen partnerships during Covid-19

by Mark Wiggin

Following the Pope's commission to strengthen partnerships during Covid-19

Pope Francis blesses the faithful as he leads the Sunday Angelus Prayer from the window of his office overlooking Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday.
©Alessia Giuliani/CPP / IPA/IPA MilestoneMedia/PA Images

Caritas Salford is an “independent charity” in the legal sense but in many other ways we are very much a part of the Diocese of Salford. It is a partnership as we are working closely together and share the same leadership in Bishop John Arnold, the same building that makes networking with diocesan departments easy and we share the same constituency both in the geography of the Diocese and in the supporters through our schools and parishes.

Here in the Diocese of Salford there have been and there are many fruitful partnerships and collaborations between independent charities and Caritas. Many of the independent charities that we work with as partners and network with were born out of the diocese including Caritas itself – we can trace our history to our co-founders Bishop Herbert Vaughan and Alice Ingham foundress of the Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph with whom we are still in a close relationship. 

Our refugee work is supported by two independent organisations created through the Diocese of Salford: St Vincent’s Housing Association and Revive, a refugee project of the Spiritan congregation.

St Anthony’s Centre for Church and Industry owes its long gestation period within the Diocese of Salford and it in turn has supported over many years the work of the Young Christian Workers. At this very moment Caritas is working closely with both these charities to consult young people and see how we can together develop a response to the needs of young people following this pandemic.

Through the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and the CSAN network and the Older Peoples Forum, Caritas Salford has collaborated and worked in partnership for two years with Fr Hudson’s Care in Birmingham and Catholic Care, Leeds through a Memorandum of Understanding to create a parish-based approach to working with the elderly resulting in a published toolkit launched last December in London.

Through a Working Together Agreement with a CSAN member charity, we provide the back-office support to their Finance, HR, and IT. When we began the arrangement many years ago Caritas Salford was the larger organisation but today they are significantly larger than us.   

My final example of partnership working is the development of DiSAN – Diocese of Salford Social Action Network. This is a mirror network locally to the national CSAN arrangement. It brings together informally the social action charities working in the diocese such as the SVP and a wide range of independent local charities to share good practice and learn from each other.

As many dioceses now have a Caritas department, I can foresee the partnership between diocese and independent charity shifting away from the diocese and its Bishop and moving more towards a relationship between the charity and the diocesan Caritas. This I feel would be a good thing and would lead to more partnerships between charities that share the same over-arching and underpinning mission of social action and social justice that could lead to more genuine collaborative working where together two charities can achieve more than just on their own. Such a development would also strengthen the CSAN network bringing it even more together through practised areas of joint working.

As dioceses develop their Caritas departments, I would anticipate that the relationship with independent charities will shift from the diocese and bishop to the Caritas department and its CEO or director. This shift will also be one away from the clergy as the leadership in both Caritas and the independent Catholic organisations will be the laity.

Securing new funding is an obvious reason for partnership and dioceses will be looking for new ways of income generation, especially as the current pandemic has hit the diocesan income stream from parishes so badly. 

Finally, to bring us all back to Pope Francis and the Covid-19 Commission set up to plan the future following the pandemic, one of the five working streams is to “seek common dialogue and reflection”. This can only take place when people and organisations are in dialogue with each other, share their knowledge and expertise and work together. Strengthening the partnerships between each other in the CSAN network is just one way that Pope Francis’ Commission can find expression amongst us.


Mark Wiggin is Chief Executive of Caritas Salford. This a paper he wrote for a recent consultation regarding the pandemic.






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