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Coffee connecting communities

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A simple cup of coffee is proving to be a powerful tool in bringing together members of the Emmaus parish and one of the local school communities.

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When members of the Diocesan Visitation Team spent a ‘long day’ in the parish in August they were delighted to be welcomed with a delicious cup of coffee and to hear about the success of the Coffee Connect project.

Parishioner Michele Coolahan spoke of how she and fellow parishioners Lyn von der Borch and Madeline Balint had come up with the idea for the weekly gathering at Kingswood, which is based on the Love in a Cup program operated at Knightsbridge Baptist Church where Michele has been a volunteer barista for six years.

Operating since February, Coffee Connect runs at St Joseph’s School, Kingswood, on Tuesday mornings during school terms and after Mass at Our Lady of Dolours Church on two Sundays a month.

Besides providing a welcome cup of flat white, long black, latte, cappuccino or hot chocolate, Michele said the gathering was a chance for “hospitality, outreach and a shared passion for our community through coffee” – ultimately helping to build stronger connections between members of the church and the school community.

“It has taken four years to realise our dream,” Michele explained.

“After many meetings with the parish council and research into how we could create our dream we were very fortunate to have two separate anonymous donations made to purchase the coffee machine and equipment required.

“The Kingswood Catholic Women’s League was also extremely supportive and donated money to purchase all the crockery.”

David Watts, Michele Coolahan and Emma Cother ready to serve customers at Coffee Connect.

In addition, La Crema Coffee provided the training for 25 people from the Kingswood church and school communities who now happily volunteer as baristas on a roster basis.

“Since setting up Coffee Connect it has been a steep learning curve and it is still a work in progress, however we are confident and very optimistic that it is quietly achieving its aim of creating connections and community through coffee.

“Overall, it has been a phenomenal success and we are now at a stage where we can share some of the proceeds of this ministry with those in need,” Michele added.

Chancellor Heather Carey, who was part of the Visitation Team and is also a member of the Emmaus parish, said it was wonderful to see communities embracing number four of the eight gospel characteristics of a renewing parish, of providing a ‘warm sense of community outreach and welcome’.

“Coffee Connect has been a successful addition and we were delighted to witness first hand the parents and parishioners joining together for a chat first thing in the morning… and the coffee also was delicious,” she said.

Officially named in 2016, Emmaus brought together the Kingswood, Colonel Light Gardens and Goodwood churches and parish schools.

During the visitation, the Diocesan team met with many members of these communities. They attended and enjoyed some amazing live music a Youth Mass at St Therese of the Infant Jesus Church at Colonel Light Gardens and Administrator Delegate Fr Philip Marshall also celebrated Mass at Kingswood and Holy Cross Church, Goodwood. The latter was followed by a barbecue and informal gathering which gave parishioners and school parents the opportunity to chat informally with members of the team.

The ‘long day’ on August 21 also included visits to the three parish schools – St Thomas, St Therese and St Joseph’s, meetings with CWL, Italian women’s Rosary group, spirituality, knitting and book groups, as well as talking with representatives from the Ministry and Alpha teams, and care group and visitors to nursing homes.

Another highlight was seeing the progress and growth of the community garden at Colonel Light Gardens. Both the parish and the school enjoy the garden, which provides space for opportunities such as prayer, reflection and liturgy, Christmas carols, the mustard seed student gardening club, and the Volunteers Lunch.

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