Monday, 29 February 2016

Funeral mass of Louise Zanre marks a light burning ever bright for social justice

The funeral of Louise Zanre brought together people from the social justice world and beyond. Louise was a social justice activist from the very root of her being.

When I first knew her she was working for Pax Christi with Pat Gaffney. She then moved on to become director at the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). We did a number of interviews, one I always remember at the Thistle hotel, Charing Cross, discussing refugees. That was not long after the time when the late Dr David Kelly had had one of his meetings at the same venue discussing the vagaries of the so called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq with a journalist.

Louise was always good for an authentic quote or briefing about what was really going on in the world of refugees. There have been many tributes to Louise since she died at the age of 47, mostly concerning her great work for refugees and justice.

Louise though was not one dimensional, she had a family. Her husband sadly died a few years ago. Her father also died quite recently. She also had a wider family as was displayed by all of those who turned up to her funeral mass at the Jesuits church in Farm Street.

The homily was delivered by Father Dermot Preston SJ, who hit exactly the right note. He told of Louise’s life, her work the need for Church and society to reach out generously to refugees. The sense of mission, some may not have found it yet, some may be looking for a new direction. Louise was fixed in her mission from an early age and stuck with that to the end.

The number of those who came from across the social justice world to the mass was amazing. There were refugees who had been helped by JRS, Chris Bain, director of CAFOD, Christine Allen, former director of Progressio and now director of policy at Christian Aid, Julian Filochowski, former director of CAFOD, Neil Jameson, chief executive of Citizens UK, Helen O'Brien , former director of Caritas Social Action Network and Ellen Teague from the Columban Peace and Justice team. The whole ambit of people from across the world that Louise had touched – some tribute.

It was the world of the Church doing justice, people out there in the real world doing something to try and help others. A world, sad as it is some way from the sterile existence of the institutional church, going through rituals that continue to keep women marginalised and a bunch of men, who like dressing up, in the ascendancy.

So although another important one of the number of those actively working for social justice in the world is now gone, the light of justice continues to burn brightly. The mass today was the celebration of the life of someone who has contributed so much to the cause of social justice in the world. The torch has now been passed onto others to ensure that that light continues to burn ever brighter.    

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