John Kearns celebrates a weekend of prayer, reflection and sharing with Positive Catholics at the Benedictine Abbey of Douai.

In 2016 the Passionists established partnerships with groups with whom the Congregation shares common aims and goals.

Positive Catholics (and its parent Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support) became a Passionist Partner because of its active commitment to women and men on the margins; and because of a long-standing pastoral relationship between the Passionists and the Positive Catholics ministry through the witness and work of John Sherrington (CP).

Vincent Manning, Chair of CAPS and member of the Community of the Passion said of John Sherrington’s ministry:

‘John Sherrington’s support for Positive Catholics has been a blessing to us. We have seen how healing is experienced and people are strengthened through a deeper understanding of God’s solidarity with us. The interpretation of painful experience through the lens of the Cross and Passion has the potential to respond to suffering in its depths. However, John Sherrington has helped us to grow in our understanding that God has no hands but ours. We meet Christ in and through each other. I  thank God for John’s gifts of attentive listening; the carefully chosen word; and his healing touch.’

In continuation with this Passionist tradition, John Kearns’ presence at the Positive Catholics retreat recognises that in the UK HIV is still very much here; and it is remains a challenge for Christian Communities.

There are 102,000 people living with HIV in the UK. Although the UK has made significant progress in terms of providing access to antiretroviral therapies, there is a growing problem of later HIV diagnosis: often when health has deteriorated (42% in 2016), and there are also decreasing levels of public understanding and awareness about HIV issues. In addition, for people living with HIV, ageing is emerging as a long term challenge; as are the negative effects of long-term and extreme poverty and wider social exclusion.

Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support (CAPS) is now the last remaining nationwide Christian charity responding to the pastoral and spiritual needs of people living with HIV here in the UK. CAPS regularly encounters people experiencing difficulties with asylum applications, homelessness, mental health issues, complex intersecting illnesses, social isolation; and extreme poverty.

Vincent Manning, Chair of CAPS and member of the Community of the Passion said: ‘The “normalisation” of HIV and its reduction to a medical problem means that people who are living with or affected by HIV are marginalised in society. Not only the actual physical, material and social needs, but the spiritual and pastoral needs of people living with HIV are neglected also.’

John’s presence at the Positive Catholics weekend was a powerful sign of welcome and solidarity from the Passionist Congregation with women and men from all over the world who are living in different ways with HIV.