Blog: Terry Waite reflects on 15 years of Emmaus Leeds
Over fifteen years ago I travelled to Leeds to look at a building which it was hoped might become a residential centre for Emmaus companions.
At the time it was being run by a charity working alongside the homeless but they had very limited resources and were working in conditions that were far from ideal. The building itself was built as a school and when that school ceased to exist then, as is often the case, the building fell into disrepair.
Well, to cut a long story short, thanks to the active cooperation of the Roman Catholic Church which owned the property, it was purchased and work started.
I always have great admiration for those who start an Emmaus community. Not only does it require a real belief in the rightness of what you are doing but also an ability to engage in sheer hard mental and physical work.
The first trustees and the first companions did a splendid job and established the foundations which have led to being what Emmaus Leeds is today. During the past years I have visited the community many times.
On one occasion I went over the bridge to visit the 'Kremlin’ as it is sometimes called, to speak with some of the employees there. They took an interest in Emmaus and have been supporters over the years. Gradually more and more Leeds people got to know Emmaus and gave of their time or donated goods for sale with the result that the old school is now a flourishing community providing a safe and secure home for 26 residents who are working to their capacity and contributing to the wider community.
It was good for me when, the other night I returned to Emmaus Leeds to join in the celebrations. The companions expressed real pleasure at what had been achieved. Volunteers and supporters, as well as people new to the movement, really enjoyed the evening. Those who took one of the tours offered were impressed by the quality of the restoration work done which provided companions with a decent home.
Emmaus Leeds over the years has had its ups and downs. I have never know any Emmaus community not to have faced difficulties. If there were no difficulties then Emmaus would not be doing its job. There are bound to be further problems ahead - that is life. However, as has been shown in Leeds, problems are meant to be tackled and dealt with and that can and does happen.
Well done Emmaus Leeds. The whole Emmaus community sends you warm good wishes both for today and for the future.
Terry Waite CBE, President Emmaus UK