Columban ‘Local Hero’
4th September 2012 - by Ellen Teague
Columban Jim Fleming, parish priest of St. Catherine’s parish in Birmingham, has been named as a ‘Local Hero’ by the Birmingham Mail newspaper. The award honours people for their willingness to help others, and a presentation will be made at a ceremony in November.
An article in the newspaper said the following:
“Our latest Birmingham Mail Local Hero has opened his home to people who can’t support themselves, spends his time visiting the sick and has helped people with crime and drug problems to turn around their lives.
Irish-born priest Fr Jim Fleming moved to Sparkhill in Birmingham 12 years ago after doing missionary work in Pakistan. He immediately jumped into a life of helping to bring together different religions in Birmingham using the languages he learned abroad and his experiences.
He took in failed asylum seekers who had been living on the streets and let them sleep in church buildings. Later, when he was moved to his current parish in the city centre at St Catherine of Siena, he started taking people into his own home and currently has two people from Eritrea living with him until they can find a way to support themselves. To date, he has offered a bed for the night to more than 100 people who would otherwise be living on the street because they aren’t allowed to work in the UK and aren’t entitled to benefit payments.
Despite not having a car, Father Jim, now 63 and due to retire soon, travels across the city visiting sick people in Birmingham and Solihull, all at his own expense. He said: ‘I feel very privileged, I’m not really sure if I deserve it. It’s nice to be recognised for what I do and I’m very grateful for it.’
Jonathan Cheetham, general manager for The Pallasades, which sponsors the award added: ‘The work of Father Jim Fleming is an asset to Birmingham with his continued efforts having returned from missionary work and assisted our local people. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help those in need, visiting the sick, housing the homeless, assisting asylum seekers, young offenders and those with substance and alcohol problems. He is a true asset to the community of Birmingham and demonstrates true dedication to help those in need, our very own Local Hero.’”