One of the riches of the Catholic Church is its social teaching. This calls us to act in solidarity with our neighbour wherever and whoever s/he is, “Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone” (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth 38).
For Catholics in England and Wales a remarkable example of such solidarity is CAFOD whose 50th Anniversary is this year. This inspired me to do something to mark the occasion but, more importantly, something that would make a difference to the lives of my sisters and brothers in developing countries.
I believe strongly that our faith calls us to take action to bring about positive change in the world. One way of doing this is by campaigning with CAFOD. My name is Jim Quinn and I have been a campaign volunteer for many years now.
I wanted to find a way for my anniversary project to help the current campaign. This is called Thirst for Change and calls on David Cameron to lead the way on ending water poverty at the G8 in May. Why? Because 783 million people still lack clean water and 2.5 billion are without safe sanitation.
This emphasis on water and sanitation, my love of walking, an interest in waterways and the fact that Birmingham and London are linked by canals makes it a natural choice for my pilgrimage to be a walk from Birmingham to London along the Grand Union Canal.
So on Sunday 22 April Archbishop Bernard will send me off with a blessing at the start of my 155 mile walk from St Chad’s to CAFOD’s head office in London.
I will be walking alongside water all the way (the Grand Union Canal and then the River Thames). And water is why I am doing it, because of people like Esther who has to queue for hours, sometimes through the night, for water from the intermittent supply to her village in Zambia. Esther’s story is featured on the campaign card, and you can read it here >
These cards specifically ask David Cameron to get a concrete commitment from world leaders to achieve the water Millennium Development Goal. You may have had the opportunity to complete one of these in your parish.
The middle section of the card contains a tear out “water droplet”. People around the Archdiocese have been writing messages or prayers on these and sending them off to CAFOD. They will form a river of hope in Downing St when the cards are handed in on 15 May (the end of my walk). I will be there and it would be great to know that many of them are from the Birmingham Archdiocese.
These cards do make a difference. They ensure MPs know that many people are concerned about their sisters and brothers overseas and it influences their decisions.
If you didn’t get a card, they are available from CAFOD Birmingham (tel: 01922722944 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Alternatively go to www.cafod.org.uk/thirst where you will find an email version you can complete online, as well as more information about the campaign.
So for Esther and millions like her I am walking to London, alongside water, asking people to sign these cards on the way. I will be joined by parishioners from parishes through which I pass along the way.
My own parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel,Redditch is being very supportive and some of them, including my parish priest, will be joining me on the last day. Perhaps I will see you along the way? You will be able to recognize me by the T shirt!
To me it is a pilgrimage, a journey of faith in solidarity with the poor of our world. Like the medieval pilgrims of old I will be largely dependant on the hospitality of parishioners along the way. I will also be speaking at parishes hopefully engaging them in the campaign and not boring them with stories of blisters and sore knees!
The pilgrimage will be a witness to the value and importance of campaigning and the Thirst for Change campaign in particular. But it also offers the opportunity to raise money for CAFOD, especially as any donations made will be doubled up by the Government’s UK AID Match scheme.
If you would like to donate, go to http://www.justgiving.com/PilgrimJim-Quinn or send a cheque (payable to CAFOD) to CAFOD Birmingham,23 Glebe Street,Walsall,West Midlands, WS1 3NX .
Please pray for its success.