Category Archives: CAFOD Birmingham

Pass It On at Exult

The summer holidays got off to a prayerful start in the Birmingham Archdiocese with Exult, a brand new worship event organised by young people for young people and held at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Birmingham.

Following a joyful, unifying morning of praise and worship, lunchtime came with an opportunity to pass messages of peace to those living in conflict by taking part in CAFOD’s Olympic solidarity action, Pass It On.

At the early Olympic Games, a 100-day truce was declared to enable atheletes to travel safely. Pass It On revives this tradition with a giant online relay, passing on messages of peace to people around the world who are living in conflict during 2012, and those who are working to bring peace to their communities.

These are people like César López from Colombia. César is a member of the Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction, a group of musicians and activists seeking alternatives to violence in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. Using a guitar made from a modified AK47 gun, César heads out to the streets with his colleagues whenever there is violence in the city to play music about peace.

Young volunteer Joe on top of the world at Exult!

Pass It On involves being filmed moving from left to right as creatively as possible – and creativity was the word at Exult. There were somersaults, piggybacks – and one young person managed to fly past the camera in a single leap, worthy of an Olympic long jump. After making their films, the young people wrote messages of peace to be passed to CAFOD’s partners around the world who are working for an end to conflict in their communities. These were truly inspiring and included:

‘Peace to me is the freedom to listen to that small and still quiet voice and recognising my neighbour and their needs.’ – Adrian.

‘Keep going and living in hope because God is with you in all your work.’ – Ciara

‘Peace to me is the fountain of goodness, greatness and everything amazing!’ – John.

‘Don’t stop, never give up, hold your head high and reach the top! If you are working through the love of God you can never fail!’ – Emily.

‘Peace to me is loving your neighbour and working to get along with everyone. It is being at one with yourself and the world around you.’ – Gemma.

The creative juices continued to flow as the young people designed symbols of hope to add to a giant mural, based on a peace mural created by the CAFOD-supported Association for the Victims of Violence in Colombia and inspired by Matthew 5:16: ‘You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before others.’ The Association for the Victims of Violence brings together people who have lost loves ones during the conflict in Colombia to help them express their grief and remember those who have died, as well as promoting peace and creating hope for the future. Symbols of hope for the young people at Exult included a beautiful sunset, a dove, candles, music, and images of the world.

After lunch, the young people retired to the chapel for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by quieter, more reflective music. The day culminated in Mass celebrated by the Most Reverend Archbishop Bernard Longley, fresh from welcoming the Jamaican and US Olympic teams to Birmingham. His Grace confessed that, as soon as he heard about the event from the organisers, he knew Exult was where he wanted to be even if other pressures had ended up calling him elsewhere.

Exult was organised by a team of eight young people, many of whom have experience working at retreat centres like Soli House and Alton Castle. It was a brilliantly organised, inspiring event which is sure to go from strength to strength – if you live in the Birmingham Archdiocese and missed out, make sure you don’t make the same mistake next year!

Huge thanks to the team for inviting CAFOD to take part, and a massive thanks also to CAFOD volunteers Jack and Joe, without whom our participation would simply not have been possible.

Have you taken part in Pass It On yet? It’s simple and easy to do: film yourself or a friend moving from left to right, upload it at and add your message of peace.


Filed under CAFOD, CAFOD Birmingham, greatgeneration, youth action

Key Volunteers Away Day

On the 11th July eighteen of the Archdiocese of Birmingham’s CAFOD volunteers gathered (in spite of the pouring rain) at Manresa House, the Jesuit Residence in Harborne, Birmingham, for an annual Away Day. The day began with a time of reflection in which each person was invited to light a candle and express their hopes of what the day would bring. While some hoped for a recharging of their spiritual batteries, others wanted to learn more about CAFOD’s work. Some said they were just happy to be with a group of people who have in common the desire for a more just world.

Geoffrey Chongo, a visitor from the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia, was the first speaker of the day. The JCTR is a research, education and advocacy organisation that promotes study and action on issues linking Christian faith and social justice in Zambia. Its main research focuses are key social issues like the cost of living, social implication of debt servicing, accessibility of healthcare and education, and integrity of local democracy and it was on this theme that Geoffrey’s talk, concerning the impact that Chinese intervention is having in Zambia, was based upon. This fascinating talk ended with an impromptu debate concerning the necessities and hindrances of Chinese presence, a discussion of the long term effects on Zambia both economically and politically and even a proposition of whether the situation constituted a continuation of colonialism. Geoffrey was then presented with a quilt (shown above) made by pupils at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Brierley Hill, by CAFOD volunteer Raphael Agbor Ebot who visited the school earlier this year. The pupils had hoped that the quilt would be given to a community supported by CAFOD, and have now been told that it will be taken to Zambia as a message of solidarity and friendship.

 After a hearty shared lunch it was back to the sitting room of Manresa House for a discussion lead by Geoff O’Donoghue, CAFOD’s International Director. Geoff talked about the crucial interdependence between the lives of people all over the world, in both developed and developing countries. Thinking of the ‘butterfly effect’, Geoff spoke of how reaching upwards or downwards towards a fairtrade item on a shop shelf can make a real difference to the life of someone who grew or produced that item, thousands of miles away. Giving to charity is vital, he said, but it will never be enough if that is all we do. We must be part of the change, in how we choose to live.

We are always looking for new people to join our friendly volunteer team, who come from all parts of our diocese. If you are interested, do contact us to find out more on 01922 722 944 or

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The Great Birmingham Run!

CAFOD is once again seeking runners to run the Great Birmingham Run, on Sunday 21st October. Last year 10 amazing people ran the 13.1 miles in aid of CAFOD and this year we would love to have even more! Please contact us for a sponsorship pack, running vest and support with raising funds and gaining publicity for your efforts. As the event is televised on Channel 5, this is a great opportunity to get CAFOD running vests seen by many. So getting your legs in action for a great cause and enter the race via the Great Birmingham Run Website!

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Oxfordshire Youth Mass

In Oxford yesterday, the month began with a CAFOD Youth Mass organised by Trisha Dufficy from BCYS and Helen Hurrell from the Portsmouth diocese, in partnership with Amy Fox CAFOD Diocesan Officer (Youth). The day was a chance for the young people of Oxfordshire to come and have fun, discuss important global issues and worship together.

The day began with ice breakers with the young people getting to know each other with Jambo before going onto consider how many people, in how many different countries, they had relied on before they had even finished breakfast that morning, through Global Connections. Everyone then got into teams for a Reality Relay, for which they had to make their own football from carrier bags and string before starting.

The young people then got a taste of a microcosm of reality when they took on the characters of young people in countries where CAFOD works and tried to bid for things they needed in the World Values Auction. The soundtrack to the game quickly became constant shouts of ‘That’s not fair!’ as Jonathan from the UK consistently outbid everyone else, even for things that he didn’t need.

After that light hearted dose of global reality the attendees then turned their thoughts towards possible responses to injustice. To aid this, raps written by young people in Colombia and Kenya were listened to, as they tackled issues such as conflict and inequality which the lyricists face on a daily basis. Inspired by these, the young people then used their experiences from the World Values Auction, together with a selection of newspaper cuttings and extracts from the day’s readings, to think about the issues that mattered to them and to create their own raps,  to be performed as bidding prayers during Mass. Here are some examples for the next time you’re laying down some worship with Kanye or Jayz:


Poverty is bad blud,

very, very sad blud.

Rich people are greedy,

we’re very needy.

They don’t share:

it ain’t fair.

Lord hear our prayer.

Lord hear our prayer.


There is a hedgehog that is stuck inside a can.

It could be female or maybe a man.

It would have not happened if they put it in the bin.

Harming animals is a sin.

We should look after God’s environment.

We’ve been given this world. Take care – that’s a requirement.

God loves us all – he’ll never go into retirement.

Mass was then celebrated by Fr. Paul King, with an inspiring homily about the need for us all to do our one particular thing, however small, to make a difference as well as some brilliant singing by Lexie and Tori. The day was finished off perfectly with delicious soup and rolls prepared by Janet Farnsworth.

A big thank you to all the young people, Trisha, Helen and Janet for their hard work, to Fr. Paul for celebrating Mass and generally getting stuck in, and Fr. Naz, Kathleen and Joice for help, support and participation.

If you would like Amy or one of our volunteers to visit your parish to run a session, or if you are a youth leader in the Birmingham Diocese and you would like to inspire your young people to put their faith into action by engaging in global justice, we can provide advice, resources, training or even tailor-made sessions. Please get in touch with Amy on 01922 722944 or e-mail

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An Olympic Day of Activities at St Thomas of Canterbury

On Sunday 24th June Amy Fox was in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, to run an Olympic activities day at St Thomas of Canterbury. She was joined by a small by enthusiastic group of families from St Thomas of Canterbury and St Christopher’s. Following Mass, the families enjoyed tea and coffee and a medal worthy test of Olympic knowledge. With most families gaining gold for their efforts, especially concerning the tricky question of the beginning of the marathon as an Olympic event:

1)      What event brought about the first marathon?

a)   In 490 BCE, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran 25 miles from the town Marathon to Athens to inform the Athenians of the outcome of a battle with the invading Persions. After telling the townspeople of the Greeks’ success in the battle, Pheippides fell to the ground dead. In 1896, at the first modern Olympic Games, there was a race  of the same length held in commemoration

b)   In 1896, during the first modern Olympic games, Thansis Papatheodorou was forced to run to and from his hometown, Athens in order to compete, as he was unable to finance any other method of travel. After his victory in the 10,000 metres the Olympic committee, in honour of his strength and determination, decided to create a new event named by combining the Greek translation of these two words – marathon.

c)   In the 1924 Olympics Benjamin Collins and Klaus Schaffer tied for first place in the 10,000 metres. Both, unable to accept the draw, then suddenly began to run around the track again, with Collins eventually winning. Though the impromptu rematch was ignored it alerted the Olympic committee to the possibility of a longer race being held. One that was eventually named after the Greek words for its increased length.

Yet even a few doctors, who were attending, crashed and burned over the hurdle of a question about the reason why Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie holds his arm crooked when he runs:

2)  Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie, winner of two Olympic gold medals, has a very distinctive running style as his left arm is crooked. Is the reason for this that:

a)   An accident as a teenager left his left arm badly broken and, due to insufficient medical treatment, it did not heal correctly. Due to this Gebrselassie cannot stretch his arm out fully or hold it in a straight, high position when his muscles are tensed

b)   Gebrselassie had to run 10km to school every morning, and back every evening; the crook in his arm is a consequence of him having to carry his books during these journeys

Then came a shared lunch followed by some CAFOD sports icebreakers. The families made a football from carrier bags to play ‘All to Play For’ – a game of handball set in the Kenyan slum of Korogocho and based on the experiences of the talented young people who live there. The game looks past the competition from 205 countries around the world battling it out in over 300 events to the bigger challenge of tackling the reasons why poverty exists. This gave the day a very thought provoking and entertaining end.

A big thank you to the parishioners who attended; and for giving donations, towards CAFODs work, that came to a total of £100. As well as a big thank you to Chris Walker for organising the event and to Fr Dominic and the parish for hosting.

If you would like Amy or one of our volunteers to visit your parish to run a session, or if you are a youth leader in the Birmingham Diocese and you would like to inspire your young people to put their faith into action by engaging in global justice, we can provide advice, resources, training or even tailor-made sessions. Please get in touch with Amy on 01922 722944 or e-mail

Answers to the questions: Question 1 – a. Question 2 – b.

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