Advent: Hope amidst the gloom

Sue Cooper, a CAFOD supporter from Corpus Christi parish in Wokingham, reflects on what Advent means to her as a time of hope and light amongst the winter gloom and darkness.

Sue Cooper at a CAFOD supporter event in Parliament

Sue Cooper (left) at a CAFOD supporter event in Parliament

How I dislike this time of year. The dark nights and the cold, wet weather force me inside, and living in an area of the South where it rarely snows, there’s not even that brightness to lighten my mood.  The news, too, speaks of horror in Syria and tumult in Iraq as well as an uncertain future for us here. It is miserable, but amidst the gloom there is hope.

The Sunday Mass readings throughout Advent warn us to ready ourselves and our anticipation of future events is filled with light and expectation. We have not been abandoned in the darkness, there is one who is coming to us who brings peace and cares for those on the margins. And in preparation to welcome the one who comes, we must respond to the call of John the Baptist and “repent” and change our ways.  As the weeks unfold the anticipation and the excitement grow: the Word is made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us, is coming!

Follow our Advent calendar of daily reflection and prayer on the readings throughout the season

As we prepare for Christmas, Advent is a time to take stock of what has happened in the past year. As a family, we post up pictures on our website with short captions to share with our extended family and friends what we’ve been up to. It’s a time to consider those who have died during the year, our achievements and perhaps ponder the “might have beens”. Continue reading

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Bishop John Arnold visits our friends in Puentecitos.

In November 2016, the Chair of CAFOD, Bishop John Arnold, visited El Salvador and Nicaragua. The last stop of his 10-day programme was to visit our friends in Puentecitos. These are some of his reflections.

Chair of CAFOD, Bishop John Arnold visits Connect2 El Salvador

Closing ceremony of the women’s workshop

We set off for a day in the rural area of Guaymango in the Department of Ahuachapan. It was about a two-hour journey to the West, almost to Guatemala. The good roads lasted until just a few miles from Guaymango and the last couple of miles were really nothing more than a single track of unmade road.

The scenery, however, was magnificent with mountains and volcanoes dominating the plain which stretched across to the ocean, which was clearly visible. Everything here is green and manages to remain so for most of the year. Agriculture is the basis of all livelihoods here though factories and assembly plants are increasingly present, together with small hotels which are hoping to see an increase in the tourist trade, particularly for what is apparently excellent surfing. This part of El Salvador was not so much directly affected by the war (1980-92) but many young men here were “pressed” into the army. The area has suffered in recent years by the increasing control of gangs.

Find out more about Connect2 El Salvador.

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I’m dreaming of a livesimply Christmas…

Livesimply sign at Our Lady and St Edward's church, Lancaster diocese

Livesimply sign at Our Lady and St Edward’s church, Lancaster diocese

This year, CAFOD supporter Stephen Garsed is encouraging fellow parishioners at Our Lady and St Edward’s parish in Preston, to think about living simply and loving abundantly this Christmas. Here are his top six suggestions…

The word we hear so often in the weeks before Christmas is ‘tradition’. It is particularly promoted by the glossy magazines who like to sell us the concept of ‘the perfect Christmas’.

But do we want Christmas to be about things or about family? As the TV adverts encourage us to spend more, my mind turns to thinking of ways we can celebrate Christmas in a simple, more environmentally-friendly and loving way. Continue reading

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10-year-old Florence’s World Gifts Christmas quest

Rachel Simkin is CAFOD’s World Gifts Coordinator. She was inspired to share the story of ten-year-old Florence, who set herself a fundraising quest to buy World Gifts knowing they would bring a smile to others.

Young CAFOD Volunteer Florence is on a quest to buy ethical presents this Christmas

Florence is on a quest to transform lives by fundraising for World Gifts

When I first heard about Florence’s quest to fundraise for World Gifts, I found it inspiring to hear of her energy and was delighted that she was encouraging so many to join her quest. Then I was even more amazed when I learnt she was just ten years old!

Florence is one of CAFOD’s youngest local volunteers and has inspired her Rotherham community to buy World Gifts to help communities across the world.

Young Florence first got the idea while listening attentively to her priest, Father Dee, at Mass. He had just been bought a goat from CAFOD’s World Gifts range as a thank you present.

“I thought it was an awesome idea,” said Florence. “I really wanted to help people who didn’t have what I have got. Last Christmas, I asked my friends at school to make a donation instead of sending Christmas cards to each other. I made a speech after Mass and told the parishioners I would be selling raffle tickets and the winner of the raffle would get to choose the animal’s name.

“Everyone at school and in my parish joined in and it was so successful we raised enough money to buy two goats, Kathleen and Rosie, and Maisey the piglet.”

Buy ethical gifts and help transform the lives of poor communities this Christmas

But Florence didn’t stop at Christmas; she decided to volunteer for CAFOD and organise more events throughout this year to encourage her fellow pupils to fundraise and learn about others across the world.

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What Advent means to me

CAFOD volunteer Trevor Stockton, from St Anthony of Padua parish in Wolverhampton, reflects on the significance of Advent in his life, past and present.

Trevor Stockton speaking at a Romero Mass in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham

Trevor Stockton speaking at a Romero Mass in St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham

Advent was a word I didn’t know about until I started going to church in my teens. The period before Christmas and Christmas itself really took on a new meaning for me thereafter.

Before then, as a child in a working class family in the 1940s, Christmas was simply all about having a few treats that we didn’t get all year round. Having an ordinary stocking filled with nuts, dates, a tangerine and other similar luxuries was amazing.  A few, and I mean a few, simple presents followed by a family Christmas meal made the day. There was no television and the day continued with playing games. So, the weeks before Christmas were spent in anticipation of this special time.

Now, Advent means trying to put the religious significance into perspective against a backdrop of a society which seems to see Christmas as a purely commercial, money-making, money-spending time, whatever the cost to self, others and the environment.

Follow our Advent calendar for daily reflections on the Scriptures throughout the season

After I have had the annual tussle with myself about the negatives of this commercial approach, Advent’s true significance to me is as a time of preparation for the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus – who forms the basis of our Christian faith.

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