Pope Francis’s new letter to us all

The week before last Pope Francis issued his fifth major document since beginning his papacy. It is largely a sustained meditation on the Beatitudes and how they can be lived out here and now. It is called Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be glad); and its subtitle is A call to holiness in today’s world.  So what, according to Francis, does it mean to be holy? Susy, from our Theology team, highlights some key points.

According to Francis, if you are by nature timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, prone to put on a dreary face or swoon in a mystic rapture then you are heading in the wrong direction! Here are four ways of being holy that Francis advocates.  I think they will be particularly pertinent to you as a CAFOD supporter:

1. Live out your faith in a practical way

Pope Francis always stresses that we must live out our faith in a practical way (#109). This means, that in our lives and in our work, we are urged to labour “with integrity and skill in the service” of our brothers and sisters (#14).

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The Rohingya crisis: Personal stories from Cox’s Bazar

Zoe Corden from CAFOD’s Emergency Response Team has been in Cox’s Bazar supporting the emergency response. She shares the personal stories of Rohingya refugees forced to flee Myanmar, and now facing the upcoming monsoon season.

I met Solima when she was only 15 days old, and had known nothing but trauma in her short life. Wounded and hungry, she was held in her mother’s arms among hundreds of people sitting on the ground at the entry point to Bangladesh, just waiting in eerie silence.

Solima’s mother, Khodesha, gave birth to her in Myanmar. “Our house was burned,” said her father, Selim. “They took our land and cattle. We hid ourselves in the jungle. We have nothing left.” Eleven of their neighbours were killed, and every house destroyed, when their village in Myanmar’s Rakhine province was attacked.

Her parents waited until Solima was a week old before embarking with her and their three other children on the long, dangerous and exhausting journey to safety in Bangladesh. They were just the latest of 680,000 Rohingya refugees who have had to flee Myanmar since 25 August 2017, arriving with virtually nothing.

Read more about the Share the Journey campaign

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What does a campaigner look like?

Sam has just joined the campaigns team at CAFOD. Read about her journey into campaigning.

My name is Sam and I’m the new Campaigns Engagement Manager at  CAFOD. Campaigning has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I put this down to three main reasons: One – I’ve grown up in strongly Catholic campaigning environments. Two – I’m aware that campaigning is a right not everyone in this world has freely. Three –  I am committed to addressing this.

Actually, there’s a fourth reason.

There aren’t many campaigners I’ve encountered who look like me. As a British born, working class, black female with Ghanaian parentage, I’m not sure I fit the mould of ‘traditional campaigners’ in the UK.

Is that a problem? Yes, because it doesn’t reflect what really happens in our churches. It doesn’t really reflect the face of the church today. It neglects a large proportion of active Catholics with voices and with power.

Sign up now to Campaign with CAFOD

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What our Lent challenges taught us

Hal and Cherrie from London based east-meets-west electronic pop group Ooberfuse have finish their Lent challenges! They told us how they felt being free to enjoy their favourite treats, and what they’ll take away from the experience.

Hal: It’s been a long drawn out ordeal. But then that’s the whole point of a 40 day period of abstinence. I never thought I would miss the discipline required to stay  faithful to my Lenten pledge. As reported earlier, depriving myself of hot food and hot drinks could not have come at a colder time of the year. It was a perfect storm which made the challenge more intensified.

Cherrie: Weirdly I think I miss the afterglow of depriving myself of what previously I considered to be essential – a daily dose of chocolates.

It’s not too late to donate to our Lent appeal and have your donation doubled by the UK Government

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Renewable energy changes lives in Zambia

Sister Clara is a nun from Zambia. She shares with us how climate change is becoming the main cause of poverty and how renewable energy and your support can make a difference.

Zambia has in recent years experienced extreme shifts in weather patterns. These shifts are resulting in profoundly negative impacts on the economy.

The poorest people living in rural areas, like Mbala in Northern Zambia, are most affected because almost everyone is dependent on farming as their main source of living. In addition, most people do not have access to electricity either because it is too expensive or because the country cannot afford a national grid. So the people of Mbala, and other such villages, are often left without this, the most basic of necessities.

Therefore, as a religious congregation working in Mbala, we have been helping the poorest people. We have been supporting them both materially and financially through the Households in Distress Project (H.I.D).

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Coping without social media

Georgia, a student at De Montfort University in Leicester, has been on a digital detox for Lent, giving up all forms of social media. She told us how she’s got on with her Give It Up Challenge.

At the time of writing this blog I am 33 days into not using Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. I can’t believe I have come this far- the end is near.

This Lenten challenge has definitely been one of the toughest ones that I have decided to take on. I have found that the most difficult part of the challenge so far is feeling disconnected. The dreaded ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) has always been in the back of my mind. I’ve found that I’ve missed Facebook the most- practically anyway. It is hard having to rely on people to relay information you need whether that be for events or notifications from my sports team. I wouldn’t say its my favourite social media app- but the most useful for my everyday life.

The reaction I have had to this challenge has been “are you crazy?”, “what do you do on your phone then?”. I have to admit these were my first thoughts when I began contemplating the idea. I think the most unexpected thing however is that I don’t miss it anywhere near as much as I thought I would. It has just caused minor inconveniences. I definitely haven’t felt like I have been missing out on anything socially like I did before with seeing people’s snapchat and Instagram stories. Because if its not there to see there is no FOMO.  This realization has definitely emphasized how people’s online persona is so different from their reality.

See our favourite Easter prayers

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What Easter means to me

This Holy Week, Catherine Gorman from CAFOD’s Theology team reflects on what Easter means to her, and how hope can transform lives.

Easter is swiftly approaching. It is a time of joy, when hope and faith are renewed. The long waiting of Lent is almost over, and finally the time to celebrate will be here. The light of the risen Christ shines through all ages, breathing new life, bringing mercy and conquering darkness.

See our favourite Easter prayers

It is so easy to get caught up in ourselves, to feel like we have to do everything on our own. I know, for instance, that I am often unwilling to ask for help. I prefer struggle on, getting more and more frustrated and disheartened, than to burden anyone else with my difficulties.

Finally, I snap at whoever is nearest, and whichever friend or loved one is bearing the brunt of my rage says, “Why didn’t you ask? I can help you.” Just as I would, if the situation were reversed. I feel foolish for not having believed in the love that others have for me, for not counting myself worthy of their kindness.

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Step into the Gap: Inspired by education

Isabel Marsh, who is currently on placement at St Cassian’s Centre, reflects on her time in El Salvador before she embarks on her fundraising journey 0 the Colchester half marathon.

Less than 12 hours after arriving in El Salvador, our group set off for the University of Central America (UCA) to meet with one of CAFOD’s partners. The UCA is a private university, meaning they are able to charge fees for students (but there are several scholarships and bursaries available) and are not reliant on government funding. This has meant the University has more autonomy and does not need to follow the views of the government, providing it with an independent and non-biased voice.

There is still time to apply to Step into the Gap 

We were led to the Social Outreach Vice-Rectorate, for our meeting with Omar Serrano, the Vice-Rector. We spent the morning with Omar and his colleague Eduardo. Omar shared with us about El Salvador – its history; politics; society and social norms and economy.

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Get the most out of your Lent donation

Runa Begum is a volunteer in CAFOD’s digital team. She tells us why she’s so impressed by the opportunity to have your donation doubled this lent, and by CAFOD supporters who continue to donate generously.

For the last few years I have been thinking more about donating with maximum impact – giving so my money goes further to needy causes. I often research the projects charities fund to see how far my pound can go. I think a lot of other people are feeling similar – we want our charitable donations to go as far as possible and to do as much good as possible.

Money raised for CAFOD’s Family Fast Day appeal this Lent will definitely do as much good as possible. Donations will be match funded by the UK Government which means your donation will be doubled, at no extra cost to you. More importantly, it means your gift will have double the impact in communities in Zimbabwe, Eritrea and around the world.

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What Giving up ‘Bad language’ for Lent is teaching me

Blogger Amy has taken up the challenge of giving up ‘Bad words’ this Lent. She tells us how she is getting on and what this challenge is teaching her.

I have now done just over four weeks of my Lent challenge and I have been surprised and amazed each day by my journey so far. I am so humbled by how God has met me in this time.  Each week I have learned something new and been pointed in a new direction. Even in the difficult moments it has still been a joy to experience. I love the fact that God is graciously taking the time to change me.  Change is hard and discipline is even harder. However, I truly think that when God disciplines us this is an expression of love and affection.

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