With Harvest Fast Day activities and preparation starting this weekend, Sister Carmel, a religious Sister of Marie Auxiliatrice from the Parish of Our Lady of Muswell in North London, reflects on how God calls us to not only empathise with our brothers and sisters living in poverty, but to put that care into action. Sister Carmel, a retired teacher and missionary, and now a CAFOD Westminster volunteer, explains how you and your parish can help.
When during Morning Prayer on the Feast of the Transfiguration I came across the lines “my body pines for you like a dry weary land without water” (Psalm 63), my mind went immediately to the people of Niger, the poorest country in the world, who like too many others on our planet are in the throes of another terrible drought and its consequent crop failure and lack of food for thousands. I reflected on the request of our Holy Father in Laudato Si’, where he invites us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and sense how it is for them, and felt compelled to do something about this dreadful situation.
This Harvest CAFOD is telling the story of Hamani, a 74 year-old farmer from the village of Doutchi in southern Niger. A man struggling, with pride and perseverance, to grow enough produce to feed his family and have something over to share with his less fortunate neighbours. Given the havoc being wrought time and again, year in year out since 2010 this is a well-nigh impossible task but nevertheless he is still confident that given some help from us he will manage to grow enough to eat and put aside some seeds to sow for next year’s harvest. He is not looking for hand-outs, just enough to help him survive with dignity and become self-reliant.
CAFOD can provide tools and training to help Hamani and farmers like him find ways of growing more heat-resistant crops and of engaging in diverse methods of animal husbandry. We contributed generously to CAFOD’s work with Caritas Niger in the year 2011 and that was a tremendous help in promoting awareness of these farmers’ human dignity and their ability to become self-reliant without having always to depend on charity.
Please give what you can this Harvest
Ever since I attended a Social Studies Congress in Dublin in the Sixties and was introduced to Pope Paul VI’s social encyclical Populorum Progressio my understanding of practical ways of helping our brothers and sisters in the developing countries came home to me, so 20 years later, when as a religious sister, the opportunity for working in Cameroon presented itself to me, I lost no time in trying to put into action what I had been taught. In my mind there is nothing to equal the first-hand experience of living in another culture and coming to realise that we are all members of one human family, with the same physical, psychological, intellectual, spiritual needs and giftedness, all brothers and sisters entitled to respect, understanding, care and compassion in equal measure.
We are invited to take to heart Jesus’ words “when I was hungry you gave me something to eat” (Matthew 25:35-36). It is a source of great joy to all of us who are volunteers for CAFOD to know that we are right there at the centre of God’s plan for us in our earthly home and we are eager to share this joy with you…‘all this and Heaven too!’”
Get Hands On and help communities grow this Harvest