Each Fast Day, hundreds of CAFOD volunteers arrange to speak at Masses about how CAFOD is making a difference overseas. Jed Murphy, a volunteer from the Southwark diocese, is one of these volunteers. He shares with us how he started volunteering and his top tips for a successful Fast Day talk.
Just over seven years ago I had one of those life-changing moments. I had a day’s annual leave and was lazing on my couch at home. Around me was every conceivable gadget you could think of: large TV, games console, several tablets & smartphones. And I thought to myself: I have all this and yet so many people around the world have nothing. I could not help but think it wasn’t right.
I felt that something had to change. I had to try and do something to make a difference.
I had grown up with CAFOD. I knew that they helped people in need around the world: but I knew little more than that. So I found the CAFOD website, learned a little more about what they did and clicked on a link to apply to be a volunteer. I wasn’t sure what I could do, or how I could help.
As part of the process I met one of the regional volunteer managers. His name was Jim and he was amazing. One of the things that he suggested was whether I would be willing to speak at Masses and make the appeal in support of CAFOD’s Lent and Harvest Fast Days.
And I have been doing that for the last seven years.
As a volunteer speaker one of the things we do is make appeals at those parishes that don’t have a regular CAFOD contact of their own. When I first started volunteering, that was a little daunting – speaking at an unfamiliar parish and meeting lots of new people. But every single person I have met over the years has been so welcoming and lovely – and every parish priest has made me a cuppa between Masses.
And there are two great highlights as a speaker. The first is when you get a round of applause from the congregation at the end of the appeal. That’s an amazing feeling. The second is learning how much money was raised as a result of the talk. For me that’s about making that difference that enables CAFOD to help those less fortunate around the world.
At the beginning of each appeal I always introduce myself and make sure that people know I am a volunteer. I always hope that if people know that I am giving my time freely and that I am here because I believe in the work that CAFOD does, then they may listen just a little more intently and perhaps give just a little more.
Over the years I’ve put together a little checklist for speaking at Mass that might be helpful for others:
- I always call the parish in the week before the talk – to introduce myself and make sure all the posters and donation envelopes have been delivered
- I check whether there will be a collection during/after Mass (or perhaps even the following week) and then weave that message in the talk. It’s important that people know the best way they can take action
- I try and make the words my own – I always edit the CAFOD talk to make it feel more natural for me to say. I’ll even edit it after the first talk if certain passages felt overly wordy or I felt that people weren’t listening to a certain section
- I never make the talk overly long – getting the message across in the shortest amount of time maximises its impact and makes sure the congregation doesn’t switch off (that was a tip from a parish priest in one of my early talks!)
- I get to the church a little early and arrange the leaflets and posters so the maximum number of people get a chance to see the appeal
- I always stand at the back at the end of each Mass until the last person has left – to accept any donations, hand out envelopes, answer questions or even recruit new volunteers
I believe that the Fast Day appeals are so very important. In our busy lives it’s easy to forget the poverty & hardship that affects so many people around the world. But as a speaker at Mass we can tell the real stories of real people whose lives CAFOD is transforming. And these powerful stories encourage others to get involved: from a donation in the collection basket, to making a regular donation, an offer of help or simply a prayer.