How to mark Family Fast Day in your parish this Lent

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Margaret Finn is a CAFOD supporter and parishioner at the Holy Name of Mary church in Middlesbrough. Here, Margaret writes about how the parish prepares for Family Fast Day at Lent.

Margaret is a CAFOD parish volunteer in Middlesbrough
Margaret is a CAFOD parish volunteer in Middlesbrough

Supporting CAFOD’s work is very important to people in our parish. We are always aware of those less fortunate than ourselves. This is across the age range of parishioners – from nursery children to grandparents. Children at St Edward’s, the school next door to the parish where I used to teach, take part with assemblies and fundraising events, while members of our Justice & Peace group help to prepare in the parish ahead of Ash Wednesday.

There are various things we do to get ready for Family Fast Day.

1. Pin up poster and put announcement in newsletter

A Family Fast Day poster
A Family Fast Day poster

Firstly, we have to let people know that Family Fast Day is coming up. We try to put up a poster at the entrance to the church and a notice in the newsletter a few weeks earlier so that people will be thinking about Lent before the season arrives. It’s always eye-catching and reminds us of the difference we can make.

This Lent, donate to CAFOD’s Family Fast Day Appeal and have your donations matched by the UK government

2. Give out collection envelopes and prayer cards

Also on a practical level, we make sure that everyone has a Fast Day envelope to make their donation. The younger children are a great help here, giving out the envelopes to people as they come into the church. We make sure that people have a pen handy so they can fill in the Gift Aid form, meaning that the money we donate will be worth even more.

CAFOD also provides beautiful prayer cards each Fast Day. We leave these on the end of the pews so people can take them home and use them as daily reflections. We’re fortunate that our parish priest, Fr Tom, encourages us in our journey through Lent by giving us a magazine with Scripture readings and a daily pause for thought. These help to remind us of the importance of charity as we prepare for Easter.

3. Have someone speak at Mass

A CAFOD young leader practices speaking at Mass
A CAFOD young leader practices speaking at Mass

We have a group of people who can always be relied upon to speak at Mass about the Family Fast Day Appeal and tell us how the money we donate is helping people around the world. We’ve also had guests from CAFOD who are able to talk about what the work involves. It’s great to hear about the impact that the money we donate brings about.

Donate to CAFOD’s Lenten appeal

4. Prayers of intercession and children’s liturgy

Marking Family Fast Day doesn’t just involve raising money – it’s also an opportunity for us to act in solidarity with our global family. The group of volunteers who prepare and lead the children’s liturgy encourage the children to think about this with the resources CAFOD makes available. There are also some lovely prayers of intercession we can say as a parish during the Mass.

5. Organise a Fast Day lunch

Holy Name parishioners holding a Family Fast Day lunch
Holy Name parishioners holding a Family Fast Day lunch

Family Fast Day meals are a big CAFOD tradition at lots of parishes and the Holy Name is no different. It’s a team effort. Volunteers meet in advance to say which soups they will prepare at home and we then heat them up in the parish hall on the day. Other people will buy the bread buns to be served with the soup and others will then help with laying the tables. We tend to have our soup lunches after Mass on a Sunday as that is when most people will be at a church, but we also organise parish events such as quizzes to raise money and come together as a parish community. It’s a nice opportunity to break bread in solidarity as a community. A collection box is placed at the entrance to the church hall with a picture from this year’s CAFOD appeal.

6. Count the money and thank people

Once we’ve collected the money, it’s time to count it, bank it and send the cheque to CAFOD. It’s always great to see how much we’ve raised.

We then make sure to write a note of thanks to people in the newsletter and on the other side of the CAFOD poster, letting them know the amount we’ve donated.

7. Let CAFOD know

CAFOD staff tell us how much they like hearing about what people are doing to support the charity so we make a point of mentioning this to our local CAFOD representative, Carol. It’s not too difficult because Carol works in the building next door to the church! This is helpful to CAFOD but it also means that we can help to raise awareness of Family Fast Day with photos and articles in our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Voice, and encourage others to get involved.

Holy Name of Mary church
Holy Name of Mary church

All the volunteers enjoy what they are doing and although we are all busy people everyone feels that they receive so much from giving their time and helping others. New relationships and friendships are formed. The hymn “Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more” comes to mind. (Look it up if you don’t know it!)

Give this Lent and the UK government will double your contribution

The UK government will match every pound you donate to CAFOD's Lent appeal up to £5m
The UK government will match every pound you donate to CAFOD’s Lent appeal up to £5m
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