Fidel and Julia live in Puentecitos, where they work improve life for their community with the support and solidarity of parishes in England and Wales through out Connect2:El Salvador programme. They asked us to share this advent message.
Dear Connect2 Puentecitos and CAFOD
We send warm greetings to all our friends working with CAFOD.
We were very happy that Clare and Bishop John came to our country, and especially that they came to visit us in our home, for Bishop John’s blessing on our family, with his hands that have been anointed by the Holy Spirit. This will help us to grow in our faith.
We admire Bishop John’s vocation as a representative of Christ, and his sacrifice in travelling from a land so far away to visit our country and our home. We feel blessed to have spent this time with a man who has given himself to God.
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.
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!
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 “Advent: Hope amidst the gloom”
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.
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.
Rachel Simkin is CAFOD’s World Gifts Co-ordinator. She was inspired to share the story of 10-year-old Florence, who set herself a fundraising quest to buy World Gifts knowing they would bring a smile to others.
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 10 years old!
Florence is one of CAFOD’s youngest local volunteers and has succesfuly inspired her Rotherham community to buy World Gifts to help communities across the world.
“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.”
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.
Rachel McCarthy, who works in CAFOD’s Theology Programme, reflects how we can continue to bring the mercy of God to our global family throughout Advent.
On Sunday 20 November, Pope Francis sealed the Holy Door on the Year of Mercy. This past year has been a wonderful opportunity for us to experience the richness of God’s mercy. And the Jubilee has moved us to bring the tenderness of God to all, especially the most vulnerable.
It is worth reflecting back on the Year of Mercy, to understand how we can continue to make mercy a meaningful part of our lives. For me, mercy is a fruit of prayer. Earlier this summer, I walked through the Holy Door of a cathedral in southern France. It was a beautiful shrine: on the entrance of the door I admired the painting of a tree, reminding me of how God holds all of creation in the palm of his hand. Kneeling before the statue of Our Lady, the Mother of Mercy, I felt God’s tender closeness, holding me tight.
The Year of Mercy has ended, but the Lord’s mercy is everlasting. From generation to generation, God shines out his faithful love to all creation. From the child in its mother’s womb to the woman who has reached the end of her life, God raises us up in infinite mercy. This is a gift given to all- no matter who we are, where we come from, or what we have done.
Mercy opens my eyes. Christ opened the eyes of the disciples through acts of divine mercy: through his blessing of the adulterous woman, his tears for Lazarus, the washing of the disciples’ feet. Today, we see the need for mercy all around us. In our own neighbourhoods and across the world, many are cold, hungry, troubled, and longing for love. Rivers are polluted, forests are stripped bare, and beautiful creatures are being killed for profit.
Olwen Maynard has been working on CAFOD’s Middle East Desk since 2006. Here, she looks back at what the generosity of CAFOD’s supporters made possible in the two years following the last major military offensive.
A cup of clean water
Gaza’s tap water is heavily contaminated and dangerous, but buying bottled water is expensive, and can mean having to cut down on food. CAFOD has been working since 2013 with Islamic Relief to provide Reverse Osmosis Units to poor women-headed families, so they can filter their water and make it safe for drinking and cooking. Over the two years since the 2014 airstrikes, which caused massive further damage to the water supply infrastructure, the project has been extended to another 220 families and also to 65 kindergartens, providing clean water for thousands of children, along with hygiene education to help them stay healthy.
Sally Tyldesley, CAFOD’s policy analyst for climate and energy, has just returned from UN climate change negotiations in Marrakech. Here she answers our tricky questions about the Paris climate agreement, what has happened since it was adopted, and what next for climate action.
So, remind us, what exactly is the Paris Agreement?
197 nations came together in Paris last year to make a historic commitment to addressing climate change and cutting carbon emissions.
All international agreements need to go through the steps of being adopted, signed and ratified. The Paris Agreement is moving forward at record-breaking speed: it has become one of the quickest international agreements to come into force.
What is the difference between the agreement being adopted, signed and ratified? It’s all very confusing.
Adoption is the first step. It means that countries agree to the text included within the agreement. 197 countries adopted the Paris Agreement on 12 December 2015.
Next, individual countries sign the Agreement, indicating their commitment to it and that they will not undermine its aims. The Paris Agreement was opened to signatures in New York on 22 April 2016, and will remain open for a year. So far, an incredible 193 countries have signed. Continue reading “Paris Climate agreement – what happens now?”
Sarah Hagger-Holt works in CAFOD’s campaigns team. She’s determined not to give up hope that together we can build a better world – here’s her seven reasons why.
There’s no disguising the fact that we face huge challenges in tackling climate change – but if we don’t recognise how far we’ve come, we won’t have the energy we need for upcoming battles.
So, if you are tempted to give up hope, read on for seven reasons to stay cheerful.
We can overcome our differences. This week, the UK joined 110 other countries who have ratified the Paris Agreement for cutting carbon emissions and tackling climate change. Something worth celebrating!
Step into the Gap volunteer Charlotte Bray has spent the last few months raising awareness and taking action to support refugees.
Scripture tells us that whenever we welcome the stranger, we welcome Jesus (Matthew 25).
This places hospitality, inclusiveness and the welcoming of strangers at the heart of our Christian faith. Perhaps this has never been so relevant as it is today with the current refugee humanitarian crisis. With this in mind, when I started my Step into the Gap placement at Newman University this year, I knew that one of my personal goals would be to raise awareness of the refugee crisis and to encourage others to show their solidarity with refugees around the world.