Speaking at Mass: telling real stories of real people

CAFOD young leader practices Lent Fast Day talk
A CAFOD young leader practices the Lent Fast Day talk

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. Continue reading “Speaking at Mass: telling real stories of real people”

Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – The effects of climate change on water

CAFOD gap year volunteer Danielle Storey has written about how climate change is impacting upon water supplies in Zimbabwe. Our 2016 Lent Appeal is focused on providing people with access to water.

Danielle has seen the impacts of climate change in Zimbabwe
Danielle has seen the impacts of climate change in Zimbabwe

The climate is changing. We can all easily fall into the habit of ignoring it, thinking it doesn’t affect me or it’s not that bad, my actions are only small so I can’t do anything about it. That’s what I thought too before I began my gap year with CAFOD. However countries all over the world, especially in recent years, are beginning to feel the effects of extreme weather events, including the UK with the recent devastating floods. We need to acknowledge that climate change is real and affecting people now.

Call for action to tackle climate change

Zimbabwe, along with other sub-Saharan African countries, is experiencing a severe drought. A priest we met while visiting CAFOD partner Mashambanzou told us that this is by far the worst he’s ever seen in the 30 years he’s been here. It’s been evident since we arrived here in Zimbabwe when we saw how dry and small the maize and other crops were for this time of year – there hadn’t been any rain for six weeks and it’s supposed to be the rainy season. Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – The effects of climate change on water”

Contemplating the river of mercy

Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the journey of Lent in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  

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“The great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly” Misericordiae Vultus #25

As we celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, we are called to reflect on God’s overflowing love for us all. In the pastoral letter Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis invites us to contemplate God’s mercy as “a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it” #25. Lent offers an opportunity to draw from the wellsprings, to feel the refreshing waters pour over us, and to share this source of life and love with our neighbours.

The Year of Mercy is not something to be rushed into. For me, throwing ourselves into a sort of hurried anxiety to appear merciful to others would be missing the point. The holy year is, similarly to the season of Lent, more of a journey on which the Lord accompanies us.

To truly understand what it means to be merciful, we must first reflect on the mercy we have received from God. I recall a few times in my life when I have been touched by God’s mercy. One which stands out was when I was sitting on the ground, reflecting through imaginative contemplation on the story of a woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50). The woman bends down to Jesus, her tears falling upon his feet and she wipes them away with her hair. Listening to the words of the Gospel with the summer’s breeze flowing through my hair, I felt the same feeling I do every year on kissing the Cross on Good Friday: an outpouring of love for God.

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It is worth meditating on the words of the Gospel to understand the mystery of mercy. While they are at table together, Jesus says to Simon, “I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love” (Luke 7:47). Continue reading “Contemplating the river of mercy”

How far does your Gift Aid go?

Haoua Balma at St Augustine Health Centre, Niamey.
The Gift Aid on a £10 Fast Day donation – £2.50 – could pay for antibiotics at a health centre in Niger.

Grace Cowley coordinates CAFOD’s Lent Fast Day Appeal. Here she tells us why she’s so passionate about Gift Aid and the difference it makes to CAFOD’s partners around the world.

The Gift Aid system, which gives back tax to charities from donations from tax payers, has just turned 25 years old. You’ll have seen Gift Aid forms when making donations, but it may surprise you just how special this little form is.

“It might just be a drop in the ocean, but the ocean is made up of lots of drops.”  Evelina Manola, Caritas Hellas in Greece

In the past 25 years, CAFOD has received £42 million in Gift Aid. That money can be used for any project around the world, which means it can pay for work in places of great poverty, which perhaps aren’t in the headlines.

Find resources to start fundraising for Lent Fast Day 2016

This is the heart of why Gift Aid is brilliant – because it enables more people to overcome poverty and injustice. The Gift Aid on £1 – 25p – could buy enough rice to feed a family for a day after a natural disaster. The Gift Aid on a £10 Fast Day donation – £2.50 – could pay for antibiotics at a health centre in Niger. Continue reading “How far does your Gift Aid go?”

New Year in Myanmar

Myanmar - woman prayingPaula Nyunt from our Humanitarian team, who is originally from Myanmar, reflects on the country’s New Year festivities.

Support CAFOD’s work in Myanmar and across the world this Lent

As Myanmar, Cambodia and Bangladesh celebrate New Year this week, I was reminded of my childhood when we celebrated the water festival in the city that was then Rangoon.

Myanmar has 12 festivals, one each month around the full moon day. But Myanmar’s New Year water festival, Thin-gyan, is the most famous, often with street celebrations as well as various religious activities. It usually falls around mid-April and it is celebrated over a period of four to five days ending in the New Year.

There is a great deal of friendliness and goodwill among people during the festival. The sprinkling of water is intended to symbolically “wash away” one’s iniquities. In major cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, garden hoses or locally made water shooters and other devices from which water can be sprayed are used, in addition to simple bowls and cups. Sometimes water balloons and even fire hoses have been used. It is the hottest time of the year and a good dousing is welcomed by most.

During the Water Festival, the Myanmar government relaxes the restrictions on gatherings. However, the lack of water in recent years has restricted the use of large quantities of water in some parts of the country.

Temporary water-spraying stations are set up, and double as dance floors, many of them are sponsored by wealthy families and businesses. Street performances and traditional floats by puppeteers, orchestras, dance troupes, comedians, actors and singers singing and chanting slogans are commonplace. Support CAFOD’s work in Myanmar and across the world this Lent  Continue reading “New Year in Myanmar”

Young people speak up for our sisters and brothers in the face of climate change

Liam Finn, CAFOD Regional Media Officer
Liam

Liam Finn is CAFOD’s Regional Media Officer. He tells us how young people are supporting our sisters and brothers as they face extreme weather.

Hundreds of young people from across the country are joining our One Climate, One World campaign – in schools, in churches, and even in Parliament.

10,000 calls by supporters have been made to party leaders to secure an ambitious global deal to cut polluting fossil fuels and to move towards sustainable energy for everyone. Climate change, which scientists believe with 95 per cent certainty is being driven by human activity, is the biggest threat to tackling poverty worldwide – and is already affecting communities both overseas and in the UK.

Join the One Climate, One World campaign for young people

One Climate, One World comes at a time when climate change is firmly on the Church’s agenda. Bishop Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences, broke the news at CAFOD’s Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture that Pope Francis is preparing to publish an encyclical on the environment and human ecology. Continue reading “Young people speak up for our sisters and brothers in the face of climate change”

Lent Hope Journal: Reflecting on my Lent journey

Ellie Wilcock head shot
Ellie

Ellie is CAFOD’s PR Officer. This Lent, she has doubled her cycling to work and will give what she saves on travel to CAFOD’s Lent Appeal. Today, her personal Lent journal focuses on her Lent journey.

Lent is one of my favourite times of year. It’s a time for reflection and living simply, and marks the ever-welcome transition between winter and spring. Ash Wednesday is often cold and wet, but by the time Easter Sunday arrives, the nights are getting longer, the daffodils are in full bloom and my winter clothes have been packed away.

Lent is also one of the most important periods in the CAFOD calendar. Our fantastic supporters – school and youth groups, parishes and individuals – pull out all the stops to come up with unique fundraising ideas to raise as much money as possible for our Lent Appeal. Romero House – CAFOD’s London office – is a hive of activity and updates on how the appeal is going are bound to put you in high spirits.

Donate to CAFOD’s Lent Appeal

Many of my colleagues have embarked on Lent challenges this year – either doubling something up or cutting something out: Ffion and Laura have doubled their baking, keeping me stocked in sweet treats and raising funds in the process; Mariacristina’s delicious Neapolitan dishes have been the talk of the town during lunchtimes; and Mark has cut out eggs, dairy, and honey (he’s a vegetarian so it’s no mean feat!). Continue reading “Lent Hope Journal: Reflecting on my Lent journey”

Flame2: Expressing our faith this Lent

Nathaniel and Remi are CAFOD young leaders and students at St Joseph’s College, Reading. They tell us about their experience at Flame2.

Nathaniel and Remi with other CAFOD young leaders at Flame2
Nathaniel and Remi with other CAFOD young leaders at Flame2

As we progress through the season of Lent, it is important that as Catholics we take the time to reflect on how we can contribute to our community.

The CYMFed Flame2 event at Wembley Arena earlier this month was an opportunity to reflect along with thousands of other young Catholics. You could feel the presence of God in the hearts and minds of everyone as we gathered to kindle the flame of Christ.

Aged 11-18 and want to express your faith?

As we took to our seats, the event roared into life with uplifting and exciting music by liturgical dancers and double-Grammy award winning songwriter Matt Redman. Thousands of pinpoints of light from the mobile phones of the audience shone around the arena, as everyone joined together in musical worship.

Lighting the flames of our faith

CAFOD had prepared a series of lunchtime activities for us as young leaders to use to engage and inform people. During the balloon challenge, participants were asked to race each other to inflate the balloons the fastest, not knowing that one of the balloons had a hole pierced through it. The balloon with the hole symbolised how not all of us have equal opportunities in life, because many people are born into areas which are disadvantaged by the climate, resources or political systems. CAFOD young leaders also contributed to getting #Flame2 trending on Twitter, by sharing photos of activities and of friends wearing the One Climate, One World heart costume. Continue reading “Flame2: Expressing our faith this Lent”

Lent 2015: Katharine cuts out all drinks except water

Youth leader, Katharine
Youth leader, Katharine

Katharine O’Brien is the Catechetical and Youth Co-ordinator at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Wanstead. Katharine supports the work of CAFOD in her parish and the Diocese of Brentwood. Here she tells us how she is getting on with her Lenten challenge of cutting out all drinks except water.

Announcing my challenge

When thinking about what to cut out for Lent, I normally go for one of three things – chocolate, ice cream or fizzy drinks. Imagine then the surprise of my friends and family when I announced I was giving up all drinks except water from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday.

You would be forgiven for thinking I had gone mad (in fact, this announcement during school assemblies has either resulted in a sharp intake of breath or laughter) but my plan was never to think of the most bizarre Lenten promise. I was inspired by a friend from sixth form, who, along with her boyfriend, gave up drinking anything but tap water for an entire year to raise money for Water Aid. I knew that was a phenomenal achievement (and something I just couldn’t live up to) but I realised I could follow her example during Lent and, at the same time, raise money for CAFOD through their Cut it Out campaign.

Donate to CAFOD this Lent and every £1 you give will be matched by the UK government, up to £5 million.  Continue reading “Lent 2015: Katharine cuts out all drinks except water”

Lent Hope Journal: International Day of Happiness

Ellie Wilcock head shot
Ellie

Ellie Wilcock is CAFOD’s PR Officer. Today, her personal Lent journal focuses on International day of Happiness.

Visit CAFOD’s Lent Calendar 

I’m a bit of a pessimist. A ‘glass half-empty’ kind of girl. I often expect the worst, and am frequently chasing whatever I think will make me happy. For example, “I’ll be really happy when the summer arrives and winter’s over” and then, “I hate the city in the summer, I can’t wait for it to be over so that I can wrap up warm and celebrate Christmas”. Always chasing. Waiting to reach the other side where the grass will undoubtedly be greener.

Nana
Nana

My colleague Nana has the most beautiful smile. When I arrive at the office in the morning, one look from her can lift my spirits no end. Nana’s an optimist. A ‘glass half-full’ kind of girl. I’ve been trying to reflect more during Lent and when I decided to write a blog on International day of Happiness as part of my Hope Journal, I asked Nana to describe what happiness means to her and how she maintains her sunny disposition.

Continue reading “Lent Hope Journal: International Day of Happiness”