Bearing witness to mercy

Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the inspiring prayers, gifts and actions of the Catholic community throughout this Year of Mercy.

At the beginning of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis proclaimed, “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!”

I have been amazed by the ways you have borne witness to God’s mercy this year, through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Thank you for all you do to stand alongside our sisters and brothers living in poverty. Here, we celebrate how you have brought mercy to your local communities and our world.

Download Year of Mercy prayers

Feed the hungry

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A Harvest offering for people who are hungry

This Harvest, St John Bosco’s parish in Woodley offered gifts to people who are hungry around world.

Rita Belletty said, “This year we held a creation mass and Harvest offering. It is a token offered back to God in thanksgiving for the gift of fruitful earth, sun and water, joined by our own labour, making us co-creators with God. The second offering was a globe which was taken up to remind us that it is the whole world we are praying for.”

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Harvest Fast Day: Prayers for a brighter future

Catherine Gorman works in CAFOD’s Theology Programme. She reflects on a request from Vladimir in Bolivia that we pray for him and his family this Harvest.

Vladimir on his land in the Altiplano
Vladimir on his land in the Altiplano

“If people in England and Wales were able to pray for us, we’d like them to pray for our dreams to come true and that our work isn’t in vain, but that what we wish for our land will come true.” Vladimir, 25, Bolivia

Pray for Vladimir and his family this Harvest

This simple request for prayers reminds me of how universal the Church is. It makes me aware of our similarities, despite the differences in our lives and circumstances. Continue reading “Harvest Fast Day: Prayers for a brighter future”

Our pilgrimage for refugees at school

Clare Grimes is a CAFOD schools volunteer working with children in the Hallam diocese. Over the last few months Clare has been running the Year of Mercy pilgrimage with children, and has been encouraging schools to take part in the refugee action.

‘I was moved by the child who shared that his hope was to see the world at peace with no more wars.‘

Friday 17 June was a nice sunny day and I felt very happy to be visiting St Thomas More school in Sheffield to hold a ‘Welcome the stranger’ refugee workshop with a Year 6 class.  Alex and Rose, two other volunteers for CAFOD were also coming to help.  I had led this workshop with other schools and had excellent response and participation, so I was really looking forward to  another opportunity. The children entered the hall very quietly and looked happy and expectant.

Join us on the march for refugees on Saturday

Children have been learning about the refugee crisis in class with CAFOD volunteers

We began with a presentation of various pictures of refugees and shared the facts and figures. The children answered questions intelligently and eagerly.  When asked about their hopes and dreams they were forthcoming and shared their aspirations to be actresses, doctors, teachers, just to get married, Olympic athletes, and footballers of note.

I was moved by the child who shared that his hope was to see the world at peace with no more wars.

We then showed the film/video of the refugee children and their hopes and dreams.

Watch this film about refugee children’s dreams

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Ethiopia and care for our common home

Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the Ethiopia food crisis on the anniversary of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical on ecology.

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Herit lives in Ethiopia. She says “I have worked hard for a better life”.

It pains me to hear about the devastating drought in Ethiopia.

I have no doubt that our partners are doing all they can to tackle the Ethiopia crisis. Thanks to your generosity, we are able to support families to cope with the drought in a way which respects their dignity.

Read about our response to the Ethiopia crisis

Yet it is still a distressing situation. Herit is a mother who lives in a village in the northern Tigray region. She has toiled for many years to help her family be self-sufficient, so I can only imagine how devastating this must be for her. “I have worked hard for a better life,” she says, “to go back to dependency is very difficult for me. I feel sad, it hurts me inside.”

For me, Herit’s words echo someone I met in Kenya with CAFOD a few years ago. John, a village leader in rural Isiolo diocese, greeted me warmly and walked with me up a hill to where his community were gathered. We looked across the slope of the field, across the swirls of dust where the fruit trees once grew, and there was not a drop of water in sight. Looking into his eyes, I saw the pain as he expressed what this lack of water meant for his people. Hunger.

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World Refugee Day: Send a message of hope


For World Refugee Day, CAFOD communications officer, Mark Chamberlain reflects on attitudes towards refugees

In the past fortnight a time machine took me back to the late 1980s. I was sitting watching my favourite tea-time programme: a re-run, in glorious Technicolor, of a McCarthy-era, American sci-fi series.

The meek, unsuspecting earthlings were being duped again, by the cold, cunning aliens. More invaders had landed in their town and were taking over. But the only people that could see this were a small boy who kept shouting for people to listen…and me.

Send a message of hope to refugees on World Refugee Day Continue reading “World Refugee Day: Send a message of hope”

Schools volunteers take our Lampedusa Cross pilgrimage

Susan Kambalu works in our schools team, and recently joined CAFOD schools volunteers reflecting on the refugee crisis with our Lampedusa Cross pilgrimage resource. She describes her thoughts and feelings as she went through the stations.

CAFOD schools volunteers writing messages of hope for refugees
Schools volunteers left messages of hope for refugees

“Look down at what you are wearing. If you have a bag with you, consider what is in it.”

It was a warm day; I wore a dress and cardigan but no jacket, and soft shoes. They would not last long if I had to flee like Amina, a refugee in Darfur; if the weather changed I would have no protection against the elements. I happened to have my passport in my handbag that day, an unusual occurrence for me, but an important document that links me to the country of my birth. I had my house keys: but what use would they be if I could not go home? My wallet had a few coins, a bank card, a passport photo of my husband – the money would not get me far, neither would the contents of my bank account if I could no longer go to work. My mobile phone would provide a link with my family, directions to another destination, photos that would provide me with memories of my life and home – but only until the battery ran out, as I had no charger with me.

What prompted me to reflect on my clothes, my handbag? To wonder how I would get on with only the items I had with me, away from home? I was taking part in our new Lampedusa Cross refugee pilgrimage, an ideal opportunity to reflect on “welcoming the outsider” during this Year of Mercy.

Download CAFOD’s Lampedusa Cross pilgrimage for young people

It has been a privilege to be involved in this term’s training days for our school volunteers. Last week I spent the day with about fifteen volunteers in Portsmouth diocese; last month I spent a day visiting our Birmingham volunteers. Over the past term, 100 schools volunteers have been trained in leading this poignant pilgrimage. They now have the resources to support your local Catholic primary or secondary school in learning more about the current refugee crisis and praying for those looking for a safe place to stay.

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Walsingham pilgrims pray for refugees with CAFOD’s Lampedusa cross

CAFOD volunteer Kris Pears from Coventry went on a pilgrimage to Walsingham and spoke to fellow pilgrims about the Lampedusa cross

Kris Pears took the Lampedusa cross on a pilgrimage to Walsingham
Kris Pears took the Lampedusa cross on a pilgrimage to Walsingham

“Hello my name is Kris and I am a CAFOD volunteer”, an opening line that I have used many times in the past, but this time it was very different.

Pentecost Sunday 2016 was the third and final day of the weekend pilgrimage to Walsingham by my parish, St Thomas More’s. The day before I had been privileged to serve Mass for Bishop Robert Byrne at the climax of the Archdiocese of Birmingham’s Diocesan day pilgrimage to the shrine. This morning the crowds had gone and as we left Elmham house to walk the pilgrims’ mile down to the shrine.

A few minutes before the group of 50 of us set out I had briefly explained to the Coventry group and our fellow pilgrims from Liverpool about the Lampedusa cross. Now I carried it at the font of our group as we walked the path between the fields from the village. Continue reading “Walsingham pilgrims pray for refugees with CAFOD’s Lampedusa cross”

Discovering the Joy of Love

Rachel McCarthy works in CAFOD’s Theology Programme. She reflects on how our faith calls us to show mercy to the children, women and men searching for peace and refuge.

Love is a gift of God

“Love never gives up, even in the darkest hour” Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia #118

I am blessed to know what love is. From the example of my parents and my grandparents, I know that love for another person is a self-sacrificial gift, a sharing in each other’s joys and sorrows, one that is ever willing to heal wounds and bring new life.

Reading Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, (the Joy of Love), the words leapt out at me, reminding me of this living stream of our faith. For love “trusts, it sets free”. Love “never gives up, even in the darkest hour”. Love “opens our eyes and enables us to see, beyond all else, the great worth of a human being”. Love “is always a gift of God”.

Based on biblical teaching and the experiences of the faithful worldwide, Amoris Laetitia reflects on the meaning of love and boldly addresses the complex issues which prevent human flourishing. It teaches us how to be loving in our relationships with our own families, but also inspires us to look outwards and to foster an attitude of global solidarity.

Pray for refugees 

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Where are the Doors of Mercy?

Catherine Gorman from our Theology Programme reflects on the Doors of Mercy, where they can be seen in our world and how we can open them to others.

Refugees being directed at a barrier checkpoint, on their way to cross the Greek-Macedonian border.A couple of weeks’ ago I walked through the Door of Mercy at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark with CAFOD colleagues from all around the country. We were praying for refugees and migrants, forced to leave their homes in search of a better life. And as we heard the stories of our brothers and sisters from around the world, intertwined with Scripture, Catholic Social Teaching and prayers, we were moved – imagining ourselves in their shoes, and recognising the need for God’s mercy in our world.

Download our Year of Mercy refugee pilgrimage resources

As Pope Francis has said: “By crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.” (Misericordiae Vultus #14)

As we passed through the door, I had a real sense that I and my colleagues were truly (re)committing ourselves to share God’s mercy with others, a sense that has stayed with me since.

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Rediscovering Mercy: an invitation to connect faith and mercy

Catherine Gorman works in CAFOD’s Theology Programme. On Divine Mercy Sunday she reflects on how we can “be merciful as our Father is merciful”.

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A father warms his child after arriving on the beach in Greece.

Throughout this Year of Mercy, but perhaps particularly today on Divine Mercy Sunday, we are called to “be merciful as our Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). For Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, this call “serves as an invitation to follow the merciful example of the Father who asks us not to judge or condemn, but to forgive and to give love and forgiveness without measure.”

This is a real challenge. Personally, I find that it is so much easier to hold a grudge, to judge others, to close myself off, rather than to open myself up, to let go and forgive. How can I possibly try to emulate the mercy of God in my interactions with others?

Download our Rediscovering Mercy resource>>

Continue reading “Rediscovering Mercy: an invitation to connect faith and mercy”