Daniel Hale is CAFOD’s Head of Campaigns. In November, CAFOD will be hosting retreats all around the country, giving supporters a chance to reflect on faith and taking action in light of the Year of Mercy.
There are only three more weeks until the end of the Year of Mercy, the holy year called by Pope Francis to reflect on the mercy of God. Of course reflection is good at any time, but why did the Pope ask for this year to be the year?
I think it was a clever way to ask us to take a fresh look at the problems faced by the world and its people. The refugee crisis, to which Pope Francis had tried to draw so much attention was one such issue.
Over several years Francis had done a lot to promote the cause of refugees, including visiting Lampedusa, where so many migrants washed up on European shores. But the world was slow to act.
As a new term begins, CAFOD’s Elouise Hobbs spoke to young leader Jouriz, from Chertsey, about her experiences and advice for those thinking of taking part this September.
Over the last academic year CAFOD has worked with 245 young people from across seven dioceses as part of CAFOD’s young leadership programme. These young people spent the year learning about justice issues and developing leadership skills. Collectively they have reached around 65,000 people through their campaigning, speaking at Mass, fundraising, assemblies, blogs and tweets.
In the last academic year, Jouriz took part in the CAFOD young leadership programme; when I met her, she was presenting to lower forms from her school about the impact of CAFOD.
You recently attended the end of year Young Leadership celebration day with CAFOD. Do you have a moment that particularly sticks out for you?
“My favourite moment was actually at the beginning of the day. We had just arrived and as an ice-breaker we had to go round the tables and meet everyone. When we went around the tables with just a 30-second gap. It was so fast. I only had a short time to make a conversation and crack a joke. Even though it was only a short amount of time, it actually allowed me to get to know people really well. It was so much fun travelling up to London and getting to meet all the different people.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This reflection and prayer, based on the gospel for Sunday 28 June, Matthew 16:13-19, were written by Matthew Sanderson, who is the Executive Assistant to the Director of CAFOD.
“Who do you say I am?”
Matthew Sanderson visiting CAFOD projects in El Salvador
What were your first thoughts of God? What did you imagine God to be? For me, God was a figure sat on a cloud with a beard, or someone who wagged his finger from on high. As I have grown up, so too has my answer to the question ‘Who do I say God is?’
For me, God is love. That is who I say God is.
Last week saw the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. Pope Francis is clear that God made us all out of love and to love.
We are reminded in the encyclical that “the entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us” (Laudato Si’ section #84). I am reminded of this when I see the rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Dales.
What’s more, the special love of the Creator means each human being is “conceived in the heart of God” (#65). As children of God, we have an inherent dignity, not because of anything we have done, but out of God’s love for us.
We can reflect God’s love for us in our daily lives as “we were made for love” (#58). By remaining in God’s love, may we come to know the Lord more and more each day.
Lord, we give thanks for your love and the world around us. We pray that we continually realise that we were made for love. Amen.