Incredibly talented volunteer, Andy Wandsbury, shares his experience of living out his Christian mission and how being part of CAFOD has been an expression of this mission.
I moved to a new parish in 2000. I involved myself in parish life, I became a catechist for confirmation and was part of the music ministry. I had to step back from some of my commitments to assist my Father as he began his end of life journey. After my Dad’s death in 2012 I found that I was no longer included in some activities. I felt excluded and rejected. The only reason I could surmise was that some people thought I should not have stepped back from parish activities to support my Dad.
I felt that I no longer had a parish, only a place for Sunday mass. I spent a long-time discerning God’s will. Then in 2016 Eileen Hayes (CAFODs Community Participation Coordinator in the Southwark Diocese at the time) spoke at the Lent Family Fast Day appealing for volunteers. I put myself forward thinking I could be a parish speaker, but God had other plans. I found myself not only a parish speaker but as an education volunteer. I had a found a way back to a community and church life.
Inspiring the local Church Communities
I have visited parishes all over South London and Kent, each very different, giving me an insight into the ways Mass can be celebrated to answer the needs of its local community. As well as talking about who needs our help, I appeal for volunteers for CAFOD, explaining the many ways people can help. I think that at every parish I have spoken I have always had at least one person come forward wanting to know more about working with CAFOD. I hope that my visits make a real impression and if only for that reason I arrive on a very big red Harley Davidson motorcycle. You may have seen it on some of CAFOD’s tweets.
Helping the future generation
As an Education Volunteer I have spoken in many local primary schools talking to pupils about CAFOD’s work. I ask them to tell at least one person something that they have learnt about CAFOD, and say it will make a difference. I tell them how I know it will. At school my daughter was taught how to clap in sign language; she came home and taught it to me. I wasn’t expecting to find it useful, but a few weeks later I went to a very special rugby match: the inaugural match between deaf England and deaf New Zealand. I was able to clap in sign language and you could see the joy it brought to the players when they saw hearing people applauding in sign language. Sadly, I had to step down from the school role when I started working for my rugby club’s project to open up a derelict sports ground to the local community but I found new ways to keep supporting CAFOD.
Make my voice count for a better world
The Campaign Volunteer Coordinator (CVC) is a new role. CVCs are there to improve communication with, and provide support to, those who campaign on behalf of CAFOD. The role is still defining its self and varies from diocese to diocese as is needed. My involvement in the role led me to start campaigning – how can I support campaigners if I have never campaigned? As well as supporting CAFOD’s major campaigns we help respond to urgent events. At our recent general elections, I asked our volunteers to contact as many of their candidates as they could to ask them to support the aid budget, make it a vote winner, counter the negative stories in the press. During lockdown, CVCs have been asking volunteers who have an online parish newsletter to ask their parishes to put an item in it about the Cancel the Debt Petition and support the CAFOD (and DEC) Coronavirus emergency appeal. CVCs also work with the clergy; I have attended priests’ Deanery meetings to thank them for their support and give feedback on our campaigns. At the last meeting when socializing afterwards I had a long chat with Bishop Lynch about Blackheath Rugby (we are both Blackheath supporters). His duties keep him from attending many matches, so I was able to update him on the latest developments at the club.
I have also represented CAFOD at the Catholic Head Teachers Conference where I was able to remind the Head teachers of the resources that CAFOD has that can support schools in delivering their curriculum. I have spoken at Justice and Peace conferences as much of our work can cross over and we can learn much from each other.
I have only one question now, where will my journey with CAFOD take me next?