Julie Valentine is a parish Volunteer at Our Lady Queen of Peace in East Sheen. She reflects on her experience of this Harvest Family Fast Day and what is coming up next for us all.
Harvest in a Nut shell
What was Harvest like this year? I heard that some parishes like St James the Great in Petts Wood achieved very substantial collections for Harvest and got a good response from their parishioners to donate via their mobile phones. Or other parishes like Our Lady of the Rosary in Sidcup managed to advertise successfully in the parish newsletter and social media. A few parishes like St Vincent de Paul, Battersea, were even brave enough to try the cashless payment with ordering some devices from CAFOD. These examples were very uplifting and show the wonderful commitment of my fellow volunteers and their parish communities.
For me though, Harvest Fast Day was disappointing and flat. With the church still not open for Sunday Mass, there were no posters, no inspiring talk at the Masses, no satisfaction of watching the pile of envelopes mount up in the collection basket. Our priest kindly circulated the CAFOD Newsletter and did his best to remind parishioners during the Zoom Mass and, to me, it all passed with scarcely a ripple …
So here we go again, I thought. Back into relative lockdown and now also face the prospect of a “non-Christmas”. How about all those people that CAFOD works with, for whom every year is probably a “non-Christmas”? They are still battling their own problems, their own helplessness, their own hopelessness… But does it have to be like that? “No one beyond reach” is our motto. Time to pull up my socks and think creatively about how I can continue to do even a tiny bit for CAFOD! In my country, Jamaica, we have a saying “one-one coco fill basket” (Coco is a small root vegetable). I must try to contribute my coco.
What’s next after Harvest?
First stop : the CAFOD Website
First stop, the CAFOD website. What are other people doing? Wonderful things – I saw the runners in the marathon and heard of parishes raising thousands of pounds with sponsored runs and walks. That’s one option, maybe not for me though but my grand children! https://cafod.org.uk/Fundraise/A-Z-of-fundraising-ideas
Second stop : World Gifts
How about alerting fellow parishioners to World Gifts? There are loads of different choices, including some special new ones for these difficult times. https://cafod.org.uk/Give/World-Gifts. If we want to give a tangible gift, there are Advent Calendars, chocolate coins, the lovely Romero Crosses, the vegetarian cookbook, Friday Suppers, by Pauline Curran and other ideas.
Third stop : Send a message to the Brave
Another brilliant initiative is the Christmas Post Card writing scheme – a personal message to a special Peace and Human Rights defender: https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Latest-campaigns/Messages-to-the-brave. We could talk to our priests about promoting this; I think it would go over especially well in schools. This would not take much effort and might really cheer and encourage those brave activists.
We should not forget the valuable work of campaigning: two very current issues are 1) measures to stop climate change and 2) cancelling the debts of the world’s poorest countries: https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Latest-campaigns
Fourth stop : Online Talks
All through the year, CAFOD has organised a number of presentations and get-togethers – now sadly all virtual – for volunteers and supporters. I have attended some very inspiring events, and find it useful to look back over past talks https://cafod.org.uk/Volunteer/Online-talks.
Fifth stop : CAFOD News Page
One thing I don’t do often enough is to check out the news page https://cafod.org.uk/News/Latest-news. I have resolved to do this on a weekly basis to keep in touch with our brilliant people, doing brilliant things to reach out to a world in need – and to see how I might be able to help them.
Sixth stop : Faith in action event
I will definitely take part in our Faith into action: Building a better world after the pandemic, Sat 14 Nov @ 11am-4pm.
Last but not least
And of course, we can all pray – any time, anywhere. A friend of mine said once “How dare we say, we can only pray – prayer is the most powerful thing in the world!” Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us as we pray for the work of CAFOD, to give practical, lasting help to the helpless and ensure that no one is beyond reach of the love and care they need. If you dont know which prayers to use, why don’t you try the one from CAFOD ? Discover them now: https://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Prayer-resources