Sophia White, who is based in the diocese of Southwark, is on a gap year with CAFOD. She is sharing with us what Lent is for her and why she will take on the 10,000 steps challenge.
Lent is traditionally a season of fasting, prayer and penitence in preparation for the celebration of Easter. It is a season which is very dear to my heart.
A lent journey : from conversion to Walking for Water
For Lent 2018, I travelled across the United States in a journey which ultimately led to me being received into the Catholic Church on Pentecost that year. I then moved to Dublin to study theology, and much of Lent 2019 was spent writing essays and grieving the sudden death of a childhood friend. Lent 2020 was Lent in Lockdown 1, and we could argue that last year’s Lent is the longest 40 days of our lives.
My hope is that Lent 2021 will be less of a rollercoaster than these previous years. Along with many of CAFOD’s supporters, I will be joining in with the 10,000 steps-per-day Walk for Water, and on Divine Mercy Sunday I will be celebrating my new-found fitness by running the Royal Parks Virtual Half Marathon. I’m fortunate to live in the countryside, where the beauty of the landscape has the added bonus of making social distancing exceptionally easy.
Many of my friends are not Christian, though they join in with Lent as it’s good for your health to give up chocolate and the like for forty days. They ask me what giving up chocolate – or taking up running – has to do with faith and religion. The short answer is ‘to make more room for God in one’s life’, and the longer answer is that I don’t just give up chocolate or take up walking; I also set more time aside for prayer, follow a Lenten reading plan, pray Stations of the Cross with CAFOD. By this point, I have usually lost my audience and left myself wondering whether my laundry list of Lenten practices is bringing me any closer to God after all.
Marine is a Community Participation Coordinator for CAFOD in the diocese of Southwark. She is sharing with us how the Tier 4 announcement kicked off her New Year Resolutions thinking and the role CAFOD played.
Tier 4 : an invitation to quietness
For New year I am usually in France. I would usually go to my favourite Aunty’s house with all my cousins and we would cook together, play board games and finish by dancing all night while leaving the children running wild drinking champomy (A French sparkling non alcholic beverage looking like champagne!). Then we would share our New Year Resolutions.
I am one of these people who take resolutions for the New Year and stick to it. But this year is a bit different as I had such a quiet Tier 4 Christmas in London. This quietness made me decide to start my new Year Resolutions before New Year as I thought :”Why wait?” and here we go this was my first new year resolution done. I wont wait from now on. I will do what I think is important now and not tomorrow or after the new year – we never know!
My three 2021 New Year Resolutions
So during the December holiday break I implemented my first resolution: spend quality time with my kids around their interests even though they challenge me. I started, for example, drawing portraits with my daughter and discovered that by following a step by step App I could do it! So if I can more or less draw, really… I can do anything else!
It led me to my second resolution: Climate can’t wait either. I have been active for a while but this year is really important as the COPE 26 will be held in the UK. So I have decided to follow carefully some of CAFOD’s plan of action and I will speak up to my MP with the power of my Pen : “I will resolve to write three letters a year to my MP, I will use CAFOD’s support and briefing, and I will help to bring about real, political change that can tackle poverty and injustice worldwide”. If you want to use the power of your pen: join CAFOD MP correspondent team
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