CAFOD Essentials Day at a glance: Preparation with smiles

CAFOD Essentials Day, which occurred on Saturday 9th September, 2017, is a day dedicated to preparing CAFOD volunteers for the upcoming Harvest Fast Day and updating the volunteer community about campaigns and other activities. Sidney Magdaong, a CAFOD intern from the US, recounts his experience throughout the day:

Having volunteered for CAFOD for only a few weeks, there is a lot to learn about this vast organization brimming with opportunity for fellow volunteers. From campaigns and social media, to speaking training for Mass, Essentials equipped me with an extended amount of information about what CAFOD is currently working on and how I, and many other volunteers, can get involved.


Opening speech about CAFOD’s work in Latin America at the commencement of Essentials Day

I spent Essentials Day working as the booth-runner for the Refugee Campaign and as the photographer. The refugee booth caught the attention of many volunteers, most of which had already heard about the campaign and have been at work to spread the message about supporting refugees in their own parishes and even schools. It surprised me at how passionate the volunteers were to advocate for the safety of refugees, which has become a serious crisis in recent years.

Take action to support refugees in your own community

As a photographer, I was able to hover around the various workshops and catch a glimpse of CAFOD’s key focuses. The workshop that most interested me was the training for speaking at Mass led by a professional coach. With Harvest Day approaching, confidence is important in spreading the message, and this workshop bolstered the skills needed to advocate. While in London, I plan on being a speaker for Mass, and the training provided everything from speaking speed to powerful presentation, something that is central to advocating the importance of Fast Day.


Speaking coach training volunteers on how to effectively deliver the Fast Day message at Mass

Mass training was well in conjunction with the workshop on El Salvador, the focus for CAFOD. This workshop easily received the most amount of attendees, all intent on listening to the struggles of El Salvadorian farmers and youth. 

Get involved with this year’s Harvest Day and support El Salvador

With all the exciting activities happening, Essentials Day was also the perfect opportunity to meet fellow CAFOD volunteers. I ran a photo booth, taking pictures of several volunteers sporting CAFOD gear and props to show their appreciation and commitment for CAFOD’s mission and values.


One of our volunteers posing for the CAFOD photo booth

The smiles they gave were more than enough to tell me how happy they were to work towards building a better community through CAFOD, a common theme I’ve seen throughout my few weeks as an intern. At the end of the day, that smile was present on my face as I watched several volunteers receive certificates for volunteering for 1, 5, 10, 15, and even 20+ years at CAFOD. This dedication and happiness to serve is something I want to work towards while interning at CAFOD, and Essentials Day was, essentially, exactly what I needed to reach that goal.



Prayers for refugees in Whitstable

Catherine, part of the Justice and Peace Group at Our Lady Immaculate Church in Whitstable, reflects on their pilgrimage with the Lampedusa cross.

KODAK Digital Still CameraHow could I ever know what it would be like to be a refugee? To have to leave my comfortable home in Kent? To be so desperate that I would make a perilous journey and risk being separated from my family?

Last December, over 75 of us gathered in Whitstable to go on our own journey. We didn’t travel far – only around the parish rooms, grounds and church. But it was a moving and prayerful journey, in solidarity with the many displaced people in our world. Explore resources and send a message of hope here.

refugee-prayer-breadUsing music and scripture, we heard stories from refugees and learnt about why they have to leave their homes. We symbolically shared bread and reflected on our identity as children of God by being ‘forced’ to give up our passports, driving licences and cuddly toys. We were moved to hear the story of the Lampedusa Cross as we carried photos of our families and wrote messages of hope for refugees. And many fruitful conversations took place over tea, coffee and much cake.

It was wonderful to see people of all ages involved in the pilgrimage – it felt like we were really ‘being Church’ and journeying together. And it proved to be a meaningful way of bringing people together from local parishes and churches, from our schools and the local community, to learn, reflect and to pray.

messages-of-hope-oli-brighterAs we continue to pray for refugees and to do what we can to respond to the crisis, we hope that our little journey will give us a new energy for working together to make a difference in our world. If you can, please take action on the refugee crisis : send a message of Hope, organise a refugee solidarity liturgy and donate to CAFOD’s refugee crisis appeal here.

If you want to find out more about CAFOD and how you could be involved join us on Saturday 4 February 2017 for our Volunteer Workshop. Find out more here.

Jesus and ‘Foreigners’

CAFOD volunteer from St Joseph’s Parish in Greenwich, Mick Shepherd shares his thoughts on Jesus’ relationship with foreigners, and how we can reflect on this as a Christian.

 I never noticed it until recently (it beats me why not) and that is the significance of the tenth leper (Luke 17) who returned to thank Jesus for curing him. And yet I’d heard this passage so many times before – the only one out of the ten who turned and ran back to thank Jesus was a Samaritan!

As you will know, the Jews did not associate with Samaritans, who were considered ‘foreigners’ and below them and even ‘impure’. Jesus however rebuts Jewish preconceptions by remarking: ‘the other nine, where are they? It seems that no-one has come back to give praise to God except this foreigner’.  Time and time again Jesus confounds Jewish expectations with regard to their perception of ‘foreigners’.

Water pump lent 2016A good example is the woman at the well. Not only should Jesus, a single Jewish male, not be seen alone with a woman frowned upon by others (see Jesus’ comments about her many consorts, none of whom was her husband) but she was a Samaritan.

A ‘foreigner’.

Yet Jesus even offers to give her the ‘water of life’, that is, offer her life eternal! This is truly astonishing – to offer eternal life to someone who is non-Jewish, a foreign woman and one with a questionable reputation.

The famous Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10) is a most powerful story invented by Jesus to emphasise that, contrary to expectations, it is the ‘foreigner,’ the Samaritan, who stops to help the injured man, who helps him and takes him to an inn.

It’s this ‘foreigner’ who ‘goes the extra mile’, offering on his return to pay for any additional expenses incurred. Note that the powerful and influential officials who ‘pass by on the other side’ are respected Jewish ‘establishment figures’, a priest and a Levite.

hartley-2016-refugee_pilgrimageThey have no time. They don’t want to have anything to do with the injured man, even though he is a fellow Jew. (Again, note it’s the Samaritan who stops to help a person who is even not of his own race!). Surely this is the strongest of anti-racist messages that Jesus is giving our brothers and sisters across the world?

It seems clear that we, as Christians, need to take Jesus’ teaching extremely seriously, take it literally and at face value: treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves – and that means ALL others.

In the present unpleasant climate of mistrust of ‘foreigners’, immigrants and refugees we need to take Jesus’ teaching seriously to heart. Remember, all people are made in God’s image, all are loved by God – and that ‘in my Father’s house are many mansions’.

The Year of Mercy and its celebration gave us the hope to discover God’s mercy in our own lives so we can share this gift with our neighbours and the earth.

This is why, as a CAFOD supporter, I believe that its motto, ‘Just One World’, is absolutely right! Which brings me back to the significance of the story of the Good Samaritan.

He could not only see good in others but whether they were a ‘foreigner’ or not he was prepared to give succour, sustenance and support to those whose needs were greatest whatever their religion, culture or creed. 

Forced out by war, poverty and persecution, millions of people live uncertain lives as migrants and refugees. But each of us, moved by faith, can respond in welcome, respect and love. You can support CAFOD campaign by writing messages of hope to refugees, using our refugee solidarity liturgy with your school, parish or group, and finding out more about a Catholic response to the refugee crisis.

Come to Understanding CAFOD workshop on 4 February in Amigo Hall SE1 to find out more about CAFOD.