This July, the CAFOD Northampton Diocese office celebrates its 10th Anniversary. Frank Sudlow, who worked for over a decade in the education team; became Northampton Diocesan manager when the office opened. Over the seven years that he worked in the role, Frank made a lot friends and had some great experiences:
Ten years ago, we opened the office; and in my 40 years of working, being the Northampton Diocesan manager was my favourite role.
Having an office in the Northampton Diocese meant that, for the first time, we had a someone dedicated to raising the profile of CAFOD, and being a direct link for schools and parishes in the diocese. The response to the news was phenomenal.
While looking for the office, a local school, St Gregory’s Primary, created an office for us and it was launched with a beautiful mass attended by the Bishop and many priests. Bishop Peter welcomed us with open arms; from the beginning he has been a supporter, advisor, and over time, has become a great personal friend.
As manager, I quickly came to know many priests and head-teachers and the support from Catholic Women’s League has been tremendous. Within a year, CAFOD became quite high profile in the Diocese; we featured in the diocesan newspapers, were represented at Diocesan events, and became an important part of the Justice and Peace Commission.
People began to support us a lot more; the number of schools and parishes that had talks increased massively and many of those volunteers are still doing the job today.
One of my favourite memories was when we celebrated CAFOD’s 50th anniversary. We held a special mass and the cathedral was packed with priests and schools from across the diocese.
When partners visit the UK, it brings the work of CAFOD face to face with our supporters. Being so close to London, I was able to offer a place to stay where they could see the green fields of England.
Franke burr, a member of the Justice and Peace Commission, was visiting from the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a French speaker, I was worried that he would find communication hard but he was amazing and came to speak at French A level classes. The students were able to learn so much about the work of CAFOD, their partnerships and about Franke’s life.
One year, a water engineer, Lemlem Berhe visited from Ethiopia and stayed with me for few days. She was helping to build reservoirs in the Diocese of Sebeya and as we had been sponsoring that community, she spoke about what she was doing. In Sebeya, they get heavy rain with long droughts; they needed to capture rain to be able to irrigate the land over a long period. I took her to see and old reservoir from 150 years ago and she recognised everything she was doing in Ethiopia.
The biggest thing that struck a chord with me was how much the partners enjoyed meeting the people in the parishes. We give what we can afford and sometimes a little bit more. When the partners see this, they go back home and tell their communities, that the money should be wisely and carefully spent, and it has to make a difference.
Even after retiring three years ago, I am still heavily involved with CAFOD. One thing that really stuck in my mind was a partner who visited England once said:
“Don’t give us aid, go, and educate your country.”
That is what inspired me to become a schools volunteer. Recently, I went into a school to teach a year 7 class about the Refugee Pilgrimage and it reminded me that even through the simple acts you can still change attitudes.
Tomorrow, we will be posting about the next three years in the Northampton Office, and if you would like to learn more about volunteering in the Northampton Diocese, you can contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org