In preparation for the Lent Fast Day on 10 March, 40 volunteers and supporters from over 15 parishes in the Northampton Diocese attended the Supporters’ day held at St Joseph’s Parish Centre, Gerrard’s Cross on 18 February 2017. A similar session took place at St Martin de Porres in Luton on 4 February. Rose (new parish volunteer from Luton) said, “I had never been to such days before but really got so much out of the day that I felt I had to attend the next one too!”
These meetings are a wonderful opportunity for new volunteers to meet others from their parish and pastoral area and a chance for all to build friendships and ask for /offer support to others. We were also fortunate to have a Fairtrade Stall set up by the parish.
Ged Nolan, CAFOD volunteer, reports on the day :
“Deborah Purfield, Coordinator for CAFOD Northampton, welcomed supporters and the day started with the group settling down to a reflective opening prayer focusing on the Beatitudes and how they matched CAFOD’s vision and values. In particular, Debbie concentrated on the six “additional” Beatitudes, put forward by Pope Francis on All Saints Day in 2016, to “ recognize and respond to new situations with fresh spiritual energy.”
Following a very positive thank you message from Bishop Peter, we heard from Ulrike Beck, CAFOD’s Programme Officer for Colombia, who led a discussion on Partnership which applies not only with communities in Colombia but other parts of the Globe. She focused on 4 aspects of the work in Colombia :
- Natural resource Management – to empower communities in rural areas in the Andes region to achieve fair access to and control of natural resources, particularly water, land and territory in the context of mega-projects and climate change.
- Alternative models of Urban and Rural development – to support vulnerable groups in both communities to achieve risk resilience, food sovereignty, equality and well-being in the context of climate change.
- Human Rights and Governance – to promote the integral defence of human rights of vulnerable groups and promote political participation, good governance and civil society space.
- Conflict Transformation and Peace Building – to strengthen civil society organisations and communities to address and transform armed conflicts and other types of violence so they can bring about a just peace and tolerant and inclusive societies, incorporating a gender and territorial perspective.
We left a great number of messages of friendship and solidarity to be sent to our friends in Colombia as well as pictures from the day so that they know they are in our thoughts and prayers.
Debbie then gave an update on donations received from Harvest 2016 and beyond. After the break (where we had time to chat to others and share ideas) we heard about CAFOD’s work in Zambia, this Lent Fast Day focus country. Debbie spoke enthusiastically about Sister Yvonne and the Households in Distress programme in Mbala, Zambia. The programme has helped people like Florence to become self-sufficient by running their own artisanal businesses such as fish farming and bee keeping. These projects have transformed the lives of people in some the world’s poorest communities. The short video about Florence’s fish farming was shown and was much appreciated by all. There is also a detailed video about CAFOD’s work in Zambia which gives more information. Debbie also mentioned about promoting campaigns outside Fast Day times and encouraged all to sign up to be MP correspondents
The group split up into smaller discussion groups and it was evident that supporters were very keen to work more closely with adjoining parishes and schools to share ideas and co-ordinate fundraising, education and campaigning activities. There is a great A-Z of fundraising ideas for Lent which seemed to interest those who wanted to do something different.
The day concluded with a reflection from Sr Yvonne and we all said the fast day prayer together. Many were able to stay for the delicious shared lunch and more discussions took place. Cilla’s (volunteer – St Andrew’s Cippenham) and Monica’s (volunteer – Our Lady’s Chesham Bois) comments seem to reflect the general feeling from the day, “it was a wonderful, well-organised, stimulating, inspiring and encouraging day. I feel like going out and doing so much more now! Thanks so much”