Volunteer week – Celebrating our wonderful volunteers

CAFOD has many marvellous volunteers and one such person is Marie Pennell from the parish of St Teresa – Princes Risborough.

Marie Pennell – Parish volunteer, campaigner, Mp correspondent and Events organiser

Marie has been a volunteer here since 2002 and is the driving force behind the wonderful CAFOD group there.  She has been raising awareness of CAFOD’s work not only in her parish but in the wider community by campaigning in marches and sharing her experiences at supporters’ meetings.

Marie explains about CAFOD’s campaign

Tea and cake after Sponsored walk

In her parish, Marie is also an event organiser with her group. They organises regular CAFOD meetings, of which she has taken the role of being the chairperson many times.  Through these meetings they have done so much to support and promote the work of CAFOD in the parish and school.

Marie Pennell on a sponsored walk

Marie and the group have been the force behind the 3 annual fundraisers. These have  included an Easter sponsored walk opened to all ages (known to have reached 10k!), a summer BBQ and a Christmas fair (of which half of the proceeds go towards CAFOD).  The variety and timing of these events have not only made them very popular and well attended but made fundraising an accessible and enjoyable event.

Marie’s efforts are important within her parish and to us, as this melding together of social and educational events helps to raise awareness of CAFOD’s message. Many members of the CAFOD group have said that Marie is the “driving force who encourages and motivates us to carry out events in the parish”.


When asked why Marie became a parish volunteer she replied, “CAFOD represents the catholic church and has a good reputation abroad. Stretching our hands across the ocean to help our fellow communities is the least we can do.”  What a brilliant ethos!  Marie added, “CAFOD is very conscientious about spending, therefore, most of the donations go directly towards the cause to make a difference.  We trust CAFOD”.

The two fast days and emergency appeals are so well planned by Marie, the CAFOD group and their parish priest so that all have a chance of participating fully in them. For Fast days, Marie together with their parish priest ensure, where possible, someone gives the short talk so that all are thanked for their generosity and hear more about CAFOD’s work.  Envelopes are also handed out by others to encourage Gift Aid.  She has also used CAFOD’s prayers in the parish like the stations of the cross.  The parish always responds so amazingly!

Marie and the group reflecting on the Year of mercy with the Lampedusa Cross

Marie uses every opportunity she gets to encourage others (whether in her parish or not) to volunteer or participate in events or Fast Day. She is brilliant at this and her personality and smile has attracted many.  For supporters’ days held twice a year in the Northampton diocese, Marie urges people to attend and even drives some of them to the venue.  Now this is a really useful effort of Marie as through these meetings, people get a chance to hear more about CAFOD’s work, get inspired and share their experiences for the benefit of many.

Marie campaigning in London

Marie campaigning with other parishioners

As a great campaigner and an MP correspondent, Marie keeps up with relevant political issues and writes regularly to her MP on issues raised by CAFOD. She has encouraged many others to sign up to be MP correspondents as well and when an opportunity arises e.g. the Power to Be campaign, she invited her MP to come and meet the parishioners and hear more about their concerns. She is often seen at marches showing solidarity for our brothers and sisters living in poverty.  Her parish is now a Fairtrade parish as well.  Wonderful!

Parish obtaining Fairtrade status

Marie told us that her future plans are to incorporate more news from partners into her parish and to discuss campaign issue in more depth with the CAFOD group so that they can see how best to encourage others to campaign as well. Through these, she hopes to keep CAFOD’s work integrated into the life of the Church with both prayer and action and hopes that others will join the CAFOD group to put their faith into action.

Thank you Marie for being such an inspiring volunteer. We are very grateful to you for giving of yourself: your time, talents and skills to support CAFOD’s work for over 15 years.  You are a real inspiration!

Written by Isabelle – Media’s volunteer


New CAFOD group at St Augustine Milton Keynes

St Augustine parish (Milton Keynes) warmly welcomed Deborah Purfield (CAFOD coordinator – Northampton Diocese) on the 18 February 2018 to give a short talk at all masses about CAFOD’s work and to offer opportunities for the community to put their faith into action.

“It was a real pleasure to be invited to St Augustine’s to thank the community personally for their support over the years and to let them know how their support has changed lives of communities overseas such as Marian from Zimbabwe”  says Deborah.

Some of the new CAFOD group members – St Augustine,Milton Keynes

The parish was wonderful in responding to this invitation and over 12 people from all three masses came forward.  One of these was Lynne’s teenage daughter.  Lynne recounts, “she urged me to come forward to sign up.  She has so much passion for Justice and Peace issues and is keen to promote it in this parish.  It is due to her that I am here.”  Lynne has since taken a step further and agreed to be the main parish contact for the parish which is fabulous! Thanks Lynne!

On 4 February despite the snow and problems on the road, most of those who signed up attended a short meeting to meet with the rest of the CAFOD group members and together to see how best to promote CAFOD’s work of prayer, fundraising and campaigning in the parish.

Lynne set herself the first task – to get the next 3 Fast Days into the parish diary so that a talk can be given the weekend before.

Several in the group said they were happy to make people aware of CAFOD’s work via talks.  Oliver was one such person and he said, “My job takes me out of the country during the weekday, but I can help at weekends.  Delivering talks is what I am very comfortable doing and doing it for CAFOD is really something I want to do.”

Two of the group members, Ka-Yee and Sally, are involved with youth and children’s liturgy and came up with great suggestions of children’s liturgy prayer and how they have and could continue supporting World Gifts and involve the whole parish too.

Each person was given information about being an MP correspondent and have shown interest in signing up for this as it is not a time-consuming role – 3 times a year!

>> Find out more and sign up here to be an MP correspondent


Pope Francis supporting those fleeing their homes

Deborah also mentioned CAFOD’s latest campaign Share the Journey, inspired by Pope Francis, and how the parish could be involved both with signing the petition and doing a walk of solidarity with people fleeing their homes.  The group were keen to support this campaign and will discuss how best to do it.

>> Sign our Share the Journey Petition

Thank you to Fathers Francis, Pius and Lijo for your welcome and continued support.   A very big thanks to those who came forward to volunteer.  It was so wonderful to see such dedication, willingness and commitment from each member of the group.  You are putting your faith into action by sharing your talent, time and skills to support our brothers and sisters living with injustice overseas.  Thank you for this.  You are all such an inspiration and encouragement!


Alistair Burt MP “Shares the Journey” with CAFOD volunteers

CAFOD, Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) have worked together to stage the exhibition, which opened on 5 December at the Palace of Westminster.  The exhibition demonstrates the work of the Catholic community and the three agencies in supporting refugees, both at home and overseas.Alban MacdonaId, an MP correspondent who was present at the exhibition writes:

Alistair Burt (MP) and Alban Macdonald at the Share the Journey exhibition in Westminster Palace

“I was honoured that my MP Alistair Burt, ( also Minister of Sate for International Development) should take time out of his busy Ministerial scheduled to meet me in Parliament and visit the CAFOD Share the Journey display.

Alistair Burt MP looking at messages of hope and welcome

The displays articulate the Roman Catholic response to the Refugee Crisis at home and across the world and how we are offering messages of hope and support to displaced people. I felt Alistair is really grounded and switched on to the Refugee issues and seemed impressed with our response too.  I hope to follow up this meeting by writing to Alistair and asking him to take specific actions to help further this cause.

Alban hands over the Power to Be petition cards to Alistair Burt MP

I also took the opportunity to outline briefly CAFOD’s Power to Be campaign which seeks to influence the World Bank to increase the amount of funding investment for small rural power sustainable energy. These rural areas are where the poorest people of the world live and so the benefits of having safe and renewable electricity can have the greatest impact there.  This will give these people a “jump start” out of the poverty trap.

> Sign CAFOD’s petition to the World Bank

Alban shares with Alistair Burt MP

I explained that I had recently spoken in my parish of St Peter’s Church in Biggleswade, – where Alistair’s regional office is located – and the people from the parish overwhelmingly supported this campaign; most of whom are Alistair’s constituents.  I was delighted that Alistair offered to take one letter (from over 160 letters I had with me) from one his constituents Mrs Catherine Spencer, addressed to Melanie Robinson (UK’s Executive Director to the World Bank).  Alistair promised to give it to her personally and ask her to respond to him as to why the World Bank should not adopt CAFOD’s proposals in this campaign.”

Thank you Alban and we look forward to hearing feedback back from you and await with baited breath to hear Alistair’ response from the World Bank.