Twice a year the Church gives money to CAFOD for its work on overseas development. Through the Fast Day collections, in parishes and schools, the Catholic community expresses its concern for the global poor. This act of solidarity and partnership makes CAFOD special. CAFOD is the agency of the Catholic Church, acting on your behalf. The voluntary action of people in parishes who wanted to help their brothers and sisters in Christ around the world created CAFOD, and this partnership continues today.
The Fast Day appeal was started by women and mothers in the Catholic Church. Some fifty years ago, they saw the plight of malnourished mothers and babies in the Caribbean island of Dominica and they were moved to respond. They set about raising £500. Such was the generosity of the Catholic community, in the parishes and schools of the diocese, that they raised well over £5,000 which they donated to create a mother and baby clinic.
Those Family Fast Days continued, raising much needed money for poorer people living around the world, and they were always well supported. In those days the Bishops rarely got to spend any time together, but on the eve of the Second Vatican Council they were gathered together in Rome and they spoke about what was happening in their dioceses. They were moved and decided to help the women and mothers by creating CAFOD.
Because it is such an important part of the Church, the Bishops have given CAFOD two days in the liturgical calendar when a collection is encouraged for Church’s concern for the global poor, which is expressed through CAFOD’s work.
On these two days, one in Lent and the other at Harvest, we are all encouraged to dig deep into our pockets to make a donation to support CAFOD’s work around the world.
Participating in these collections isn’t just for those who are wealthy – it’s an opportunity for everyone to give as they are able, whether you donate a ‘talent’ or the ‘widow’s mite’. Every donation is valuable and the collection plate isn’t dominated by a few rich people.
“Fund-raising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission. Fund-raising is precisely the opposite of begging.”
– Fr Henri Nouwen 1932-1996
These two collections are an offer to share in the Church’s mission to help people around the world; a call reflected in Catholic social teaching as our ‘preferential option for the poor’ and ‘bias to the poor’. What you put into the collection basket, together with the donations of people in the pew next to you, those who are at Mass at another time, and in parishes across England and Wales is a collective expression of our faith in action.
Giving donations freely and generously, without strings attached and without this money being limited to this project or that one, means CAFOD is able to help those in greatest need. It means CAFOD is able to respond quickly to emergencies and easily to support development opportunities, without first having to appeal for help to raise the money. It means we can go ahead and commit to a project, underwriting the costs involved and guaranteeing it will happen without first waiting for the last penny to be donated. And with Gift Aid, the UK government adds at least 20% extra.
Through your partnership with CAFOD and the partnership of organisations in countries around the world – many of them longstanding partnerships – CAFOD is able to keep its costs low, so more of the money that you currently give can be spent helping people.
Each year, we focus on a particular country and a particular project, profiling a couple of people to share the story of how they have transformed their lives with a little assistance from those of us who put something into the envelope to support CAFOD’s work.
This Lent a young boy, Mohammed, introduces us to the work that our partner in Sierra Leone has achieved, turning a disused and abandoned diamond mine into fertile land where rice now grows, bringing a better harvest so the community can live through the ‘hungry season’. This is a brilliant example of a successful project. Of course, with your support, CAFOD is able to help many more people than just this one young boy. With your donations we can continue to support communities in over forty countries around the world, helping people to help themselves; turning their lives around.
There are other opportunities within the parish and as an individual to go further, to develop your interest in helping people around the world to help themselves, and to support particular projects and initiatives.
The Connect2 scheme follows projects in Brazil, Cambodia, El Salvador and Ethiopia and is a lovely way for a parish – or simple a group of people in your parish – to get to know a project and the people involved in the community.
The forthcoming Hands On: Kitui scheme is a wonderful way for you, as an individual, to deepen your commitment to support a particular project in Kenya – watch this space.