A look back at 90+ years of Volunteering

What do Bernard, Mary and Sheila have in common? It could be many things, however, one thing they do share is their passion and dedication for CAFOD. Together they have offered more than 90 years of service to the charity and continue to do so to this very day.

Mary, Sheila and Bernard – enjoying tea with the Bishop

Bernard presented with the Papal Blessing by Father Philip

Bernard Shaw began his volunteering journey 36 years ago following his attendance at the First National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool. A chemical engineer by profession, he splits his time between his very own organic garden and volunteering for CAFOD. He became a founding member of the parish of St Philip Howard in 1987 and soon after became the CAFOD parish volunteer. Not only has he been promoting CAFOD at a local level but he has also spread his efforts throughout Cambridge Catholic churches as well as across the Diocese, most recently as a LiveSimply Assessor. His quiet enthusiasm has never wavered and he has constantly surprised CAFOD with his ambition and drive to do more.

Bishop Alan asking Sheila how she first got involved with CAFOD

Former much-loved English teacher, Sheila Dobey, remembers her start within CAFOD in Preston as a supporter for the charity. In the mid-1980s, she moved to Stowmarket where along with two other parishioners, she founded the CAFOD+ Group. Sheila was the local person who kept the group in touch with CAFOD by attending meetings and encouraging their actions. Her efforts have prompted into action the parish of Our Lady in Stowmarket to support CAFOD by raising money for World Gifts (Community Water Supply) and the parish’s latest endeavour, becoming a LiveSimply Parish. She continues to be affected by the needs of people around the world and manages to find a reservoir of energy to dedicate to CAFOD’s noble cause.

Mary Prentice began volunteering for CAFOD, along with her late husband Michael, in the early 1990s after converting to the Roman Catholic Church. While working as a teacher and headmistress, she was able to dedicate countless hours along the years to drive and support many causes for CAFOD. With her husband by her side, she poured her energy into supporting CAFOD, firstly at St Dominic’s parish in Downham Market, and then at Our Lady of Pity in Swaffham where she still serves. Mary was really helpful with her research work for Connect2:Ethiopia project and through her work for CAFOD’s stall at the National Shrine in Walsingham. She continues to show her creative talents through the creation of new prayers and ideas for prayer cards.

Bishop Alan announcing the Papal Blessings

The trio were invited to tea by Bishop Alan last Friday 9th June, who expressed his wish to thank them in person for their continuing services to CAFOD. Following an animated discussion about CAFOD’s role within the Catholic Church, Bishop Alan presented CAFOD East Anglia’s three long-serving volunteers with the Papal Blessing. The Bishop’s very own words to describe the occasion were: “What a good occasion!” A good occasion it was indeed!

Volunteers like these and many others are the crew members that keep the CAFOD ship sailing. They have been there to battle through the waves to bring life, hope and dignity to men, women and children from all around the globe. We salute you!

Bishop Hopes celebrates a special Mass for CAFOD

Welcoming the crowd of volunteers in the Cathedral, Bishop Alan thanked them for all that they do with CAFOD, in parishes and schools across the diocese, gathering support for people in need across the world.

bishop-alan-hopes-celebrates-mass-smallerThe Mass is part of the diocesan celebrations of the 40th anniversary of our diocese. Bishop Alan spoke of how forty years ago Bishop Grant, who had a close connection with Cambridge and Ely, had petitioned the Pope to create the diocese of East Anglia, was also CAFOD’s first chairman.

Bishop Alan Hopes said: “CAFOD, had been created a few years earlier, after the Second Vatican Council from the response that the Catholic Community had shown to the needs of others as they witnessed their plight around the world. 

Helping people in poverty around the world, church partners, and the wider Caritas International family is a heartfelt expression of our faith, carrying out those acts of mercy that we have been remembering over the last year: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, and welcoming the stranger.

When the diocese of East Anglia was created the Fast Days had become an established part of the Church’s calendar, in Lent and at Harvest, as they are today.

Thank you, all of you, for the good work that you do for CAFOD in your parishes.”


CAFOD has always been a dear part of the work of this diocese, part of our mission to carry forward the work of Christ Himself in the world, helping people toward fulfilment, free from poverty and injustice. And so we pray, we fast, and we give generously to help our global neighbours.

sister-yvonne-talks-to-volunteers_2-smallerIn the afternoon, CAFOD’s Partner, Sister Yvonne Mwila from Zambia, spoke about the work she is able to do thanks to the donations that people have given to CAFOD. She works with households in distress, caring for those who are orphaned, those with disabilities, and those who are living with HIV.

Sister Yvonne and the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, care for these people, and they ask them ‘what would you like to do?’ And so it was that Florence became a fisherwoman.

Florence lost her husband and son to HIV – although she didn’t know what it was – and she thought she would be next. Through the care and treatment of the Sisters, she was nursed back to health.

When Florence said she wanted to be a fisherwoman the Sisters wondered how she would do it. But they gave her 500 tiny fish, tools and training to build a pond and farm fish. Florence became someone important. And in turn Florence has taught other people how they too can farm fish.


Our day ended with Stations of the Cross, reflecting on the experiences of those who fall and thirst in Zambia, and so we accompany Jesus on his final journey toward the cross.

Lent Fast Day is on Friday 10 March.

You can donate to our Fast Day Appeal online >

Day of Recollection

Bishop Alan Hopes has asked to say Mass for CAFOD, as part of the celebrations of the 40th Anniversary of the Diocese of East Anglia.

Please join us for this special event celebrating our contribution to the church’s mission in this diocese, and all those we have helped across the world.

img_2051So, our forthcoming Day of Recollection will begin with Mass in the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Norwich, at 12 noon on Saturday 25 February.

A light lunch will follow, in the Narthex.

In the afternoon, from 2:00-4:30pm we will be looking forward and preparing for Lent. Our focus will be on the people and projects we are helping people to provide in Zambia, particularly focusing on livelihoods – how people in the community are coming together, helping themselves grow food and create an income for their families.

 Please register your interest in attending this special event.

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