Same Storm, Different Boats

Kirstie, one of CAFOD Hexham and Newcastle’s new volunteers, shares her thoughts as we prepare for a Harvest like no other.

So, 2020…what a year! I’m guessing we’ve heard this said so many times over the last 6 months as we’ve tried to navigate our way through the storm of the coronavirus pandemic – all of us in the same storm but very much in different boats.

The last few months have given me an opportunity to reflect. As a lay chaplain to a busy secondary school here in the North East, the coronavirus and the closing of schools came at the mid-point of our Lenten fundraising. There were Lent liturgies, Stations of the Cross and Easter celebrations still to come, and yet here I was at my kitchen table. By day it was my office and my daughter’s classroom; by night it was the table we all gathered around to share a meal and, on Sunday, it became my sacred space whilst I attended Mass virtually. When community has been at the heart of all that you’ve ever known, I suddenly felt very disconnected.

Kirstie with her daughter, Poppie, on Holy Island.

I felt I needed to try and do something more, so I signed up and became a volunteer with CAFOD here in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. I really wish I’d done it sooner! As part of my introduction to my volunteer role, I was asked to get in touch with some of our wonderful parish volunteers. “Just give them a little call, introduce yourself, check that the information we hold is accurate. Some of our parish volunteers might be quite vulnerable in the present climate, so even just a little check to make sure they’re okay…”

I’ve had lovely chats over a virtual coffee; I’ve been invited to sample the delights of various home baking and, more than that, I’ve discovered a connection to belonging to something bigger than just my little piece of the world.  It’s been an amazing start to volunteering, and as we enter October, it’s gathering pace quite quickly!

Here at CAFOD, our attention is firmly focused on our Harvest Appeal and, as the tagline for the campaign says, it really will be a ‘Harvest like no other’. Our parish communities are slowly coming back together, but we are still very much apart. Not all our churches will reopen in time for our Harvest Appeal, so it’s time to get creative as we think about our call to pray, act and give. Our call is to reach beyond borders and ensure no-one is left behind. To guarantee that, as far as possible, everyone comes through this storm in strong boats. So, we need to get building, and we need to help. When you see someone struggling, you help them. I’m learning quickly that this is what CAFOD does.

Whatever our view of technology, it has brought us through the initial storm of the pandemic; it has kept us connected to family and to our parish communities. So, as a new parish CAFOD volunteer, I’ve encouraged my lovely parish family to try out contactless donating. This means we can donate immediately to CAFOD’s Harvest Appeal using a mobile phone and a clever little device. Now my husband would probably tell you that I have no problem paying for things in shops by way of a contactless device, and he’s probably right. So, donating to CAFOD via the same kind of technology is right up my street! Of course, the CAFOD envelopes are still available as well, and there’s always a collection bucket – even if we have to wait a while to count what’s inside.  It’s a strange time, but I really feel that people want to be generous; they want to contribute to a cause; they want to make the world a better place, even in a small way.  October nights are already getting dark quite quickly, but our Harvest can bring some light – both to the giver and the receiver. 

Let’s make this Family Fast Day a Harvest like no other, so we can bring everyone safely through the stormy waters of uncertainty. We’ll have built those strong boats in no time at all!

Day 9 – Creation

Carol’s reflection

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon and stars, light and darkness, day and night, the sky, earth and seas. Then he created plants and animals, birds and fish and blessed them saying be fruitful and multiply. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, let us make humankind in our image and likeness and let them have dominion over every living thing that moves upon the earth. So God created them in his image, male and female he created them. God saw everything he had made and indeed it was very good. 

But we have fallen so far. Our world today is ravaged by poverty, war, conflict, pollution and greed. The beautiful rainforests and its indigenous communities are being destroyed through illegal mining and deforestation, to serve our consumer demands. It cannot continue. The earth’s resources are finite and we are rapidly reaching the limits of irreversible damage which threatens all life on earth. We have to stop polluting our atmosphere and start driving climate change now. 

The passages from Genesis remind us that we were entrusted to care for every part of God’s beautiful creation. Let us work to restore that reality now in our age, for future generations to enjoy.  

On this feast of St Francis of Assisi, we ask forgiveness for the damage we have collectively done and resolve to work for lasting change to enable the healing of the earth, it’s peoples and all of God’s creation.  

We can start here by learning more about our current campaigns and signing the petitions to those with the power to enable the changes that are needed – our politicians and world leaders: 

Day 8 – Peace

Kirstie’s reflection

I’m fascinated by words and language, although I’m definitely not any kind of linguist. Take the word ‘peace’, our reflection word for today. We use it in so many different contexts, from wishing people well at Mass and singing about it in Christmas songs, to telling others (in a hippyish way), to “chill” – peace out!

But what about when Jesus used the word ‘peace’ with his disciples? He greeted them with the words “Peace be with you.” Lovely – except for the fact that the disciples were locked in a room, traumatised and terrified that they would be the next to hang on a cross and the person they thought was dead is now saying “Peace be with you.”……

That gift of peace wasn’t just offered to the disciples in the upper room; it’s offered to each and every one of us – Real Peace. Deep Peace. True Peace.

We are the gift of peace to others. Once we accept the gift of peace, we can share this gift with others. It’s not about smiling and pretending all is well, especially in the current climate. It’s more about recognising that the small things we do have a big impact. When we let go of greed, inequality, and hatred. When we accept and make space for peace in our lives, the world can be a different place.

Pope Francis, writing about the pandemic said:

“Our pre-Corona existence was not normal other than we normalised greed, inequality, exhaustion, depletion, rage, hoarding, hate, lack.

We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity.”

Let’s pledge today to do exactly that, to stitch a new garment of peace, so we can heal our broken world and live as one.