On Saturday 15th June a group of about 90 people came together for our annual CAFOD pilgrimage to Holy Island. As well as Hexham and Newcastle diocese, some came from Leeds to bear witness and to pray for the leaders of the G8, that they will work to reduce the scandal that 1 in 8 people across the world will go to bed hungry.
The scene was set by Anne-Marie Hanlon, CAFOD Diocesan Manager who recalled visits to her grandmother’s house where food played a central role in family life. The house smelled of freshly baked bread and Nana had a loving smile for everyone, her pinny covered in flour. She also told of a visit to Kenya when she drank tea with Maasai people. She realised that the tea was actually a meal for them.
Moving off across the sands, the rain just holding off and there was talk and chatter among the pilgrims. This is how it has been for over 1000 years. Pilgrims crossing from the mainland to seek the solitude and prayerful atmosphere of Lindisfarne, as the island is also known.
Liz Taylor, at the first stop, showed the power of connection. Her parish hosted visitors Fidel and Julia from Puentecitos in El Salvador a few weeks ago. Through CAFOD’s Connect2 programme, the parishes communicate with each other, sharing their troubles and their joys. Julia and Liz made tortillas, using the only common language they had, a few signs, laughter and smiles and shared these with the people of Liz’s parish.
At the second stop, John McBride told of his visit to Kenya in 2010, when he met a family who were on the brink of starvation. Thankfully, through a CAFOD partner, she was given 2 cows and 4 goats and the family were saved. She is rebuilding her herd of cattle and looking forward to a brighter future.
Carol Cross from Middlesbrough diocese gave an example of the difference that development aid can bring. When she was in Sierra Leone with CAFOD’s Gap Year team, they visited a village where aid had been delivered and the lives of the people had been greatly improved. Schools opened, sanitation improved and medical facilities improved but some people from a neighbouring village were asking when they would be helped? Carol said that if people ask “Haven’t we done enough?” This gave her the answer.
Rob Errington recounted a little of his recent trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil where he met a couple who lived on the streets, occupied derelict buildings and finally after 8 years got a home of their own. Rose Angela said thank you to all the CAFOD supporters who helped to fund the local organisation that assisted her family to get their home.
The final stop was addressed by long-time friend of CAFOD, Fr. Jim O’Keefe. He told us to look around and see our neighbour. All of us are different, all made in the perfect image of God and the way we reflect the image and likeness of our God is simply in the way we love.
Once on the Island, we made our way to St. Aidan’s statue outside The Priory for an outdoor Mass, celebrated by Fr. Jim. This was brought to an end by Sr. Josepha and the pupils from St. Vincent’s school in Walker who performed the liturgical dance, “Testify”.
Then the pilgrims returned to their cars and buses, having thought and prayed for those suffering hunger and of those at the G8 who hold the power to change the unfair food systems.