Concert for Connect2

Chelsie Sinton invites you to a concert that could change someone’s life.Connect2 gig photo

Connect2 is our scheme that links parishes in England and Wales to communities overseas. It’s a great way to show solidarity for our sisters and brothers in the south by taking a journey with ordinary people leading extraordinary lives. Through the support of your parish, people’s lives can be transformed.

On Saturday 10th June, we’re organising a concert for our supporters to enjoy a great night out but also as a way of letting people know about the amazing results that Connect2 can achieve. Local band 2econd Wind will be playing a mix of music from the 60s to the 80s so you’re sure to have a good time. There’s a licensed bar and, in true CAFOD spirit, people are being asked to bring food to share. The event is being held at St. Joseph’s parish centre in Birtley from 7 to 11 p.m. If you’d like tickets or for more details, please get in touch at hexhamandnewcastle@cafod.org.uk.

 

A Journey to the Romero Cross

As today is the 35th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero, so it seems a good time to reprint my search for the Romero Cross in Southwark Cathedral from October 2013.

I was down at CAFOD HQ last week, so in my lunch break it was obvious where to go. Not for me the sandwich shop or the pub. No, was going to see the newly installed Romero Cross that stands in St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark, right next door to CAFOD office.

As I entered the cathedral by the side door, Mass was just ending, so once the priest and people were filing out, I wandered down towards the main altar. I expected to see the Cross in pride of place, perhaps behind the tabernacle but it wasn’t there. I went to the side altar which was closed off with ornate railings. But surely, Romero’s Cross couldn’t be held at a distance from the people? I have read of him sitting, patiently hearing the stories of the missing and the disappeared from their loved ones before taking to the radio to tell the world of their suffering.
It must be in the cathedral entrance, then. To welcome the faithful, the not so faithful, the sinners, the good, the bad, and the in-between to this magnificent building. Like Romero and Jesus himself, the Cross will seem to open its arms to welcome the world into the graces to be found within. But no. Again, I found nothing.

I was clearly mistaken, my knowledge of London isn’t great and I’d confused myself as to where the Cross had been placed. How could I have got it so wrong? As I’ve stated many times, I’m a big fan of Romero and this was to have been the highlight of my day in London. (Not to say that attending the meetings and workshops wasn’t important, of course.) I walked back towards the side door I’d come in by and had a last, almost desperate glance around the cathedral.

Then I saw a thin sliver of brightest yellow looking out of a side chapel. It looked so out of place and was illuminated by a shaft of sunlight. At once I knew that I’d found it. At 4 meters high, the Cross was squeezed in, but this would dominate any space. Not just by it’s physical size, but by it’s presence and the aura it gives off. The artist, a friend of Romero, Francisco Llort used the traditional style of Salvadorian art to decorate the Cross.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The front of the Cross is The Cross of the Resurrection, Christ greeting the whole world having overcome Death and redeeming us all. At his feet is a kneeling Romero, his head tilted, is he listening to his risen Lord, his belief vindicated? Just as he predicted, he is risen in the Salvadorian people but also with his Master, risen to everlasting life. He kneels above a village, showing his concern for the common people in who’s name he gave his life. God’s all-seeing eye is on the chest of Jesus and below, is a stalk of corn and a cup of chicha, a harvest drink made from corn, unrefined sugar and pineapple, representing the Eucharist. Above Christ’s head are a machete and the gathered harvest showing the dignity of work and the fruits of labour. At the very top of The Cross is a bird, the universal symbol of the Holy Spirit.

On the back of the Cross is the Cross of Ministry. Christ, his ever-loving heart exposed, greets the 5000 who He will feed with the loaves and fish above Him. Below, a crowd is assembled with a Bishop, showing the continuing mission of The Church and a tribute to Bishop Michael Evans (Co-founder of the Romero Trust and long time admirer of Romero.) Across the arms of the Cross is The Last Supper, backed by the mountains of El Salvador, the table on which Christ institutes the Eucharist, is made up of symbols representing the natural world. The bread and cup of communion is shown above the scene with the Tree of Life above them. Again, the Holy Spirit looks down from the top of the Cross.

As if the magnificence of the Cross wasn’t enough there are even greater treasures to be found. One of Romero’s zucchettos (skull-caps) is behind a glass panel, a piece of clothing that is so ordinary yet so special. But opposite the zucchetto is the greatest treasure. Enclosed in a reliquary is a piece of cloth, not much bigger than a postage stamp. It was clearly white but most of the area is now a dark pinky-brown colour. This is the priceless relic of Romero that I‘d sought out. A link from the ordinary to the extraordinary. I was just inches away from a fragment of the alb that Romero was wearing when he was killed. Inches away from the blood that was spilled as he raised the chalice to turn wine into the Blood of Christ. Inches away from the blood of Romero that mixed with the Blood of his Saviour as he lay dying, his last words forgiving his assassin.

In the small chapel there are two seats with kneelers facing the Cross. On each seat there are prayer cards, for the visitor to pray to Romero to intercede for their intentions. On the back of one, there is a quote from Romero:
“If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities.
Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted onto Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection.
That is a person’s measure.”

In life, Romero was firmly grafted to Christ, in death he continues to draw others to the life, death and resurrection of his risen Lord.
I was so pleased to have found the Cross, so moved by it and so grateful to be allowed so close to even a small piece of someone I admire so greatly.

St. Georges Cathedral, Southwark is next to CAFOD’s Head Office. The full address is: St George’s Cathedral Southwark, Cathedral House, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7HY

End of Term & Time for Goodbyes

Kat relaxes after a hard day's work on her trip to El Salvador

Kat relaxes after a hard day’s work on her trip to El Salvador

It’s that time of year again. For some it’s the end of the school year and the start of the long Summer holidays. For us, it’s a time for Goodbyes as we say a fond farewell to our Step Into The Gap participants (or Gappers, as they’re known) and our CAFOD Ambassador.To see how their year has gone, we called down to the Youth Village and asked a few searching questions and got some answers…

First up it’s Kat. One of our two Gappers, who went to El Salvador on her foreign trip.

Your favourite part of your Step Into The Gap role?

Meeting with the other Gappers, discussing plans and just spending time with them. They’re good craic. Of course, going to El Salvador was a favourite part too! I met so many inspiring people. I’ve loved bringing their experiences, including the work of CAFOD, back to the UK to share with our young people and parishes. Being able to be a part of CAFOD’s work, working to nurture our young people’s thirst to make a change, has been incredible. There’s so much that I can’t pin it down to one thing.

Your least favourite part of Step Into The Gap role?

It ending!

What would you have changed over the last year?

I would have liked to work more closely with the local diocesan office to get a rounder experience of CAFOD, especially Connect2. Instead of completing a separate spreadsheet that others have to then input onto the CAFOD computer system, going to the office once a month to update our activity log may be preferential.

If you could leave a Post-It note for the next Gappers to find at the end of their first day, what would it say?

Enjoy it! Support each other. Keep in contact with each other between meetings. It’s an incredible opportunity you’re getting. Don’t forget that!

How do you think you’ve changed over the last year?

I have a deeper understanding of CAFOD’s work and values. I’m keen to live more simply (which is big because I do enjoy luxuries like a coffee on the way to work in the morning!). I’m still processing the trip to El Salvador. It challenged me and stirred a lot of emotions within me. It was pretty powerful!

Give 5 words to sum up the Gap Year experience.

Exciting, inspiring, challenging, fulfilling, (a) blast!

Give us one memory that sums up your time as a Gapper.

Working on the CAFOD residential retreats – both the adult retreat & the retreat for young people. I was able to share experiences from my trip to El Salvador. The adults could really relate to this too. It seemed like everyone wanted to do more for CAFOD. It was an opportunity to use our creativity in making new CAFOD resources and it was so much fun! The young people were really enthused!
Being with the other Gappers last weekend was another highlight. It was a real celebration of our year on the programme. We all left feeling really affirmed and excited to step into our next chapters. It was wonderful to see how we had gelled as a group.

What will you miss most about being on Step Into The Gap?

The other Gappers on the national scheme as well as here at YMT. 😥

How do you think Step Into The Gap has/will help you when you move on?

I feel that I’ve a good understanding of CAFOD’s work now, especially in El Salvador and I’ll carry on working to promote strong links between parishes and the global south. It’s not the end, it’s an exciting prospect. The whole year has given me food for thought and I’m excited to unpack more of this.

What next?

London baby!

So that’s how Kat feels about the last year. Next up will be Julia in a few days time, reflecting on her year.