Power to Be campaign spans the generations at Shoeburyness parish

Brian Fitzgerald, chair  of the ‘senior’ Justice and Peace team at St George and the English Martyrs, Shoeburyness, describes how CAFOD’s Power to Be campaign captured the imagination and support of people of a range of ages in the parish…

The parishioners of St George & the English Martyrs, Shoeburyness, listened spellbound to very distinct Power To Be presentations on the weekend of 30th September/1st October.

The parish has 2 Justice & Peace groups – A Youth group, aged from 11 to 17 years, and a Senior group, comprising mainly of Senior Citizens.  Following attendance at the National Justice & Peace Network meeting in Romero House in May the idea was hatched that the groups could utilise their differing  talents  to launch the campaign during the masses before the World Bank meetings  in October.

power to be 2

Members of the Youth J&P group at St George’s present the Power to Be campaign to parishioners

Our Parish Priest, Fr Brett, was typically enthusiastic to encourage participation from a range of lay people. (He was even more so when he realised that on the weekend in question he would be recovering from jet lag following a transatlantic flight).  Thus the idea became reality:

Every child has the power in them to achieve great things

The Youth group leaders combined with the Chair of the Senior group to edit a Powerpoint presentation ensuring that it retained the required impact.  The young members of the group were so enthusiastic that we were able to have different teams presenting at each of the 2 masses, a Youth Mass and a regular sung Mass, in St George`s church.

PTB St George's 2

Signed Power to Be action cards placed at the altar at St George’s

Meanwhile, it was decided that the Senior group would present the campaign at the Mass at the  Chapel of St Gregory in nearby Thorpe Bay. At this Mass we limited ourselves to a short talk, edited to include pertinent facts and figures, presented impeccably by our most senior member, Brigid Hogan, a sprightly 90 year old, and prayers of intercession.

Fr Brett reinforced the message behind the campaign with carefully chosen words of reflection at the end of each celebration and the reaction of those present was extremely positive with nearly 300 petition cards completed.

Seeds and food for thought this Harvest Fast Day

Today is Harvest Fast Day and across the country families, individuals, parishes and schools will be standing in solidarity with people such as Edelmira (below) and her family in her community in El Salvador which is the focus of this year’s Fast Day appeal.

El Salvador was of course also the home of Blessed Oscar Romero, who is still held with deep reverence by Salvadoreans and many millions of others across the world. The prayer attributed to Oscar Romero, ‘A step along the way’ reminds us of the importance to allow space for God’s grace in our work and in our lives:

We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but we are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.

Grace and abundance are two themes closely connected to CAFOD’s approach to Harvest. Drawing on the story of the wedding at Cana, CAFOD’s theological adviser, Fr Augusto Zampini Davies describes how an appreciation of the significance of harvest is enriched by an understanding of ideas of grace and abundance:

“In ancient biblical times, harvest was a feast connected with God’s abundant gift. As citizens of our modern world, detached from actual food production, we can misinterpret the importance of those feasts.  But we are still familiar with wedding feasts.   The celebration of a good harvest, whose first products were offered to God, could be compared to a good wedding feast, in which wine, food and gifts are offered to the invitees.  In both celebrations, when related to God, the centrality is abundance: of fruits, love and joy, an abundance that transforms all who partake in the feast, bolstering their capacity to live life to the full”.

So let us make room once more for God’s grace this Harvest, and as we fast and enjoy our Prayer cardsimple soup lunches, remember that in our work for CAFOD we are sowing the seeds for the great Harvest that is to come.

Thank you to all our volunteers for all you have done and are doing this Harvest Fast Day.



Meet Christopher, our new gap year volunteer

Christopher is from Essex and recently has finished his A-Levels in Psychology, Religious Education and Biology. At St Thomas More High school, he started a Fairtrade group which inspired him to join CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme. He will be based at Brentwood Catholic Youth Services at Walsingham House and is the first CAFOD gap year volunteer there. He believes it is difficult for one individual to make a significant difference, but that with many it is possible. In his free time, he is actively involved in music, especially the violin. 

Christopher Burkette

Christopher Burkette at Romero House

Hello! Over the next year I am going to be doing a placement at Walsingham House in Brentwood diocese in the South-East of England. I have been previously involved with the work of CAFOD, including the campaign One Climate One World.  This is such an important topic, more today than ever as the effects of climate change appear so prominently in the world around us. For me it is important for us to care for the world around us – it was given to us by God as a gift, one we must be stewards of, pay special attention to and care for.

I joined the Step into the Gap programme due to my desire to really help people in the wider world around me – I felt the programme would give me an opportunity to make a real difference! This was joined with the fact that I have always taken an interest in the work of CAFOD. I wanted to be a part of it – in some way acting to represent the values set by CAFOD – not just in work but in my everyday lifestyle. I think that many people don’t fully grasp how far-reaching CAFOD’s work is and the number of people’s lives which are transformed completely through the action of CAFOD and their partners. I can be very vocal and so feel that the Step into the Gap programme is helpful for me spreading this message of love to others and act towards visible change!

Over the approaching months I think I will find both strength and motivation from spreading the word on world issues such as climate change and social justice. I am excited at the prospect of communicating these issues with people I encounter on retreat, friends and even those I live with inside my local community. I really feel a deep passion for this form of work, that I will be able to discuss with others around me!

The Step into the Gap programme for me is rooted in Faith so allows me a chance to deepen my Faith, Spirituality and understanding of serving God through love of neighbour and of self. I aim to spread the word of God through CAFOD and preach God’s love of creation and humanity. I also look forward to walking alongside other people on the programme, both physically and spiritually, over the year.

In particular I wait in anticipation of the trip to one of CAFOD’s partners overseas. I’m looking forward to viewing the world through the eyes of the people there and seeing how they live; this will create in me a well of gratefulness that I can then share with people when I get back to the UK.  I’m also looking forward to sharing my own journey, such as that of my faith, with locals. The memory of it alone will be something I can’t wait to share with people afterwards. I believe that it is sharing people’s stories that triggers change; they can create an inward change of how others see the world.

I would like to also be an active part in this process of social change. I think that one of the unique parts of the Step into the Gap programme is the link between my placement in Walsingham House and the programme more generally – I’m looking forward to the mix between the activities of retreat sessions and those at CAFOD. I believe that getting the balance could prove to be one of the great challenges of this year.

I can only say that I am filled with a combination of joy and excitement when considering the journey that I and others on the programme will undertake this year – a period of both personal growth and helping the growth of everyone, everywhere that we go. I pray at this time for God’s blessings not just on me but all of the other people within the Step into the Gap programme for endurance, courage and the chance to use their skills to the best of their ability.