Excitement ahead for Gapper Kiera!

In September, Kiera Harman begins a one year placement at Walsingham House for the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service as well as CAFOD’s Step into Gap programme. Kiera will give us regular updates on her activities throughout the year

Hello my name is Kiera. I am 18 years old and I have just finished my A levels.

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This year I will be completing my placement at Walsingham House in Brentwood in the south east of the UK. I am looking forward to working with young people and more especially developing my faith and achieving a greater understanding of the faith I am lucky to be part of.

 

 I am extremely excited for the year ahead and most especially the work which I will be doing on the Step into the Gap programme with CAFOD.  

I have previously completed the CAFOD young leaders programme which sparked my interest in current issues especially those surrounding climate change and the refugee crisis. 

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Young Leaders, including Kiera, at Parliament showing their support for CAFOD’s new campaign

In April 2017 I travelled from Wickford to Westminster to speak with MPs in Parliament to ensure the interests of the world’s poorest people will be kept in mind during the upcoming general election.   

 

 

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Kiera with others at one of the CAFOD Young Leaders’ Days

 

I hope I can raise awareness of these. I cannot wait to see first-hand the work the CAFOD in developing countries and to share these experiences with individuals that I will meet throughout the year. I couldn’t be more excited for the year ahead.

Share the Journey: Chigwell Sisters offer 3 days of solidarity and prayer for refugees

For 3 days at the end of August, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus & Mary (Chigwell Sisters) welcomed parishioners to their home at Chigwell Convent in order to ‘Share the Journey’. Sr Clara Phiri, a Chigwell Sister, describes why her congregation is moved to express solidarity with displaced people across the world.   

As part of the world-wide call by Pope Francis to ‘Share the Journey’, we the Chigwell Sisters walked in solidarity with millions of refugees and migrants who flee from war, poverty and exploitation, in search of safety for themselves and their loved ones.

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Sharing the Journey

We opened the doors of our gardens at the convent for 3 days to give an opportunity to our parishioners to pray freely whenever it suited them. We decided to conduct our journey in this way to celebrate our Feast day of St Augustine which fell on the August 28 and this was our way to unite ourselves with all the people around the world who are currently struggling to find a place to call home.

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This campaign is important for our Congregation because we have a community in Pabo in north Uganda, and near to the border with South Sudan. It is also close to the Bidi Bidi camp which is one of the fastest growing refugee camps in Africa. The Bidi Bidi camp is home to approximately 270,000 South Sudanese refugees that are fleeing the ongoing civil war.

 

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One of the stories being read by Sr Pierina

The fact that a poor country like Uganda has opened its doors to welcome our brothers and sisters inspired us to take part in this campaign to include our voices in the cry for help for all the people that are currently suffering due to this crisis. Our hope is that at the forthcoming UN General Assembly the UK government will take the lead and speaking up for the implementation of policies that create a world where refugees and migrants and people on the move are treated with dignity and respect, and that protect the life of every human being.

We pray that world leaders seeing the tragedies currently being experienced by our brothers and sisters will respond with wisdom and compassion so that they do what is necessary to improve the lives of refugees and migrants.

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40,000 CAFOD supporters have now walked over 100,000 miles as part of the Share the Journey campaign. Sister Clara handed our petition in to Downing Street recently urging the UK government to put the rights of refugees at the heart of the UN agreements. 

 

We are all chosen to be something great

In his final blog as a CAFOD gapper, Chris Burkette reflects on his trip with CAFOD to Sierra Leone as part of its Step into the Gap programme.  For the last year, he’s been based in Walsingham House in the Brentwood Diocese, alongside volunteering for CAFOD.

Just over a third of a year has passed since I travelled overseas to Sierra Leone.  OverChristopher Burkette these months I have often considered how I fit into making a difference – from the wider world around me, then my local area and community, amongst my friends and family, all the way down to those met on retreat and even strangers I encounter.  At first it’s true. It can feel truly overwhelming to think how you have the responsibility to change those around you, but consider the following story I recently heard.

‘I shall change the world’

There was once a man with such a large heart who saw injustice in the world and saw how so many suffered in times of trial and hardship. He decided he wanted a change, to make a difference and it was him to make this difference.

He thought – ‘I shall change the world’, and so he travelled the world and with everyone he met he tried to change them.

He would talk to the rich and powerful and attempt persuading them to give more generously to those less fortunate with money but time passed by and he ultimately failed to change the world – those stubborn to believe simply chose not to believe and those with money chose not to give. So, realising he could not so simply change the face of the world he decided to start smaller, with his local community.

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Chris and the rest of the Gappers arrive in Sierra Leone

The same thing happened again and then, with just a small selection of his friends, he soon realised he was still unable to truly change how they behaved.

One day it dawned on the man that maybe if he wanted a change it was something that needed to start with him, for only he could change and influence others through how people saw he treated others rather than forcing people to change in the ways he told them to change.

The moral of the story is simple.  So often we try to make a huge change in the places we are, and that is not wrong, as the mistake the man made wasn’t by trying to transform the world – it was by forgetting to start with himself before others.

Something quite potent from a recent Gospel reading was to remove the plank out of your eye before the splinter in another’s.

Romero-cross-5The importance of stewardship

Over the last year, the word which has repeatedly come to mind is stewardship.

By being a CAFOD volunteer I am called to be a steward – an ambassador, in fact – for sharing the works of CAFOD.  Yet we are all called to be stewards of the Gospel equally, as we each have a call to be followers of Christ through discipleship.

For me, a call to discipleship is alike to a call to stewardship and is something important when considering how we as individuals look after the environment.

In one of Pope Francis’ most recent encyclicals, Laudato Si’, he goes further to call us all to be stewards of the earth – our common home.

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Chris and the Gappers in traditional dress with local CAFOD partners and community members in Kambia, Sierra Leone

So often we hear from the Gospels that we are called for a set purpose: A vocation, referred to as a special calling from God in which we can serve Him.

We hear that we are all made differently but in the image of God (Imago Dei) Genesis 1:27, and so this calling is tailormade for every individual to serve God in their own unique way. To do this we must follow the perfect example of this in Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Sierra Leone 1In St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 12:12-27, we are given an image of one body many parts, something I find in my own faith very important.

It truly creates the picture of how each of us has a role in the Church that only we can follow – how special each and every one of us is!

The Church is so much more than a physical building.   It is a collective community of people; a worldwide community of many parts, each with its own role.

We have all been called and chosen to be something great!

So, what does that mean for all of us – Christians, those of faith and non-religious?

It means that we all have been called and chosen to be something great. We are meant for growth and are born to change our world around us for the better!

It is true to say that people should not wholly know we are Catholics or people of Faith by what we dress or wear but how we treat one another. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

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A lush green Sierra Leonean vista

Spreading the word

I feel like the best way to show the true impact of my many encounters from the overseas trip to Sierra Leone is to show how it has impacted my outlook on life.  By spreading the testimonies of those I met, I educate people on the reality of the wider world.  It is by telling people how each encounter made me feel that I truly impart to others how important these people are, that they are equal like us and that we each hold the ability to make a change for the better.

I want to end this blog by asking you to think about how you can make a difference in how you treat others around you and how even a simple deed such as a smile or conversation alone holds the power to make someone’s day.

As always thank you for your prayers of the Gappers and continue to spread the Gospel.

Find out more about Step into the Gap