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.


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.


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)

Sierra Leone 2

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

Will you Share the Journey?

Gloria Turner, an office volunteer with CAFOD Brentwood, explores the facts behind our Share the Journey campaign and invites us to walk in solidarity and hope with refugees and migrants across the world

I have just been learning about the Share the Journey campaign……

Share the journey poster

Did you know???? …………….

In September 2018, world leaders will agree two new global ‘compacts’ (or agreements) at the United Nations: one on refugees and one on migration. Pope Francis has spoken of this as a ‘unique opportunity’ for Catholics worldwide to put pressure on governments.

The Vatican hopes Pope Francis’ intervention will galvanise action from world leaders. At the start of his papacy, Pope Francis visited the island of Lampedusa where thousands of migrants have drowned at sea.

Francesco Tuccio is a carpenter from the small Italian island of Lampedusa. When hundreds of refugees who were fleeing Eritrea and Somalia drowned off the coast of Lampedusa, he was moved to gather the driftwood from the wrecked boats and turn them into crosses, which he offered to survivors as a small but powerful symbol of hope.

There is a Lampedusa cross beside my desk in the CAFOD office where I work so I am reminded of this refugee story whenever I look at it.


Lampedusa Crosses – symbols of hope and solidarity

Ever since, the Holy Father has shown the Church’s concern for this crisis.  In 2017, he released a message to nation states, urging them to “welcome, protect, promote and integrate” migrants and refugees

CAFOD has launched a petition to the UK Prime Minister, urging Britain to ensure the human dignity of migrants and refugees is at the heart of the global agreements. You can sign the petition online as I felt compelled to do when I read of this campaign.

Schools and parishes joined the campaign in 2018. CAFOD have provided many resources to help and encourage as many of us as possible to join in “Share the Journey”  ie to organise walks as an act of solidarity so together we can walk the 24,900 miles around the world.  The totaliser online  will keep us informed as we get closer to our target.  At the time of writing this blog the total distance walked by CAFOD supporters so far is 4,778 miles.

“Every minute 20 people around the world are displaced”

There are many reasons for the huge numbers of refugees and migrants we hear about.  War, persecution, natural disaster and poverty force millions of people from their homes. Most come from poor countries and seek safety in poor countries nearby.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to leave your home and live in a camp with thousands of others, possibly with the family being split up.

I have a friend who comes from Colombia and it is particularly moving to hear her speak about the country where she still has family.  She recently organised a fundraising evening for the poor children of Colombia.  Millions of people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. The country is scarred by over 50 years of armed conflict. The year 2018 will be a year of major uncertainty for Colombia. A new congress and president will take office while multiple illegal armed groups are negotiating their demobilization.

To complicate matters, Colombia’s economy is only slowly expected to recover after hitting a bottom 1.8% growth. Cocaine production is almost as high as ever.

Dainny photo

6 year old Dainny and his family
 fled to Colombia from Venezuela

Colombia has one of the highest numbers of displaced people in the world, second only to Syria. In addition to the thousands forced to flee their homes within Colombia in 2017, thousands more have fled to Colombia from Venezuela


Bidi Bidi was once a quiet village in northern Uganda.

Viola and Charles photo

Viola Taboo, 22, and her 5 year old son, Charles, fled to Uganda last year after soldiers arrived in their village.  Eventually she found her way to safety in Bidi Bidi

Today, it hosts over 270,000 women, men and children from neighbouring South Sudan, and is the second biggest refugee camp in the world. Caritas Uganda are providing food, water and housing to thousands of people fleeing from the conflict in South Sudan.

While Turkey hosts over 3 million Syrian refugees, four other Middle Eastern countries, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, also share the burden. These five countries are currently home to over 5 million Syrians. Lebanon hosts around 1 million refugees, currently; one person in every five in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. Jordan hosts 655,000 refugees, making up 10 per cent of its population. Iraq hosts around 246,000 refugees, while Egypt is home to around 126,000 refugees. There are also more than 30,000 Syrian refugees registered in North Africa.


There are around 20,000 refugees in Greece, many of whom are fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

More people are on the move now than ever before. Every minute, 20 people around the world are newly displaced.  Half of the world’s refugees are children, and thousands take flight without the protection of parents or other family members. Three out of four of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries.


Why should we take part in the share the Journey campaign?

It’s an act of solidarity to Share the Journey with our global neighbours fleeing their homes. Every step you take, together with others from across the country, will send a message to world leaders that they must step up, too. They need to act with courage and compassion when they agree ambitious new UN agreements on refugees and migration in 2018. 

Pope Francis, 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees said:

Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.


Will YOU Share The Journey??


CAFOD fundraiser wins prestigious community award

A hard-working teacher has won a prestigious award after a decade of fundraising has helped her school raise more than £30,000 for CAFOD.

Angela-SparkeAngela Sparke, assistant headteacher and Year Four teacher at St Peter’s school in Billericay, has won Fundraiser of the Year at the Basildon Festival Leisure Park 2018 Community Awards.

She was nominated after helping her school to raise £31,578 through 10 years of tireless fundraising.

Every year, the school has a whole half term of activities from October to December and they host events such as craft days, film and popcorn afternoons, and Christmas markets.


Angela collects the Fundraiser of the Year  2018 award

“Every year, the pupils of the school council decide what they want to do and what world gifts they want to buy – we usually try to include a community water gift or something to do with healthcare, as these gifts make a really big impact and help to train people.

“The pupils are really involved and invested in the whole things and like the idea that they are helping people to be independent and self-sufficient. The fundraising is down to a whole team of people – I just help to jivy them along!”

Alongside her fundraising, Angela has also been a volunteer for CAFOD for many years, as a speaker at Mass and formerly as an office volunteer.

CAFOD’s Community and Participation Co-ordinator, Chris Driscoll, said that CAFOD was very grateful for all her hard work.

He added: “Angela has been tireless in fundraising and is a wonderful ambassador for CAFOD – she fully deserves to win the award of Fundraiser for the Year.”