What I learned on my gap year with CAFOD
In his final blog, gapper Chris Burkette reflects on his year and his hopes for the future. Thank you Chris for your valuable input this year, and we wish you all the best in your future aspirations.
Passing on the baton
As my year as a CAFOD Gapper draws near to a close I recall the journey I’ve been on. From the very start when I was learning and receiving new CAFOD resources with great enthusiasm, filled with high anticipation for the year ahead, all the way to returning from the international visit.
Finally, I now pass on, train and walk with next year’s gapper, Kiera, who will be placed at Brentwood. For me, it stands as a defining moment as I start to transition into another year of my youth ministry, here which has grown as a second home for me. I am staying at Brentwood for another year before going away to university to study a long time favourite of mine – psychology.
But, after a year of working with CAFOD, where do I go from here? How do I carry on what I have learned and continue to act as a steward of the Gospel with CAFOD and at my retreat centre?
In my last blog I spoke about how each of us have a unique call in life, a vocation. Linked closely with this I have found that this programme has shaped me over the past twelve months, helping me form a stronger sense of purpose and realise my identity. When I say identity I don’t just mean how we look, what we do as a job or how we are seen by others. I agree that these are all recognisable features linked with identity but I believe that the idea of our own personal identity is a lot deeper than a surface based self.
The importance of identity
As a Christian, I believe that identity means so much more. It is our dreams, aspirations, visions, goals, passions and desires for what we want to achieve in life. For me, both as an individual and a Catholic, this contributes to what I would call my purpose… helping towards a better world. I want to live in a world where everyone has an equal chance and opportunity to follow what they believe in – a crucial part of anyone forming an identity – and achieving everything we work so hard for like peace, justice and equality.
The concept of identity is also important for CAFOD as an organisation. Its principles and values – dignity, solidarity, compassion, hope, stewardship and partnership – mean a lot to me. I relate most to the value of dignity which refers to a great respect for human life in all its fullness, cherishing it gratefully as a gift from God. In my eyes, CAFOD takes inspiration for this from the start of the Bible in Genesis, where we learn we are made in the image of God. We are all made equally, and we should treat each other equally.
The Church recognises our identities in two ways: following in the example established by Jesus within the Gospels, and by being really honest and true to ourselves in our God-given gifts and talents. When we look to Jesus we must know that we cannot fail as everything He did and taught was done so in divine love and compassion, qualities Pope Francis urges us all to follow while thinking of God and considering our neighbour with love, care and tenderness. St Paul, a key saint in the church wrote 14 different letters to groups of people, one which was to the Galatians. We hear: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” Galatians 5:22-23.
Often referred to as the fruits of the Holy Spirit, these are things that we should all aim to hold and demonstrate in our daily lives. It is important to notice that it’s true – there are no rules against any of these fruits. For example, who could criticise a person for being patient or harvest anger towards someone expressing true kindness? We cannot. Similarly, we can acknowledge that CAFOD’s values can play a key role in forming identity and character, and so making the world a place for everyone.
Blessed Oscar Romero famously said: “It is not God’s will for some to have everything and others to have nothing”. A statement so true. The world should be a place we can all share together!
A final message
Over my time as a Gapper I have been educated about world issues and the importance of treating people with dignity – highlighted especially when overseas during my time in Sierra Leone – for instance with meeting many locals. I have learned about both sustainability and stewardship when giving talks to and leading workshops with young people.
Step into the Gap has taught me to be equally authentic as I am able to make a difference!
All of these small parts have had their place in my heart and mind over the past year as a Gapper and is something I hope to continue positively influencing me.
It is my belief that we each have our universal identity and place within creation.
For Gappers who may read this – I couldn’t urge you more to fully grasp this rare opportunity to make a difference. Aim high, dream big and aspire for social justice!
To end this specific blog as a Gapper I can’t encourage people enough if you are considering a gap year and want to make a difference and raise awareness of issues surrounding social justice, with the rare opportunity to journey overseas and absorb rich culture, then…this is CERTAINLY the programme for you!
Please do continue to pray not just for me and the current Gappers but also for all future Gappers on the programme. Pray that they may equally get the chance to make a difference in the World around them. Lastly, consider a favourite quote of mine… “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” Matthew 28:19.
As always – continue to spread the Gospel.