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This Lent you can help people like James the fisherman feed their families not just for today, but for good. Donate to CAFOD’s Lent Appeal today. 

Reflections by Elizabeth Carey, Parish CAFOD Representative

Have you ever done something for so long that it seems built into your calendar, like putting up your Christmas tree or receiving cross-shaped crosses on Palm Sunday?  When any habit becomes too ingrained, the risk is that we don’t reflect on it as much as we should (or possibly at all)!

 

That’s what happened recently with CAFOD collections.  In its desire to ensure robust second collection procedures at churches, the Diocese of Westminster drew up some new guidelines.   No doubt these were well meant, designed to protect both contributing parishioners and priests, and ensure that gifts reached the intended charity.  As often happens, rulemaking is sometimes at odds with effective, long-established grass roots practice.  Reconciling the two takes dialogue and a cooperative spirit.  Both sides must come to understand that pursuing a common objective may take different paths on the ground, all the while remaining robust in achieving a shared end-goal.

 

The Diocese’s review of charity collection procedures shook me and my faithful helpers out of our twice-yearly auto-pilot mode.  We were forced to reflect on why we were committed to serving our parish by volunteering for CAFOD.  Clearly, CAFOD’s work is very worthy and much needed to help our brothers and sisters in some of the poorest, most forgotten corners of our world.  But other charities might make similar claims.

 

On reflection, I realised that at the heart of volunteering for CAFOD lies a personal (and in-person!) bond that has grown up with hundreds of people across all 7 weekend masses 2x per year, year-in-year-out.  In my case, that bond has been nurtured over 17 years, and has expanded to include my family (2 and 4-legged members) plus friends with their growing families.  The cumulative interchanges with parishioners, however brief, express our collective acknowledgement of, and support for, people far less fortunate than ourselves.  Behind even the most hurried eye contact lies the shared recognition of our duty to respond to the cries of the poor.  That personal connection between a volunteer and parishioner—whose journey out the doors may be slowed down by a few seconds or several minutes—serves as a communal reminder of why the St. James’s Spanish Place parish supports CAFOD, and why we individually should, too.  Recalling our shared duty to “Love thy neighbour” binds us closer together in Central London just as it binds each of us closer to suffering people whom we can’t see living in countries most of us have never visited.