The National Board of Catholic Women, the Catholic Women’s League and the Union of Catholic Mothers were all represented at CAFOD’s 60th anniversary Mass on 10th June. The original founders of CAFOD were Catholic women whose project in Dominica so impressed the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales that they formed the new agency around it in 1962. CAFOD has been the official aid agency for the Catholic Church in England and Wales since that time.
Ellen Teague represented the Columbans. She worked for CAFOD for eight years in the 1980s as Coordinator of CAFOD’s Education Campaign. And over the years, Columbans have been supporters and collaborators with CAFOD on development education work, advocacy and projects in the global south. Some have served on CAFOD committees, which valued input from the missionary sector.
The special Mass was live streamed from St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark, London. It was celebrated by Bishop Tom Williams, auxiliary in Liverpool, with Fr. Mark Odion, a CAFOD trustee, concelebrating. The acclaimed London Community Gospel Choir led the music, receiving a warm round of applause at the end. The final hymn, CAFOD Jubilee Song, by Bernadette Farrell, was particularly appreciated.
In the congregation were former directors Chris Bain and Julian Filochowski and CAFOD workers and volunteers from many dioceses, including Middlesbrough, Plymouth and Westminster. The National Justice and Peace Network and Pax Christi were amongst other organisations represented. All saw the Offertory procession bringing to the altar a Romero Cross and symbols of CAFOD’s work.
CAFOD’s first woman director, Christine Allen, paid tribute to its founders and said, “they would be proud of what CAFOD has become.” CAFOD, “mobilises the Catholic constituency on such issues as land, slavery, debt, water and food,” said Christine; “it brings Catholic Social Teaching to bear on the issues of the day and is part of a living, vibrant community.” Christine noted the 10th anniversary of the death of Mildred Neville, a former CAFOD trustee, and the recent losses of Sr Pat Robb, Dr Mary Halloway and Bruce Kent, who was “a good friend and challenger to CAFOD.”
Christine Allen gave thanks for global partner organisations and for CAFOD volunteers, supporters and staff past and present in the England and Wales. Many recalled CAFOD’s 50th year celebration in Westminster Cathedral, and some the 25th anniversary which saw CAFOD takeover the Royal Festival Hall for a day and the diminutive Dom Helder Camara from Brazil, who is currently on the path to sainthood, was a keynote speaker.
In his homily at the Southwark Mass Bishop Tom said he was “happy to be here to commemorate CAFOD’s work.” Yet he also noted that “the work of CAFOD never seems to cease, with one crisis after another.” CAFOD, he felt, offers hope and “shows what can be done.”