‘Ambassadors of Christ’ – 50 Years Working for Justice

Over fifty people travelled from Leeds to Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 28th January for a memorable mass of celebration and thanksgiving. The occasion was to mark fifty years of generous support and commitment by the Catholic Community in England and Wales to overcoming poverty and building justice.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols welcomed a packed cathedral of over 2,000 CAFOD supporters who were delighted to be part of such an historic occasion. The homily given by Bishop John Arnold, Chair of CAFOD’s Trustees, began by remembering the four women who introduced the first Family Fast day:

‘I think that we have two clear purposes here today. The first is thanksgiving. That begins with our four ladies who felt moved to take action against poverty, Archbishop Worlock, then Mgr Worlock who brought the CAFOD charity into reality, Bishop Grant (the first Chair of CAFOD) and Bishop Tony Hitchen.

 But then we need to remember each and every person who has contributed to, or worked for, CAFOD over those 50 years and who has helped to make it all that it is today. That makes it so clearly a celebration of thanksgiving for the whole Catholic community –schools, parishes, religious communities and organisations.’

 Reflecting on the day’s readings, especially St. Paul, he continued,

For Justice to be done, starvation and disease and poverty annihilated from our world then it will have to come through our hope and the conviction that Isaiah speaks of in that first reading:

The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
        For the Lord has anointed me.
        He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
       To bind up hearts that are broken.

Bishop John in East Timor with CAFOD,2010

        That means God working through you and me. I close with a reference to another image given by St Paul. While New Testament writers speak of Christians as disciples and even Apostles, there is only St Paul who elevates us to being ‘Ambassadors of Christ’. You and I are called to represent Christ and to carry on the work of Christ. We are to bring the good news to the poor. The challenge is enormous but, being parts of one body, each of us has our own role to play. And being part of the one body we must be careful to ensure that all the body is healthy and well. And our energy, purpose and ultimate progress must rest on hope.

So, as we give thanks for the fifty year past, and commit ourselves to the next 50 years, let our every effort, decision and intention be made in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

The congregation responded with sustained applause to Margaret Mwaniki, a CAFOD trustee and partner from Kenya.    Margaret spoke of CAFOD demonstrating God’s love for humanity and how CAFOD is participating in the mission of the Church. She called for on-going action to bring “life to the full”, especially important now in the context of the economic downturn and climate change. Specifically, she called for support for CAFOD’s new ‘Thirst for Change’ campaign which addresses the growing global water and sanitation crisis.

The Leeds pilgrims returned home after a long but inspiring day, thankful that they are part of a continuing journey of hope and filled with a sense of solidarity and trust that God’s spirit working in us will, indeed, make us ‘Ambassadors for Christ.’

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