CAFOD at St Bede’s and St Joseph’s Catholic College, Bradford

Researched and written by Matty Maslen, CAFOD volunteer

CAFOD Leeds’ very own ex-gapper Madeline Woods is now the Chaplain for St Bede’s and St Joseph’s Catholic College (SBSJ), Bradford. SBSJ is one of the biggest Catholic school in the country.

madeline in ufganda

Madeline, third from left, pictured with fellow gappers visiting CAFOD partners in Uganda in 2019 as part of the Step into the Gap programme

 Although she is still new to the post, Madeline has already managed to start a CAFOD group at the school. It currently has four members from Year 8, with more showing interest in joining. It formed quite spontaneously while on a trip to Revelation where the students talked to Madeline about their passion for the work of CAFOD especially around climate change and social justice.

 SBSJ’s newly formed group are hoping to help the school achieve CAFOD’s livesimply award. This is awarded to communities who are able to show they have been living simply, in solidarity with people in poverty and sustainably with creation. In order to be granted the award, Madeline has been working to make the CAFOD group a space that will tap into the pupils’ desire to make the world a better place. The group is intended to help turn the members’ passion into action.

 During this season of Lent, Madeline put up CAFOD Lent calendars in each form room in the school to encourage the students to pray, fast and give. She also sent out an SBSJ Chaplaincy newsletter before schools closed as part of the Covid-19 lockdown in March. The newsletter featured CAFOD and provided links to online resources for the students to access.

            Although Chaplains are not classed as key workers, since schools were closed Madeline has been keeping busy. It is important to remember that it is not only the academic aspect of school life that has been disrupted by this pandemic. As she said: We know that the job we do is essential in helping young people to practise their faith through this time.

To help her school community through this strange time, she has been sending out prayer slides to all staff and students, and is currently creating a guide to the Bible for the students. The work that Chaplains around the world have been doing during this time when so many people are unable to access a Church is important to help people continue to feel connected both to their faith and to the wider family of the Church. Let us all remember that, as Madeline said: “There are many ways that we can live our faith in this difficult time”.

If you would like to see a video of some of the work Madeline has been doing at SBSJ then please click on the link below:

Stepping into Cambodia

Earlier this year, five young adults from CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme were transformed when they travelled to Cambodia to see the work of CAFOD and its partners first hand.Cambodia promo 2020 STIG pic b

Hugh, Daisy, Francis, Orla and Rebecca saw the work of two CAFOD partners, Cambodian Organisation for Children’s Development (COCD) and Karuna Battambang Organisation (KBO). Inspired by some remarkable people, Orla shared that “the happiness and joy of the people has been undeniably infectious, making each encounter as beautiful as the next.” They visited a variety of agricultural projects such as chicken rearing and vegetable farming as well as Water and Sanitation projects. One project was focussed on accessing toilets safely where people wouldn’t have to journey into the jungle, another project taught school children how to wash their hands. Now back in the UK, in the face of COVID-19, it has become even more clear how important and life saving projects like these can be.

Cambodia Promo 2020 STIG pic c

“Going to Cambodia was really life changing for me, I saw how the Catholic community of England and Wales, by supporting the work of CAFOD, does really make a difference to so many people’s lives around the world.” Hugh Cafferky, current participant of Step into the Gap. “We were so blessed to be able to spend time with the communities that CAFOD works with and to learn about their lives as well as the difference chicken rearing and other projects can make.”

As well as this 3 week visit to CAFOD’s partners, the gappers spend their year in placements including youth retreat centres, university and school chaplaincies where they develop leadership skills and share their passion for social justice with the wider community. It offers young adults between 18 and 30, the opportunity to gain new experience and inspire a generation of people to act for the poorest and most marginalised.

Cambodia promo 2020 STIG

Now back in the UK, the gappers were hoping to return to their placements and share the stories and lessons they learnt in Cambodia but with the lock down, the gappers are coming up with alternative ways to share about their experience! Two of the participants would love you to join their interactive webinar: Cambodia and Step into the Gap on 30th April. You can register close to the time on CAFOD’s website

There are still placements available for September, so if you are between 18-30 and want to inspire others to create a fairer and more just world, then visit As part of the programme you will have the opportunity to see the work of CAFOD first hand for 3 weeks and spend the year in one of our UK placements.

Madeline looks back on her Gap year with CAFOD

We’re now in the last month of my year on CAFOD’s Step into the Gap Programme, and what a year it’s been! From school visits to vegetable quizzes, prayer breakfasts in Leeds to sitting around a fire in Moroto, Uganda, not many can claim that their last year has been so varied!

Madeline Woods with Nicole, Clementina in Uganda

Nicole, Clementina and myself. Clementina is a midwife in a health centre which is supported by CAFOD in Moroto, Uganda. She gives everything she can to her community without a second thought, including ripping up her own bedsheets to make baby blankets!

I have had so many opportunities this year that I never would have had otherwise. My trip to Uganda is the obvious big one, and the things I saw, experienced and learned on that trip will undoubtedly stay with me for the rest of my life. I have been on BBC Radio Leeds 3 times, something which this time last year would have been unimaginable. I have stood in front of a room of 180 Year 7s and spoken about CAFOD without so much as a quiver in my voice, which again, a year ago, would have had me a nervous wreck. I’ve met so many incredible people through CAFOD and through my placement at Leeds Trinity University, and am certain that I have made friends for life. My office at my placement is right next to a beautiful Chapel, too, meaning that whenever I fancy, I can pop in and take some time to sit in the quiet. My faith has developed so much from this, from having conversations with the Chaplaincy team and experiencing retreat opportunities like Youth 2000, and I am going to be leaving this role a more well-rounded and confident person.

Madeline Woods with LTU hannah and Sisters thumbs up and recycle coffee cups

Myself, Hannah (the Chaplain at Leeds Trinity), Sister Catherine Mary and Sister Thérèse at Tea on the Landing, celebrating the launch of our recyclable cups and adding our thumbs-ups to the banner for the Climate Change Lobby on June 26th.

I would like to think that I’m not the only person who has benefitted from my year as a CAFOD Gapper, as I have spoken to many people about the work that CAFOD do and what they can do to make their world a better place – with a month left to go, the official number of people I have spoken to about CAFOD is at over 1,000!


I’ll take this opportunity to thank everyone I have met throughout the last year. Leeds Trinity University Chaplaincy, everyone at Trinity, my fellow gappers, CAFOD Leeds, broader CAFOD staff and volunteers… the list goes on!


On to the next adventure…

Click the link if you would like to know more about CAFOD’s gap year programme Step into the Gap or call (0113) 275 9302 to speak to Bronagh.