The Diocesan Festival, Fifty Years of a World Changing Church

11,000 people gathered in our Diocese on the 5th of July to celebrate our diocesan 50th anniversary, how did you find it?

I was struck, not only by the number of people but also by number of organisations, like ourselves, who are making a difference in the world, locally, nationally or globally.

It reminded me that the church isn’t just a club for people to join but a world-changing force. It isn’t a place to go on Sunday, but a living, dynamic body at work. It isn’t just a collection of people, but a community of disciples, following in the footsteps of Christ on our pilgrimage, loving God and loving our neighbours as ourselves.

From the main stage were delighted to hear from Clare Dixon, CAFOD’s Head of Latin America and the Caribbean, who reminded the ever-increasing crowd of the witness of people who have gone before us, not least Blessed Oscar Romero and Fr John Medcalf from our diocese. ‘To be a poor church for and with the poor, to care for the earth and all creation: are strongly rooted in the tradition of St Francis’ said Clare who was featured with Bishop Dan of our sister Chulucanas Diocese in a session chaired by the amazing Fr Kevin Dring.

Clare Dixon delivers a powerful message and wishes 'Happy Anniversary Everyone!'

Clare Dixon delivers a powerful message and wishes ‘Happy Anniversary Everyone!’

Many people spent a lot of time investigating the many stalls of the festival. Our main stall had a good number of visitors but we soon sent a mini-stall up to the diocesan showcase where there were many more people – it was, after all, in between two major food outlets. The presence of so many stalls, so many people making a difference in the world was very inspiring.

We met many people, had a great many conversations and put many names to faces, thank you for coming to say hello. We also distributed various fliers, postcards and Catholic Climate Change petitions. Our great thanks to all our volunteers who helped out on the stall – Jonathan, Ann, Kevin, Alastair and Stephen, we couldn’t have spoken to all the people we reached without your help.

Jon and Pierre on the stall. Thanks to all who helped out.

Jon and Pierre on the stall. Thanks to all who helped out.

Colleagues from Romero House, CAFOD’s Head Office, joined us for the day including Ian Farthing – Head of Fundraising, Maria-Elena Arana – Campaigns Outreach Coordinator and A&B’s own Pierre Fernandes. Heavens Road Radio interviewed Ian and Maria-Elena so we look forward to hearing those programs.

John Watts led a strong troupe of Redshirts in song which even included a special dedication to CAFOD with the original song ‘Your Spirit oh Lord is on Me’. This was especially fitting as the chorus reads ‘And Your Spirit oh Lord is on Me, saying “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me.*’ Our thanks go to John and the Redshirts.

Volunteer Stephen White took to the field to wave the CAFOD flag in the banner procession. Power to his arm! (It was needed when the wind picked up!). Stephen said ‘My main thought from the weekend is the surprise and encouragement that many young people took a genuine interest in to the work and CAFOD and to the struggles the CAFOD deals with, with several ask questions and having good discussion which is reflected in the amount of signatures received on climate change petition and a few people asking about ways to get involved.’

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The day culminated in the Mass which was a delightful end to the day. Some sheltered from the sun while others, like me, enjoyed its full warming glory. Being part of an eleven thousand-strong congregation isn’t a normal experience for most of us and I’m sure it inspired many.

A Panoramic view of the Mass

A Panoramic view of the Mass

The Next Fifty

After the festival when life has returned to normal I am left wondering about the next fifty. The last fifty years have seen a lot of changes and I’m in little doubt the next fifty will see more. But change can be positive or negative, which will they be? Based on the people that I met at Festival 50, I think that change will be largely positive. I know that every CAFOD volunteer helps change the world such that poverty is reduced, countless people can live fuller lives and we can live in a more just way. Without doubt there are many more out there doing similar things.

Thank you for your support these past fifty years, please contact us if you would like to volunteer or support us in any other way during the next fifty.

*Full text of the song reads:

Jesus you came with good news for the poor,
bringing freedom where there was captivity before.
To give sight to the blind and to set people free.
And your Spirit now Lord is on me.

Saying whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me.

Jesus you came bringing life to the full,
With the good news of your Kingdom for all.
To sow seeds of the word until everyone’s heard
And your Spirit now Lord is on me.

Saying whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me.

Seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness.
All that we need will be given to us.
He is the Lord, he is true to his word,
And his Spirit is now upon us.

Saying whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me.

(c) Martin Brown 2012

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