Volunteering for CAFOD: Office Volunteer Sister Carmel Ring shares her story

CAFOD Westminster Office Volunteer, Sister Carmel Ring shares her story of how she came to volunteer for CAFOD.

Sister Carmel Ring shows her support for Hungry for Change

Sister Carmel Ring shows her support for Hungry for Change

“From my earliest years I have been passionately interested in Social Justice.  When I had got through the Enid Blyton stories and Grimms Fairy Tales my mother decided that it was time to introduce me to something deeper and that is when she opened my eyes to the wonder of Dickens and all those marvelous stories about the poor and marginalized in Victorian London. Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Magwitch are still magical names for me. I think I learnt as much about social history from reading Dickens as I did when reading History formally at University. I have my mother to thank for that.

Years later when as a first year teacher I lodged in the hostel run by the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice in Dublin. I attended the Dominican Institute of Sociology and was privileged to be able to attend the Social  Study Congress in the National Stadium and learn all about Populorum Progressio and listen to such charismatic speakers as Group Captain Cheshire and his connection with the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima.

I got a taste of Contemplation in Action as a girl in the hostel as I watched the Sisters live out their Ignatian vocation in their everyday ministry of feeding, caring for and befriending us and thus helping us become more aware of the presence of God in the everyday.  When in Primary School I heard the Sisters of St Louis, when home on leave from the missions, talk to the pupils about their work on the missions and encourage us to save our pennies for the children in Africa. I think the seeds of my missionary vocation were planted in those days. But best of all was the advent of the Council of Vatican II and its definition of the Church as the People of God and its setting out of the Role of the Laity.

I spent four years in the 80s and 90s as a primary and secondary teacher and catechist in Cameroon and learnt at first hand what it was like to live with people of a different culture and learn about life through their eyes.  I found the poor particularly appealing for there was an innocence and joy about them not noticeable elsewhere. I loved to watch the children using their brains and ingenuity to invent the most complicated games without the benefit of toys or gadgetry. Their propensity for Celebration was infectious. For the poorest life was a joy truly worth living. Years later, when I was involved in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) course, I was able to call upon my missionary experience in Cameroon when presenting the Church’s teaching on Social Justice. Remembering that we are only one world and that we are put on earth to help and care for each other is a great stimulus to action. And this is where CAFOD comes in!

Sister Carmel and other CAFOD volunteers with Archbishop Vincent Nichols at last year's Enough Food For Everyone IF rally.

Sister Carmel and other CAFOD volunteers with Archbishop Vincent Nichols at last year’s Enough Food For Everyone IF rally.

When the time came for me to withdraw from the running of the RCIA course in my parish another door opened for me. Sister Frances from my community, as if by chance, picked up a Church Newsletter and saw an ad from CAFOD asking for volunteers for schools. I immediately replied, was accepted and here I am.  That was just over a year ago.

I find working as a volunteer for CAFOD extremely rewarding. I spend Wednesdays in our Westminster office in Cockfosters. No sooner do I get there than I am aware that I am treading on holy ground and that perhaps I should take OFF my shoes! To see the level of commitment and dedication of Tony and Jon and the team of volunteers is totally inspiring. That is not to say it is all work and no play, for we have lots of fun and laughter and marvelous discussions and sharing at the lunch break. It is easy to work and give one’s best in such an atmosphere so full of love. 

At the moment my main responsibility is to get in touch with Parish Catechists and introduce them to the social study package for use with Confirmation groups, and encourage them to invite some of our volunteers along to conduct a workshop for them.  I also phone parishes to remind them of the special Fast Days in Lent and Harvest time. When not phoning, you may occasionally find me involved in such mundane tasks as filling envelopes and attempting to put order into a filing system that has not been interfered with in the last twenty years.  You can’t say this is a boring job though, for part of it is reading and discerning what to keep and what to shred.  Like that I have learnt so much about CAFOD’s concern and involvement in disasters of one kind or another all over the world for years and years. I must not forget to mention that I have also taken part in the IF campaign and the lobbying of our MPs on the eve of last June’s G8 summit. This is living history.

The Cafod ‘Just One World’ logo is truly fitting. I think that when the founder of my order, Blessed Marie Therese, looks down from heaven and sees me and my co-workers and volunteers going about our humble tasks in joy and harmony, she sees us, as Malcolm Muggeridge once said of Mother Teresa, as doing ‘something beautiful for God’.    I am sure she is pleased with me. At least I hope she is!”

Perhaps you too could be a CAFOD volunteer.  We are currently looking for Volunteers with Public speaking skills to speak on our behalf in Parishes and Schools.  Please contact the CAFOD Westminster Office on 0208 449 6970 or westminster@cafod.org.uk if you would like to get involved.

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