Congratulations to CAFOD Volunteer Mary O’Neill!

CAFOD Volunteer Mary O’Neill has been recognised for all her volunteer work for CAFOD by being presented with the Papal blessing. 

Father Norbert Fernandez,CAFOD's Tony Sheen, Mary O'Neil and Clare Dixon

Father Norbert Fernandez,CAFOD’s Tony Sheen, Mary O’Neill and Clare Dixon

A big congratulations to Mary O’Neill who this week was presented with the Papal blessing in recognition for all her volunteer work for CAFOD. Mary was the founder of the Holy Family CAFOD Group in Welwyn Garden City and a CAFOD volunteer for over 40 years.

The Papal Blessing Certificate, was issued by Pope Francis and was awarded to Mary at a mass at her parish, Holy Family, which was attended by family, friends and CAFOD representatives. 

Mary O'Neil Papal Blessing with Certificate

Mary O’Neill Papal Blessing with Certificate

Now aged 96, Mary used to volunteer in CAFOD Head Office once a week back in the 1980’s in the Appeals and Promotions Department, and during 1985 covered maternity leave for 6 months supporting local Parish contacts and groups. Mary also assisted in founding the Holy Family CAFOD group in 1972, following the abolition of the Friday Fast and the suggestion of Alms giving instead. In addition, Mary was the secretary of the Holy Family group from 1972 – 2007 (35 years) then handed over to current secretary Bridie Nash.

During this time the Mary and the Group and of course the parish were instrumental in raising over £100,000 for CAFOD s work overseas. Fundraising events included:

  • Quiz nights
  • International Food evenings
  • Christmas and Easter Raffles for CAFOD
  • Every First Sunday of the Month is a Coffee morning for CAFOD, including last Sunday 2nd April
  • Instigated along with other members: Mary Tempany, Sandy Leys, Winifred Blackburn and Linda Finn the Annual Strawberry Tea Garden Party and Summer Barbeque events
  • Involved in the Unwanted Gifts “Table top” weekly sale at the back of the Church recycling unwanted gifts for CAFOD

CAFOD's Tony Sheen with Mary O'Neil - presenting a cheque to CAFOD from Holy Family

CAFOD’s Tony Sheen with Mary O’Neill – presenting a cheque to CAFOD from Holy Family

Mary and her husband Bill were also Campaigners.  Bill was active in the trade union movement and worked alongside Mary in all her justice and peace activities such as the Campaign Against Apartheid and numerous CAFOD Campaigns for Justice in the developing world. They were also instrumental in making the Parish Fairtrade and then making Welwyn Garden City Fairtrade Town.

Tony Sheen CAFOD’s representative said “Mary and the Holy Family Group are an inspiring group of women who get on with the work of the gospel supporting our sisters and brothers overseas as part of their normal daily life. It is a privilege to know them and have had their support for so many years. Thank you.”

Here is a video with her being interviewed at a CAFOD lunch at St Bonaventure’s:

The Parish and group are currently participating in the CAFOD connect2 Ethiopia Scheme, which links you to a community that CAFOD working in Partnership in connected countries.


Thank you Mary you are an inspiration to us all.


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