Click here to read the original blog posted on the CAFOD ‘Just One World’ blog
Mathematician? Check! Loves computers? Check! Campaigning for social justice? Check! You wouldn’t be mistaken if you had just thought I was running through a list of my own interests. Yet, imagine our surprise when myself and my friend Tom met our host families on our first night at the San José Obrero parish in the city of Toledo and discovered that our hosts have lived incredible lives doing the work and studying the subjects which the pair of us have only recently begun to embark upon ourselves.
Antonio Vargas and his wife Maria Antigua Diaz welcomed us into their home during the part of the World Youth Day celebrations known as “Days in the Diocese”. The idea is to stay with host families in order to get a real sense of what life is like being a Catholic in the host country. Tom and I stayed in the bedroom once occupied by their son Alberto when he was younger – a typical Spanish teenager’s bedroom; it differed massively to our own, especially in the fact that each bed had three sets of blankets!
Having volunteered for CAFOD for over two years now, I was very keen to discover anything I could find out about Manos Unidas, CAFOD’s Spanish sister agency. When I saw a Manos Unidas carrier bag draped over the dining room chair I was quick to ask about the organisation. After help from their English speaking son, we discovered Maria was the Diocesan Manager for Manos Unidas in Toledo. We were living with our very own version of Anne-Marie Hanlon (our CAFOD Diocesan Manager back home in Hexham & Newcastle)! Not only did our Spanish grandparents have connections to CAFOD but our host “abuelo” (“grandad”), is a doctor of Mathematics – a subject which I currently am studying at University!
On our final day in Toledo, we even got the chance to help set up the Manos Unidas stall in preparation for the ‘sending forth fiesta’ which took place on Monday night before everyone travelled either overnight or the following morning through to Madrid. It was something I was very used to: setting up tables, putting up campaign posters and putting prices on all of the merchandise. I came away with a couple of t-shirts and a cap which I have been wearing every day since the fiesta.
Part of the reason the “Days in the Diocese” seemed to work so well was because we were praying as a community in the parish of San José and living as smaller communities with all of our host families. The work CAFOD does with developing countries is not at all dissimilar to what we were experiencing in Toledo. We have made friends for life out of the people who we have lived with and hopefully we will be able to keep in touch. We were seeing World Youth Day on a small scale and saw how building relationships with people outside of our normal social circles is something that is incredibly important not just for achieving peace, but also for the nourishment of our faith.
Seeing Maria working for hunger and poverty around the world gives us the hope that we are not alone in our mission to eradicate global debt, starvation, war, etc. We can work together as Christian people, following the word of Christ, alongside non-Christians from all over the world to help publicise and fundraise for such important issues. As Manos Unidas best puts it, “El future del mundo, compromise de todos.” (“The future of the world, commitment of all”)