I was sorting through old boxes at my mum’s this Spring. There’s still half a dozen of them in the spare room of her house in a small northern town in England.
I’m a terrible hoarder. Cross-legged on the floor, wading through the junk and the years, I was appalled – and tickled – by what I found. Cinema tickets from 1993; a pin badge of Johnny Depp that my best friend made me when we were thirteen; and all my old school books dating back to the age of 5. Of course, I couldn’t help a peek….
I opened a rather dog-eared maroon colored exercise book. “When I grow up…“ was the title of that lesson. “When I grow up” I read in my childish, firmly scrawled hand, “I want to be an authoress or a detective”. Alongside this revelation I’d drawn a picture of myself, writing with an oversized pen, complete with deer stalker hat à la Sherlock Holmes.
And in a funny way, I kept my word. More than twenty years later, I’m a journalist.
Little did I know back then that I’d find a profession that combined the two … the writing going hand-in-hand with the rooting around for a compelling story. Neither did I know that one day I would be blessed enough to find an outlet for these skills and for my spiritual beliefs – Catholic Relief Services.
I come from a news journalism background, but I’m no stranger to faith- based organizations. You could say I grew up in one. My dad is an Anglican priest back in England … as is my mum. Growing up in a vicarage was a sociable, eclectic, truly enriching experience. One day we’d be welcoming a bishop into our house for a confirmation celebration, the next we’d be helping a homeless man find his next meal. It stood me in good stead for life’s twists and turns and I’m happy to say that the Christian faith, which was the bedrock of my upbringing, remains the anchor of my life. To finally work for an organization which embodies the expression of faith is music to my ears … and my heart.
And with faith comes hope.
In such uncertain times in many parts of the world — for so many different reasons — hope has become, more than ever, a touchstone for our times. CRS has positioned itself right in the thick of it. Its slogan (to use the marketing term) quietly affirms its intentions and proudly proclaims its actions: “Giving hope to a world of need”. It doesn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty, the depressing, the need of our world. But it intends to make things better. What an honor to be part of that.
With faith and hope comes love.
I’ve spent the last three weeks at CRS Headquarters in Baltimore, learning all I’ll need to know (hopefully) to be a regional information officer. RIOs, as we’re known, are the ”eyes and ears” of CRS out in the field. We’re the ”adventurous types” who travel around our region, visiting CRS projects and reporting back … through writing, photography and video.
What really touched me during my time at HQ was the warmth of the welcome. At first I wondered whether I was just too used to so-called British reserve … but this was more than that. I witnessed people working from a real motivation to do good. The words of encouragement I was given were sincere. The smiles came with eyes that were smiling too. I felt the love behind it all.
Love is the basis of the work that CRS does. It’s the thread that runs through it. Love for humankind – and love for Our Lord. Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love) tells us “Love of God and love of neighbor are … inseparable. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first”.
As I begin my time at CRS I feel incredibly lucky to be somewhere where to work means to live out this faith and hope and love.
I head out to the field this week. I’m a little bit nervous as all newbies are, but I’m also so excited. I‘ll just put myself in God’s hands and ask Him to watch over the ”work In progress” that I am.
Helen Blakesley is CRS’ regional information officer for West and Central Africa. She’s based in Dakar, Senegal. This is her first CRS blog post. She plans to write a post every fortnight about her experiences and work with CRS.
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