Thank You, Katja

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A Future Not Our Own

“We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction

Of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work…”

(Archbishop Oscar Romero)

For more than nine years Katja Jewell has been at the helm of CAFOD’S office in Wrexham. Her influence in the diocese has been such that, after the Chrism Mass in the Cathedral this year, she was introduced to a visitor as, “This is Cafod. Sorry, I meant, “This is Katja, but then – Katja is Cafod!”

Since her appointment on St. David’s Day, 2005 Katja has been knitting lives together, doing “little things well; being joyful and  keeping the Faith”, she has journeyed throughout the length and breadth of the diocese, from Holyhead and Penmaenmawr to Welshpool and Newtown, from Machynlleth and Pwllheli to Rhyl and Prestatyn. Whilst thanking for financial support for CAFOD, Katja has put new heart into people, inviting further involvement and challenging parishioners and students:  “It’s time for justice”; Cafod is working for “Just ONE World” and contributing to building in this way God’s Kingdom on earth. A person of quiet integrity, prayer undergirded all Katja’s days.

A wife and mother of two teen-agers herself, Katja has been especially attentive to young people, showing faith in them, welcoming them for work-experience in the Wrexham Office, encouraging them to use their gifts, literally walking with them, joining Jamie on the last stage of his Campaign Walk from Holyhead to Holywell, accompanying young people walking from Colwyn Bay to Rhyl. She trusted them to run workshops on Pantasaph Days, to lead liturgies on Potato Days; she involved them in Campaigns, and arranged for them to meet their MPs in Westminster. And as these teen-agers grew in confidence and commitment she herself drew energy and courage from their enthusiasm. “Jesus taught us how to be a family…” a verse in one of Katja’s favourite songs, points to the immense value of her travelling and work in the diocese during these nine years.

“It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.” In 2008 Katja was privileged to look at the world from the heights of the Andes mountains in Bolivia. There she tasted the Bolivians struggle for existence on the very high, dry, and cold mountain slopes; she shared briefly the lives of the resilient women, striving to sell their beautiful woven cloths at roadsides.

Having glimpsed hope rising in their hearts from the greenhouses CAFOD had provided, enabling them to grow tomatoes and vegetables –a nourishing and welcome addition to their daily diet of potatoes, Katja returned and fed back to us the transforming power of the money we donate to Cafod for long-term development. We can help “plant the seeds that one day will grow”, can “help water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.”

Katja has always been grateful to those who planted seeds long before she came on the scene-Peter Heneker, Joyce, Kevin, and dear Margaret Swarbrick,- giants who imbibed from their own families a love and commitment to those in poverty. Today she and her family are a great example of living simply and sustainably. They recycle almost everything; keep chickens and bees, and on countless occasions have shared their food with the hungry and welcomed Cafod guests. Indeed her family have been behind Katja, sustaining her, and alongside her,- Paul providing music so simply but magnificently on the clarinet. Whether we were climbing the Way of the Cross at Pantasaph or on a Cafod pilgrimage in the copper mines of Anglesey, praying for the exploited miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Paul’s haunting accompaniment lifted our hearts and united us.

Thank you, Katja, for sowing so many seeds of love in the Cafod service you have given to the diocese. In Romero’s words,

 “It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,

a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace

to enter and do the rest.”

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