Yesterday, CAFOD broadcast a national assembly to all the Catholic schools in England and Wales entitled ‘Water of Life’

which we have listened to in tutor time today. Their aim was to show our young people that though we are apart, the world is connected. For us at St Gregory’s this was even more real as several of our students were featured in the assembly. We are a global family who are all suffering from the pain caused by Covid-19 and through the power of technology we can pray together, empathise, and learn. CAFOD have invited us to reflect on water, which we know is such a vital part of ensuring our safety from transmission. The assembly took us a place called Afar in Ethiopia to see the heartbreaking and dangerous daily trip Abdella takes to access water, and gave us an insight into how a young lad called Batainashe is coping with lockdown restrictions in Zimbabwe.

You can watch the assembly :

Focusing on human trafficking and racial justice

Our school theme in the upcoming week is all about awareness of human trafficking and racial justice. It coincides with the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, one of our house saints. St Josephine was born in Sudan, but spent most of her childhood being bought and sold as a slave, being beaten in the most extreme of ways and becoming the possession of another person – taking away her human dignity. We associate our name and birthday as absolutes of our existence, yet she was traded so much that she no longer knew her own name and was given the name ‘Bakhita’ by her captors (which ironically means lucky). Eventually she was traded as far away as Venice in Italy, where she found comfort and a home in a religious community.

Italy did not recognise slavery and the courts freed her from a life of human trafficking when she was in her early twenties. She was no longer the possession of the family who had bought her, and she was finally free to be herself and speak for herself. Josephine joined the religious order who had shown in practise the love of Christ which we profess as the centre of our faith.

Looking at her incredible story and the disgrace of human trafficking which is still prevalent in society today, there is much we can reflect on. Bakhita held no resentment towards those who had chained her up,

“If I were to meet the slave traders who kidnapped me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if it did not happen, I would not be a Christian and religious today.”

On a personal note – what is holding on to us and making us feel chained up, holding us back, or drawing the energy out of us? (There are, of course, the obvious answers out there as we continue to live in lockdown!) Somehow, St Josephine found a way of releasing the pain of her past, understanding the role of God in her life. She found the invite to a freedom and embraced God’s presence in her life. Can you use your voice and freedom to speak up for others who are still silenced by oppressors? Just as we were reminded earlier in the week with Holocaust Memorial Day, our voice and spreading a message of hope is integral to the fight against injustice in our world.

We’re grateful to CAFOD for this wonderful resource on St Josephine Bakhita, featuring scripture, prayer and some more questions for personal reflection:

Mr M Robinson
Lay Chaplain