By Angela Powell, CAFOD Leeds & Hallam

For many years members of the Achille Ratti Climbing club have shared donations raised from their activities and CAFOD is very privileged to be a beneficiary. During this year’s annual Mass of Remembrance, the names of deceased members were read out, and prayers were offered in thanksgiving for their lives and contributions to the legacy of the club. In his homily, Fr Philip O’Conner from Workington preached the significance of mountains as ways in which God has manifested to humanity. The Bible tells of people being called to the holy mountain to learn the ways of peace and justice. Experiences in the mountains can both encourage and challenge us to go forward, to climb upwards, in the right balance of hope and fear.

A group of people around an altar

During Mass, I was reflecting on the context of CAFOD’s work. We are entrusted by the bishops to lead on the Catholic Church’s response to poverty and relief of suffering internationally. Currently operating in the context of a post-COVID world. There is increased hunger and more people than ever are displaced because they have been forced to leave their homes due to environmental disasters and human conflict. Faced with what can sometimes seem like insurmountable challenges, we could easily lose hope and become fearful, and then I thought about how the Achille Ratti club started. It began as a boys’ club in Blackpool operating in the context of two world wars. The founding Bishop wanted to respond to a need to give formative experiences and practical skill training to young men from the diocese of Lancaster and the club took its name from the mountaineer who became Pope Pius XI, also known as the fearless Pope. Despite the external challenges, it was the spirit of courage and friendship, coupled with a love and respect for mountains that sustained the club. Since the opening of the club’s first hut in 1942, it has been able to carry out its activities thanks to the generosity of time, funds and skill-sharing gifted by members. The club continues to offer friendship and refuge in the majesty of the mountains of the Lake District and Snowdonia, it is open to people of all faiths, encouraging communion of friendship and sustenance both in spirit and practice.

It is the same spirit of courage and friendship from which CAFOD draws hope. We are encouraged by courageous partners and communities overseas, those who experience and face up to adversity, by proposing alternative ways to sustain their communities and livelihoods in some of the most challenging circumstances of our time. We give thanks for the friendship of CAFOD supporters who gift their time to organise fundraising and awareness-raising events and inspire others to participate in bringing about a better world for all. To hear more about Achille Ratti, listen to the radio interview with club member Angela Soper and David Jackson, both members of Leeds parishes, on the subject of sport and faith. Or find out more about CAFOD’s work.