How did CAFOD begin: your questions answered

10 January 2017

The Catholic women who organised the first Family Fast Day in 1960 to support CAFOD's first partner, Sister Alicia who ran the mother-and-baby clinic in Dominica.

The Catholic women who organised the first Family Fast Day in 1960 with CAFOD's first partner, Sister Alicia who ran the mother-and-baby clinic in Dominica. 

Ever wondered when was CAFOD founded or why Fast Days are an important part of our work? Here we answer your questions about CAFOD's history.

How did CAFOD begin?

We weren’t doing anything special, we were just doing what we thought we ought to do, remembering that we are all God’s children.

Elspeth Orchard

CAFOD was born when Jacquie Stuyt and Elspeth Orchard came together with others from the National Board of Catholic Women, the Catholic Women's League and the Union of Catholic Mothers to organise the first Family Fast Day in 1960. Due to the number of collections taking place across the dioceses, two years later, the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales registered CAFOD as an official charity.

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What did the first Fast Day raise money for?

Jacquie and Elspeth were responding to a request from the people of the Caribbean island of Dominica to help raise funds for a mother-and-baby clinic. Read more about the clinic

As well as funding the new clinic, the project also helped people to survive and make a living for themselves, including providing water and teaching people how to plant vegetable gardens. This determination to tackle the root causes of poverty and help people fulfil their potential is still at the heart of everything we do.

What happened on the first Family Fast Day?

On Friday 11 March 1960 the group of Catholic women asked everyone in the family to make an act of self-denial. They asked children to give up their sweets and for their parents to make just one main meal for the family – the cheapest possible – and give the money they saved to feed people who were hungry. This remains at the heart of CAFOD Family Fast Days today.

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How much did they raise?

The organisers expected to raise just a few hundred pounds, but the Catholic community responded with amazing generosity, donating more than £6,000 - the equivalent of £96,000 today.

Was the first Fast Day just about giving money?

CAFOD Family Fast Day has always been as much about prayer as about giving. Elspeth Orchard, one of the first Fast Day organisers explained: “We were very keen that we should do it not just as a giving thing, but as a praying thing. We should really make an effort to remember people, not just by giving them food, but by doing what we could do to support them.

“We weren’t doing anything special, we were just doing what we thought we ought to do, remembering that we are all God’s children.”

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