CAFOD Lent Fast Day 2018

Posted: 27th February 2018

Jacqueline Stuyt-Simpson:  Gamechanger. 

If you are ever wondering if  – or even how – one person can make a difference, we would like to draw your attention to Jacqueline Stuyt-Simpson.  Jacqueline Simpson was born in 1919 and for her schooldays attended St Augustine’s Priory and thereafter studied Modern Languages at King’s College, London.

And she changed the world.

In 1960 Jacqueline Stuyt-Simpson (she married Giacomo Stuyt in 1955) together with Mrs Elspeth Orchard, and others from the National Board of Catholic Women, the Catholic Women’s League and the Union of Catholic Mothers organised the first Family Fast Day. They responded to a request from the Caribbean island of Dominica to help fundraise for a mother and baby clinic.  The project was not only able to do this but also to provide water and teach people how to plant vegetable gardens.

The CAFOD website states: ‘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.  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.’

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. 

The number of collections across the dioceses was so numerous that two years later the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales registered CAFOD as an official charity.

As the CAFOD website says, ‘This determination to tackle the root causes of poverty and help people fulfil their potential is still at the heart of everything we do.’

The website goes on, ‘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.’

Professionally, Jacqueline Stuyt-Simpson worked at the Foreign Office and during World War II was seconded to Naval Intelligence from 1942 – 1945.  She was awarded an MBE in 1980, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in 1968 and made a Dame of St Gregory in 1995.  Throughout her life she was involved in Church and international affairs including with the National Board of Catholic Women, the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations, CIIR (Catholic Institute for International Relations), served on the Laity Commission for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Liaison Committee of the European Forum of National Laity Councils, the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women, and was a member of the Bishops’ Committee for European Affairs, among other posts.

A photograph of Jacqueline Stuyt-Simpson representing the origins of CAFOD in the 1960s

On her death in 2008, CAFOD’s director, Chris Bain, said, “Jacqueline was a woman dedicated and committed to both her faith and improving the lives of others. It is the vision that she shared with the other members of the National Board of Catholic Women back in 1959 that has grown into CAFOD as it is today. Her legacy will live on every day with every person helped by CAFOD’s life changing work all over the developing world.”

Friday 23rd February marked CAFOD’s Lent Fast Day 2018 and at St Augustine’s Priory we used the opportunity to raise money for CAFOD.  And to remember one of our finest – Jacqueline Stuyt-Simpson.

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