Leighton Buzzard’s Sacred Heart Catholic parish helps Colombian families devastated by armed conflict

Colombian evening in Leighton Buzzard
Colombian evening in Leighton Buzzard

Leighton Buzzard’s Sacred Heart Catholic parish held a special Colombian evening to cement their link with the Magdalena Medio community.

The parish has supported the charity CAFOD for many years, and its new project, ‘Hands On’, helps the church link with Colombian families who have experienced over half a century of armed conflict, while funding peace education workshops for young Colombians.

CAFOD communications officer Jess Michelmore gave a talk, and everyone enjoyed traditional Colombian food.

CAFOD Parish volunteer, Robert Gerrard, said: “The Justice and Peace group agreed that we would launch the ‘Hands On’ project in the parish. We wanted the whole parish to learn about the project and food always seems to be a winner to attract people!

“We invited Jess Michelmore from CAFOD to deliver a talk not only at the evening launch but also to say a few words at our Saturday evening Mass! Most important of all, we were able to begin to understand the importance of education in peacebuilding as the antidote to violence.”

For the meal, the Justice and Peace group created a range of authentic Colombian dishes including picadillo de carne y chorizo (meat and sausage hash), patacones (fried plantains), aji picante (a Colombian hot sauce), salsa and black bean patties.

For dessert, there was natalia (a sweet custard) and banana bread, which was served alongside Latin American wine, coffee and chocolate.

Robert continued: “Our youth group had decorated the hall in the colours of the Colombian flag, making paper chains, flags, paper flowers and even tropical macaws! It really did look festive. One of our parishioners brought Colombian music to help create the atmosphere.

“The food was a great success – and at the end of the evening, there was none left! However, the best accolade came from a Colombian parishioner who said that the food tasted really authentic!”

CAFOD has been working in Colombia for over 50 years, and the ‘Hands On’ project will run peacebuilding workshops in 34 schools, teaching young people how to avoid a life of violence, and aims to reach over 5,000 in three years.

Robert concluded: “As a result of the evening we raised £515 for the project which was a really encouraging start. We hope and pray that this will be the beginning of an effort in the parish that will contribute to long and lasting peace in Colombia.”