Inspired by Ordinary People: Phil Barrett

IMG_7943Phil Barrett, 68, started volunteering with CAFOD over two years ago, working five days a week out of CAFOD’s Cardiff volunteer centre, covering the large area of South Wales and Herefordshire. His commitment to engaging parishes by looking at each area individually has taught us a new way of engaging with parishes and made hundreds more people aware of the work that CAFOD does. Phil who has sadly recently retired from volunteering with CAFOD talked to Community Participation Co-Ordinator in South Wales, Kieran O’Brian, about his about his volunteering experience.


Phil with his leaving present

“When I first approached CAFOD, I wanted to put my skills and experience in community development and charity work into practice. So I negotiated a new role with the CAFOD team which we established as a Parish and Community Development officer.

“Basically, I try to bring my community development techniques to the role, and apply it to the work of CAFOD in parishes. So my role is much more about meeting people face to face and helping them to develop in their parish community.”

“It is inspiring to see that CAFOD’s principles of development tells us that we in the global north have as much to learn from the communities that we work with in the global south. It is not just about them learning from us, in fact it is just as much the other way around.”


Phil at Cardiff Cathedral 

“I go around parishes with a display and talk called Beyond the Green Envelope, where I showcase the breadth of ways a parish can get involved with CAFOD that is not just about giving through their regular Fast Day appeals (through their green envelopes), but thinking about how they can put their faith into action in their local context”.

“As a gardener I know that sowing seeds is only a small part of the growing cycle. If you want your plants to flourish you have to nurture them, sometimes give extra support to them if needed and regularly check up on them to see that they are ok. The same is true for our parish development work.

“We can easily sow seeds of inspiration by giving a talk or offering parishes a range of resources to follow. But in my experience, without the practical ongoing support in helping people to meet up, giving support on how to put their faith into action, it is very likely those seeds of inspiration – with the best will in the world – fall by the wayside. I think that is what partnership means to me, it is about accompanying small parish groups to take their next step, whatever that next step might be.”


Phil getting ready to visit a parish

“My inspiration? That’s easy. It’s my faith. The heart of being a lay Franciscan is about service, and that is what I offer.

I am also inspired by the people I work with, those in the parishes who are doing incredible work, often unrecognised. It is people like these that we need more of! Because the potential of 5 million Catholics putting their faith into action, responding to Catholic Social Teaching, working on both local and global poverty issues, praying, campaigning, taking local action… that potential is huge. But that potential will only be tapped if we are willing to put the hard work in supporting our parishes to come together as a community to work on these bigger issues. As always, it starts with small things.”

Phil inspired the team to grow and strive for more; his quiet good humour, wisdom and commitment will be very much missed. Thank you, Phil, for your amazing service over the years, our very best wishes go to you for good health, much happiness and every success in your new volunteer role.

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