Tag Archives: Mission

Remembering The Algerian Martyrs.

Bishop Claude Rault M Afr was bishop of the Sahara before retiring. He knew most of the Algerian Martyrs whom we have reflected on before. Their feast day was May 8th, and Bishop Claude preached this homily in Paris. What do you think makes someone a saint?

Here are Vincent Somboro’s reflections on Christian Mission in Algeria today. And here the reflections of Blessed Pierre Claverie, one of the martyrs.

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A banner of the blessed martyrs at the beatification ceremony in Algeria.

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Praying with Pope Francis: May.

During May, we pray that deacons, faithful in their service to the Word and the poor, be an invigorating symbol for the whole Church.

Jesus became bread broken for us, and He asks us to give ourselves to others, no longer to live for ourselves, but for one another.
– Pope Francis

Francis mentions bread because from the very beginning (Acts 6) Deacons were appointed by the Church to help with distributing food to the community. Saint Stephen was one of the first group of seven deacons in Jerusalem and was stoned to death by the mob who attended his trial for blasphemy. Shown here above the door of his church in Canterbury; see also our post for St Stephen’s day.

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We remember especially our friend and contributor, Friar Deacon Chris (top picture): teacher, scholar, writer, friend to refugees. The church would be poorer without the likes of him!

Will.

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23 April: Looking After Jesus

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Sister Johanna finds treasure in Luke’s Gospel when she spots her own name and investigates further.

With Jesus went Mary, surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their own resources.                                                                                                                                      Luke 8: 2-3

This short passage from the Gospel of Luke is one that I have not really thought much about, until now. Today I was taken by the reference to Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and wondered why Chuza was mentioned, and what light this might shed on the text. After a bit or research, I discovered that this is the only reference to Chuza in the New Testament, and nothing is known about him except what is said here in this passage. But, surely, at the time Luke’s gospel was written, his name must have meant something. No one, not even St. Luke, name-drops without wanting to impress. And if I think about it, I can see what is probably being implied here.

Herod was not a man to be trusted. He was no friend of Jesus, and the term, ‘that fox’, was used by Jesus of Herod (Lk 13:32) as a put-down, and a bold one, for Herod was an important man and held power over Jesus – or at least, he held a certain kind of worldly power over him. He could, and eventually did, collude with the powers that crucified Jesus.

And Chuza was ‘that fox’s’ steward. As steward, Chuza was also rather important. Scripture scholars say that the exact nature of a steward’s job is no longer known, but it is thought that Chuza was probably a kind of chief administrator of Herod’s entire establishment, and not a mere domestic manager. He was in some way the man who made all the practical decisions at the palace and was responsible for its smooth running. The fact that Chuza’s name is dropped into this text would suggest that his name was well known by Luke’s audience. Eyebrows might rise on hearing that Joanna, wife of the famous Chuza, was known to be both a disciple of Jesus and one of his benefactors.

The text also suggests that Joanna was taking a risk, both on her own behalf and that of her husband, in publicly following this upstart Jesus – ever a controversial figure to those without faith, who had not yet learned to love and revere him. Herod would not approve. But, neither Joanna nor Chuza seem to be bothered by that. Jesus is worth the risk. What eventually happened to Chuza? The text doesn’t say. But we have established that his relative fame would not have been an advantage for Joanna. She carries on anyway, despite the risk.

What else do we know about Joanna? Joanna had been healed by Jesus. She is now dedicated to caring for Jesus and is one of those who provide for him and his companions. She gladly associates with Mary Magdalene, who had been freed from seven devils. Reputations linger, and surely Mary Magdalene was still regarded by many as a highly dubious character. Joanna doesn’t care about that either. Mary Magdalene had been healed, and so had Joanna. They were companions. Joanna was for Jesus and no one would stop her. Caring for Jesus was much more important than playing it safe. Caring for Jesus more important than caring for herself. She and the other women are loyal to Jesus and courageous.

What does Jesus think of their dedication? Does he thank them? Oh, yes. St. Luke’s gospel tells us later that Joanna and the other women received a reward from Jesus. In fact, we see that Jesus expresses his gratitude in the most profound way possible. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Joanna appears again; with her are Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. They are the first visitors to the tomb of Jesus. They go there intending to carry out the ritual anointing the body. What actually happens to them there is that they become the privileged three who converse with angels. They – these women who took risks for Jesus, who were loyal to him, who provided for his material needs – they are the first recipients of the astounding news that Jesus was alive, risen from the dead. They are the first to know, the first ones to experience the joy of knowing. And not only that, St Luke tells us that they are the first ones who actually remembered Jesus’ own words about his resurrection which he spoke when he was alive. They are the first to understand those words.

And this tells us something else about Joanna and the other women: they were attuned to Jesus’ teaching all along. This understanding they have after his death will be the carry-over from their profound grasp of his teaching before his death. They are, therefore, well chosen to be the first messengers of the Good News to the Eleven. This is Jesus’ way of thanking them, honouring them, showing his love for them and healing them of the deep sorrow his death would have caused. He reaches the most profound places in their hearts with the reality of his resurrection. This is indeed a gift.

This short text, one that I had not really pondered before, has messages of joy. It tells us that Jesus sees everything we do for him, sees our loyalty, sees the risks we take for him, sees the understanding we have of his teaching, sees the way we remember his words. He is grateful every time we embrace his word, every time we give generously to him and his followers. He will repay in ways we cannot imagine now, any more than the women imagined that they would see angels when they went to the tomb. Jesus will repay with currency from his risen life and reach us, raise us up on the deepest possible level of our being.

SJC

Image: Missionaries of Africa.

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March 9, Desert XII: Our Mission

The Diocese of Nouakchott covers the desert land of Mauretania. The local population is 99% Muslim, but there is a growing expatriate Christian community under the care of Bishop Martin Happe, a Missionary of Africa.

He wrote at the end of last year:

We in the Diocese of Nouakchott had the joy of living through a special moment of grace, culminating in a big feast: the golden jubilee of our Cathedral of Saint Joseph!

The visible sign of this grace are the two side aisles we have added to our cathedral, since it had become too small on Sundays, and also the new altar in Atar stone which I had the privilege of consecrating on Gaudete Sunday, 15 December, with two bishops, many visiting priests and numbers of faithful. Gaudete! an invitation to the whole Church, just  few days before Christmas, to be joyful. We had the grace to live this joy and taste it in an extraordinary way last 14 and 15 December.

But let’s not forget one thing: each time the Lord gives a particular grace to a person, a community, a people … this grace is always bound up in a new mission! Both the Old and New Testaments are full of examples. So we must not forget that the enlarged and refurbished cathedral has as its vocation to be the place of where the Church of Nouakchott gathers together. I recalled in my homily that the Greek word for church ‘ecclesia’  means a people called together. Here in Nouakchott, we are called together every Sunday to receive once more our mission: to be witnesses to the Love of God for every person. For us, this means first and foremost the Mauritanians, the people who make us welcome and to whom the Lord has sent us.

Wherever we are, we can feel like a voice crying in the wilderness; people are indifferent to the Church, or downright hostile, the faults obscuring the graces for them. But whether our desert is in the sand or in the city, our mission is to be witnesses to the Love of God for every person; first and foremost to the people who welcome us into their lives as neighbours, work colleagues or family. To witness to the Love of God rather than seeking conversions.

 

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6 March, Praying with Pope Francis: for Catholics in China. (Desert IX: fear 2 – persecution).

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For this month of March, Pope Francis asks us to pray for the Church in China. 

We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity.

Although Christianity has existed in China since the first Millennium, it was The Jesuit Matteo Ricci who most famously began missionary work in Imperial Beijing in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Other missionaries followed, including the Columbans who were among those deported by the Communist regime in 1949. They now have new links with the country which you can read about in their Far East Magazine.

For a comprehensive picture of the desert of persecution endured by the Christians of China, this report from Aid to the Church in need makes for sobering Lenten reading.

We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity. Lord in your Mercy: hear our prayer.

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21 February: Saint Peter’s Chair.

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A couple of sentences at the end of the article* struck me.

‘Why has the Catholic priesthood wanted to present itself over the centuries as perfect, as impregnable? Since the child abuse scandal… this facade has crumbled and our priests are now humbler as a result and fewer in number.’

Read any of the Gospels and we see men who were far from impregnable. Look at the last chapter (21, 14-17) of John:

 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to his disciples, after he was risen from the dead. When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.

We all know about Peter’s betrayal: this scene of forgiveness and mission came after that; it came in the early days of the New World Order. No-one tried to cover up Peter’s terrible lapse, to pretend it had not happened. No-one made him out to be perfect.

I’m grateful to our own Fr Daniel Weatherley who likened St Peter’s Chair to those held by professors, who bring to the post all their wisdom and experience. Peter was a man of experience, and of hard-won wisdom.

Let’s pray with him: ‘Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.’

And listen out for the call. Who will I be asked to feed today or tomorrow. What can I offer them?

*Stephen Hough, Struggles of the calling, the Tablet, 17.2.2018, p13.

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17 February: Volunteer of the Year

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This year the winner of Irish in Britain’s Individual Volunteer Award was our very own Sister Moira Keane. Moira has been a Mercy religious sister for 60 years, working on the margins of our society.  Her work over many years, in particular as a prison Chaplain for 12 years, brought her into contact with the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, where she has been a volunteer since 2012.  


Moira has an extensive and exceptional resume of volunteering, described as “a natural carer” with “boundless energy”. She gives invaluable hours to assist with prison visits, advice, advocacy, suicide attempt prevention, pastoral care as well as providing much needed support for distressed family members. 


Moira has worked on a number of ICPO projects as well as relieving caseworkers of admin and telephone duties when she’s in the office.  This is crucial respite for staff who oftentimes are dealing with a backlog.

Moira just keeps giving; she visits prisons if and when needed and often in her own time outside of her office hours.   Moira also puts herself forward as a resource for ICPO staff and volunteers, providing a listening ear and practical support where appropriate.  She has facilitated staff away days and also on occasion has opened her door to provide staff with much needed respite and even a break away. 


As ICPO provide a support service to Irish prisoners and their families, we are extremely fortunate to have a volunteer who has remained with us for more than seven years; and someone who has more than 12 years’ experience within the prison service as a Chaplain.


Moira’s wealth of knowledge is vast and we know what a difference she makes in the lives of Irish prisoners and their families; and how her expert support can lead to a healthier Irish prisoner community and aid rehabilitation.  For this reason we couldn’t think of a more fitting winner of IIB individual volunteer Award, than Sr. Moira Keane.
Moira’s undoubtedly impressive and endless resume of experience, skills and knowledge come even second to her wonderful gifts of loyalty and trust.  She has boundless energy and a magnificent sense of humour that keeps her and those around her going and going.  Her honesty, which she makes no apology for, is second to none.  Moreover, it is doubtful there is anything in the world that Moira wouldn’t help a vulnerable person with if in their best interest.  She has proved this time and again, leaving those working with her in awe.  


The impact of Moira’s voluntary work can be summed up as: improving the emotional and material well-being of Irish people in prison; and helping to reduce isolation for them and their families while supporting staff in a practical and pastoral way.
All in all a worthy winner of this prestigious award.

Breda Power, London Prisons’ Visitor

Are you Interested in Volunteering for the Irish Chaplaincy….
We have many opportunities, including: befriending, prison visiting, answering the phone, casework, admin, fundraising, comms.
Contact Declan Ganly:  declan.ganly@irishchaplaincy.org.uk  

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8 February: The Attempted Abduction of Jemma

A longer posting than usual for the Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the saint saved from slavery. Fr. Shay Cullen, who wrote this, works in the Philippines, alongside other Christians who care for the ravaged environment, and also for children ravaged by the sex industry. Both ministries are part of the bigger picture of the Church’s mission.

It’s a case of child abuse and human trafficking that has caught much media attention. It is being held in the court of Honorable Judge Maria Angelica T. Paras-Quiambao, Regional Trial Court Branch 59, Angeles City, a judge of known integrity. It concerns a US national, John R. He is accused of sexually abusing two young girls, call them Sybil and Jemma (not their real names).The younger Jemma is 13 and Sybil is 14 years old. John R. allegedly paid his pimp CM to recruit them and bring to his apartment where he sexually abused them many times.

The two children were rescued by the social workers of Mabalacat, Pampanga and of the Preda Foundation. The children were brought to the Preda home for girls in Zambales where they were successfully undergoing recovery.

The US investigative service at the US Embassy has taken a serious interest in the case and they have already interviewed Jemma and Sybil. They will eventually file charges against John R. in the USA under the US extra-territorial jurisdiction law and perhaps his supporter, Lilian May Zimmer. He is presently in hiding and Philippine arrest warrants have been issued against him.

Last March 6, there was a large rescue operation in Mabalacat and twenty children were rescued from the Golden Victory Hotel and another resort. There, the twenty children had been lured and recruited to engage in sexual relations with local and foreign sex tourists. The twenty girls were referred to the Preda home for girls where they were welcomed and assisted in every way with kindness and understanding. They were given emotional support, shelter, clothes, and personal needs. Their parents were invited over to be with them. There were many emotional scenes as the parents embraced their rescued children and they were reunited.

In the days and weeks that followed, they slowly recovered and began to realize how they had been exploited and abused and that it was detrimental to their lives. Their futures were being destroyed and their chances of finishing school were dashed.

In the Preda Foundation home for girls, they had group dynamics, art and crafts, training sessions, games, sports, karate, dance and counseling. Above all and most importantly, they had the Emotional Release Therapy. In the padded therapy room away from the central house, they shouted, screamed and punched and pounded the cushions in releasing their anger, hatred and anguish at what had been done to them by the sex tourists, recruiters and pimps. Some even blamed their parents for neglecting them and not showing them love and care. In the Preda home, not all were happy at being taken from the life of exploitation and abuse. There were three girls that wanted to go back to the sex industry placed there by corrupt parents.

Preda respects the dignity and rights of the youth and children and it is an open center. There are no high walls, fences or guards. Most of the children go to a regular school in the community and many activities are conducted outside. The children are not prisoners and confined. They are there by free choice.

The three girls were hostile, one of them, call her Martha (not her real name), recruited Sybil to leave and join her on sex strip known as Fields Avenue in Angeles City where there are dozens of sex bars and foreign sex tourists paying money to have sex with young girls. Some are caught like John R. It is an open slave trading market on the streets and in the sex bars. They operate with city permits and inside is a fiery fiesta of young flesh, a sex carnival for cash.

Sybil left with Martha and fell under the power and influence of the family of Martha and the mother of CM. Jemma was happy at the Preda Home. One day, when Jemma was at the school sports parade, the mother of CM, the father and the aunt of Jemma and Sybil, rushed into the parade and grabbed Jemma, the key witness, to abduct her and carry her away to a waiting car. Jemma broke away and the Preda social worker was there to embrace and hold her safely from them. They ran away when the barangay tanods came over. The entire incident was caught on CCTV.

The attempted abduction was well-organized and funded as the participants are penniless. It must be presumed that John R., the American, is paying large sums of money for the abduction and prevent the witnesses from testifying in court. Then, the charges of human trafficking against CM might be dismissed against her. It’s an evil plan to thwart justice. The Preda Foundation filed charges of grave coercion against the father and aunt of Sybil and the mother of CM.

Supporting this sex mafia in Angeles City online from the USA is the alleged child sexual abuser, Lilian May Thompson Zimmer, a US national that is constantly criticizing the good work of Preda and making baseless allegations. In 2014, Preda reported Zimmer for child neglect and abuse done by her against five small children held by Zimmer in her house in Subic, Zambales. She has retaliated ever since.

They have testified that she tortured them and burnt one with cigarettes. They said Zimmer brought them to sex perverts on Baloy Beach, in Trader Ric’s, where they were sexually abused. A hateful, violent person, Zimmer attacked police and social workers when they came to rescue the children. She spent a year in jail but allegedly bribed her way out and escaped to the USA. She is now allegedly promoting the abduction of Jemma and supporting the abusers who are keeping Sybil from testifying in the court of Judge Paras-Quiambao.

More development are expected soon as the US authorities have been asked to investigate Lilian May Zimmer under the extra-territorial jurisdiction law where child trafficking for sexual abuse is a serious offense. One day, justice will be done to address her evil abuse of the children and CM and John R. will go to jail.

This and much more about the Preda foundation can be found here.

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February 7, Praying with Pope Francis: Listen to the Migrants’ Cries.

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Pope Francis’s mission prayer for February is: We pray that the cries of our migrant brothers and sisters, victims of criminal trafficking, may be heard and considered.

Pope Francis made a point of visiting Lampedusa within days of becoming Pope. That is the Italian island, close to the North African shore, where many migrant ships and boats have landed. The cross is one fashioned by an Italian artist from the timbers of such a boat, stranded on the island, its battered paint reminding us of the dangers of even such a short crossing.

The Colombian artist Oscar Murillo created this scene of waiting migrants for the 2019 Turner Prize exhibition in Magate, Kent. In a darkened room that would overlook the sea if a blackout curtain was not there, they sit in rows, waiting. Is it a church they are in, with its wooden benches, or a run-down station waiting room? Either should be a safe place, but it’s clear that this is not: the benches have been hacked about, and that only recently.

The three men on the right hand end of the benches seem to be listening: listening to someone or listening for someone? Are they waiting for a foreman’s call to work, one day at a time, or for the train to take them where they can earn for their families back home? Imagine your own stories.

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The two women on the front row have been eviscerated, their wombs and vital organs replaced by lengths of what looks like stainless steel waste gas ducting.

Hands pressed hard against the bench, the figures are ready to move, but where to? Each one is isolated in his or her own suffering, yet they form a group in our eyes. But let us remember that they stand for individual human beings with families and loved ones who may be anxious over them, hearing no news from the waiting room, the salle des pas perdus as the French have it, the place of lost footsteps. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here?

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17 January, Church Unity week: Rebuild my Church

 

st damiano wall repaired

On the train towards Assisi, a Canadian was singing the praises of the Saskatoon winters, ’40° below, Fahrenheit or Celsius’, then announced to whoever was not listening, ‘In North America we would knock these buildings down and build something bigger; but here they repair and restore them.’

This particular wall is a stiff walk up from the railway station, at San Damiano in Assisi, the place where Saint Francis heard the call from the Crucified to ‘Rebuild my Church, which is falling down.’ That is a story that the Franciscans are living to this day; it was not just the ruinous chapel of San Damiano that needed rebuilding, but the whole of God’s Church, a project that should involve every group of people who claim to be Christian.

Pope Francis is calling us to rebuild the Church for today and tomorrow. What might that look like? A brand new building or a much-loved one, patched, repaired and altered to house a changing mission, and stones which the builders may have rejected in the past?

This wall is hundreds of years old; how many times has it been altered – and drastically altered – to fulfil changing needs or to strengthen it after earthquakes or erosion? For sure the big arch replaced he smaller one, to create a cart shed maybe, but in its turn it was no longer needed, so was filled in with irregular stone, its crest replaced by a horizontal course to support a new floor.

Successive architects could not have foreseen how their wall would become less fit for purpose, but they confidently built what was needed in their own life time. And that too would be rebuilt, centuries later.

Even today repairs and alterations continue around the monastery to make pilgrims welcome: electricity, running water, more even floors and steps, but the core of the church is as it was. The notice on the wall says that this is a Unesco World Heritage Site, not, though, a museum.

Our Faith is more precious than any Unesco heritage site. We will not preserve it as a treasure hidden in a field (or around San Damiano, an olive grove) but by bringing into the open, and using, treasures old and new.

Let us pray during Christian Unity Week, which begins tomorrow, for courage in our daily mission to rebuild Christ’s church together.

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