AS MISSIO Scotland’s Communications Officer, my role is not short of rewarding experiences, not least of which is the privilege of being able to go into Catholic schools and see first-hand why they are not only ‘good for Scotland,’ but also for us as an organisation too. Every visit provides an opportunity to explain to staff and students who we are and what we do and collectively foster a missionary spirit, but it also allows me to learn about the work undertaken in support of Missio Scotland by many of the schools who already assist us in our work—indeed they have often been long-term supporters of ourselves as a charity. However, be it long-term or more recent, support in whatever form it takes for Missio Scotland is always gratefully appreciated.
While the primary school pupils who interact with us express the universality of the Church by praying for and donating funds to their brothers and sisters around the world—both of which are vital and the rocks upon which our charity is built—the secondary school students who have travelled with us to Zambia in recent years have been able to live out their mission and love their neighbour in a much more personal way.
Get Involved Globally
They are able to do this as a result of our Get Involved Globally (GIG) mission experience programme, which was launched in 2016 by Sister Stacey Cameron, a Sister of St Peter Claver. The experience aims to offer a small group of adults or students the opportunity to visit Church and school communities in an overseas country for 10-14 days. Given that one of our goals as an organisation is to continue the mission of Jesus that all may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10b), so far these mission experiences have proved a powerful tool in helping us to understand and involve ourselves in Jesus’ mission. Participants get the chance to experience life, faith and justice from a new perspective and return home inspired to live a personal sense of ‘mission’ in Scotland. A mission experience touches the heart, engages the mind and nourishes the spirit as participants spend time with the local community, sharing stories and being with people—including visiting those who care for the sick, look after orphans, teach children and many other initiatives through the programmes run by our mission partners.
This year, we were accompanied by students from St Mungo’s Academy in Glasgow and Taylor High School in Motherwell. As well as being able to take in the beauty and splendour of Zambia on our travels, the group were able to see examples of faith in action, where priests, religious and lay Catholics served in clinics, children’s homes and schools. In the latter, they were able to bear witness to the fact that in a universal Church, the issues surrounding them are often universal too. In Zambia—as in Scotland some 100 years ago—many people wish to send their children to a school that is, in essence, a community of faith centred on the person of Jesus Christ, which aims to give its pupils the best start in life and create leaders of the future. As Bishop Brian McGee of Argyll and the Isles said when talking about Catholic schools, they encourage pupils ‘to become disciples of Jesus, not just to become good citizens, but people of the Gospel.’
That is something that is applicable to Catholic schools worldwide, however for Zambian pupils and their parents, the difficulty in aspiring to this ideal is that they encounter some of the financial burdens that we did in the past. So by supporting Missio Scotland—who help to provide support for 73,263 nursery schools, 96,822 primary schools and 45,699 secondary schools worldwide—you are in some small, but nonetheless important, way helping to bridge that gap and play your part in the universal Church.
Story of St Columba’s
Nowhere was this more evident than at St Columba’s High School in Lusaka West. Prior to it being built, children who had finished their primary schooling could not go onto secondary education as the nearest secondary school was too far away. This meant that the children living there couldn’t aspire to eventually entering into the same professions that we do. However, thanks to your support and prayers, the first classroom block of St Columba’s was built in 2016 in cooperation with Scottish charity ZamScotEd. Since then, more classroom blocks have been added and hundreds of children are now receiving an education there.
Among those who travelled with us to Zambia and enjoyed a day of entertainment provided by the students of St Columba’s, was Niamh Provan from Taylor High School. From the outset, she was able to grasp the central role that their faith plays in both their education and their daily lives, and also gain a greater understanding of what it means to be part of the universal Church.
“I’ve really enjoyed interacting with the St Columba’s students and seeing how we are all drawn together by our faith and the Church,” Niamh said. “It’s something that we all have in common, no matter who we are or where we’re from.”
Heaven Ngulube, a 15 year old student at the school, echoed Niamh’s sentiments.
“Belonging to the Church is great, not just for me but for everyone, because the Catholic Church is worldwide,” Heaven said. “We are one, it doesn’t mean that because we are black and they are white, we are separate. Being part of a global Church means that we all have to be together as one. We all believe in the same God and it really is a global Church.
“It has meant a lot to spend time with the Scottish people, because they are the one who helped us with the infrastructure of the school, the learning materials and everything that we have. I’m thankful for that because it’s brought great opportunity for me and my fellow students.”
Mission of the Church
Both girls also sang from the same hymn sheet with regards to what they believed the mission of the Church to be.
“I think the mission of the Church is obviously to spread the message of Jesus,” Niamh said. “It’s really about loving, belonging, being together and helping one another. It’s not about saying ‘I need this so my immediate friends and family will help me with it,’ it’s more about thinking that there’s a person half way across the world who needs this thing, which I may have and be able to give them, because they would appreciate a lot more than maybe I would. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never met them or that they’re so far away because we’re part of same Church. I think the mission of the Church is to show how we’re related and how we are all just brothers and sisters. It’s important that we help one another, even if we don’t know a person or have been to their country, we can still help them.”
“I see the mission of the Church is to help those in need, vulnerable people, the poor, those who really need something in life,” Heaven added. “There are things that people don’t have, but they should. The Church’s mission is to help those who are really in need and bolster their faith.”
A unique charity
Both are aware too that Missio Scotland is a unique charity, which not only comes to the aid of those in mission countries and territories worldwide, but also endeavours to support and strengthen the faith of Catholics across five continents and is truly an organisation that feeds the mind, the body and the soul.
“I think the work of Missio Scotland really stands out to me because it’s such a personal charity,” Niamh said. “It doesn’t just donate money or products, it actually comes and visits children, works with them, integrates them and helps the teachers and classroom assistants. It helps those who look after disabled too for example. It is very personal because it’s focussed on spending time with people and becoming friends with them. It’s very much people centric as opposed to just solely charity.”
“Organisations like Missio help projects around the world by building hospitals and providing education for us,” Heaven added. “With regard to the latter, they build schools near our homes so that we don’t have to travel miles and miles to go to school, so that even those who don’t have transport can easily walk to their schools and get there in time for lessons. We have to thank them too for providing learning materials and even funding the infrastructure of the schools. They really help a lot.
“This support has made a very big difference, especially to my education, which is very important. I can say that when I grow up and have my own family, I won’t only be able to educate my family, I’ll be able to contribute to the country and in every way. Every one of my fellow pupils has that same chance I have and can contribute to others when they grow up too.”
Value of education
It was heartening to see just how similar these two Catholic school students were, despite being separated by miles, continents and cultures. Not only did they think along similar lines with regards to their faith, they also understood the value of an education—something that our forefathers in Scotland were conscious of more than 100 years ago and something that Missio Scotland has stressed the importance of for decades and concretely supported worldwide. By bringing Scottish students with us to Zambia, they were not only able to share, in person, the talents they developed in Catholic schools, but also learn from their fellow Catholic students there.
“Young people in Catholic schools are all unique and have God-given talents,” Barbara Coupar, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service said. “They don’t wait until they leave school to share these talents with others. They’re already participating in our local communities, offering loving service to those around them. They challenge discrimination and injustice, giving a voice to those who are in need in their own towns, as well as their brothers and sisters in the developing world. They use their gifts and talents to create business opportunities, raise funds for charities and to add to the cultural life of Scotland.”
Our National Director, Fr Vincent Lockhart added: “I think one of the great things is that children still get that sense of being part of a wider Church. I know Missio Scotland has benefited from that and I hope the children have too.”
Having witnessed the loving service that our young people offered to their brothers and sisters in Zambia this year, I was assured that they understood that they were ‘children in the one family.’ We should be proud of our Catholic schools as they are continuing to develop young people who will breathe new life into their faith, not only in Scotland, but worldwide, and Missio Scotland will always endeavour to support them every step of the way.
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To donate to Missio Scotland, visit: http://www.missioscotland.com/donate call us on: 01236 449774 or send donations to: Missio Scotland, St. Andrews, 4 Laird Street, Coatbridge ML5 3LJ