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Visit of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar/Burma, Sunday 8th May 2016, Mass at St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Mc Sherry 07770 393960.

Our shared mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to all

After a hectic time for Missio Scotland, the charity’s new communications co-ordinator GERARD GOUGH gives an update on the organisation’s vital work in spreading the Word of God and relieving poverty and suffering

IT HAS been a busy couple of months here at Missio Scotland, but in the best possible way. Although I have only been my new post for a short time, I have been most heartened and greatly enthused by my visits to Catholic schools, where I have been fortunate enough to have been the very grateful recipient of their fundraising efforts on behalf of the charity—some of which have featured in the pages of the SCO—and have had an insight into the excellent work that they have undertaken on behalf of Missio Scotland.

At the end of May, our valued primary schools volunteer Anne McCrossan and myself were also afforded the opportunity to meet with some of the primary school headteachers in Motherwell Diocese at their AGM in the Strathclyde Hilton Hotel in Bellshill. Not only did this allow us to provide the teachers with some of our excellent resources and materials, but it also gave us the chance to engage positively with some of the headteachers whose schools have been great supporters of Missio Scotland and those who wish to do more for the charity.

At this juncture, it is perhaps worthwhile to re-introduce ourselves as a charity—for teachers or anyone else out there reading this article who wishes to support us—by explaining who we are and how we work.

Missio Scotland is the Scottish branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), the official mission charity of the Church. It is the Pope’s own charity, and it is run by Scotland’s Bishops. It works in 180 countries and territories and with a special concern for Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the poorest parts of Latin America and Europe.

The Church is mission. Mission is not optional, it is the essence of Church. The Church exists to evangelise. We are called on to be missionaries by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ and we proclaim the Good News by living an authentic Christian life, sharing our Faith, caring for our neighbour, promoting justice for the poor and most marginalised, supporting education in the remotest villages, providing medical care in the most isolated areas, working to overcome ethnic divisions, and promoting respect for life in all its stages. I’m sure that reads like there are a lot of strands to our work and that’s because there are. The work of missionaries—whether religious or lay—is constant, all encompassing, rooted in faith and compassion and is crucial in the world we live in today.

Our role is to raise awareness in the Catholic Community in Scotland of the Gospel call to mission and to engage the Catholic Community here in supporting the missions through prayer and financial donations. We do this through the four branches of our organisation.

The Association for the Propagation of the Faith is the part of the charity that helps the young Church in mission areas around the world to grow. Money raised for the APF helps to build churches, schools and hospitals, train and support Catechists, provide care for refugees, provide emergency aid, translate missals and bibles into local languages, start new missions and provide practical assistance in communities where it is required.

The Society of St Peter the Apostle is the Catholic Church’s charity for funding the training of priests and religious in mission areas. Students are sponsored by individuals, high schools and parish groups.

The Pontifical Missionary Union has the aim of keeping priests and religious in touch with the duties of mission and the spirituality of mission. It aims to promote the missionary nature of our Church and create a missionary spirit within God’s people by inviting anyone with a heart for the mission to ‘go to all nations and proclaim the Good News.’

Missionary Children is the Church’s Mission Charity for children. In Scotland, it works in tandem with Catholic primary schools and asks children to do two things every day: Pray for the children in mission areas of the world and donate a small coin. Missionary Children joins with children all over the world to help some of the poorest children in the world, children of all faiths or none and also seeks to develop young people and prepare them as the missionaries of the future. Its funds help to: build clinics, supply medicines and nutritional help, support education projects for children (building, funding and supplying schools). The donations help to develop a child both in an educational and spiritual sense and such support lives out our MC motto of Children Helping Children.

As I mentioned, my interactions with our Catholics schools and our wonderful educators has greatly encouraged me in the earliest days of my role as Communications Co-ordinator for Missio Scotland. While one of my main responsibilities is to promote the work that we do in our mission dioceses worldwide, I am also keen to help our educators to foster a missionary spirit in our classrooms via our schools resources and showcase the efforts of our school communities to as wide an audience as possible. In Motherwell Diocese, we are fortunate enough to have former primary school headteacher Anne McCrossan and former secondary school headteacher Denise Burke work with us as schools volunteers, which allows us to promote ourselves more fully and expanding our schools volunteer base in Scotland’s other dioceses is something we would be keen to do, so if you or anyone you know would be interested in helping us in such a fashion, then please do get in touch. Moreover, if any current school teachers would like to offer their skills, input and expertise with regards to our schools resources, then again, that is something we at Missio Scotland would welcome. By working together, we can grow the already fantastic support given to us by our school communities and collectively fulfil our call to be missionaries.

 

At the beginning of May, we were also given the privilege—along with SCIAF, Aid to the Church in Need and Christian Solidarity worldwide—of hosting the first ever Catholic Cardinal of Myanmar/Burma, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon (Rangoon).

During his trip to Scotland, Cardinal Bo celebrated Mass at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow, spoke to more than 250 pupils from schools in Motherwell Diocese and took part in a civic reception at Glasgow City Chambers. The cardinal also met Dr Angus Morrison, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, spoke to politicians and interfaith leaders and was a guest of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.

The cardinal—who has made it his mission to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’—used his visit to Scotland to ask Scots to support his country during its transition to democracy after decades of military rule. At his engagements, he spoke on the importance of promoting freedom of religion, the need for interreligious dialogue, minority rights, global poverty, respect for life and the integrity of creation. The cardinal specifically implored the Scottish people to use our freedom to promote that of his people.

“I look to our friends around the world, including here in Scotland, to help my country ensure that every person in Myanmar, of whatever race or religion, has their rights protected without discrimination,” Cardinal Bo said.

Prior to Cardinal Bo’s departure to England for the next part of his visit to the UK, Missio Scotland’s National Director, Fr Tom Welsh SX, spoke about the importance of the cardinal’s visit to Scotland and the powerful message of justice and peace that he emphasised throughout his time in the country.

“Cardinal Charles Maung Bo came to Scotland with the Gospel message that justice and peace can only be achieved through democratic freedoms rooted in genuine dialogue in which the political needs of all people are addressed, and the values and beliefs of all are respected and celebrated,” Fr Welsh said. “These freedoms celebrate a unity in diversity that guarantees respect for all minorities and nurtures reconciliation that demands justice.

“Having played a crucial role in developing the nascent democracy in Myanmar/Burma, he offered us a global perspective on how the missionary discipleship vision of Pope Francis challenges us to embrace a universal message of healing for all societies. Having recently represented Pope Francis at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in the Philippines, the cardinal reminded us that the Eucharist is at the heart of the Christian life and that the Eucharist calls every Christian as a challenge to participate in what he has named as ‘the third world war against poverty.’

“Cardinal Bo was born into a Christian family in a predominantly Buddhist society, and attributes his call to be a missionary to the influence of the Salesian priests and teachers who educated him. In stating: ‘I wanted to be a missionary and a parish priest like the,’ Cardinal Bo expresses the voice of many who continue to be called from the margins, to live and preach the Gospel that leads to a full and integrated human liberation.”

The visit also provided Missio Scotland with the opportunity to highlight the work that our partners in the PMS are undertaking in Myanmar/Burma in actively living out that Gospel message.

In Myanmar/Burma, we support St Rita’s Catholic Boarding House, Maubin, South Yangon. The Church runs dozens of boarding houses for the children of peasant farmers living in remote rural areas, which enable the children to attend the local state school and complete their education. Without them, children in rural areas would be trapped in a cycle of poverty and illiteracy.

 

Many of the Church leaders in Myanmar received the call to the priesthood while boarding at houses like St Rita’s. St Rita’s currently accommodates 77 Grade 5-11 students, 55 university students, 6 vocational trainees and 11 higher education students who are studying computing and English. This is a total of 149 students who otherwise would not be able to attend school and further their education.

We also support displaced people, like those in Kachin State, Northeast Myanmar/Burma, who have suffered as a result of conflict in the country, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, the widespread use of landmines, child soldiers, systematic rape and torture and the displacement of more than 150,000 people who now live in camps run by the Church. These people have nowhere to go to. Their villages have been decimated and the roads land mined, making it too dangerous to go back. Almost half of those in the camps are children.

Furthermore, Missio helps support the 136 students at St Joseph’s Major Seminary in Yangon, the only Major Seminary in Myanmar/Burma. Although the Church in Myanmar is under enormous pressure, it is nevertheless flourishing and vocations to the priesthood are increasing. Students often come from impoverished families and lack the resources to complete their studies. Our help makes a real difference to these young men who wish to commit their lives to serve the Church and their communities and pass on the gift of faith to future generations.

 

— To learn more about the work of Missio Scotland you can visit www.missio.scot, like the organsiation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ missio.scot or follow it on Twitter @Missio_Scotland.

 

 

 

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