October 5 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Funds & games for goodness’ sake

In the first in a three-part series leading up to Mission Sunday, and in the centenary year of the 1918 act which secured state-funded Catholic education, GERARD GOUGH of Missio Scotland finds there is much to celebrate in how young Catholics have supported vital missionary work

The year 2018 is full of milestones for Missio Scotland. The Association of the Holy Childhood—now known as Missionary

Children and one of the key components of the Pontifical Mission Societies—was formed 175 years ago by Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson in France, and has been active in Scotland’s Catholic schools for decades.

This year also marks the centenary of the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act, which brought Catholic schools into the state system and relieved Catholics of the financial burden of supporting their own schools and, through their tax contributions, state schools as well. As Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow noted: “The act gave Catholic children and young people parity of access and parity of opportunity with [other] Scottish young people.”

2018 is also the year of a Vatican synod of bishops on ‘Young people, the Faith and discernment of vocation,’ while the Scottish Government has designated 2018 as the ‘Year of Young People,’ in an attempt to inspire Scotland through its youth, celebrating their achievements, valuing their contribution to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally.

Clearly then, 2018 intends to shine a light on young people, their Faith, gifts, talents and successes. However, celebrating our young people is something that we here at Missio Scotland do not restrict to a given year. It is something we try to do at all times. It’s important that we do not let milestones become millstones as we are part of a living Church and it is young Catholics who breathe new life into it. That is a point that the Holy Father made reference to in his message for World Mission Sunday 2018, with regard to the foundation of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

“The Pontifical Mission Societies were born of young hearts as a means of supporting the preaching of the Gospel to every nation and thus contributing to the human and cultural growth of all those who thirst for knowledge of the truth,” the Pope said.

“The prayers and the material aid generously given and distributed through the Pontifical Mission Societies enable the Holy See to ensure that those who are helped in their personal needs can in turn bear witness to the Gospel in the circumstances of their daily lives. No one is so poor as to be unable to give what they have, but first and foremost what they are.”

Pupils who interact with Missio Scotland 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 on which our charity is built—and it’s something that they’ve been doing for many years now.


Support for Bauchi

In 1957, the then Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Gordon Gray, invited his priests to volunteer for a spell in the missions. In 1962, he went to Nigeria to visit some of those same priest volunteers. The following year, while in Rome for the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Gray met Bishop Reddington of Jos Diocese, Nigeria—which covers the province of Bauchi—and they discussed the needs of the area, which is bigger than Scotland.

Archbishop Gray returned to Scotland and consulted with his priests, and, as a result, in 1964 adopted Bauchi, promising to supply the priests required and finance the building of churches and other infrastructure.

One such priest who served there was Canon Leo Glancy, Missio Scotland’s diocesan director for St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese. The archdiocese became involved in a series of events and fundraising initiatives to help build up the Diocese of Bauchi and Catholic schoolchildren were involved right from the very beginning.

In 1963, one year before the adoption of Bauchi Diocese, children from St Modan’s High in Stirling got the ball rolling by contributing £240 and 1248lbs of dried milk to St Mary’s Hospital in Urua Akpan—run by the Medical Missionaries of Mary—for hungry children. The school had been running a Freedom from Hunger campaign since 1962.

“Every penny given by the pupils is turned into milk for the under-fed children,” said St Modan’s former rector Allan McCann.

Letters received by the school at that time from the Mother Superior of the hospital, Sr Galgani, stated that countless young lives had been saved and the quantity of dried milk received meant they were able to provide some food to a nearby leper colony.

Within a decade, it was revealed that 75 per cent of the funds donated to the new Nigerian diocese had come through the efforts of the youth of the Scottish archdiocese.

In 1978, Cardinal Gray visited St Cuthbert’s Primary School in Slateford, Edinburgh, to congratulate them for raising £550 for Bauchi during Lent.

The children arranged sponsored spelling contests, held prize draws and coffee mornings to exceed their initial target of £500. The cardinal celebrated Mass in the school, praised the pupils and teachers for their generosity and presented Royal Jubilee silver coins to Primary Sevens, who had done the bulk of the fundraising work.


Congregational charity

Our schools have also been at the forefront of raising money for congregations who work in mission territories all over the world, many of which have had a number of Scottish-born priests or religious sisters.

St Joseph’s Primary in Stepps was one such school. In 1978, they presented Fr Gerry Geddes from the White Fathers and Sr Elizabeth of the Columban Sisters with a cheque for £1,800 each for their congregations’ work in Zambia and the Philippines respectively. The money raised during Lent went towards providing fresh water for a village in Zambia and a new school in the Philippines, where the St Joseph’s Catholic community had chosen to adopt a parish. In 1987, the school presented a cheque for nearly £2,000 to Fr John Lalor of the St Patrick’s Missionary Society (Kiltegan Fathers) for a water project in Turkana, Kenya. The Columban Missionaries were given a cheque for a similar amount for health and education projects.

That same year, St Mary’s Primary School donated more than £1,000 to Mill Hill missionary Fr William McAvoy, to support their work in Kenya. The Mill Hill Missionaries retain a strong connection with Missio England and Wales.

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary were also the beneficiaries of more than £600 from the pupils and staff of St James’ Primary School in Renfrew, 60 of whom took part in a sponsored singalong. Sr Jo Wardhaugh, who was going to Shama in Southern Ethiopia to work in a sick children’s clinic, visited to receive the cheque.

“I’m tremendously grateful to the children for the enjoyment, fun and hard work which went into their Songs of Praise afternoon,” Sr Jo said. “They have been studying the village of Shama at school and are very involved.”

Fundraising initiatives—while inextricably linked with Catholic school communities—also took place outside of the classroom. Our schools have often produced many world-class Irish dancers, but in 1979, dancers from Scotland and England brought new meaning to the word ‘champion’ by taking part in a Charity Feis held in the junior seminary of the Verona Fathers in Leeds. As a result of the Feis—largely organised by the people of St Columba’s parish in Viewpark—£1,500 was raised for the Verona Fathers.



The volume of fundraising undertaken by our schoolchildren over the decades hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 1979, it was reported that Catholics in Scotland had raised £386,000 for the missions in the previous year, which featured a highly successful series of Church-caring weeks in schools.

A few years later, in 1983, it was revealed children in Scotland’s Catholic primaries had broken the £100,000

barrier in fundraising for children in the developing world. That amazing total raised by the 230 schools for the

Missionary Children Society put our children fourth in the international table according to Missionary Children’s International director Monsignor Henri Bodet, who visited Scotland in 1982.

“It was a remarkable achievement for such a small country,” Mgr Bodet said.

Missionary Children’s then National Secretary and Treasurer, Mgr Ben Donachie of St James’ parish in Kinross, was quick to echo Mgr Bodet’s praise. He said: “I’m delighted at the efforts of all the schools involved in the scheme. To break through the £100,000 barrier for the first time is a great achievement.”

More than half the money was raised by schools in Motherwell Diocese, which accounted for £54,000 of the total. Four years later, they still led the way, raising some £61,000 for the missions. Among those helped were schools in Colombia and Haiti, clinics in Liberia and poor children in Sierra Leone and Laos.



While the enthusiastic fundraising from Catholic pupils is always welcomed, sometimes we’ve had to call upon our children to help us in more inventive ways and it’s a call they’ve answered enthusiastically.

In 2005, children at St Bride’s Primary in Cowdenbeath helped Missio Scotland launch a new hi-tech initiative, offering them the chance to go on a ‘virtual mission.’ This saw children encouraged to go on a mission, with each class being issued with a backpack of resources to help explore Ghana, the focus country that year. The pupils were also issued with a CD-Rom, which took them on a virtual tour of the African country and helped them better understand the mission projects there and the needs of Ghana’s children.

Missio Scotland’s former national director, Fr Pat McGuire, read out a message to the schoolchildren that day from Fr Patrick Byrne, the then Secretary General of Missionary Children.

He said: “The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has entrusted me with the task of looking after Missionary Children throughout the world. We are delighted to see that Missionary Children in Scotland are taking the work a step forward and that you are being challenged to go on a mission journey.

“Pope Benedict and his bishops are delighted to have the children of Scotland as helpers in the task of preaching the loving message of the Gospel.”

Although I’ve only been in my post as communications officer for two and a half years too, during that time our pupils have been pivotal in helping us launch new fundraisers and materials.

With regards to the former, Catholic schoolchildren helped us to promote our Mile For Mission sponsored walk fundraising initiative last year.

Pupils from St Patrick’s Primary School in Coatbridge brought their enthusiasm with them to Albion Rovers FC’s Cliftonhill stadium in the town as we filmed a short video explaining the fundraiser.

The year 2017 also saw the launch of the first of our Missionary Saints materials, which aim to help our young people come to know these saints and understand the Church’s mission of communicating God’s love to others in words and actions.

The resources have been endorsed by the bishops of Scotland, who have asked that they be used in Catholic schools—particularly by children who are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation—while also suggesting that Missionary Children could particularly be the focus charity for those preparing for Confirmation.

Pupils from St Gerard’s Primary in Bellshill donned costumes of some of the saints who feature in the materials, bringing colour to a set of resources that will hopefully be used for many years to come!


Praising our children

It’s fair to say that Scottish Catholic schoolchildren’s support for their brothers and sisters in mission countries and territories has been literally life-saving and has seen them live out the Missionary Children motto of ‘Children Helping Children,’ down throughout the decades.

Given that Missio Scotland is the most historic of Church charities that have operated in our schools and is also the default charity for our primary schools, we hope the excellent support that they have given to us as a charity will continue for many years to come.

I’ll leave the final words to former national director, Mgr Daniel Foley, who praised Catholic pupils in his 1990 World Mission Sunday message.

“It was with quiet pride that I listened last May as different national directors came from all over the world to say how wonderfully generous our Scottish children are,” he wrote.

“There is something special in representing Scotland at such an international gathering. £100,000 from our schools is a tremendous total. Proportionately it is one of the best in the world and it is marvellous to see this common fund shared out in small doses to help as many people as possible.

“This year, the £100,000 from our children has gone to 40 different projects in Asia and four in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. It will be well used by missionaries who have longed for £2,000 to start off or keep going some small project in their parishes or convents. As a former missionary in the field I always maintain that small is beautiful and that small grants are treasured and used to get the most value out of every penny.

“For well over 100 years, the Missionary Children Society (formerly the Holy Childhood Society) has thrived in our schools. Our children and their devoted teachers have nurtured this tradition of children helping children through our Holy Father the Pope. He, in turn, gives to the bishops and priests in mission lands who apply for aid each year for their different small projects. Long may this tradition last in Scotland that has gained us admiration and praise in so many different parts of the world.”



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