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Volunteering is my small way of thanking God and giving to those who have nothing

In the latest in our series, Catherine McSeveny explains how her Faith motivates her to help persecuted Christians through Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

I WAS brought up believing in the missions and I remember donating money to the African missions as a young child. I was introduced to the work of the charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) through reading the literature they ­produce. The charity supports Christians who are persecuted for their Faith or those who are in pastoral need.

Each year they fund over 5,000 projects in more than 140 countries around the world. I thought their mission was a very worthy cause and ­subscribed to their monthly reports.

I moved to Turkey after ­retiring, however, I ­continued to support the charity as a benefactor.

On returning to Scotland, my mother was very ill and my family would often have a Mass said for her. I decided to ask them to give the Mass offering to me and I would arrange for the Mass to be said through ACN.

ACN provides Mass stipends for priests in countries where there is pastoral need and in return Masses are offered for the intentions of ACN ­benefactors. I suggested this as I felt that these were often the forgotten priests. This is what brought me to the ACN office in Motherwell.

On one visit I asked Lorraine McMahon (ACN’s head of operations in Scotland) if she needed any volunteers and she replied: ‘Oh we‘re always looking for volunteers.’ This is how it all began.

I started my first day of ­volunteering with trepidation as I thought, ‘If I’m asked to work on a computer I will die!’
Guess what? That was my job.

I worked on inputting ­donations and helped at annual ACN events. Through all the mistakes, feeling stupid and having to ask for help I thought, ‘Well the more I ask for help maybe the more reward I’ll get in the next life.’ Volunteering was my small way of thanking God for ­everything I have been given and giving to those who have nothing. The thought of giving back a little bit of what I had been given to such a worthy cause was what kept me ­returning. I have been ­volunteering for the charity for four years.

I volunteer at the annual ACN Youth Rally, which is now in its fifth year. Over 1,000 young people from our Scottish Catholic schools come together to stand up for Faith and freedom each year. The day consists of music, liturgy and guest speakers from the persecuted Church. A highlight of last year’s event was the live video link with a group of ­students in Syria.

Our work starts long before the event as we send out invites, organise teachers’ packs and sort out the logistics of the day. The rally was ­originally held in Carfin Grotto. As this is an open air space we were always at the mercy of the weather: one year it poured and the next there was a heatwave, but a fantastic time was had regardless.

Last year the rally moved to its new home in Motherwell Concert Hall. On the day of the rally it was all hands on deck and the ACN Scotland team of three called on family, friends and ACN volunteers for ­support.

The event is always well attended and very well received. It is inspiring to see the youth of Scotland take up the ACN banner and get involved, supporting Christians that do not have the freedom to practise their Faith as we do.

What would be my words of encouragement to those ­thinking of volunteering? I would say go for it. It’s great fun and you will get so much out of it. Even if you can only commit to a little time, that small gesture can have a huge impact on others. You will also gain far more from ­volunteering than the small sacrifice of time you give. This is what is asked of us as ­followers of Christ, to give to those that we don’t even know, as when you give to anybody you give to Him.

– If you would like to find out more about Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), visit www.acnuk.org or contact
ACN in Scotland: acn.scotland.office@acnuk.org

– Do you know someone who could contribute to our ‘Why I Volunteer’ series? Email info@sconews.co.uk if you or someone you know would like to contribute.

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