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Praise for Airdrie pupils’ work to relieve poverty in Malawi

FRANCISCAN missionary Sr Anna Tomassi paid tribute to the Catholic community of St Margaret’s High School in Airdrie in the year of her golden jubilee celebration. - By Shannon McGurin

Sr Tomassi, recently the subject of a documentary on the American CBS News programme 60 Minutes, celebrated with a special Mass held at St Pius X church in Blantyre, Malawi, which was attended by a number of Scottish guests including North Lanarkshire provost Jim Robertson, prison chaplain Patricia Roberts and Charles Fawcett from the Scottish charity Aiming Higher in Malawi.

Sr Tomassi, whose life story was released as a book by former St Margaret’s pupil Carleen Friel, was honoured by Archbishop Thomas Mzuza at the ceremony, which was also attended by other missionaries.

Sr Tomassi works in the African country to alleviate poverty and to help both disabled people and those jailed in decrepit prisons.

The Airdrie school and community raised more than £600 this year to provide Christmas meals for female and child prisoners with whom Sr Tomassi works, and to help with her programme to feed 3,500 nursery children each day.

“Often the prisoners are not fed at all, particularly in this time of famine,” a spokesperson from St Margaret’s said. “The St Margaret’s community ensure that they receive a good meal at Christmas, Easter and during the annual visits in June and July.”

St Margaret’s charity work aims to improve conditions in Malawian prisons. The pupils have helped set up a school in Bvumbwe prison, supported a tour for the prison football team Chichiri Celtic, and provided assistance for the Grammy-nominated band The Zomba Prison Project.

The St Margaret’s community has had almost 50 innocent women and children released from prison, with particular help from former pupil Lauren Strain, now a third-year law student.

Lauren, along with fellow former pupils Carleen Friel, Rebecca Grant and Daniel Henderson, have also set up a group to feed the severely malnourished inmates of Mulanje prison, described by Sr Tomassi as the worst she has seen.

“To see human beings who could not walk or even hold up a bag of sugar was upsetting,” Daniel Henderson said. “Thank God Sr Anna brought them to our attention and that Mary Mitchell from St Bartholomew’s Parish in Coatbridge donated £500 to them in memory of her brother Brian in July. We also have to thank Rena Gallagher, who once again donated £200 towards Christmas meals.”

St Margaret’s headteacher Stephen Snee said: “Sr Anna is an ordinary woman who does extraordinary things for children and adults in Malawi. We look forward to supporting her work for a very long time.”

The St Margaret’s group will be returning in June or July, when projects will include the development of the St Margaret’s Female Refuge complex and a camp for malnourished and disabled children.



—This story ran in full in the January 13 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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