As we enter the supposedly quieter weeks of the year, I promised in this issue to give some advance information concerning a personal project I have in mind for later in the year. In my episcopal past in another place ( of which I hesitate to speak too often here !), one of the things I enjoyed doing every two or three years, and which seemed to harness the enthusiasm and indeed the generosity of the parishes, was what came to be known as my ‘peregrinations’. Over a period of days, I would visit every church, meet groups of people and engage in some slightly eccentric sponsored activity in order to raise funds and awareness for some worthy cause. This all had the advantage of a seasonal cementing together of the diocese in a common task, and over the years my endeavours became associated with the theme of ‘empowering women through literacy ‘ in various countries of the developing world… in all of this I worked in tandem with the Bishops’ Appeal and its trusted and effective partner agencies on the ground. So I thought it would be worthwhile, fruitful and frankly also fun to attempt something similar here. Conscious that the Diocesan Council for Mission has a long tradition every second year of supporting an overseas developmental project around ‘Mission Sunday’ at the end of November, I thought I would harness that tradition and indeed seek the kind support of the Council in bringing the vision to pass. As to why we should focus on the empowerment of women through literacy I have learned over the years that combatting the poverty cycle is all about education, education, education…. that investing in the education of women has a consequence in terms of benefits for the whole family, and that in many countries women still have to struggle for the sort of transformative educational opportunities that are simply taken for granted here. So, in the latter days of November and into December I will visit every single church at a specific time, accompanied I hope in many cases by the Diocesan Communications Officer Stephen Fletcher, and I will engage with groups who gather around me in a sponsored singing of a well-known hymn ( still to be chosen ). This will give me a chance to play every organ, keyboard and harmonium in the diocese ( many of them are already familiar to me ) and for churches where there is no available instrument I will bring some sort of keyboard. I will also talk extremely briefly about the importance of the projects being supported, and of the work of Bishops’ Appeal generally. And if a cup of coffee is to hand, I will not refuse it…. And then we will travel on ; some people may even be kind and enthusiastic enough to travel with me around several places. Perhaps at the end of it all I will give a small prize or two to the person or persons who joined me in the most churches! By the end of the summer I will circulate in print and online a brochure giving fuller details of the plans, the projects and the timetable. It’s very important that the timetable is reliable so that people are not kept waiting on cold winter days. I would dare to ask that in every place some little advance effort might be made, such as a retiring collection or a bring and buy or whatever, to raise some funds which could be presented to me when I come. Of course I will also welcome individual contributions and especially, modest as they may be, the gifts and efforts of children who may as they are told of these projects realise how wonderful are their own educational experiences here … even if setting out for school on a wet winter morning can sometimes seem daunting! At any rate, I hope it will be possible to harness some pre- Christmas seasonal generosity in a way that will really make a difference to the lives of its recipients. As to the two selected projects. One will involve partnership with Mothers’ Union and its vital work in advancing women’s literacy in Burundi. In that country the MU works with the local Anglican Church in supporting the women who in many cases are sole providers for their families. The aim is to provide safe literacy circles where women can learn basic literacy and mathematical skills, and particularly how to apply those skills to the development of agricultural initiatives . Such empowerment does much to break down gender stereotypes and their consequences in terms of gender based violence. It empowers women to be agents of change in their communities, and to be leaders in the promotion of environmentally friendly sustainable farming. The other project focusses on Madagascar, and is in partnership with the agency Feed the Minds. I confess a soft spot for that vast island, where my daughter Grainne worked for a while , which is often forgotten and in many places horribly poor. The chosen project here is to educate women in running small sustainable silk businesses, so that they can boost family income, promote a measure of entrepreneurship, combat extreme poverty, and do so in the context of the protection of the mangrove forests which surround them. Both the projects we will be supporting firmly root empowerment in the context of environmental responsibility. So there it is. I hope you will share something of my enthusiasm, enjoy becoming involved and gather around me as we also unite the diocese in seasonal song! As I say full details of it all will circulate in due course … meanwhile I again thank the Council for Mission and pay tribute to the ongoing work of Bishop’ Appeal which is so central to living out the Gospel and in constantly balancing disaster relief with longer term sustainable development across the globe. In saying this I’d want to express gratitude for the work of Canon Jim Stephens as our BA Diocesan Representative, and also Dean Niall Sloane who serves on the Central Advisory Committee. Meanwhile enjoy the summer, and please give the many visitors to our churches the best of welcomes! Michael Tuam Limerick and Killaloe.
Diocesan Cycle of Prayer.
As I mentioned last month, we are deeply grateful to Joc Sanders who coordinated this ministry of prayer with commitment and insight over many years. As we seek a successor to resume the actual ‘Cycle’ the following are some interim themes which may be found helpful around the diocese over the summer Sundays. And we hope in the autumn that we will again be offering fuller resources.
July 2. Trinity 4. As the last of the spring / early summer confirmations take place, we pray for all recently confirmed all over the diocese, that they may daily increase in the Holy Spirit. We remember plans for their shared post Confirmation retreat in October. And we pray for those entrusted with new Incumbencies in the diocese ….Keith Barry in Nenagh, Suzanne Cousins in Aughaval, Kevin O Brien in Adare.
July 9, Trinity 5. On the National Day of Commemoration we are asked to remember all Irishmen and Irishwomen who died in past wars, or in service with the United Nations.
July 16, Trinity 6. As we welcome so many visitors especially to our coastal churches, we pray that they may experience us as warm, inclusive and generous … and that they may return home with a sense of refreshment and peace.
July 23, Trinity 7. We pray for unfolding plans for the ‘empowerment of women through literacy’ diocesan initiative now being planned for the autumn, for the selected projects and partner agencies and for our Diocesan Council of Mission.
July 30, Trinity 8. We remember those who make music in our diocese, those who use it as a universal language to connect with newcomers and visitors, all who give of their skills to enhance the beauty of holiness and to give us a foretaste in song of the worship of heaven.
August 6, The Feast of the Transfiguration, Trinity 9. The amazing light of the Mountain of Transfiguration frighteningly is aligned in our thoughts today with the light of nuclear explosion on Hiroshima Day. We pray for reductions in arms levels, those who across the world carry great responsibilities for nuclear capabilities, those who strive to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities in war torn areas.
August 13, Trinity 10. As we read our way in these weeks through Matthew’s Gospel, we give thanks for his presentation of Christ as the Great Teacher. We pray for all who seek to follow his example in their vocations to educate and empower others. And as we think of Matthew’s presentation of the people of Israel, and recall that Jesus cannot be understood without a deep appreciation of his Jewishness, we pray for rich relationships between Christian and Jew. In the context of teaching and education, we also remember those awaiting important exam results.
August 20, Trinity 11. As the nation enjoys the Festival of Kerry, we remember all community and civic activities which celebrate pride in the Local, which bring people together, which strengthen our sense of heritage and our care for our environment.
August 27, Trinity 12. As schools prepare to open we pray for all who learn and teach especially in the schools associated with the diocese, and especially for those beginning new chapters of their educational journeys.
September 3, Trinity 13. As the diocese moves towards Harvest Thanksgiving mode, we remember all who work on the land and who co- create with God, as well as those involved in agricultural training and in producing the agricultural policy of our nation for the coming generation.