The Bishop’s Autumn Peregrinations : Empowering Women through Literacy.
Dear Friends, (and this comes as a personal letter to every person and place in our diocese)
THE IDEA OF ‘PEREGRINATIONS’
In my seventeen years as a bishop, one of the things I have enjoyed doing every two or three years, and which in my past experience seemed to harness the enthusiasm and the generosity of the parishes, was what became 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.
MY PLAN FOR THIS YEAR
So I thought it would be worthwhile, fruitful and frankly also fun to do something similar here this autumn. Conscious that the diocesan Council for Mission in Limerick and Killaloe had a long- established custom every second year of supporting an overseas developmental project around ‘Mission Sunday’ at the end of November, I thought I would harness that tradition but also build on similar traditions of generosity to overseas causes in the Tuam area of what is now TLK. 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.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
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 suitable hymn. 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!
The complete timetable for this endeavour is included below. 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! In parishes where there are schools I’m making a definite effort to be in their vicinity during or immediately after school hours in the hope that perhaps a
representative group of pupils will be able to take part. 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.
EMPOWERING WOMEN THROUGH LITERACY. THE PROJECTS IN BURUNDI AND MADAGASCAR
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.
PLEASE COME AND SING ALONG!
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! I’d like to thank the Council for Mission for all their encouragement and practical assistance 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.
With much gratitude in advance to you all for your generous participation
Michael, Tuam Limerick and Killaloe.
THE SELECTED HYMN
The hymn we will sing in every place, and which therefore will be used nearly a hundred times, will be no 86 in the Church Hymnal, Christ is the King! O friends, rejoice, and parishes might like to practice it before I come! I chose it for a number of reasons … first of all Mission Sunday has been observed annually in much of this diocese on the Feast of Christ the King, this year Sunday November 26, which falls in the midst of the peregrinations. Second, it speaks suitably of love’s unconquerable might and of new lamps being lit…. which is what this endeavour is all about. Third, ( and personally ), it was the opening hymn at my ordination as deacon in 1987 and I have been inspired by its words ever since. Finally, it’s just a great sing!
A PRACTICAL NOTE RE HOW TO CONTRIBUTE
-For obvious reasons, I would prefer to avoid personally handling large amounts of cash, although I will not refuse it and I will bring with me a suitable receptacle for any such contributions. This will only be opened and carefully counted each evening in the presence of a third party.
-Ideally parishes would have their fund – raising effort ahead of my visit and present the proceeds in the form of a cheque made payable to ‘Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal’.
-Any individuals who are taxpayers and who might be moved to contribute 250 euro or more should do so via a cheque similarly made out, and placed in an envelope with the donor’s contact details so that the necessary tax – reclaim document can subsequently be sent to them
-Make your donation online via the diocesan website tlk.ie/donate/ – making sure to reference “Bishops Appeal” or the “Bishops Peregrinations”
-Some parishes may wish to follow their tradition of having a special collection for this project on Mission Sunday, November 26. If this date is subsequent to my visit to the particular place, cheques payable to the Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal should be sent directly to me personally at Kilbane House, Golf Links Rd, Castletroy, Limerick. The same applies to any ‘late’ contributions, which will of course be welcome.
- The peregrinations end on December 1, just before Advent. I would like to have all contributions gathered up and transferred to the Bishops’ Appeal ahead of Christmas, ideally by December 18