Monday, June 29, 2009
I hope you are well and at peace.
After returning from my trip to Liberia I spoke at
the Northern Catholic Conference at Liverpool hope
university. I did three talks, one to the youth and
two to the adults. About 500 people attended the
weekend and it was a very blessed and special
occasion. Quite a few of those I spoke to came up
to me and told me how much God had touched them
through what I'd said, so I knew I was in the right
place. It was nice to have my mum there with me,
she had travelled up from London to spend the
weekend with me and enjoy the retreat.
Next I travelled to Medugorje in Bosnia to take
part in the Mary's meals conference. There were
speakers, both Priests and lay people, from all
over the world including India, Malawi, Liberia
Romania and the Phillipines explaining the work
they do in their countries to feed hungry children.
It was a truly inspirational experience.
I spoke about how we have raised money for this
beautiful charity in Ireland. One of the things
I shared was that after I had decided to offer my
support to Mary's Meals, Magnus McFarlane Barrow
the founder, asked me to visit their headquarters
at Craig Lodge. As we left to return to Ireland
one of my community members picked a saints name
from a box and said this saint will help us
establish the charity in Ireland. The saint he
picked was St Andrew the Patron of Scotland.
I must admit, I didn't really have a clue how to
go about raising money or awareness in Ireland.
One day an idea came to me to have a collection
for Mary's meals on the last day of our Parish
missions. When I went to Mass I discovered it
was the feast day of St Andrew and I knew the
idea was of God. We started to do just that and
to date we have raised over 450,000 Euro's in
Ireland alone and when you consider that you can
feed a child for a whole year for 7 euro's, that
makes a lot of children who are being fed.
The highpoint of the week for me was doing a talk
along with the visionary Jacov to hundreds of
people in the main hall. Many different people
contacted me by email to tell how much they had
received from hearing my story, including the
parents of a young lad from Cork called Joseph
who had been deeply moved by what he heard.
I had the chance to spend a couple of days on
the coast of Croatia. It was breathtakingly
beautiful and I felt a deep peace in my heart.
Once again God was showing me that we don't
have to go chasing him everywhere. He is right
there with us wherever we go as long as we seek
to do his will. If we live the present moment
with God (and not get caught up in future worries)
that is when miracles start to happen. If we
truly live the now we could even walk on water,
but as St Peter found as soon as we start to
doubt and worry we will sink.
Next I'm off to Spain for a Holiday/pilgrimage
to Santiago de Compostella, Avila and Valladolid
for couple of weeks. Following this I'll be
speaking at a retreat for young people at
Saint Maurice in Switzerland. Then I'll be
returning to Ireland for a weeks retreat
with my old friend and spiritual director Father
Denis Herlihy who brought me to deep inner
healing by facing the fears and wounds from
you are all in my heart and in my prayers.
God bless you in his deep love
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I hope you are well and at peace.
I have just returned from Liberia where I spoke to ex children soldiers
who were forced to take part and witness horrendous acts of violence
during the war which took place there starting in 1996 and continued in
various forms until 2002.
I went at the invitation of Magnus McFarlane Barrow the founder of Mary's
meals, which is an international movement to set up school feeding
projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from
gaining an education.
I became involved in Mary's meals when on pilgrimage to Medugorje in
2005 I really felt that God wanted myself and my community to do
something, just a sense that the work we were doing of evangelisation
wasn't quite complete,something was missing and I didn't know what it
was. So I went to the Grave of a priest called Fr Slavko Barberic (the
first priest I ever went to confession to) whom many people think is
a Saint, and I prayed the rosary with the specific intention that Our
Lady would show me what this missing piece of the jigsaw was. Later
that day I bumped into Magnus (who was an old friend of mine) and he
told me about the work of Mary's meals and showed me a power point
presentation he had put together. As I watched I was deeply moved and
I knew Our Lady was saying to me "do whatever he asks you for this
charity, because it is mine."
Not long after this I set up Mary's meals in Ireland and over the last
4 years we have raised over 400,000 Euro's which goes directly towards
feeding hungry children.
It was a truly humbling experience to visit the school feeding shelters
in Liberia and to see the dedication and love of the volunteers who
prepare the meals, and to witness the massive effect it has on the
children. I could really sense the grace of God at work. Starting with
the generosity of those who make donation’s in Ireland and England,
without whom none of this would be possible.It has been amazing to
watch this small acorn grow into an oak tree with God's help and
blessing. Now Mary's meals feeds 350,000 of the world’s poorest
children daily and 15,000 in Liberia alone.
The experience of speaking to the children soldiers is one I'll never
forget, I shared my story with them and I could see that it was
something they could deeply identify with. One of the young men described
how when he was eight years old, his cousin and he were forced into
working as part of a group providing security for General Taylor.
His cousin fell ill through malaria, and was unable to complete
his duties for the general which included acquiring hot water
for Taylor’s bath. For failure to comply with orders when he was
sick, the cousin was placed against a tree and shot with the intention
of the murder being witnessed by the other children so they would
learn not to go against orders placed on them. Another young man
still has 20 bullets in him, and was forced to carry out orders
of murder of men, women and children, throughout the war.
Despite everything these young men have been through they have
an incredible resilience I felt a deep sense of love for them that
they had seen such evil in their lives, something which they could
do nothing about because they were so young, I actually wept because
it reminded me of the crucifixion of Jesus, total innocence meeting
such darkness. But the light shines in the darkness and I could see
such hope in these lads and I thank God for the chance to meet and
speak with them.
I met with a SMA priest, Fr. Garry, who is looking after over 100
children soldiers, providing them with food, shelter, and an
opportunity to have their lost childhoods restored. He has been
helping the Gola people recover from the civil war, and has worked
with them for over 30 years. During the war he refused to leave
the village where he ministers to them because he knew without
him the people would almost certainly perish. He himself was
kidnapped and that was where he first befriended the children
soldiers who were his kidnappers. He stated to me how ‘without
justice there can be no lasting peace’ alluding to how quickly
another war can begin when the deeper issues are left unresolved.
One man I met gave me immense hope for the future, that was the
monsignor who is effectively the acting Bishop at this time, he
is a real man of God and a great witness of love. Also mother
Teresa's Missionaries of Charity are there bringing God's
tenderness and compassion to the poorest of the poor.
After returning home I feel a profound sense of love in my heart
and a faith that God never abandons any of his children
especially those who have suffered.
If you would like any information on the work of Mary's Meals
you can find it on www.marysmeals.org
You and all those you love are in my prayers
God bless you in his deep love