Coalisland parish proposal to launch African outreach project

Coalisland parish plans to develop an outreach programme to help a community in Zambia. Fr Paul Byrne discusses the aims and importance of the proposed initiative

Fr Paul Byrne (right) during a trip to Lusaka, Zambia, in June

Last February, two sisters from the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa (FMSA) spoke at Masses in the parish about their work in the slums of Lusaka, Zambia.

The generosity of the congregations that weekend showed how much of an impact their stories had on us all. This led to contacts being made with the sisters to pursue the idea of a parish outreach from our parish to one of their mission stations in Zambia.

Over the past few months, our parish has been in contact with sisters in the parish of St Paul in Chipata Compound, Lusaka. The aim of these contacts was to determine if there were practical ways in which our parish could assist St Paul’s.

Sr Paula, of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa (FMSA), with children from a preschool in Lusaka, Zambia

To this end, Bosco McShane and I travelled to Lusaka in June to meet with the sisters to assess the situation and to find out what practical help we could bring in the future.

Over the next few months, the Coalisland parish bulletin will outline some of the issues that face the people in St Paul’s parish and identify how we can help.

Why a parish outreach?

Bosco McShane, from Coalisland, with Sr Paula, two-year-old Emmanuel and Agnes, from the Home Based Care team

Some people will question the point of such an initiative while others will think it’s a fundraising opportunity.  “There are needs at home that we should attend to”, will be chanted by others.

Mission outreach has been one of the great hallmarks of the Irish expression of faith and spiritual development. The way that we express that today has changed.

In the past, many went out “on the missions” as priests and religious and spent a lifetime in service and spreading the good news. Irish parishes generously supported them and continue to do so.

One of the preschool classes in the parish of St Paul in Chipata Compound, Lusaka

But there are huge chunks of people who now express their faith and spirituality in a renewed way. They commit themselves in ways appropriate to the age we live in.

Many want to experience missionary activity and to live out, even in brief way, the call we all have through our baptism to spread the good news.

To this end the proposal is to organise annual group visits (of approximately 12 people) to Lusaka from the parish, interacting with the families in Chipata Compound by visiting those dying with Aids, helping in the local schools and sharing in the faith development within the parish; nothing more strenuous than painting a few walls.

There will be displays of photographs from the recent visit in all the churches highlighting aspects of the parish life in Chipata Compound.


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