March 22, 2020

Dear friend

I hope you and your families are safe and well.

This has been an emotional weekend for many of us. Sunday  - in the UK – was Mother’s Day and, like many of you I can’t hug my mum right now, although I do feel very blessed that I was able to wave at her through her window. This Sunday was also a difficult new experience for those of us who attend church regularly, as we found ourselves unable to gather as normal for Sunday worship. Again though, I felt blessed to watch the live streaming of a Mass with all my family at home and felt very moved and profoundly united in prayer with people all over the world praying in new circumstances. In one sense it became an even more moving experience than normal. And like so many other experiences these days, it showed me how much I have been taking things for granted. 

Each day this past week has brought news of further school closures. I think by now nearly all of us live in countries where our schools are closed for the foreseeable future and our children face time away from friends and uncertainty about their future. Here in Scotland we have certainly taken for granted, until now, the fact that our children would always have access to safe schools and education. Meanwhile, the school closures in our programme countries have thrown up a whole lot of new questions. Given that our whole mission is based on the provision of one meal every day in a place of education, our approach has always been that we do not normally provide meals when schools are closed – whether that be during school holidays or because schools have been temporarily shut down for other reasons. However, in such circumstances we always consider the needs of the children who find themselves out of school and whether some kind of emergency approach might be appropriate and possible. For example during the time of the Ebola crisis in Liberia, when schools were shut, we found ways to keep serving food to many of the communities there.

Given many of these closures have just happened (as recently as yesterday in some countries) we have only just begun to consider some very complex and fast changing situations – although, incredibly, some of our teams have already identified ways that we might be able to keep feeding children. We will keep you posted on such developments as soon as we have news to share, striving all the while to seek new ways of keeping our promise to the little ones. For ours is a work of love – a love that will always desire to go forward towards the child in need if there is any way to do so.

Over the last few days another surprising thing happened here in Scotland. The sun came out! We haven’t seen it for a long time! And now all of a sudden the birds are singing and flower buds are opening. After a very long dark winter a new season is here. It is has helped me remember that new seasons do always come, eventually. It looks as though the whole world faces a time of prolonged hardship and challenge  - a very long tough winter. But this will pass. None of us know when or how, exactly but a new season will come. And when it does children will need to eat whilst at school – just like they always have. The importance of Mary’s Meals, today and tomorrow, is greater than ever.

Thank you to all our staff, volunteers and supporters around the world, for the inspiration you have been to me this week. It has been a joy to be part of so many conversations with you about how to keep going forward despite everything. So many new things are happening in the Mary’s Meals family in response to the challenges – things that make me excited and grateful.

Stay safe. 

God bless


PS In my garden – where the birds are now singing and the flowers are opening – is a statue of Mary the mother of Jesus which we once took home from a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. On this day when in some parts of the world we celebrate our mothers, I am thanking her, the world’s most famous ever mother, too. For it is she who inspired this work and who looks after us always, in the good seasons and the bad.