As part of the ongoing celebrations and events to mark SCIAF’s 50th anniversary, a Mass was held in St. Andrew’s Cathedral on 30 April. The church was filled with supporters and staff, aa well as the Diocesan Choir (the St. Mungo Singers) and a choir from Our Lady of the Missions Primary School. Principal concelebrant, Archbishop Tartaglia, was joined by Bishop Joseph Toal (Bishop President of SCIAF), priests from the Diocese and members of the Comboni and Mill Hill Fathers.
The City Council was represented by Deputy Lord Provost Gerry Leonard. There were also representatives of the Scottish Parliament, the Knights of St. Columba, other Christian churches, SCIAF Board Members and parish representatives, and members of sister organisations CAFOD and Trocaire, as well as representatives from the Joint Office in Ethiopia.
The St. Mungo Singers and the children sang, and Noel Donnelly played the Clarsach, as the congregation gathered. Then the service started with a procession of the flags of the countries in which SCIAF works, carried by members of staff, volunteers, and young people from primary and secondary schools.As the flags bearers stood before the altar, two lit candles were brought up by current Director Alastair Dutton and former Director (and current Board Member) Duncan MacLaren, to symbolise the 50 years of providing “light for people living in the darkness of poverty”. This led beautifully into to the opening hymn “Christ be Our Light”, the words of which are so appropriate “Make us your building, sheltering others, wall made of living stone”.
Archbishop Tartaglia welcomed everyone to the service and expressed his particular delight to see the young people from the primary and secondary schools which are so supportive of SCIAF. He was joined in this expression of appreciation by the congregation which clapped spontaneously.
In his subsequent homily, the Archbishop invited people to understand the heart of SCIAF by looking at what they were currently doing in response to the Nepal earthquake. As part of the Caritas Internationalis family, and working through their partners in Nepal, they were already getting funds through to help on the ground. Their work in disasters was only part of what they did. There was much more.
Through their programmes they were helping developing countries and over 50 years they had built up links with so many charities in these countries. So why, he asked, was SCIAF set up and why does it continue – why is it so important to us? It is because of our vision of the human person – the human person as God sees us – created for life, freedom and health – for the enjoyment of the fullness of life both now and in the world to come.
We have a moral obligation, he said, to help our neighbours and see that their needs are met. Referring to the readings of the Mass, particularly St. Paul’s words on love, and the Gospel description of the Last Judgement, he stated that this vision of faith and love underpins our giving – we are all SCIAF. After the Intercessions for SCIAF and its work, the Archbishop invited all present to renew their commitment to this work, which they did wholeheartedly.At the end of the Mass, Fr. Joe Mackle read the letter from the Papal Nuncio which expressed the thanks of Pope Francis for the work of SCIAF and imparted his Apostolic Blessing to the members of SCIAF and their families and loved ones. Director Alastair Dutton took the opportunity to express briefly his own thanks for all the support SCIAF receives, particularly the creativeness and inventiveness shown in relation to the Wee Box appeal, and to all its partners.
Echoing the words of Archbishop Tartaglia, he said “together we are all SCIAF, the beating heart of Catholic generosity in Scotland”. He referred to St. Paul’s word for “love” – “caritas” which means an intimate personal concern for the other. He reminded everyone of the importance of prayer as well as financial support – it matters to people in poverty and distress that we are thinking of them.
The Mass ended with the singing of the Magnificat to the tune of “Amazing Grace” and then there was the chance to share hospitality in the Diocesan Offices, after what had been a lovely warm celebration, one of the highlights of which had been the beautiful clear singing of the children of Our Lady of the Missions Primary.
SCIAF never misses the chance to get support for its work and it was no surprise that, in light of the recent terrible earthquake in Nepal, there was a retiring collection which raised almost £1700 for the relief work.