Sr. Liguori was the head of our Catechism program at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Abu Dhabi, and she was the one woman I knew who had an ear to the ground. More specifically, she had a wonderful way of finding people in need, and finding ways to help them. It could be an envelope with a little money, a bag of groceries, some hand me downs, or a telephone re-charge card – her heart embraced the poor who thronged her little office that overlooked the parish compound.
Obviously, one of her best sources for help was the catechism program, and she encouraged me and many others to find ways to generate small amounts that could be used for various charitable purposes. We found ways to support a orphanage in a remote part of India, bore a well in Kenya, send stationery to school kids in Sudan, or grocery bags to the labor camps outside the city. Until that day on one of her summer retreats when she discovered the Craig Lodge House of Prayer and Mary’s Meals. She was caught on the idea, and came back ready to challenge us to raise funds for the school feeding projects run by Mary’s Meals across the world. The seed was sown…
For us, in our part of the world, poverty in the real sense of the world, is unseen, not necessarily unheard. The concept of being able to feed a hungry child at school for a whole year for the cost of four ‘happy meals’ was difficult to comprehend, but yet, very realistic. We decided to take it up as our Lent charity project, and while we got to work creating posters and collection bottles, it dawned on us that we could take this a step further: host our own Poverty Meal where supporters could share in a basic meal of rice and lentils, in return for a contribution that would help feed a child for a whole year through Mary’s Meals.
A friendly caterer offered to provide the food at a relatively good price, and on the day of the event, while we were getting our dining area set-up and presentations ready to run on big screens, the catering team made its appearance – and Sr. Liguori threw a fit. They were totally not dressed for the occasion she had in mind – they walked up in their waistcoats and bow ties , carrying shiny chafing dishes and satin table cloths. “This is a poverty meal” she moaned, “not a fancy luncheon.”
In a few minutes (much to the disappointment of the caterer), the blackened utensils with the food were lifted onto tables covered with old newsprint, the servers backed by some of our volunteers, knocked off their waistcoats and bow ties, rolled up their sleeves and viola – lunch was served.
Sr. Liguori has since retired to a convent in Mysore, India, and the announcement that Mary’s Meals is now feeding over a million children, will brighten her day. The legacy she left behind has spurred us to continue our fund raising campaigns for Mary’s Meals every Lent, year after year. The numbers have increased, our collections grown, and new ideas added on. But at the heart of our charity drive is the Poverty Meal – an event our parish and especially our children look forward to. They are happy to know that their sacrifice can help feed one hungry child for a whole year at school, somewhere in the world.
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, Mary’s Meals Founder and CEO attributes the success of this charity that made its modest beginning in a tin shed in Scotland, to “little acts of love.” It all began in 2002 – Magnus was in Malawi providing famine relief. He was visiting a family – the mother was dying of AIDS and lay on the floor of her hut surrounded by her six young children. Emma said all that was left for her was to pray that someone might care for them after her death. Magnus asked her eldest, Edward, what he hoped for in life. He replied simply: “I want to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day.”
Edward’s words helped inspire the founding of Mary’s Meals – today feeding 1,035,637 children every day at school.
If you would like to help, please look up https://www.marysmeals.org