Image: Missio - The Pope's Charity


In our latest blog, Gerard Gough reflects on his work with Missio Scotland - feeding the mind, the body and the soul.

MISSIO Scotland is an organisation that I’m extremely proud to represent as communications officer. In that role, I’m privy to all the good work that the Pontifical Mission Societies around the world are engaged in – and that makes me very aware that all the good work the Catholic Church does worldwide often goes unnoticed. So let’s look at some amazing statistics.
Throughout the world, the Catholic Church runs 73,263 nursery schools with 6,963,669 pupils; 96,822 primary schools with 32,254,204 pupils; 45,699 secondary schools with 19,407,417 pupils. The Church also cares for 2,309,797 high school pupils, and 2,727,940 university students.
Catholic charity and healthcare centres run around the world by the Church include: 5034 hospitals; 16,627 dispensaries; 611 care homes for people with leprosy; 15,518 homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability; 9770 orphanages; 12,082 crèches; 14,391 marriage counselling centres; 3896 social rehabilitation centres and 38,256 other institutions.
The Pontifical Missionary Societies, through the work of its missionaries worldwide, often have a direct link to providing education and care - so by supporting Missio Scotland, you play your part in the Universal Church, living out your own personal call to be a missionary (an integral part of our faith) and directly helping the Church to give life and hope to people all over the world.
Missio Scotland is the Scottish branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), the official mission charity of the Church. It is the Pope’s own charity, run by Scotland’s Bishops and it continues the mission of Jesus Christ in the world by reaching out, giving life and calling all people in the world to faith, justice and love. We operate in 180 countries to support initiatives in more than 1100 dioceses on five continents, with a special concern for Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the poorest parts of Latin America and Europe. As an organisation we are active, not re-active, and our services are called upon 365 days a year.
Our work is varied and includes: tending to the poor and disadvantaged peoples of the world; providing shelter and improving living conditions; building hospitals and clinics and providing access to treatment; and building schools and providing access to education.
However one of the things that makes us stand out as a charity is the fact that we not only provide for people’s physical requirements, we also cater to their spiritual needs too. We do this by supporting seminarians, religious and catechists in the missionary dioceses throughout the world, both spiritually and financially. That is particularly important as, in the past, Scotland has sent many priests to missionary dioceses worldwide to bolster the Church there, but now we find ourselves in a situation where we may need the assistance of missionary priests to strengthen the Church here in future. We also assist in building churches and providing Bibles, rosaries and other religious materials to enrich the spiritual lives of people worldwide.
Each of these many strands is as important as the other. Supporting Missio Scotland ( means we can continue to be a source of love, hope and joy for our brothers and sisters in faith for many more years to come.

Image: A Warm Welcome and English Classes (ESOL) at St Aloysius in Glasgow


Anne Macdonald, a retired teacher, learns that there is more than meets the eye to offering refugees and asylum seekers language skills. 

I first learned of the St Aloysius Church’s outreach to refugees and asylum seekers from a parish bulletin. There was an appeal for more volunteers to assist with the English classes for refugees and asylum seekers which had begun in March 2016. I felt I would like to do something and so it was that one morning, I found myself visiting the Ogilvie Centre, just to find out more.

I did not know what to expect but when I went into the hall I found several groups enthusiastically engaged in ‘learning English’. There was then, and continues to be now, great energy, lots of laughter and a cheerfulness that never ceases to amaze me.

I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved, and the following week began what has been for me a very rewarding and engaging experience of trying to accompany, in a practical way, people who find themselves in a new country facing all that comes with being a refugee or asylum seeker – and I have become much more aware of what these challenges are.

A number of our students have had no formal education prior to coming to our ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes. Others have very little or even absolutely no English and there are yet others who are highly educated, may already speak English but need to practise the spoken word. At first, the Ogilvie Centre may be the only place where our students have the chance to really hear and then begin to speak English. We hope that what happens in the classes helps to make their new lives a bit easier.

And for the teachers, it’s interesting to learn first hand something of the many countries, customs and cultures from which our students have come. I have learned a few words of Tigrinya and Arabic. My attempts to say such words are always appreciated and any laughter is always kind! 

One of the lovely things that happens is that some students who have moved on to college still like to visit us occasionally. This is also very encouraging for new students to see. I think my fellow volunteers would all say that the most important thing we can do is to try to ensure that we extend a warm welcome. We want everyone to feel that here is a place where they are truly welcomed, can enjoy a tea or coffee and a chat with others in their own language, and begin to get to grips with a new language and unravel the mysteries of life in Glasgow. 

Some students, particularly the young, are very keen to acquire, and to try out, a bit of Glaswegian.  Occasionally advice is sometimes required as to why “How’s it goin’, big man?” is perhaps not the best greeting in a formal situation!

Teaching English is the main but not the only way our team of volunteers try to help. The welcome is the foundation on which all we try to do is built.

Image: The lonely death of Alan Kurdi


On 2nd September, 2015, Alan Kurdi, a three year old Syrian boy, drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. He and his family were refugees trying to reach Europe. Photographs of his body were diseminated widely and prompted a large international response. This week's blog is a reflection on the third anniversary of Alan's death, written by our Social Justice Coordinator, Danny Sweeney.  

A tiny child lying dead on a beach.
Not the first. Not the last. Nothing remarkable.
But for a few days the world felt a shade more hospitable.
Those who’d ignored, or had not paid attention, felt their hearts go out to one lost Kurdish Syrian.
Shared on social media, pictures for ‘likes’.
Some folk were genuine.  Some just virtue signalling.
Some back with action; give money, give time. “This made me see. Damn!”
Others went back to photos of latte on Instagram.
Those who had spoken in fearful hysteria of “swarms,” “infestations,” “invasions,” stopped to shed their crocodile tears, before going back to their usual headlines, and their policies for fear.
For a hostile environment, there’s paperwork to be done.
How “I was deeply moved” in politics becomes “Let’s move on”.
Gesture politics: let’s do the bare minimum. It shouldn’t hurt our base and may even help us win again. Bring over a few thousand for just a few years, and hope that everyone stops asking. Cheers!
A brief respite in rhetoric, but not for too long; they are still “other,” and we want them gone.
Pay off other governments, not our obligation. “We’re helping where they come from” means “We’ll do anything to stop them being a part of our nation.”
A dinghy, overcrowded, not fit to float, but there’s money to be made. No time to check the life boat.
Alan Kurdi: dead on a morning of fear. Unknown dead still trapped in Syria.
Unknown dead across the Med. Unknown dead under the wheels of European trains and lorries. Unknown beaten in Calais, Dunkirk. If it’s cold, take their shelter. If it’s hot, take their water.
Unknown dead in Yemen. Bombs ‘Made in Britain’. Used by our allies. Please don’t pay attention!
Isaiah prophesied that swords would be turned into ploughares. But there’s profit to be had, and we’ve Brexit to pay for.
Now three years on, and the world has stopped caring. Aid must serve Trade, and the far-right is rising.
Weak politicians plot how to get ahead. We haven’t learnt how to welcome the stranger. And many more are now dead.
Danny Sweeney is Justice and Peace Scotland’s Co-ordinator. He writes here in a personal capacity.
The causes and effects of the current mass displacement of people has not been resolved.

SCIAF ( ) support work with displaced people around the world, including the Rohingya in Bangladesh and those displaced by the war in Syria through the Church’s international organisation Caritas.
Maria Skobtsova Catholic Worker House is a community prayerfully present with and amongst refugees and asylum seekers in Calais in the traditions of the Catholic Worker Movement. .
Refugee Community Kitchen works in both Northern France and the UK to ensure that those who are displaced do not go without food.
Safe Passage exists to help unaccompanied child refugees and vulnerable adults find safe, legal routes to sanctuary.
Scottish Faith Action for Refugees (SFAR) brings together faith communities across Scotland to explore ways to welcome and integrate new Scots into our country, to campaign for the rights and dignity of displaced people, and develop Scotland for future generations.

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