I am delighted to be present at this Gathering for Africa.

I congratulate the Armagh Tigers on their courageous and ambitious decision to aim at supplying missionary workers with 50 vehicles.  I commend their leader, Dean Hetherington and Kieran McAnallen on their splendid leadership of this project.

I am delighted that the business community – led by Raymond and Terence Donnelly of Donnelly Brothers, Dungannon have responded so magnificently to this challenge.  When I told a lady yesterday evening what was happening she said:  “Isn’t that fabulous”.  I can barely imagine how those people who are going to benefit will sing and dance for joy they hear this good news.

I have been to Africa twice – visiting Nigeria and Rwanda and Kenya.  I went to Nigeria for the priestly ordination of ten missionaries.  The celebration lasted almost four hours.  I guess the celebration of the arrival of 50 jeeps will last at least four more!

This has been a good week for mission and missionaries.  On Tuesday, Mayor Thomas O’Hanlon gave a Reception to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Foundation of the Apostolic Workers in Armagh.  The Apostolic Workers have been sending supplies to mission fields in Africa for the past 70 years.  Last year they presented a jeep ambulance to Father Thom Marley of Ballyhegan.
I think that the people of Armagh will be glad to know that these jeeps are going to Tanzania – to a diocese established 60 years ago under the leadership of Bishop Eugene Arthurs of Keady – brother of the last Gerry Arthurs of Ulster GAA fame.

There are more than a million people in the area.  It is an area about one third the size of Ireland – the late Father Jackie Reid worked there for many years and so also did Father Gerry Cunningham. 

Tyrone is also well represented in this effort, led by Father Frank Quinn of Ardboe.  Father Frank assures me that the jeeps will be used in the areas of health care, education and rural development. 

They will be used to bring hope in the form of vital medicines, essential food, seeds, fertilizers, and livestock to some of the poorest of the poor on the poorest continent in the world.  This really is a fabulous idea and I hope that it will spur on the rest of us to ask:  How can we help?

I was in St. Kieran’s School, Ballygawley earlier this year and I saw there the amazing work which they are doing to help Father P J Gormley of the SMA Fathers on his African mission.

There are many other local missionaries who work tirelessly on the mission fields:

Sister Joanne Kelly, MMM from the Grange – celebrated her Golden Jubilee this year at home and then returned to carry on the good work.

Sister Zoe O’Neill – Daughters of Charity organises help for Ethiopia, a country which is currently in the news because of its dire plight.

Father Seamus O’Reilly is in Zambia

Father Leo Traynor from Ballygawley is in Nigeria

Father Vivian Ferran Pallotine Fathers, also from Dungannon is in the Philiphines.

Sister Carmel Flynn, Sacred Heart Sister, from Armagh is currently in Uganda and have previously worked in Kenya.  Sister Flynn has also been instrumental in organising young people from St Catherine’s College, to undertake Aid work under the Kenya-HUG Scheme.

Father Michael Sinnott is in the news these days.  He is the Wexford born Columban Missionary, kidnapped in the Philippines, in recent weeks.  He is 79 years of age and in poor health and left without medicines that are important for his survival.  I ask your prayers for his well-being. 

His story and that of Sharon Commins, from Dublin, the GOAL Aid Worker, released in Darfur last Sunday, are powerful reminders of how all these people work on the mission fields at great personal risk and danger.