The pope’s special envoy in the pilgrimage town of Medjugorje has praised the work of Mary’s Meals at a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated in honour of the charity.
Archbishop Henryk Hoser extolled the “extraordinary work” of Mary’s Meals and invited worshippers to pray for all those involved with the charity, which sets up school feeding programmes to help change the lives of hungry and impoverished children in 17 countries around the world.
Archbishop Hoser was appointed Apostolic Visitor for Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, by Pope Francis in February 2017. The special Mass at St James’ Church in Medjugorje was concelebrated with Bishop John Keenan, of the Diocese of Paisley.
In his homily, Archbishop Hoser said: “Among many charitable organisations today we are celebrating an extraordinary work, the work of Mary’s Meals.
“Their action translates into more than one million meals a day; a true banquet of love, of sacrifice, of justice and, above all, of mercy! We pray that their presence in Medjugorje will emphasise that the source of life rises from the Sacred Heart of Christ and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
More than 100 representatives from across the Mary’s Meals global family attended the Mass, including supporters, volunteers, and staff from the UK, Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Slovenia and Switzerland.
They had travelled to Medjugorje to join the charity’s founder and global chief executive, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, for a pilgrimage to the Marian town where Mary’s Meals has its roots.
Archbishop Hoser received a warm welcome at the charity’s information centre in Medjugorje, which is housed within a repurposed shipping container. He met with many members of the Mary’s Meals global family and was shown a historical timeline that charts key moments in the Mary’s Meals story.
With him was Bishop Keenan, who travelled to Medjugorje for the first time to join the celebrations.
Bishop Keenan said: “I was very glad that my first experience of Medjugorje was at the invitation of Mary’s Meals, in order to bless the new centre. We gathered here as a family; Mary’s Meals supporters from Croatia, from the Czech Republic, from Spain, from Italy, from Bosnia-Herzegovina, from Austria, from Scotland and some from Ireland as well.
“As the Mary’s Meals movement grows bigger, there is this sense of the need to return to the source – the wellspring of Mary’s Meals. Therefore, the new Mary’s Meals centre locates itself in Medjugorje where everything began. It allows many people from different countries to be introduced to Mary’s Meals and hopefully take the movement back to their own countries.”
Mary’s Meals began feeding just 200 children in Malawi in 2002. Today, the charity reaches more than 1.3 million vulnerable children in some of the world’s poorest communities with nutritious daily school meals.
The guarantee of a meal encourages children – who might otherwise skip lessons to work, beg or scavenge for food – to come to school and helps them to focus on their studies, so they can gain a basic education that provides an escape route from poverty.
Mr MacFarlane-Barrow said: “I am deeply grateful for the words of encouragement spoken by Archbishop Hoser and Bishop Keenan during these days in Medjugorje. It is always a blessing to return here to where our work began, to remind ourselves why we do this work in the name of Our Blessed Mother and why we call it a fruit of Medjugorje and, of course, to pray for our work.
“I am so grateful, too, for all those who gathered with us from so many different countries in order to thank God and to ask Him to continue to bless the work of our hands. These days were full of joy and we can’t wait to come back next year!”
Those involved in the first Mary’s Meals projects were all people whose lives had been changed by pilgrimages to Medjugorje. It was decided, therefore, to name the organisation in honour of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who brought up her own child in poverty.
Even today, people often hear about the work of Mary’s Meals for the first time while visiting Medjugorje. Pilgrims gather at the Mary’s Meals shipping container at Street Pape Ivana Pavla 29B to find out more about the charity’s mission and many choose to fast and pray for the work of Mary’s Meals.
Picture: Archbishop Hoser meets Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow. (Mary’s Meals).