On Tuesday 26th June at the grand ecclesiastical setting of Gorton Friary (Monastery) CAFOD Salford and CAFOD Shrewsbury, with the support of CAFOD Head Office and the Romero Trust, welcomed two valued CAFOD partners to share their experiences with supporters from across the two dioceses.
Sister Pascalina Elinor Mambwe from Zambia and Fr Andreu Oliva de la Esperanza SJ from El Salvador shared their stories of working in partnership with CAFOD. Sr Pascalina spoke first and she talked of her work in the cities of Livingston and Lusaka where her Congregation, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi, help care for those living with and affected by HIV & AIDS. In Livingston poverty is forcing many women to resort to prostitution with obvious health consequences. Here CAFOD funds programmes which help train people to care for others suffering with the effects of HIV & AIDS and to support children orphaned through AIDS. Sr Pascalina also highlighted the problems of poverty in the mining areas of Zambia, where thousands migrate to look for work. However, work is much scarcer than people think and often families of six are often left living off less than $1 per day.
Sr Pascalina was born in Chingola in Zambia, but was brought up in Mufulira where she completed her primary and secondary education. She is one of five children, having one brother and three sisters, who are all very much alive. Upon completion of her secondary education in 1983 she decided to join the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi (International Congregation). In January 1986 Sr Pascalina took her first vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience and she was posted to Lusaka, where she worked as an untrained pre-school teacher and youth worker in the local parish. Later that year she was transferred to Luanshya to work as an untrained social worker in two shanty compounds. Then in 1987 she went to Cheshire Homes in Ndola to work as an untrained teacher with physically challenged girls. Sister completed her primary teacher training at Charles Lwanga College of Education in 1990 and went on to teach at many different primary schools in Zambia. She completed further studies in secondary teaching at NISTICOL College in Lusaka obtaining a Diploma in Secondary Teaching (Mathematics & RE). Sr Pascalina was then posted to Kabompo, a rural district in the North Western Province, where she was appointed Community Superior and taught at Chiweza Basic School. In this role Sr Pascalina managed to motivate many local children to complete their secondary education having raised funding with the help of her fellow sisters for children’s schooling. Some of these children have become teachers, nurses, nuns and priests.
The assembled CAFOD supporters then had the pleasure of listening to the experiences of Fr Andreu Oliva, a Jesuit priest originally from Catalonia in Spain. Fr Andreu is the President and Vice-Chancellor of the Jose Simeon Canas Central American University (UCA) in El Salvador. The UCA is a university with a strong social ethos, dedicated to tackling poverty and injustice and building a better society for the benefit of all Salvadorans. CAFOD supports several of its social outreach programmes, including the human rights institute (IDHUCA), the Monsignor Romero Theology Centre and the radio station (YSUCA). These help present an alternative view of the country’s social, economic and political situation. The UCA is proactive in developing policy proposals which aim to influence government policy and achieve greater peace, social justice and more equal opportunities for the whole population. Fr Andreu also shared how he first came to work with CAFOD in 1989 just before the terrible events of 16th November 1989, when the work of UCA on justice and peace cost the life of six of its directors and two support staff, who were brutally murdered by the army of El Salvador during the civil war. The spirit and courage of its martyrs continues to inspire the UCA’s work today.
Fr Andreu’s has a large family who live in Barcelona. After graduating as an industrial engineer, he joined the Society of Jesus in 1987 and studied Theology, Philosophy and Humanities in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He has a wealth of experience in different types of programmes including rural livelihoods, micro-finance, humanitarian assistance and post-emergency house building. He has participated in many CAFOD-supported programmes, through his leadership of different partner organisations across Central America, and is a member of our Advisory Council for the region.
After having fielded questions from the audience, Fr Andreu blessed some Romero Crosses, which he then handed out to the supporters for them to take away as a reminder of their solidarity with their sisters and brothers in Central America. During the question and answer session is was noted how visiting partners, like Fr Andreu and Sr Pascalina, form a vital bridge between the people of El Salvador and Zambia and the supporters of CAFOD here in England and Wales. The “traffic” over that bridge is two-way enriching both us here in England and Wales and the people of El Salvador and Zambia.
The guest speakers and supporters were then treated to a very english afternoon cream-tea, where everybody enjoyed creamed scones and a piece of CAFOD 50th Anniversary birthday cake! Sue Bownas, CAFOD Shrewsbury Diocesan Manager, thanked our guest speakers for sharing their experiences of working in partnership with CAFOD and the supporters for attending. Later some supporters took the chance to see the splendid interior of the Edward Welby Pugin designed church of St Francis which was built in the 1860’s by the friars themselves, with a brother acting as clerk of works!