Archbishop Michael Neary celebrates 25th anniversary of the Westport/Aror Partnership
11th November 2007
Archbishop Michael Neary celebrates 25th anniversary of the Westport/Aror Partnership on Sunday 11th November in Westport
“Faith must find expression in action” – Archbishop Neary
I am very happy to join with former fellow students from St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Bishop Cornelius Korir, with the Administrator, Fr. Denis Carney, Fr. Francis Mitchell and Fr. Michael Mannion, in welcoming you all on this historic occasion as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the foundation of the Partnership, Westport/Aror. Westport was way ahead of its time in striking up this partnership with Aror in Kenya. It is one thing to be committed to eradicating poverty on a global map, however this experience of partnership has focused minds in a very special way by putting a human face on poverty and helping the development of the Aror area. This partnership resulted in an awareness which in turn inspired and encouraged people to help with donations.
Schools in the area, primary and post-primary, were introduced to this concept from the very beginning. This was an inspired move and has contributed to the ongoing success of the project. Indeed, the pupils of a quarter of a century ago have now become parents of today and are providing leadership in the community here in Westport, across the country and in far flung areas of the globe. That education process involved in the Westport/Aror Partnership was no mere academic exercise. Modern mobility enabled people like the Chairperson, Michael O’ Donnell, and other members of the community to visit Aror and capture with the candid camera of photographer Liam Lyons the situation in Kenya. As a result students were drawn into the situation from the very beginning. They were not just spectators but were invited through the enthusiasm of visitors from Westport, interacting with the people in Kenya, to identify with the situation.
As Irish people we have been accused of being sprinters rather than long distance runners. By that I mean that we have the energy to put our hearts into a project for a short time but sometimes lack the perseverance which is called upon for sustained effort. Those who provided and continue to provide leadership for this project recognised the temptation and so they encouraged frequent visits to capture the progress and keep the challenge before us.
It was not all one way traffic. Those who had gone to Kenya returned having savoured the culture and renewed the challenge to all at home. Great credit is due to the teachers for the way in which they so enthusiastically and energetically encouraged the awareness and participation.
The approach taken in this situation has influenced other parishes throughout the country to adopt a similar approach. Through the Westport/Aror Partnership we will never know the extent to which the generosity of the people of Westport has contributed to improving the quality of life for people in Kenya. There is another side to this however. Without this partnership I am convinced that we at home would be all the poorer, inclined to focus on ourselves and refuse to look to and address situations of need. This partnership has contributed to greater social awareness which in our culture today is very welcome. The Partnership is 25 years in existence, making it the longest established such initiative in Ireland. In fact, Westport has one of the highest rates of Irish contribution to the developing world per head of population.
As we celebrate the Silver Jubilee of this Partnership today we remember that 160 years ago the people of Ireland and the people of Mayo in particular were struggling to cope with devastation left by the famine, when the countryside was littered with death and with memories of the coffin ships. Conscious of our past and recognising the prosperity which we enjoy today, we rejoice in the challenge provided by the Westport/Aror Partnership.
The readings of today’s Mass have been appropriately chosen to highlight what we celebrate today. The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah underlines the need for justice and compassion, sharing our bread with the hungry and sheltering the homeless poor. This was the real test of religious faith for the Israelites and the challenge for us today. In the second reading St. James sums it up very succinctly “faith must find expression in action which is truly and genuinely compassionate in nature as it reaches out to those who are less well off”. Taken with the gospel reading from the Sermon on the Mount, the challenge is strong, blunt and uncompromising. The faith which we celebrate on this anniversary is a tough faith, a faith that does justice, where compassion is wed to competition, intelligence to love, wealth to wisdom and power to service. As we look back over 25 years we celebrate men and women who prefer giving to getting, people who have been inspired, challenged and transformed by the Eucharist, where Jesus Christ gives us himself, enabling us in turn to reach out to others.
It is a great privilege to extend a very warm welcome and to join with Bishop Cornelius Korir in giving thanks to God for what has been achieved through the people of God, here in Westport and in Aror. We will never know what has been achieved through the grace of God, motivating, sustaining and supporting the people of Westport in their generous and gospel-driven mission outreach to Aror and Kenya.
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan Communications Officer (086 817 5674)