Due to the coronavirus pandemic the September edition of Flourish is not being printed and is available in digital form only. You can read selected stories online on this page or download a PDF of the whole paper.

I was a stranger and you made me welcome … or did you?

Archbishop joins Pope in call for refugee aid

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Refugees

Tragedy of Mercy

Young mum dies after leave to remain expires
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Church

Netta’s golden thread of sacred art

Embroidered pulpit fall was lockdown project
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Visiting priests

Visa rules threaten bonds of faith and friendship

Fr Raphael explains implications of UK Government’s new rules
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Urgent appeal

The current emergency means our churches have had to close, but costs remain and some parishes are in a difficult situation. If your own circumstances allow it, please consider helping us by donating £5 during this worrying time. The Archdiocese has set up a system whereby you can simply text RCARCHGLA to 70085 to donate £5. Please share this emergency donation option with others, especially those who may be anxious because they normally contribute to their parish through collection envelopes. Those who use collection envelopes are asked to continue to place donations in these and deliver them to the local parish after the emergency has passed.

I was a stranger and you made me welcome … or did you?

Archbishop joins Pope in call for refugee aid

Archbishop Tartaglia has echoed Pope Francis in calling for a new attention to the plight of refugees.

Speaking out after the death in Glasgow of asylum seeker Mercy Baguma, discovered lying next to her starving baby, the Archbishop described her death as “beyond shocking”.

The Archbishop added: “While details are lacking, the very least that can be said is that Glasgow, Scotland and the UK needs to be much more attentive to the plight of asylum seekers and make sure that they have a home, sufficient benefits and access to employment.”

Under current UK Government rules asylum seekers are not allowed to work – a policy which has been widely condemned as leading to destitution, homelessness, isolation and negative health outcomes.

Archbishop Tartaglia said: “We need to take care of them better and give them some hope for the future.”

His words echo those of Pope Francis who has written a letter to the whole Church on the issue which is carried in this month’s edition of Flourish (see centre pages).

In it the Holy Father says: “When we talk about migrants and displaced persons, all too often we stop at statistics. But it is not about statistics, it is about real people! If we encounter them, we will get to know more about them. And knowing their stories, we will be able to understand them. We will be able to understand, for example, that the precariousness that we have come to experience as a result of this pandemic is a constant in the lives of displaced people.”

As a sign of the priority the Church places on outreach to refugees and asylum seekers, the last Sunday of this month has been designated by the Pope as World Day of Prayer for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

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Tragedy of Mercy

Mercy Baguma

Full of hope for her future in Scotland , Ugandan-born asylum seeker Mercy Baguma smiles confidently at the camera.

Life was good.

She was the proud mother of a year-old son, living in a flat with good neighbours, friends and a job she loved.

Weeks after this picture was taken she died a lonely and wretched death in her Govan flat lying next next to her malnourished son. His anguished cries alerted neighbours who called the police.

As a Home Office inquiry continues into the tragedy, which police say is unexplained but not suspicious, campaigners are in no doubt as to what led to her death.

Robina Qureshi, director of the refugee charity Positive Action in Housing said that Mercy lived in ‘extreme poverty’ after losing her job after when her right to work in the UK expired.

Ms Qureshi said: “Why are mothers and babies being left to go hungry in this city, and why is it being left to charities and volunteers to pick up the pieces?”

She added: “Would this mother be alive if she was not forced out of her job by this cruel system that stops you from working and paying your way because a piece of paper says your leave to remain has expired?”

Ms Baguma’s death was the latest tragedy to hit Glasgow’s refugee community in less than four months.

At the start of May, a 30-year-old Syrian refugee, Adnan Walid Elbi, was found dead in rented accommodation in the city.

Glasgow City Council’s convenor for equalities and human rights, Jen Layden, said: “The tragic death of a young mum is devastating and my heart goes out to Mercy’s family and friends – including her young son – at this sad time.”

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Visa rules threaten bonds of faith and friendship

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Fr Raphael with parishioners of St Gabriel’s in 2017
Pictures by Paul McSherry

The past years have seen priests, both diocesan and religious, many of whom are staff of seminaries or houses of formation, and some others who hold various posts of responsibility in their dioceses, selflessly giving themselves to the success of the apostolate in other lands.

When the seminaries are closed between July and September it allows such lecturers and others to come to the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, to take a holiday from their actual assignment/mission in Africa.

Summer Clergy supply thus becomes a type of exchange whereby such African priests lend a helping hand to priests in Europe, who may also need to take a holiday, without depriving their parishioners of pastoral care and the continuation of spiritual programs in the parish.

However, summer 2019 saw the non-arrival of these summer supply priests because of the changes in the immigration policy of the UK. It prevented them coming as the familiar process of coming into the UK with the Tier 5 short stay religious worker visa was nullified.

The new policy demanded that supply priests must have a new “Tier 2” visa whose process includes taking an International English Language Testing exam, the submission of more documents, the payment of more visa processing fees, and the acquiring of and presentation of a certificate of sponsorship from the diocese inviting the priest.

The situation was further complicated by the UK’s move towards Brexit which has now been done and is moving towards its full implementation with the enforcement of a break from the European Union.

To be eligible to make application for the visa now required, one needs to have a certificate of sponsorship, prove one’s knowledge of English, usually by taking the IELTS exam pass an approved English language test in reading, writing, speaking and listening or having an academic qualification taught in English recognised by the UK Government as being equivalent to a UK Bachelors’ degree, Master’s degree or PhD.

Other requirements for eligibility are having a personal savings account so the applicant can support himself on arrival in the UK; presenting evidence to show one can travel and one’s travel history over the last 5 years and making available the officially-approved certificate testifying the result of a tuberculosis test!

In addition, a visiting priest is also required to pay a healthcare surcharge of £1200 and obtain a three year visa at a cost of £1220 as well as find £160 for the language exam.

However, it is worth stating that each opportunity to come to do summer supply in Glasgow has been a great blessing, a delightful time, and an opportunity to learn from and share with great people.

It becomes even more special when, at the end of the supply, one hears cheerful and appreciative people saying ‘Haste ye back!’

You begin to dream then of your next visit and are energised to return to work in Africa having had a great experience. The summer thus becomes one of mutual benefit for both the priests on summer supply and the Church in Scotland, all done for the greater glory of God.

We African priests look forward therefore, to a new opportunity to once again be able to share more of this fabulous and electrifying experiences with you all in Glasgow.

We hope the visa process will be made less cumbersome, though without leaving room for any form of security risk.

Long live Glasgow! Long live Africa! Long live the Holy Catholic Church!

Father Raphael Igbao­yinbo is a priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul of Nigeria based in the Archdiocese of Abuja which has a Catholic population of around half a million and is the country’s capital. He has a PhD in Liturgy and is a Professor of liturgy for the Missionary Society which has 300 priests worldwide. During his frequent visits to Glasgow he has served as a supply priest in a number of parishes including St Gabriel’s Merrylee and St Patrick’s Dumbarton.

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Netta’s golden thread of sacred art

Picture by Paul McSherry

This magnificent embroidered pulpit fall, rich in religious imagery and inspired by Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, has been created in lockdown by one of the country’s foremost designers for the Glasgow church where she has worshipped for many years.

Parishioners will now be able to admire it for themselves following the re-opening of churches which have been closed for public worship since the middle of March due to the Covid pandemic.

Netta Ewing, founder of the Glasgow-based Sacred Threads Embroidery Guild whose impressive body of work adorns churches and other religious buildings throughout Scotland, presented her unique creation to Monsignor Gerry Fitzpatrick, parish priest of St Leo the Great, Dumbreck where she has been a parishioner for almost 20 years.

And during his live streamed lockdown Masses from the church house at St Leo’s Monsignor Fitzpatrick could been seen on occasions wearing the richly decorated detached orphrey over his chasuble which is one of scores made by Netta and her dedicated team over the years and worn bypriests throughout the diocese and beyond.

Working most days since lockdown began in mid March, Netta took a full three months to painstakingly complete the 52inch long embroidery whose subject matter was first inspired during a retreat last year at Craig Lodge, Dalmally in Argyll.

Netta said “The elongated Christ figure was inspired by ancient cave paintings in the Utah desert. I made lots of sketches last year during a few days quiet at Craig Lodge and returned to them again when I decided to use my time during lock down to make the pulpit fall – like most creative people I hate being idle.

“Usually I design the embroidery and pass it on to the members of the guild to complete but for obvious reasons this time I did both design and embroidery myself.

“The colours of the pulpit fall are divided between earth and sky and the earth colours represent us. Though dark, yet we are capable of creating rainbows.

“Christ rises, carrying our sins - our darkness. He has his back to us, facing the light of Heaven.

“I have added an inscription in the bottom left which can only be seen in close up. It is written in 2nd century Aramaic – the language Jesus spoke – and it reads: ‘Jesus Christ. He is Risen’ and then quotes his promise: “I will not leave you orphans, I will send the Comforter…”

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