15 February 2012
The Columban Mission’s outreach to the marginalised last Christmas included donating 800 Columban Calendars to prisoners around New Zealand through Catholic prison chaplains.
While 2012 marks the 90th edition of the Columban Calendar, Mission Coordinator, Fr Michael Gormly, says the prison initiative is just one example of the many ways the Mission connects with those who are on the fringes of society.
‘An essential element of our missionary commitment is to stand in solidarity with the marginalised members of the community and to announce the good news of Jesus Christ,’ he says. ‘The Columban Calendar is something immediate and accessible and allows people to respond to Jesus in their own way.’
National Senior Catholic Prison Chaplain, Greg Murphy, says the calendars encourage prisoners to make a connection with chaplains.
‘When chaplains enter a prison, they don’t know the faith backgrounds of the prisoners. I have found that the calendars encourage prisoners to come forward and ask if I’m a Catholic chaplain, which begins a dialogue.’
Wellington Catholic prison chaplains, Jackie Jansen, Brother Kieran Garvey OFMCap and Sr Marie Roche RSJ have experienced similar responses from prisoners.
‘The calendars are something prisoners can keep and call their own. They are a way of reaching those who don’t have a faith background and also inviting in those who have lost touch with their faith,’ says Mr Jansen.
Brother Garvey says the calendars are ‘a way for prisoners to reconnect with their pasts and with God.’
For Sr Marie the calendars provide a ‘gentle reconnection’ for prisoners who, she believes, are often treated as ‘modern day lepers’.
‘Prisoners are grateful for the calendars and many save them or request particular pictures from previous editions,’ she says. ‘The art work in the calendars is beautiful and each picture tells a story. If nothing else, the calendars add colour to otherwise bare cell walls.’
Fr Michael says the Columban Calendar has been a feature in homes and classrooms for generations of Kiwis.
‘For 90 years calendar sales have been a major fundraiser for our mission projects across the world. It may be a simple Christmas gift to family and friends, but each calendar sold helps make a difference,’ he says.
The Columban Mission also provides prayer cards and booklets for different occasions and runs various projects and fundraising appeals to help people in need. These can include victims of natural disasters, wars, political turmoil and poverty.