West Country charity reaches out to friends in South Pacific

  • Mike MacLachlan

Staff at a British Catholic charity were baffled when a handwritten letter arrived from a remote parish in the South Pacific Solomon Islands seeking help to build a new church.

With no internet access how could the parish priest have got their address, in Cirencester, an English country town. And how could he know his request was exactly what they specialise in, which is implied in their name: SPICMA - Special Projects in Christian Missionary Areas.

Now, with the building complete and the new St Mark's Church soon to be re-consecrated they have the answer. It's all because a bishop was elevated to archbishop.

St Mark's is in the village of Fote in the diocese of Auki on Malaika island. The bishop of Auki, an American Dominican missionary, Chris Cardone OP, had been appointed archbishop of Honiara, the Solomons capital.

About to move, he threw out a cache of old magazines.

"It is not only by mistake I picked one up," said Fr Albert Kalu, the parish priest, "but by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."

In the magazine he found a reference to the work of SPICMA, an entirely voluntary charity founded 50 years ago to assist poor parishes such as his. Moreover, it gave the charity's address.

"Knowing our rural situation and so sympathizing with our struggling community," he thought, such a charity should be able to help.

So he wrote asking for a grant to rebuild St Mark's, previously a timber and attap hut built in 1976. The charity gave £16,000 which has helped to provide a brisk-built church with glazed windows accommodating 300 worshippers which "will serve our community for 100 years," said Fr Kalu.

The ceremony to re-consecrate the new St Mark's will take place in December. And Fr Kalu has invited SPICMA to attend.

Read more about SPICMA here: www.spicma.org

Tags: SPICMA, Malaika, Archbishop Chris Cardone OP, Solomon Islands

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