A joint Anglican-Roman Catholic delegation visited southern Malawi last week to celebrate the success of an ecumenical scholarship programme started last year by the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mangochi. The St Timothy Scholarship Programme was launched in September 2017 as a direct response to the Common Declaration of Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at San Gregorio al Celio in Rome on 5 October 2016. The two leaders commissioned and sent out 19 pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops to work together in collaborative mission and witness to the “ends of the earth” to give voice to their common faith in Jesus Christ. The programme has been warmly endorsed by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).
The programme, which is funded by offshore donors and managed jointly by the two dioceses, provides scholarships to enable children from the poorest families to attend residential secondary schools run by the dioceses on an all expenses paid basis. The €600 (Euro, approximately £530 GBP) scholarships cover tuition fees, room and board, school uniforms, school shoes, athletic wear, stationery, toiletries, bedding, school bag, scientific instruments and a travel allowance funding the student’s cost of travelling from home to school and return by public transport at the beginning and end of each school term.
Mathilde Nkwirikiye (right) chats with the grandmother of one of the recipients of a St Timothy Scholarship.
Photo: Cristiano Barbarossa
For the academic year commencing September 2017, a total of 558 applications were received for the 40 scholarships. The scholarship winners had a gender-equal balance: 20 girls and 20 boys who are each attending one of four residential secondary schools run by the two dioceses.
On the initiative of delegation members Kenneth and Fawn White, a new charity called the “Walking Together Foundation” has been formed to raise funds to continue the Malawi scholarship programme and for future ecumenical projects that may be initiated by other pairs of bishops anywhere in the world.
The delegation of eight included Archbishop David Moxon, Anglican Co-Chairman of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC); Father Keith Pecklers SJ, Director of the Caravita Community in Rome, Professor of Liturgy at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Professor of Liturgical History at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute; and Mathilde Nkwirikiye, the internationally recognised human rights lawyer, whose husband Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi is Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See.
The delegation was welcomed by Bishop Brighton Vitta Malasa of the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire and Bishop Montfort Stima of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mangochi, whose ecumenical partnership gave rise to the scholarship programme. The delegation visited the schools, presented medals to the scholarship winners and visited some of the scholarship winners’ homes. At the end of the four day visit, an ecumenical prayer service was held at the chapel of the Chilema Ecumenical Centre at which stoles were presented to the bishops in recognition of their strong commitment to ecumenism and the success the scholarship programme has achieved since its introduction last year.