Mrs Mary Good has revealed the name of her successor as Diocesan President of Mothers’ Union in Derry and Raphoe. Jacqui Armstrong was announced as the incoming President at a reception following the annual MU Festival Service in St Eunan’s Cathedral, Raphoe, on Wednesday evening.
It was an historic occasion for the Mothers’ Union and for the parish, with the Service taking place in Raphoe for the first time ever. Fears that stormy weather on the morning of the Festival Service might affect attendance proved groundless. The church was filled to the capacity with members from more than two dozen branches – extending from Castlerock in the North East to Drumholm in the South West – who processed into and out of the cathedral holding their banners proudly aloft.
The worship was led by the Dean of Raphoe, Very Revd Arthur Barrett, assisted by the Diocesan Mothers’ Union Chaplain, Revd Canon Harold Given. During the Service, the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Revd Ken Good, commissioned three new officers – Roberta Merrick as Social Policy Contact; Ruth Baxter as an Area Secretary; and Janet Kennedy as an Enterprise Representative. Bishop Good said each office carried great responsibility, because the Mothers’ Union was a worldwide society within the Church, with special concern for all that strengthened and preserved marriage and Christian family life.
The Preacher was the All Ireland Mothers’ Union Chaplain, Very Revd Raymond Ferguson, who described it as a joy and a privilege to be taking part in “this joyful Festival Service”. He said he, too, was coming to the end of his stint as All Ireland Chaplain, and that he couldn’t help feeling a little nostalgic as he looked back at his years in the role, and feeling thankful for all the places he had been and all the wonderful, Christian people that he had met through Mothers’ Union.
“Our motto for the year,” Dean Ferguson said, “is ‘in Mary Sumner’s footsteps’. It is useful in helping us not only to remember our founder, Mary Sumner, but – extending that principle as we remember Mary and her footsteps – we’re being given leave to remember all those who have gone before us in faith and in Mothers’ Union down through the years.
“As you come from your various branches this evening, there will be those who you will be remembering, those whom you have known in your time and your years in the Mothers’ Union, those in Mothers’ Union who have focused their prayers and their Christian influence upon home and upon family life – a very, very necessary ministry. They have kept those branches alive over the years, and they have handed on the ministry – they have handed on that vision to you – today’s members of Mothers’ Union. And the fact that we remember them – Mary Sumner yes, but a whole host of others – and give thanks for them, is an encouragement to us to make Mothers’ Union relevant and to hand on enhanced what has been passed on to us.
“That idea of handing on something very precious – that idea of following in footsteps – finds an echo in the Scriptures. For example, I’m thinking of the apostle Paul and he’s deeply conscious of it, or so it seems to me, when he writes to the Corinthians about the authenticity of the message that he’s presenting to them. 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says, ‘For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance’. He received it from those who went before him. He has lived it and enjoyed it and he’s passing it on to those who come after him. He goes on in that same passage to give a very early Christian creed, summing up the Gospel message which can save their souls. It’s good, this evening, to have all those positive and thankful thoughts as we take part in a Service like this and it’s good to be conscious, too, of that unity between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven, as we think of those in whose footsteps we follow.”
After the Service, most of the congregation made their way to the parish hall, about 100 metres away, for refreshments prepared by the ladies of the parish. They heard Mrs Good thank all who had taken part in the Service, including the clergy, the readers and the Mothers’ Union choir, who were in fine voice. Mrs Good also thanked the Mark Ferguson band, who provided music for the Service, and the preacher, whose sermon she described as “inspiring”. Dean Ferguson is the father of both Mark Ferguson and the Revd Peter Ferguson, who also took part in the Service, prompting Mrs Good to describe it as “a real family occasion”.
Two awards were presented this year: the Helen Livingston Vase for Programmes (which was judged by May Boyd) was received by Pearl Scott on behalf of the Parish of Clondevaddock; and the Prize for Overseas Giving was awarded to the Parish of Drumholm and collected by Corrie Crawford.