This incredible charitable initiative reminds Christians of our missionary calling.
Lionel “Leo” Messi is a world-famous footballer (or soccer player, if you’re in the United States). Originally from Argentina, he currently plays with the Spanish club Barcelona and with the Argentina national team. As a celebrity, there’s little that isn’t known about his life, but it turns out he still has a few surprises up his sleeve.
This week it was revealed that, through his foundation, he pays for daily breakfast for 15,000 children in Mozambique. As the breakfast is served at school, this meal is also an incentive for them to attend and receive an education.
All this is coordinated by an Argentinean missionary, Fr. Juan Gabriel Arias, who has been working in Mozambique for years. Fr. Arias is the parish priest at the parish of San Benedict in Magundze, 150 miles from Maputo, the capital, and 22 miles from Xai Xai, the capital of the province of Gaza.
Malnutrition and illiteracy
The children have to travel several kilometers to attend the region’s school, and in the past this led to a high rate of illiteracy. They also faced a much more serious problem: The area suffers prolonged periods of drought, which results in a lack of food. The children, as the missionary himself explained, sometimes only have enough food for one meal every day and a half.
The breakfast campaign of the Leo Messi Foundation ensures that 15,000 children from 40 schools receive food daily and attend school. It’s a direct way to contribute to the improvement of the country, which is among the poorest in the world.
It was only going to be 3 months of mission work …
Fr. Arias is highly regarded in the region. He arrived there with 6 other priests for a 3-month mission and, as he humorously describes his own experience in third person, “his mind was blown and he fell in love with the people of the country.” Those who know him send support from other countries and continents. This has given rise to initiatives such as selling masks sewn with Mozambican printed fabrics to raise funds for Fr. Arias’ work.
The Messi Foundation’s campaign has a stable commitment. It has been contributing to the “School Breakfast Program” since the 2016-2017 school year and the agreement is renewed annually. If you’d like to follow the foundation, Fr. Juan Gabriel Arias shares news about his work on his Twitter account.
This month of October has been declared an Extraordinary Mission Month by the Vatican. The Leo Messi Foundation’s initiative is one of the many projects that make it possible to sustain the many missions of the Catholic Church around the world. It’s a call for us to make our own personal contribution with prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, each person according to his or her abilities.