Missioning Magis

June 7, 2011 in General, News

magis_01On 29 May St Francis Xavier’s church, Gardiner Street, hosted a Gospel Choir Missioning Mass for young members of Magis Ireland, their families and friends. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin sent them forth to a range of ministries: parish work in Jamaica, a building project in South Africa, developing health facilities in rural Zambia. Some of them will join the Crescent graduates walking the Camino de Santiago. Young apprentice-solicitors from the Arthur Cox office (read the fuller story below), and 6th year students from Jesuit schools, will join the project, which draws some 130 young people to work for others. Other companions from over 40 countries, from China to Venezuela, will gather in Loyola, Spain, to participate in the Ignatian MAGiS programme ahead of the World Youth Day in Madrid. Read more

In July 2011 17 trainee solicitor volunteers plus an associate of the company and Tony O’Riordan SJ will travel to Zambia as part of the Magis Ireland International volunteering programmes. They are following in the footsteps of many others, especially the founder of the firm, a Jesuit-educated priest. The project brings faith and social justice alive in a real way. The volunteers live and camp among the local village of Masese in the Western Province of Zambia, and they truly immerse themselves in the local culture and liturgy. Together they do practical building and community work that has a lasting impact on the life of the local communities. Over the 3 years that they have gone to Zambia, the volunteers have renovated a rural health clinic, installed solar panels and electricity for the first time, and drilled a water bore and provided running water in the clinic, again a first. In addition they have visited and supported work in a local school, an agricultural project, an orphanage and a mission hospital. At all times, in the best Ignatian tradition, there are opportunities for reflection on the work in the light of the Gospel. Importantly, the local community are heavily involved in responding to their own needs. For the Irish group, they are opened to deep rooted values that continue well after their return home. The background to this project is twofold. Firstly, the background of the Arthur Cox connection and, secondly the links with the communities in Zambia.

The  history of Arthur Cox, the person and the firm, accounts in large part for the relationship that has developed between the firm and Magis Ireland (formerly Slí Eile). Arthur Cox was educated by the Jesuits in Belvedere College in the early part of the last century. As with many other students from Belvedere, he went on to become a leading figure in the political and legal world of the time. He set up the Arthur Cox legal firm and he was instrumental in giving legal advice in formulating the Irish Constitution, such was his standing and professionalism. He was married but had no children. When his wife died, he left the legal world, and at the ripe age of 67  he studied for the diocesan priesthood. Because of his links with and love for the Jesuits, he chose to work in the Jesuit mission of Zambia. After just 3 short years in Zambia, he was killed in a car accident. He is buried in Zambia.

The firm that Arthur Cox has left as his legacy is thriving, and is among the top legal firms in Ireland with about 550 employees in its Dublin office. It also has offices in Belfast, London and New York. The firm has a strong trainee programme that continues to give access to approximately 30 young trainee solicitors each year. It is from this base that the project began. In early 2008, a group of trainees wanted to do some voluntary work  overseas. They were conscious of the history and legacy of their founder, so they approached Slí Eile, now Magis Ireland: could we link up as volunteers with a project in Zambia?  The immediate connection of the Jesuit link and the desire to return to Zambia was attractive to restore the connection that had existed with the firm’s founder, Arthur Cox. After the project was established with the first group in 2008, Magis Ireland met with members of the Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) committee in Arthur Cox1 and the details of the project and the relationship between the two organisations was developed further. There have been a number of meetings since then and agreement has been reached to continue the relationship with a robust commitment to the project. The CSR committee have since engaged in local volunteering support with other Irish charities, in particular with Special Olympics Ireland and St Vincent De Paul. The spirit of volunteering shown by the first group of trainees in Zambia has engendered a wider culture of ‘giving back’ within the whole firm. Whilst this had existed on an ad hoc basis, it has recently taken on a more structured and cohesive format. The Zambian connection

Magis Ireland have been running an overseas project in Lusaka, Zambia for many years and at the time the trainees enquired, the selection process and training had already commenced for that year’s project. It was decided to look
for an alternative project in Zambia  if possible. In May 2008, a new lay Director, Padraig Swan, was appointed to Magis Ireland. He had been associated with a project in the Western part of Zambia for a number of years before his appointment, so it was decided to explore if this could meet the needs of the Arthur Cox group. In June 2008, Padraig Swan and Debbie Moore travelled to Zambia to assess the situation in line with the organisation’s best policies with the many stakeholders and so the project began. In 2008 there were 12 trainees involved, 14 in 2009 and 21 in 2010. An associate from Arthur Cox travelled with the groups in 2009 and 2010 bringing the total number of personnel from Arthur Cox to 15 and 22 in each year respectively. The project thus far has been a great success with the trainees having raised approximately €60,000 since 2008 and 48 personnel experiencing the trip to Zambia. All of the money raised goes directly towards the project and donations to Magis Ireland for their charitable objectives. The trainees pay for all of their own expenses associated with the trip. Further, the project has received attention, on a national and international level, as it has received media coverage in the legal community. The project has been reported in articles both in London, The Lawyer, and in the Irish national legal magazine, The Law
Society Gazette
. Rachel Hussey and Conor McDonnell (Arthur Cox CSR)