Every year, Notre Dame’s teaching and support staff come together to reflect on the college’s mission and ethos. This year, on Thursday August 26, we were fortunate enough to be visited by Tom Chigbo, a community organizer and campaigner working in Leeds, and Father Eamonn Mulcahy, a Spiritan missionary from Manchester.
Before they spoke, Head of Modern Foreign Languages Chary Gonzalez-Latham and her daughter Elisabeth treated us to a beautiful rendition of a folk-style hymn written by Australian Loretto sister Deirdre Brown, Come as You Are.
This was followed by Tom Chigbo’s presentation. He talked about his own time as a Catholic school student, reflecting on the opportunities he was given thanks to the care and support of the staff he came into contact with. His teachers encouraged him to look inward and consider the sort of person he wanted to be. He began his campaigning career by organizing a recycling box for each classroom in his school, which prompted staff to take environmental issues more seriously.
He has long been inspired to make a positive impact wherever he finds himself, and talked about the meaning of Jeremiah 29:7: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Eventually, in spite of the challenges Tom faced as a child and young adult, he was able to attend the University of Cambridge, where he became the first Black president of the Students’ Union in 2009.
Since then, he has worked as Community Organiser in the London Borough of Lambeth with the South London chapter of London Citizens. When he moved to Leeds some years ago, Tom helped to build Leeds Citizens and is now a Senior Organiser, working with schools, faith communities and civil society organisations for the common good.
Father Eamonn spoke about his life, much of which has been spent overseas as a missionary. A priest since 1980, he has lived and worked in Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria and Kenya. Since 2013, he has been back in the UK, but remains actively involved in educating children who live on the street in the infamous slum of Kibera, Nairobi.
Father Eammon then spoke about our mission at Notre Dame to recognise and value the inherent dignity of each person, and the importance for staff of reflecting this mission through our relationships with each other and out students.
Our Ethos Day ended with a liturgy in the chapel, and our staff left the college site with much to consider.