A monthly meal club at St Joseph’s in Banbury has raised an impressive £19,200 for the charity Mary’s Meals since it was launched five years ago.

The most recent luncheon at St Joseph’s Church Hall – a Christmas meal - raised £619 with people making donations and taking part in a raffle.

Mary’s Meals helps to feed some of the world’s poorest children in their place of education for just £15.90 per child for a whole school year. It enables children to go to school and receive an education and a nutritious meal who otherwise would be working or begging to feed themselves. It also enables them to concentrate on their studies.

The monthly venture was launched in Banbury in 2017 and regularly attracts around 45 people each time from the parishes of St Joseph’s and St John’s, and the wider community.

A group of volunteers lay tables, prepare and cook the meal - and apart from an enforced break during the pandemic the simple baked potato meal continues each month, to date raising £19,226.

Theresa Whiting was inspired to launch the monthly event after watching a Mary’s Meal video called ‘Generation Hope’

Starting out little Theresa saved money wherever possible, walking or cycling to save petrol money. She resisted chocolate and snacks, putting the money in a jar instead. For her birthday she asked for donations rather than gifts.

“But I wanted to do more,” said Theresa. “I prayed for inspiration and the seed of an idea for a fundraising meal blossomed. I wanted to do something simple in line with the ethos of the charity, so decided on a baked potato lunch. I wanted to incorporate prayers for Mary’s Meals and so it became ‘Prayers and Potatoes’.

“The first event was to include a screening of the film to show people how their donations would be spent. I prayed a daring request for 20 people, feeling a bit greedy and cheeky for asking for such a number.

“One by one, people signed up. After Mass, others who couldn’t come pressed generous donations into my hands. By the time the big day came, my prayer had been answered and I was happy to serve 26 people with much needed help from some wonderful volunteers.

“The hall was silent as the film played and people were transfixed. The film sparked passionate discussions over the simple meal, and the community was united in a common desire to help. We prayed the Mary’s Meal prayer together.

“While the plates were being cleared away, we took a collection. One of the volunteers suggested that I count the money and let the guests know how many children we would be able to feed for a year. I had asked God to send me 20 people and I was sent 26. Our Father is generous, but also has a sense of humour. I chuckled to myself as the calculator revealed the total. The number of children fed by the donations that day was, you guessed it, 20!”

And since its launch five years ago the monthly meal club in Banbury has helped to feed over 1,200 children, with many more to be supported in future.

Find out more about Mary's Meals

Photo caption below (l-r): Just some of the volunteers who help at the monthly lunch: Patricia Sumner, Pauline O"Shea, Sue Allen, Theresa Whiting and Margaret Quinn.