The story of the SMA and the Rocks family
Francie and Andrea Rocks are schoolteachers, from Cookstown in mid-Ulster. In May 2009, with their three young sons, family and friends around them, and under the guidance of the SMA Family Vocations Crusade (FVC) Director (Fr Lee Cahill SMA), they started a new FVC group. This took place in their own home, 50 years after the first such group was inaugurated by Father John J Conlon SMA (now Dom David OSB). Francie and Andrea are known as “Head Sponsors”.
That evening in May, this group linked with 480 similar groups in Ulster began their contribution to the huge groundswell of support (10,000 in Ulster) for young men being trained for SMA missionary priesthood in Africa…that huge and lovely continent. This group in Cookstown is now caught up in a current of amazing support for the apostolic adventure of the Society of African Missions.
That evening in May, they met, as did tens of thousands before them over the previous 50 years. Guided by their FVC Director, they looked at, engaged in, and developed a passion for the challenge being faced by young men in Africa (and other parts of the SMA world) in the 21st century. Eucharist climaxed the evening. This group, another dynamic strand in the FVC web, has SMA Dromantine as their point of reference, and the African Mission as their focus….10.000 people, young and old, lay and religious, committed to mission.
Each year, like most of their 480 counterparts in the FVC, Francie and Andrea will call their group members together at their home. They will review, chat and pray over, and to celebrate the Eucharist for the African scene they are involved in. Their passion is directed towards the potential SMA missionary priests in Africa. These latter are sharpening their life-commitment to scattering the powerful seeds of Christ’s Gospel deeper and deeper in the hearts of their fellow-Africans, torn (by many circumstances, mostly through no fault of their own) between the enhancement and the destruction of their lives.
In September each year, Francie and Andrea will join their fellow Head Sponsors from their local region. In this “Area Head Sponsor” Meeting, they will get a sense of the bond with, and the stretch beyond, their own group, in the common mission of the SMA.
Dromantine, itself, will draw Francie and Andrea, and their 3 boys…. to the regular FVC weekend retreats (3/4 times a year); to the now-renowned “SMA Open Day”, on the first Sunday of June (when anything between 3 and 4,000 sponsors, friends and family enjoy a predominantly fun day); to the SMA Youth Camp (Dromanteens!), where 11-16 year old children of the Head Sponsors enjoy 5 weeks in the summer.
In 2017, Andrea and Francie’s group will join the other FVC groups, which began in 2009 (such groups are known as “8-Year Sponsor Groups”) in Dromantine. They will meet a young SMA priest, from Africa or India, Poland or the Philippines, who comes to these special groups, representing the class recently ordained, and who has been supported through their own seminary days by people such as Andrea and Francie.
Over 8 years Francie and Andrea’s prayer; working with their own group members; experiencing – via Dromantine – something of the SMA pulse-beat; and their contributions (normally 15-20 Euro per person, annually). All this comes together on this special day, when ordinary, wonderful, Irish people become tangibly linked with real Africa, and the real African Mission.
By the law of averages, Francie and Andrea are likely to continue beyond 2017…continuing their own group…and, if the law of averages holds, they will see some of their own members branching out to form their own Head Sponsor groups.
If you would like to know more about the FVC and are interested in information on how to start your own group click here.