Gogos in Malawi
December 2022

Ines San Martin

In Malawi, “gogo” is the word for grandmother. Gogos are the poorest of the poor. Many have lost their children to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and have orphaned grandchildren to love and care for. But for childless Gogos, like Gogo Nachisale, a 70-year-old living alone in Lilongwe in only a sugar cane shack with no windows or doors, even the unconditional love of a grandchild is a deprivation.

This Gogo caught the attention of Father Vincent Mwakhawawa, who heads the Pontifical Mission Societies in Malawi. In one of the world’s poorest countries, where homelessness can be a chronic problem, he and his team decided to act and recruited the “smallest” ones among the small to help out: the children taking part in the local chapter of the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA).

In a matter of weeks, they had raised the funds to build Nachisale a home in the rural community of St. Joseph Ludzi Parish in the Archdiocese of Lilongwe.


Love is something abstract. But during these past nine years, TPMS, and the MCA in particular, have helped me experience love, through the certainty that there is someone out there, in the United States, Spain, Australia, Argentina or in our neighboring diocese who cares.


“The children were the ones who pushed their parents to get involved,” Father Vincent said. “These kids, at 6, 7, 8 and 9 understood that in Nachisale, their neighbor, was Christ. We need more children like these children. None of them have things to spare. But what little they do have, they wanted to share.”

The story of compassion and care for this childless grandmother is but one of many made possible by The Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS). They understand that a gogo’s greatest need is twofold –spiritual and physical. They must minister to the whole person: body, mind, and spirit… And, so, Fr. Vincent sprung into action with proactive communication that began from the pulpit and, - with a little help from text messaging technology, spread like wildfire.

Father Vincent has been leading The Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS) in Malawi for the past 9 years and is both expecting and hoping to be allowed back into parish life next year, when a new national director is chosen. He reflects, “The Pontifical Mission Societies have allowed me to see the universality of the Catholic Church in action,” he said. “You might not know their names, but you can have the certainty that at any given moment, somewhere in the world, there is someone praying for you, thinking of you, supporting you financially.”

This idea of a fraternity among Catholics throughout the world is something the national TPMS office in Malawi works hard to instill in those who take part in the many initiatives they organize, particularly in the children who benefit from the Missionary Childhood Association.

“As animators and catechists, we try to teach the children that among Catholics there is a universality in action, a global network of prayer, charity, support, and love,” Father Andrew said. “Love is something abstract. But during these past nine years, TPMS, and the MCA in particular, have helped me experience love, through the certainty that there is someone out there, in the United States, Spain, Australia, Argentina or in our neighboring diocese who cares.”

The Missionary Childhood Association, a society of TPMS, recognizes that the future of the world and the very existence of faith are in the hands of today’s children. In empowering the children of Lilongwe to help Gogo Nachisale, he has inspired the next generation of popes, bishops, clergy, religious, and lay missionaries.

Will you join us this Advent season, as we prepare for the Second Coming of Our Lord, in praying for the children of Malawi? When a family, or a class of school children, a Catechesis class, or two neighbors pray the Mission Rosary, they will be actively spreading the warmth of the Manger to children in the missions so that they may know Christ and experience his love and care. In turn, they will be inspired to help other gogos like Nachisale, who will no longer be lonely and forgotten.

You, too, can help the gogos in Malawi!

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