It might not be the precise number of 153 fishes – so many that the net threatened to tear (cf Jn 21:11) – but nonetheless, a modern fish farm for the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary could still bring wonderful benefits.

Mother Bernadette lists these benefits: First, the battle against poverty. Some three quarters of Mali’s 13 million inhabitants live on less than two dollars a day, and the daughters of the congregation are among them. The fish farm and the resulting opportunity to irrigate their small fruit orchard would provide a basic income with which they could also help others. This would, secondly, provide a healthy diet and, thirdly, spare the environment.

Additionally, and fourthly, it would enhance the status of land work and livestock rearing, which are looked down upon, above all by young people, yet which nevertheless provide basic sustenance to the overwhelming majority of the population. It would also have quite practical pastoral consequences, making the sisters still more into daughters of the land and enhancing their missionary work in this largely Islamic desert region (86.8% are Muslims and just 2.9% Christians).

Concretely, a water reservoir and an irrigation plant would help make the sisters into fishers of men. Which is precisely what the number of 153 fishes, caught by the disciples at the Lord’s command, is meant to symbolise, according to the interpretation of many of the saints and Church Fathers – for example, Jerome. The Daughters have asked us for our help.

This article can be found in Mirror 0813.