Tuesday, December 25, 2007

New Internet blog serves as resource for Comboni Father Michael Barton’s work in Sudan

This article appeared in The Criterion Dec. 21, 2007

By Mary Ann Wyand

Comboni Father Michael Barton’s prayers and his Christmas wish list begin with peace and an end to violence for war-torn Sudan.

He also hopes for donations to build a church and school in the village of Marial Baai within St. Theresa Parish in Nyamlell, where he serves as pastor.

Catholics in central and southern Indiana can learn more about his ministry half a world away in southern Sudan by logging on to a new Internet site created by Jane Lichtenberg, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. The weblog address is www.nyamlell.blogspot.com.

As Community Conversations coordinator for The Indianapolis Star, Lichtenberg has written about the Comboni priest’s ministry.

Father Barton grew up in Indianapolis, and has served the Church as a missionary priest in Sudan from 1978 until 1986 then from 1993 to the present.

When Lichtenberg talked with him during his home visit last summer, she learned that he is trying to raise funds to build church and school buildings in a village in Northern Bar el Gazelle State.

She decided to create the blog to keep people informed about his ministry and pastoral needs. It includes excerpts from his letters as well as stories about his ministry that were published in The Indianapolis Star and The Criterion.

Lichtenberg launched the site in September after Father Barton departed for a sabbatical in the Holy Land on his way back to East Africa. He arrived at his parish in Sudan on Dec. 10.

In an e-mail to The Criterion, she requested publicity for the new blog.

“He has spent the past five years based in Nyamlell, another village in the parish,” Lichtenberg explained. “From there, he has traveled hundreds of miles visiting other parts of the parish, administering sacraments and spreading God’s Word to the Sudanese people, many of whom live in great poverty.”

She said his goal is to raise $150,000 for a church and school at Marial Baai.

“I suggested a blog that would help him keep in touch with his many friends in the Indianapolis area and around the world, and tell people how he would use donations and where to donate,” she said. “Although when he is in Sudan he has no access to computers or the Internet, I asked him to write letters, and have another priest in the parish write as well, to keep all of us up to date on his mission.”

Citing “the extraordinary work he has done in South Sudan,” Lichtenberg said she plans “to continue managing the blog for him, and hope that people who visit the Web site will take time to write comments and include their own thoughts about this extraordinary man and his mission to Sudan.”

During an interview with The Criterion last August at the archdiocesan Mission Office, Father Barton talked about answering God’s call to serve the people in Sudan 30 years ago.

Saving souls for God is his first priority as a missionary, he said, and educating the children is a close second.

At the Catholic schools he established in St. Theresa Parish, children study English, Dinka, Swahili, Arabic, science, agriculture, geography, civics, history and Christian religious education, including the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles during the last three years of school.

While ministering in Sudan for three decades, Father Barton has been sick with malaria, was imprisoned for 15 days in August 1996 and had to kill a poisonous snake at the parish last year.

That is all part of serving God’s people in Sudan, he said. “I just have to do something.”

(For more information about how to help Comboni Father Michael Barton with his missionary work in Sudan, call the archdiocesan Mission Office at 317-236-1485 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1485.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Mount Sinai on Thanksgiving Day

A e-mail note from Father Michael from the Holy Land, Nov. 26:

On Thanksgiving Day 2007 we as secessionists went up to Mount Sinai. We got up at 2 am and started up the mountain at 3 am. The day before we went Jerusalem at 5 am and visited Mitzpe Ramon, which was a wonderful lookout in another wonderful view of the mountains and plains of the Israel desert and then down to Eliat and we crossed the border at Taba and the Egyptian Comboni Sister got turned back and the Ethiopian priest make it but had to take a lot of stuff from both sides. We were at the border for three hours.Then we drove on the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba and then up the high plateau in the Wadi Ghazala to Wadi el Sheikh.
Thursday November 22nd, we took a bus to Saint Catherine's Monastery and started the ascent up "Jebel Musa" along the Sikket-el-Basha path and we all walked even though there were camels available which took two hours and then straight 743 steps to be there for sunrise. The sun make it but not everyone else. I used a flash light and did make it. With Moses in mind I thank God for his revelation and even his commandments and the view of the mountain tops was just something outstanding.
Then down the 743 steps and them down the traditional Moses' path of some 2000 more steps and a few falls. It was day now but still tough, very hard on my knees.
Once we all got down we had Mass outside on the mountain side. and then we went in to the Orthodox of the historic Saint Catherine's Monastery and then lunch and went on a short desert walk up to the Rock of Inscriptions of many travelers and the graffiti left by them. We spent the America Thanksgiving Day on the Gulf of Aqaba or the Red Sea. I was tired indeed.
The next day we crossed the borders with no problem at all and we stopped to see the coral reef and the Eilat Aquarium. Then we went by bus to visit the Timna natural reserve and Solomon's Columns, the Temple of Goddess Hathor, which was an ancient copper smelting installation done by the Egyptians.
We got back to Jerusalem after dark and got woken up by another earthquake around the Dead Sea. No harm done.
On Saturday evening we started an eight day directed retreat and will be till Sunday December 2nd midday.
I may go to Jordan on the fifth till the ninth and on the tenth I head back to Africa.