Sunday, November 9, 2008

E-mail from Father Michael, Nov. 5, 2008

St. Teresa Parish

Comboni Missisonaries

Nyamlell (Aweil West)

P.O. Box 21101

Nairobi, Kenya 00505

Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Good People,

We have six and a half weeks left in the 2008 school year and things are picking up nicely with a good school year and we had to overcome many difficulties but the end is in sight and we all have great hope that there will be good results. During the week I am mostly involved in the school, which I enjoy, and then on the weekend I am out in the field of pastoral work in the chapels and in the centers.

This year we have a big flood in the entire parish of all the rivers in the area and so this makes getting around on bicycle next to impossible or at least much more difficult and having to carry the bike instead of it carrying me. However, boat travel is easy but the trouble is one needs a boat. I had two short trips on an NGO boat and am planning my last trip to two chapels this weekend. Another big advantage is there are lots of fish. Wherever there is water there are people who are fishing day and night right on the side of the road. I was out with the car for All Saints and All Souls and almost ran a number of fisher people sleeping along the road even with their mosquito nets. I prayed no one would roll over in the way of the car -- mine or someone else’s -- or a big truck. I went to three chapels and of course had bone filled fish at every meal.

After coming back from Kenya from a ten-day break which ended on September 10th; I found some two workers from the Nuba Mountains who agreed to put the roofs on the Science Lab, and on two more classrooms of the High School . The walls had already been repaired and windows and doors were already in place. Well I told them that I did not have any timber and so we couldn’t do anything. They said they would try to get some. Well, lo and behold, two days right at the end of the school day came a lorry and the two told me that they needed $10,000 to pay for 700 2 x 4’s of mahogany.

I was surprised but was able to find the money and so now that is going on and one building should be finished quite soon. At the end of August Coraid (a Dutch NGO) finished building of four spacious classrooms for the Comboni School in Marial Baai. All very nice and I paid $60,000 to them for it. It is already in use. Then to my shock they told me they had spent $100,000 and wanted the rest from me. Well, I agreed to pay an additional 15% and I had to throw in the boat and another $4,000 to pay off the additional sum; it is now all paid and they are off my back.

Soon after that some other men agreed to make a new metal gate for the Order of our Lady of the Sacred Heart Sisters compound as the wooden one was falling in and not secure at all. They were local Dinkas and did a decent job and cost me $750. Now as their fence is quite weak I am trying to get them to make another 100 metal poles. I am not sure that it will get done. But I shall keep trying. We are trying to do everything locally and not from Kenya.

Next year if money and workmen can be found I would like to build a permanent church in Marial Baai. We shall see how things work out and if God will dispose favorably to this plan of mine.

We’ll have a retreat for the High School and the class eights for the last weekend of November. Then in the middle of December there will be a general meeting for all the parish’s catechists. Afterward we shall go out to all the Centers to celebrate the Year of Saint Paul and the new translation of the New Testament into Dinka Rek and another Rumbek-based Comboni will do it for the catechists and six of the centers and I will do the rest. Father Colombo will be here to help me for Christmas. Boy, do I need help.

Also in September we had a course for the Eucharistic ministers and have the Eucharist kept in two chapels and taken to seven others from time to time.

May God bless you and keep you! Stay well and keep the faith.

Yours in the Sacred Heart

Fr. Michael Barton

Letter from Fr. Michael dated Sept. 2, 2008

On Aug. 23 and 24, I went to visit two chapels and as the River Lol is full we had to canoe across and had to pay. We continued our journeys on our bikes. I always travel with a young boy from our school, who helps me in my safari troubles. We found water and mud in many parts of the road. That same Saturday the East Timorese Sister went with another boy to a village in an opposite direction to take communion in another chapel and found water and mud in many areas along the road. She found herself sick with malaria and prayed and went back to Nyamlell where she had to remain in her room bedridden for three days. For my part I found a large congregation and had confessions, Mass and anointing of the sick, and then had about 35 infant baptisms.

We then had to cross the river again to get to the next chapel where we were going to spend the night at a small town where we have a Comboni school; getting there was more mud and water to walk through. I even fell once and cut one leg and ruined my tennis shoes with too much water. Then the water must have made the patches on the tires rise and go flat, so the last two miles I had to walk pushing the bike and body through more mud and water, but I got there.

I went straight to see the school. Since April 2007 a Dutch NGO had been building a block of four classrooms, which they just finished in the last part of August. I went to check it all out. I was quite happy with the result and now am in the process of making the last payment to pay off the $60,000 that it cost me. We now have a dream of building a similar building to be used as a church as soon as possible in the year 2009. They are already using the classrooms and I hope will give more for the building of the church too.

On Sunday morning I had lots of confessions and Mass and about 50 infant baptisms and then we repaired both bicycles and I was told that one needed a new inner tube, which we could not find in the local market so I rode and Joseph walked. When I got to the river a gig wind started and made the water very rough. No boats could cross. Joseph came and we waited for two hours before the paddlers would dare to get into their boats. We got across at dusk and my bike was now flat and unrideable so I was now walking and I was still 23 miles from Nyamlell and my bed. We walked in the rain and made it to Joseph's village and his family home where we spent the night.

On Monday morning we crossed the Lol for the second time and reached Nyamlell a half-hour before the school year was to start. I taught in my muddy clothes on that Monday and went to bed early that night.

On Tuesday I had a full day of school and announced the mid-year would begin that afternoon and would have a two-week break. I had a catechists meeting and had to pay the teachers and the parish workers.

On Wednesday we -- one Indonesian sister, a Kenyan teacher and myself -- drove to Aweil and got there very early and went to Mass and caught a plane to Wau, then another plane to Lokicoggio in Kenya. We had to spend the night there and on Thursday evening we all arrived safely in Nairobi. I came to get a broken tooth fixed and other business to do. The three of us will go back on Sept. 9 and 10. School starts the next day with lots of plans for the last three and a half months of the school year.

May God bless you and care for you always.
Sincerely yours in the Lord Jesus,
Michael D. Barton, mccj

Letter from Fr. Michael dated Aug. 6, 2008

St. Teresa Parish
Comboni Missionaries - Nyamlell
Aug. 6, 2008

Letter from Father Michael Barton:

We have one of the Indonesian sisters going to South Africa for a course on spirituality of her congregation of the Daughters of the Lady of the Sacred Heart and so I take advantage of her going to get this letter off to you. Sister Ernestine should be back by October.
We are having a good rainy season and this is the only time of the year that greens and vegetables are available locally for our meals. The sisters and a Kenyan teacher working here have nice gardens and the greens are enjoyed and shared with me.

On July 31 and Aug. 1 and 2 we had all the first semester exams and the preparation and checking and the correcting are all extra work but part of the job description. Half the year is over and half to go. So far so good, even though there was a teachers' strike for no reason and they had demanded a five Sudanese pound bribe from all the lower primary children and when confronted they all vehemently denied all wrong doing. So when I had collected enough evidence they walked out on strike, which lasted a week. Two teachers did not come back and I was able to find another one; the lower primary got going again and the upper was never interrupted as the sisters, the Kenyan and I take those lessons.

Then one of the grade eight boys hit Sr. Jeanne and knocked her down and as a result got himself expelled from the school. Sister just kept on going to her next class and told me at the break.

I have organized the pastoral work to be mainly on weekends and after school. Since Father Pax is not able to help in saying Masses, I go out one weekend and am here for the next. On more than one occasion I have all the six sacraments that I am allowed to celebrate, and on many Sundays I get home well into the night. Since it is the wet season I am more often on the bicycle than in the Toyota. I have not been able to finish the Science Lab or the last classrooms due to lack of materials. A church or two on permanent basis is always very much in my mind.

I do pray for you and hope that you are well and very happy and blessed by the Lord in every aspect of your life.

Yours in the Heart of Christ.
Michael D. Barton

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hello from Nyamlell: Letter from Father Michael Barton

Saint Teresa Parish

Comboni Missionaries-Nyamlell

P.O. Box 21102

Nairobi, Kenya 00505

June 17th, 2008.

Hello from Nyamlell (Aweil West) in the state Northern Barh el Ghazal State in the South Sudan.

I want to let you know that I am well and happy and alive all at the same time in the month of June of the year of the Lord 2008.

Everywhere I go there are many more people around and they have come mostly from Northern Sudan and have come with many other churches that were not in this area before and have attracted many of ours to them. I don’t fight with any of them nor them with me. There are many more NGO s all doing their own thing. There are many cars and motorcycles and lorries where before there were very few and prices have gone wild and there is more Arabic than before and videos and generators and people building with baked bricks and all with what seems to me as with little planning and lots more of stealing and breaking and entering and crime which has affected us as well.

Right after the death of Father Pax we started the four Catholic schools in the parish and teachers are always the big problem and because of this the enrollment has not grown. The building of the classrooms is at a standstill due to lack of material and builders and a NGO not fulfilling their contract. Yet we are already in the 11th week of the school year and we are in the second term. Whereas the government schools are just opening up this month and will close before ours. We go on as we can with girls being married off while they are still in class one, two and three and five and six and now we have only one girl left in class eight and in class six. It makes me very sick to my very core and no one listens. One older man married a girl from class six and then a month later another girl in class four. I only hear about it after a big number of absent days that they are never coming back to school. For me it is a terrible cultural weakness.

The bishop came on April 30th to celebrate Mass for the first anniversary of Ray’s death. I t was to have him. And then on May 9th came Father Colombo came with his team to give a workshop for the catechists for four days and brought a beautiful new translation of the new testament in Dinka. He also came with the vicar general of Wau diocese who came just for a few hours to pray for Father Raymond on his tomb. I appreciated it very much. The course and the catechists' participation were quite good and the team was happy with them. It was short and sweet.

For me what was even sweeter was that Father Colombo found the problem with our lighting system which went down in May 2007. He found it was the inverter and he took it from the Sisters convent as our batteries were good and theirs were dead as a doornail and so now I have light again for a short time at night. Father Pax would have been so happy. As he was the one pushing to get it in the first place, but he did not push to get it fixed. Father Colombo is just a gem and is coming back in December for another workshop and to help me during Christmas so that will be just great.

The Sisters are a great help in the school and in the parish we celebrate prayer twice daily and birthdays etc. One is going to South Africa for a two-month workshop in August and all three are going for a few days to Mapuordit for the 60th anniversary of Sr. Mary. I would go if it were not for the school and parish work.

I continue to have lots of visits to the chapels of the parish and have lots of Masses and confessions and baptisms and still I have a good number of marriages and I am sure that I have more than any other parish in the diocese of Rumbek or even that of Wau but I have yet to have one in the parish center of Nyamlell. So there is still a lot of work to do.

My plan is to do more of the same. We had a lector’s course with poor attendance in mid May and will have an extraordinary Eucharistic ministers course in July.

Maybe in September I shall go to Nairobi for a dentist to check a tooth I broke way back in Jerusalem.

Lots of love and prayers to all of you.

Sincerely yours in the Sacred Heart,

Michael D. Barton.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sad news: The death of Father Pax

This e-mail was sent by Father Michael Barton April 9, 2008:

Concerning the death of Father Raymond Pax, MCCJ. On March 31, 2008 in Saint Teresa Parish Rectory in Nyamlell, Aweil West County, Northern Bar el Gazal State in the South Sudan.

My name is Father Michael Barton, MCCJ and I am the parish priest of St. Teresa’s Parish and we have worked together for two years here.

I knew Ray since he was ordained a priest in 1965 and I was present and saw from a far his family and the black Cadillac and was impressed. As a seminarian I worked with Father Pax at St. Henry’s in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I want to begin on Easter 2008 when I came back after three months of safari pastoral visits to the chapels. Father Pax had been the whole of the Holy Week in the parish center and I was out.

On Easter Monday I began a teachers’ workshop and Ray went out with two boys to collect firewood for the course, and in the afternoon he prepared the Easter dinner with our cook Anthony and the Sisters came over for dinner together. Everyone got sick that night but me. The Sisters had to call the Slovak doctor to assist them.

By Tuesday Father Pax was also down with malaria but started to recover right away. On Wednesday we had a visit from Father Ireneo from Daeen in Darfur and he stayed the night.

On Thursday Father Pax took the car for a pastoral visit to Lueth Lual and Ariath Center to last four days and he went with Joseph as a helper in all . Father baptized about 70 people and had three marriages and some confirmations too. He had a general meeting with those catechists of the area and in four days visited five chapels.

He came back on March 30th and was quite happy and spoke of consolations during this past trip. As he was in his room after a light supper I went to tell him about his old friend’s and novice master’s death on the 12th of March in Milan and he thanked me for letting him know.

On Monday we had Mass together and breakfast and then had a planning meeting with the sisters to plan for the school year which was to begin on the next day.

Father Pax was strong in his opinions and criticisms of the past work and we came to many decisions for the new year’s work. We had agreed to meet later without the Sisters to see about our own Comboni matters.

I went to pay the part-time catechists and gave them some corn. The day before I had concluded and paid the teachers. Father Pax brought the chairs out.

At the end a catechist who had stopped his work demanded money of last year which had been stolen from my room because he had not come in December as he was told. He would not listen to any explanation of any type. I tried to give him some corn but he refused. Father Pax was not part of any of this but was in the office making out baptismal certificates for other catechists.

The African Apostles of Jesus arrived at the OLSH Sisters compound and I went to talk to them and could no longer deal with the angry catechist. I was told by Father Wilfred that the state authorities would not pay our teachers of our three Comboni schools because I was not cooperating WITH THEM.

Well I told Ray that I had to go to the state capital Aweil to see this matter and would go with the Apostles and come back with public means. He understood and said to go.

When I went back to our compound the catechist had taken the chairs and Father Pax had followed him on foot.

I left to Aweil and there the authority had changed his tune completely and all was very successful and clarifying. Father Wilfred took me to the bus park to get transport back to Nyamlell. I did not find any but Father Wilfred and Father Bernard came back and gave me their phone with a call from Father Colombo, MCCJ for me to go back to Nyamlell as the Sisters were frantic. The Apostles took me that Father Ray had collapsed and died. None of us could believe it. They agreed to take me back and I would give them diesel. We had a flat tire on the way. On arrival I found many people around the mission and the Sisters had dressed Ray in clerical shirt etc. and removed everything from his room to his office and his body was laying on his bed and Sr. Jeanne from Indonesia and Sr Jeviana from East Timor crying and praying.

They told me the bishop was coming and would take the body. I kept silence and waited. They had done a wonderful work and had been called latter as other people like those catechists were with him when he actually collapsed. They took over when the cook had called them.

Soon Bishop Caesar Mazzolari, MCCJ called me and said that he had talked to the family and to the Comboni provincial and that Ray was to be buried in Nyamlell. I gave the phone to Sisters so that could hear it from him. We agreed with the youth to dig the grave in the rectory compound as there is no cemetery in Nyamlell and Ray is the first priest or religious to die here even though this mission was started in 1933. I pulled the car over and turned on the lights so the youth could see to work. At 10:30 I celebrated the first Mass for Father in his room. We were three priest and three Sisters as the Gordhim Sacred Heart Sister who a former Superior General and many lay people. The sisters kept vigil the whole night. I had to get some sleep. We had already dressed him in priestly clothes.

The medical staff did what they could for him. We asked the Dutch NGO here if they make a coffin.

They woke me during the night to say the grave was ready and I moved and shut off the car.

On waking I went for my vigil; and prayer and then went to prepare the church and the readers and servers. At around 11 the coffin arrived from CORAID.

We put in the body and went in procession to the parish church. I was the main celebrant and gave the homily with Father Bernard adding more. About his life I said that Father Raymond Lawrence Pax was born In Celina Ohio on June 23rd, 1938 and was baptized at Immaculate Conception and had his primary education at Immaculate Conception School run by the Precious Blood Sisters and Fathers. He was number three of nine and three became priests. He had many uncles and aunts who had become priests and Sisters. Oscar was his father who was big into tools etc.

He went to Sacred Heart Seminary in Cincinnati run by the Verona Fathers for High School from1952 to 1956. He did his noviciate in Monroe, Michigan under Father Chiodi.He studied philosophy and finished college in 1961. He studied theology in San Diego, California. He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Karl Alter as the Combonis celebrated 25 years in the USA in May 1965 in Cincinnati at Sacred Heart Seminary.

He became an assistant pastor at Saint Henry and in California and back as pastor at

Saint Henry in Cincinnati’s old west end.

Around 1970 he came to Africa to Uganda where he worked in several MISSIONS in Gulu diocese among the Acholi.

Aronnd 1975 he was transferred to Kenya and worked mainly in Kasikeu and before that in Gigil. He also worked in the USA in California in pastoral work and then he came to Sudan. He worked in Juba and then in Tambora diocese and a few months after being expelled from Juba in Khartoum and finally in Rumbek diocese where he worked various years in Marial Lou, then in Mapuordit and at last here in Nyamlell.

There were five speeches after the Mass and the Commissioner declared Father Pax to be a Dinka and three days latter had a bull killed in his honor and people gathered for that too. After Mass we went in precession carrying the coffin to the grave where we had the final prayers. The coffin was too big so more digging and adjusting took place. Everyone stayed until the burial was complete and the Sisters had made paper flowers which we spread all over the grave.

Father Pax’s work has just begun to help the Dinka people and this mission and all its people and work.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

School crowd welcomed return of Father Michael

This letter was sent by Father Michael Barton from St. Teresa Parish in Nyamlell to Jane Lichtenberg, arriving in late February:

I got back here in mid December and a big crowd was waiting for me at the airstrip and accompanied me back to the mission. I had to leave one bag in Nairobi and another in Loki and I came with 33% of my luggage. I hope I shall meet the other 66% someday in the future.

I helped in the next days with the final examinations and tested the catechumens and then it was Christmas. As it had rained very much while I was away and there had been a big flood and the River Lol was still too high for a car to pass, Fr. Pax stayed in the center parish and I went out by bicycle to Gok Macar. We had midnight Mass under the stars with the shepherds, and then in the morning many confessions and testing of the candidates and catechumens and had baptisms and confirmations during the Mass and 111 infant baptisms after the Mass. Then we went to another chapel for another round of testing, Mass, baptisms and confirmations and another 80 infant baptisms.

Those last infant baptisms were done at night with a flashlight. They all have now seen how fat I have become and so maybe that is why the only meal I was given was some rice when all the sacramental and liturgical work had been finished. I went back with the flashlight to fall exhausted on my sleeping bag for the night.

The next night was in Adhal halfway between Gok Macar and Nyamlell where we had another huge crowd and testing, confessions and Mass and confirmations and 130 infant baptisms. Finally, I got home and we had a little Christmas celebration between Ray and me.

I have been out every day since then to different chapels and with fewer people but always a lot of work. While I was out someone got in through the window of my room and stole money and ransacked an already messy room. I think that was the second time it happened. They did not find where I had hidden the big money but even the little money would have been very useful.

The SPLA government has improved the roads going to the state capital Awiel and has taken more of the mission land.

I was supposed to go to Rumbek for a diocesan assembly but the others left me behind in Awiel and so I have some time to answer letters and correspondence. On my way back from Awiel I found a very old man walking with a cane and with a 50-cent hat on and a 50-cent shirt on.

The building of the four classrooms is going on well but well behind schedule. Now with all the trouble over the fraudulent elections, supplies coming from Kenya have all but stopped. Also, the NGO who is building them with my money has Internet (access) and I shall try to use it once a month or so.

On Ash Wednesday I will go to more chapels and will be out for most of Lent. March 24 will begin a teachers course and then a new school year.

Pax vobis cum. Father Michael D. Barton