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