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.