Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Father Michael Barton looks back on 2008

Saint Teresa Parish, Comboni Missionaries
Nyamlell (Aweil West)
Northern Bahr el Gazhal.
P.O. Box 21102.
Nairobi, Kenya. 00505.
January 6, 2009.

Happy and Prosperous New Year in 2009.

I would like to give you a short overall overview of 2008 and up to now in 2009.
I got back from the holiday at home and the sabbatical in Jerusalem and helped to end a very poor school year in 2007 where almost no one failed in any class. The river was too high for the car to pass and so I used my two bikes up to January 10th and then I could use the car to visit the chapels and to do pastoral work till Super Bowl Sunday when I got left at home to go to Aweil and my lift left me behind high and dry and as I was looking fro the bus back to Nyamlell I heard of the surprise upset of the foot ball game and I felt happy for no explainable reason.
I went out and visited more centers and chapels from early Ask Wednesday till the middle of February when Father Pax and my faithful helper, Joseph, of the road all went to Wau with its wonderful cathedral and where Comboni Missionaries went more than a hundred years ago. The last Comboni Bishop had a magnificent cathedral built in the 1950s and early 60s to honor Our Lady, Helper of Christians. We were able to buy supplies and visit the graves of the Combonis who died in Wau and near- by. One was a famous Italian brother who contracted leprosy in Malakal and then moved to a leper Colony in Wau and then prayed to die in place of a sick priest and so it happened, the brother died and the Father recovered.
We drove back to Nyamlell without incident and I went out again to do safari work and Raymond stayed in the parish center till after Easter when I came back and began a Renewal workshop for teachers of our three schools and the East Timorese OLSH Sister returned from Indonesia and the Indonesian Sister came from a break in Nairobi. Also came a Kenyan teacher who helped me in the workshop. Father Pax went to visit five chapels in four days. He got back happy with baptisms and did confirmations and marriages. Monday the teachers left and the cooks were paid. The Sisters and the Fathers met on Monday to plan out the year. I had to go to Aweil to see the ministry of education and before that I paid the part- time catechists; and the meeting at the ministry went well and while waiting for a bus back home I was told Father Pax had died and we rushed back and prepare the funeral and burial for April First. What a terrible shock to all of us!!!

The school year began on April 2nd with many uncertainties in every thing and everyway. The census started in the later part of April and many students and pupils left to work on it and the high school was left with only two in Form Two and some of the ex-pupils stole the books and yet the two remaining said that they wanted to continue no matter what to the end of the year and so we agreed as they had done everything asked of them. They are wonderful young men and very active in the choirs and other activities and other works. So we continued to the end of the year.

I was very active in the pastoral work in the parish and visited all the chapels at least twice and many of the centers three times with many baptisms and confirmations and marriages and hundreds of Masses and confessions and anointing of the sick. Father Colombo and Sister Goretti came from Rumbek for two training courses of catechists, once in May and the second in December. I gave two more courses myself for lectors in April and for Eucharistic ministers in September where I have more people than ever taking Holy Communion to the chapels and running Eucharistic Centers. This is because I have more catechists than ever who have had their marriages blessed.. A big flood from August to November, make travel to many places very tough and I never saw the Lol River so high as it was this year so the Sisters could go nowhere and I could only go on bicycle and walk in lots and lots of mud. I got to use the boat three times and that was always very nice according to a contract. Agreed with CORAID.

I sent ten days in Kenya for ten days and went to visit a priest friend in Kampala. It was cold but a break nonetheless.

One of the Sisters spent four months in South Africa for a course on their founder and the other sisters generously took over her classes.

I was blessed to get many projects started and finished I was able to buy timber and I got the Dutch CORAID to finish four class rooms in Marial Baai all for $65,000 from me and the boat too. The used it right away but I blessed it on January 1st, 2009 and we blessed the foundation for a permanent church there. The school is dedicated to St. Daniel Comboni and the church to Saint Joseph and it will serve as an Activities Center dedicated to Saint Catherine of Siena and the name of two grandmothers and two aunts and one sister. I am hoping that the family will chip in as I think it will cost $100,000. I have half and the rest is still with you in faith.
In Nyamlell I was able to get the roof of the Science Lab roofed and two more class rooms for Sacred Heart High School. That is now all complete I had some money and goods stolen but still was able to finish paying teachers and catechists and parish workers and still end the year not in debt. I still have lots of troubles and problems but still feel happier and stronger than ever. The end must be near.

After the December catechist Father Colombo helped me for Christmas and we celebrated the Pauline year in all the centers and some of the chapels. Father who is 75 this year die 7 of them and I did the rest up to January 5th and then came to Juba for a retreat which on arrival I found was canceled and so I will leave for Nyamlell on the 9th of January. Yet I have enjoyed meeting many friends who I have not met for 22 years. Even though I am disappointed about the retreat seeing my boys who have become priests has been super and they have received me with great love. I hope your Christmas was great. Here we had huge crowds wherever we went and the school year ended with flair and all four schools did the whole school year.

This year will be the 75th year of the founding of the parish and we hope to celebrate it on October 1st, 2009 in an appropriate fashion.

Sincerely yours in the Sacred Heart,
Fr. Michael D. Barton, MCCJ.