Sunday, October 25, 2009

75th Anniversary photos

Father Michael Barton, pastor of St. Teresa Parish, Nyamlell, South Sudan, sent these photos from the parish's Oct. 4, 2009, 75th anniversary celebration and other activities. To read more about the event, go to the post below.

Alleluia Dancers

Bishop Caesar

Blessing of Chapel 4

Boat apostolate

Church on Lol River


Comboni Day, Nyamlell

Entertainment Oct. 4, 2009, Marial Baai

Father Pax and choirs

Gov. Paul Malong

Gov. Paul Malong with boys in uniforms of 75 years ago

Marial Baai

Old chapel in Marial Baai

Papal blessing

75th anniversary parade

Priests at the anniversary celebration

Recollection Day, April 24, 2008

Sacred Heart celebration

School prepared for the 75th celebration

Shrine on the Lol River

Typical apostolate

Monday, October 19, 2009

An exciting year at St. Teresa Parish, Nyamlell

(photo of Father Michael and a sister)

Saint Teresa Parish, Comboni Missionaries

Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 13, 2009

Dear Friends of mine and the missions,

I t has been a very long time for me to sit and write a letter to you or anyone else. While I am sorry about the delay, I do think you will understand a bit more after reading these paragraphs. It has been an exciting year and with results that I never expected. Most of February and March and most of January were given over to safari work and sacrament giving in our many outstations. I did go to Juba fort the first time after a twenty-two year absence. I went to make a retreat which never took place but I did have visits with many who I thought would have forgotten me but hadn’t to my happy surprise. I got back to Nyamlell after just four days away and I found people celebrating the anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. I was carrying with me all the money for the building of Saint Catherine Activity Centre and Saint Joseph Chapel in Marial Baai and I was carrying in two bags and they told me to put it in the cargo and I said that I couldn’t and they asked what was in it and so I said, ‘money’ and they said, ‘please go ahead’ and so you see money talks.

I carried those bags every second that day, I got home to the mission quite late and I secured the money in several places and none of them was my room and I went to Cordaid to send some messages and found no watchman anywhere in our compound or that of the sisters, and sure enough that night thieves broke the locks on three of our stores and woke me and I got up and they ran not taking anything, I spent the whole of the next day fixing the doors and I did all by walking as I had given the car for the work in Marial Baai. That was a tough day and I fired the watchmen and got new ones and I got doors welded and fixed with inside and outside locks.

The next day after the Sunday Liturgy, I rode the bike to Marial Baai and got the truck and I tried to get the government officials to help me with the people grabbing the mission land and cutting our trees and making bricks and hence eroding the river banks on Church land which was formerly very big but now very little is left and so I suffer from trying to defend the little left. Anyway it was all for nothing, nice talk and promises but no action. Such is life in South Sudan.

However I must say South Sudan has never been so prosperous with a much improved market, better and more roads and even bridges and regular flights and public transport like never before and also with prices like never before, but the years of peace have been so much better than the years of war.

I went for a few days to Raga which is run by Combonis from the North Sudan who are really Southerners at heart and got the car repaired at eye popping prices.

School got underway on April first and I got a few new teachers and was able to open two class ones and got class seven opened in Marial Baai and class five in Makwei with the girls from that class already married off during the dry season. Best of all were able to start Sacred Heart High School with a very good class who when in class eight took first place in the state. For Easter we had a visit of some Mapuordit friends Lino and his wonderful wife and Sister Mary and Sister Rita made our Easter even more glorious and memorable. Our OLSH are just the best decorators in the entire world. After Easter we went to buy material for the banners for the 75th Celebration. Also the Governor of the state came on Good Friday and we had the Way of the Cross with him and the school and afterwards made a big pitch for him to be here on the first of October for the 75th, first school, first baptism first evangelization and he gave me a thousand Sudanese pounds for our work here.

From then on that celebration and its intense preparation was foremost in the background as we did everything else in running the school and parish. I started to prepare to have all the doors painted as well as the windows and painted red at that. I had to contract it out and the children scarped it off whenever they could for reasons only children know. It made the compound look wonderful. All this time the work is going on in Marial Baai and Laurence coming at the end of every month to pay the workers who turned out to be mostly Dinka women and I was able to order every thing through the same contractors who painted the windows and I ever got better windows for the school there and even three new doors for the rectory. So all I was doing was paying with that money that I had brought from Juba and it was enough with the local contributions to do all the work which finish in early July and was put it into immediate use as two class rooms and in the evening as Christian Education place and on Saturday as choirs and so much more and on Sunday as the place of worship for the sizeable Catholic community there.

Well, we paid everything with the hope that an NGO would pay us well after we set all our reports they gave us the shaft and would not and didn’t give us a penny or even a piaster. “ That’s a church” and would not give any of the promised money and it took me time to give over it but now it is all in the past. Even this was part of the 75th celebration as is the first permanent chapel built in the entire state and the first one of cement and zinc sheets since the Comboni brothers built the three parish churches in the 1950’s. So we put the dedication date on the Sunday after the 75th celebration but I said the first Mass in one Sunday afternoon in late June with Laurence and the ladies and our good Sisters and they loved it and were very much full of praise and thanks.

We celebrated the feast of the high school and ours of the Combonis and the Daughters by the riverside at the outdoor shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the feast of the Sacred Heart and had school and afterwards the High School organized a very nice dancing competition and then cooked dinner and served it to the school staff. I told you that they were a good class.

Then in May one of the Sisters left for Nairobi, and then France, to do a course on their founder and the spirituality of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. She came back in mid September and while she was away a young man from Mapuordit came and taught and lived with Stephen Muli (a Kenyan teacher) and myself.

On the very day she left someone broke my door and stole my laptop, and nothing else. It happened during the day when we were all in class. I found my door open at noon when I came back for breakfast. Well I had gotten a lot of information on the history of the parish to prepare a booklet on the history of the 75 years and it was in Italian and downloaded into the computer and now gone. Well once again it was trips to the police and all for nothing.

I never got it back. But the Superior of the sisters lets me use hers and I began the downloading again and I worked at night and wrote many documents with pictures.

We had our exams in early August and started the second semester and late August we took a two week holiday and Muli went to Kenya for three weeks and the substitute back to Mapuordit and then to the join the university in Khartoum. I drove to Wau and stayed with the Combonis there and had a delightful ten days with those fine confreres and I got my booklet put together and even printed by the Salesians there who have a printing press. On top of that I found a young Salesian who was from our parish and I talked him into coming for the Seventy fifth. He did mange to come.

Before going to Wau Two primary students had finished the 18 banners for each centre and each school. They were so neat that everyone was impressed. It took many weeks but the result was great. The youth did so much planning that I stayed out of it and they chose a new place and I had to repair an slab of a former building and cleaned an huge area with lots of trees and shade and to repair some of the Church windows and then I got the best banner maker to paint the façade of the church and church door and then above the door a HEART and a CROSS. Then I kept a class after school every day to slash grass and remove the paper and bottles in this throw it down society and they gave me a rough time but they knew deep down that it was going to be big. School was going on and some sisters from Mapuordit came and help us and observed the school and gave helpful tips to every teacher. Then the youth outdid themselves and got 8 bulls and 12 goats donated and I gave one myself and rice and oil and someone else gave ten bags of sorghum which we had to grind and we were underway when we heard that governor was giving four more bulls which the teachers tried to steal and we did not get those bulls till after the feast. Everyone had work and they did it and so everything was not on me.

On the 30th of September, in the evening, the bishop came and people from every where and they started to sing and mesh together. The priests and sisters who came had dinner with the bishop in my dinning room and the we had a vigil for those interested and 7.5 decades of the rosary and then all the while a power point presentation of the parish history and I spoke to one boy in class six and he used the microphone with such enthusiasm that it set the crowd alive too. I ran out of material but they wanted to go on all night. But that is impossible for me now at 61.

Before sunrise it started to rain and hard. NO, NO. NO. But to my relief it stopped and turned into a beautiful day.

We wanted to start the parade at 10 but by 8 they were marching and cheering but we got to the riverside and a little late started. I had the bishop by the sisters’ gate and the other priests (eight) and I told the bishop who was passing with their banners and they danced and cheered and I applauded them. It took more than an hour for them to pass and longer to get to the altar which had been decorated by the Sisters superbly. They I had 75 cards pass and each read by a student or catechist going from 1934 to 2009 with a little happening for that year all in the local language of Dinka. Then the Mass started with the readings proclaimed expertly and the homily of the bishop was great and we had guitars and a piano brought from Aweil and their sound system which everyone could hear when it worked.

Some estimated 6,000 souls with 100 chairs but at least there was plenty of shade and water from the river just right there. The bishop had brought a letter from the bishop of Wau and a papal blessing from Benedict himself. Then the parish priest of Aweil, a Dinka himself spoke and then the Commissioner and finally the Governor . Then lunch all prepared by the sisters and I presented the booklet and sold them at the printers cost.

We had prepared a play with four scenes which I had prepared with the classes 7 and 8 and the Form Ones and we presented it but not many were interested and the Governor had left and the bishop was in bed and the generator stolen but we got it back and showed the Bullfight by David Mulwa. I did not stay for much more of the entertainment as they did not need me but I knew that God had wanted this celebration or otherwise everything planned for would not have happened. So many people deserve so much credit. People were happy and celebrating.

· Friday we had school but it was half hearted and Saturday the Bishop installed a image of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the church an he approved the building of the church of Gok Macar.

· Sunday, the road was washed out and we had to go to Marial Baai by boat and after a few minutes it sprang a leak and we had to pull over or other wise there would have been one drown bishop, and another drown America Comboni and five dead Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, but no we got ashore and after a long while got another boat and then on to Mangar Ater where we found two cars to take us to Marial Baai for the blessing of the Comboni School and Saint Catherine Activity Centre and Saint Joseph chapel. They killed another bull and the bishop did another fine job and there was another huge crowd and entertainment and another good meal all prepared by them and nothing by me but I did anoint many sick people while the entertainment went on. We had another boat ride back home on the beautiful, beautiful river. The Lol is always beautiful.

· Monday the bishop left and the visitors and we were back in school.

· But there were three Comboni Days – October 9th for the school, with baptisms and plenty of prayers and entertainment and on October 10m in Naivasha which is on the other side of Nyamlell with another gigantic congregation. Then October 11th in Adhal in Aweil North with Mass and baptisms and the Comboni presentation.

· What’s next? November 2nd the Mother General of the Sisters is coming to Sudan and to Nyamlell from Rome.

· Them after the final examinations there is the Diocese of Rumbek Youth Congress from December 18th to the 21st. which our youth is very much involved in along with the Sisters.

· Of course then Christmas and New Year and Certificate Days in all our schools and then the building of Saint William Chapel and Saint Julia Activity Centre in Gok Macar and is in year number 76.

Sincerely sorry for not writing sooner but you get the drift in Christ the Lord.

Father Michael D. Barton, mccj.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nyamlell mission celebrates diamond jubilee

Over 5000 faithful celebrated on Oct. 1 the 75 years of St. Theresa’s Nyamlell Mission in Western Bahr El Ghazal State, South Sudan.

Youths from four counties joined in huge numbers their peers from the 35 centers of the Nyamlell mission and formed a one-hour long parade, before the celebration of the Mass on the shores of the Lol River.

St. Theresa’s Nyamlell Diamond Jubilee celebrations were presided over Bishop Caesar Mazzolari of Rumbek.
He was joined by priests, sisters, a huge crowd and many civil and religious authorities including Governor Paul Malong.

Bishop Mazzolari said during his homily that the golden era of Nyamlell’s evangelization started with the arrival of Comboni Missionaries Fathers Michael Barton and late Raymond Pax joined by a community of sisters from Indonesia. In eight years, they were able to restore the church, the priests and sisters’ house, the primary and secondary schools and the health center.

Bishop Mazzolari added that the first 30 years, from 1934 to 1964, represented the era of planting and the transformation of Nyamlell into one of the three leading education centers of South Sudan together with Kuajok, and Mayom Abun, now known as Thiet.

He recalled the pioneering 16 Comboni fathers, brothers and sisters who served Nyamlell during this period.
Bishop Mazzolari said the expulsion of all Catholic expatriate missionaries in 1964 together with the Missionary Act inaugurated a 30-year period marked by the martyrdom, in hatred of the faith, of the Comboni missionary Barnaba Deng and the saintly blind Catechist Joseph Ayom.

It was the dark but heroic period of isolation and survival in the faith through the staunch courage and faithfulness of gigantic catechists and persevering Christian parents.

Western Bahr El Ghazal Governor, Paul Malong, exhorted the faithful to continue to come and find in the church the true center of personal peace and communal reconciliation.

St. Theresa’s Nyamlell Diamond Jubilee celebrations were crowned with the presentation of a Papal Blessing to Father Barton, the entire Christian community, the catechists and missionary personnel for their faithfulness to God's Church and commitment to evangelization.