Friday, November 25, 2011

A busy fall and a bishop's visit to Saint Teresa Parish in South Sudan

Saint Teresa Parish-Nyamlell
Comboni Missionaries-South Sudan
P.O. Box 21102
Nairobi, Kenya

Thanksgiving Day, USA
November 24, 2011

Dear Relatives and Friends,

Last Saturday I was out and left the car and walked to the chapel where I was going. I walked in sandals without socks. I found only a few children and celebrated my first Mass of Christ the KING. Why just a few children? Well the town which is nearby had a MARKET DAY which is the most important day of the week. Well, Sunday I had a lot more luck of big congregations and baptisms and even an adult confirmation and his first holy communion.

On Monday I was okay and did all my duties but Tuesday I was in pain and could only walk so slowly that the snails and tortoises were all passing me up. I did all my work and had everyone laughing behind me and asking if I had arthritis, which I don’t, and had more than a full day when I just went into bed after dark. It was a blister that had infected the right foot and made movement so difficult but on Wednesday night it started to bleed and slowing it is becoming just fine.

The OLSH Sisters and the Kenyan teacher extended their two week break to a four week one in leaving in mid August and returned on September 10th. So I had to send several classes home for extra holidays or until September 12th. Yet I had all my classes with class 8. I had all my RCIA work as usual and the weekend trips for pastoral work. And we made a big plan for an Episcopal visit to the parish and I was able to build up some enthusiasm for it. The highlight was to be the blessings of the Saint Dennis Church in Ariath and Comboni Day in Nyamlell. Well, it did not work out as planned.

It was to start on October 7th, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. I received a letter from the bishop that all was going as planned. Then an email on the 5th said the opposite. I called and called and got nowhere at all and so I knew that I had to do it all myself, which is the story of my Comboni missionary life. So in such a bind I closed class 8 for the day and gave the keys to another teacher, said a Mass for the Sisters and went with the head catechist, who is also in class 8, to Udhom to tell them that there was no bishop coming but I would do what I could and had a plan to do confessions and the Rosary and Litany and then Mass with the pictures of the life of Comboni and the anointing of the sick and infant baptism and the catechists would have their meeting and Marko would write everything down and we would send it all to the bishop as soon as possible. We would also break ground for the new church.

They were glad that I had come and accepted my plan and so I was the whole day there and had trouble because I had to do the baptisms during the parish catechist meeting and there are always people making confusion and no catechist to help me in keeping order and my nerves were rattled.

They have to be tested to see if at least one of the parents is a Baptized Catholic and knows the Apostle Creed in whatever language. This takes time when there are sixty babies. Then there was a threat of rain but it all got done. There we want to build another permanent church -- Saint Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Mary will be for both my mother and that wonderful mother Jesus shared with us. Comboni dedicated Sudan to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the 1800’s and this will be the first church dedicated to her in the South Sudan. Dad was such a help to get the church done in Ariath and now we need even more help to do the one in Udhom, which is also right on the railway. It will be tough but let us try with the help of the blessed mother and the other Saints that we knew.

We drove back to Nyamlell and found a wonderful meal prepared by the youth for the bishop but no bishop so I called the Sisters and we ate it all. On Saturday Marko and two Sisters went with me to Wedwil, which is right on the railway too, and we did as we did in Udhom the day before and had no bishop but we did have a marriage and a baptism and confirmation. We also named the new church there as the Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. The people had built the walls and we had only to make pillars and then the roof. More on that later.

There was a youth meeting planned and Marko did it and went back to Nyamlell for the Sunday service. The Sisters and I went to spend the night in Ariath where there was a huge number of people waiting and more came after and we had a vigil and evening prayers and rest with mosquito nets as the mosquitoes were really biting. Many chapels came and I had a plan of work for Sunday and an official opening of that Church on the feast of Dennis himself and I did some testing for confirmation and only one passed. Then lo and behold, the bishop came and brought the altar servers from Nyamlell and Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak had slept and then that morning had driven to Ariath. I never mentioned my plan to him and came with apologies for missing the first two days and he blessed that church and administered one confirmation and had a wonderful Mass and homily and had a meeting with the authorities of the Aweil North County and I did a few baptisms. After the celebration we drove back to Nyamlell. There I had tested 55 children on October 6th evening and 20 passed and were confirmed on Comboni Day with a big solemn Mass outside under the trees with a big crowd. It was huge. After the Mass we had our schools annual celebration of Comboni and in the afternoon we went to see New Life Ministry, which is a Protestant school here for orphans. They received the bishop very well.

Then I took the bishop to some of the NGOs here and had supper with the sisters and pastoral council. On the 16th the bishop went with Marko to Marial Baai with another Comboni day there too and a meeting with the teachers of our Catholic schools in the parish. I heard that it was another huge crowd. Even the bishop told me that massive number of youth was very impressive. I hosted everyone for supper and no one died. He left the next day.

I had such a strong presence of my father in Ariath and I am hoping to have Mother’s help in Udhom. I shall let you know.

November 5th was another day as I went with the Sister to Wedwil to unofficially bless the church in Wedwil and name it and let it be open as a place of worship. We had a small crowd but I had not promoted it at all and the bishop will come again to bless when I get the courage to invite him again. It is named Gabriel for the prayer leader there who did most of the work and community animation to build that church and Raphael for Father Raphael Riel Col who I lived with for four years in Mapuordit, and Michael for my classmate Father Miguel Istuiriz Agudo, who everyone loved. We were ordained together as deacons in Granada, Spain, and he had worked in Sudan and was killed in Spain 20 years before by a hit and run on the anniversary of the day we blessed the Ariath church. May the Archangels help that community and us too.

On the 15th of this a month Laurence moved to Udhom to start that new project and I am trying to finish out this year and then Christmas, etc. I was there and ended the liturgical year and all the committed visits of the chapels for this Mass year. And as you already know when we end something there is nothing left to do but to begin something else. I am thankful for it all and for you and your help in all its forms.

Thankfully in Christ Jesus,

Father Michael Barton, MCCJ