Monday, October 15, 2012

A missionary finds time to write home after a busy year

Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus Catholic Church Northern Bahr el Ghazal : South Sudan It has been since the end of February that I last wrote to you. Last Sunday we heard that ”it is not good for man to remain alone.” Well, likewise it not good for a missionary not to be writing home. So the rest of this letter is an explanation of the why I have not written before. In very early March I visited Udhom Center where I was building a new church in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary called Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. After five days there the car refused to start, and then as so often happens, the battery died and I still had three days of visits to chapels in the area. Well, I tried to find a mechanic but this is mechanic-less land. So I borrowed bicycles and fulfilled all my commitments and did I ever pray Memorares. On the last day, which was the first Friday of March, as I finished one chapel and was going to the next I passed a car and in it was an Austrian mechanic who I knew was working for an organization under the Diocese of Rumbek. So I told him the problem and he went and got my baby running again and put new fan belts and diesel filters, all for zero cost. “Never was it known that anyone who sought your intercession was left unaided.” That very day I got back to Nyamlell and was able to buy three barrels of diesel fuel,so I drained the dirty diesel and put in clean and am still using that diesel as soon after diesel disappeared from the market. In mid March I went to Wau for a Diocesan Assembly which was only three days and then I went to the Jesuit Community in Wau for my annual retreat and I got a Tanzanian Jesuit Seminarian to guide me in those days. I used a book by Tony De Melo that praised prayer of petition and was a wonderful new insight that made the retreat very worthwhile, not to mention the eggs for breakfast and running water and showers, electricity and tp. Well, I saw very little of my confreres there but what I did was as always just great. During the assembly the bishop of Wau heaped special praise on me and my work, which I was surprised about as he did it in front of everyone. In March I was to help a man who has cancer of his crippled leg and wanted it removed. We took him to several hospitals in Wau and it was decided to send him to Mapuordit for the operation. He then delayed to go until August and the operation was successful and I picked up the bill. Also I visited 3 centers for the second time and that left me with fourteen more centers to visit before the end of the year. The results of the class eight primary certificate came out in late March and for the county we took first place and five out of the top eleven. Another girl joined the Loreto school in Rumbek and we have three there this year and one is in her last year of Senior Secondary School. In early April the new school year started. I needed to hire thirteen new teachers for this scholastic year for all three schools. The government is doing less and less and so I have to do more and more. The payment will have to come from me too. It was my time to go for home leave but as the other religious had just left I felt that it was most inopportune and so I decided to put it off for another year as this was a large class eight. I also felt that I owed them something as well. So I shall be in the USA in early 2013 after a record six years away. In May we had special evening rosary and litany in the Church and also in May the bishop of Wau came for a full seven days and he blessed two new churches, visited to give confirmation in five other centers. I went with him to bless the two churches on Sunday and then the next Sunday was the Ascension and the Saturday was the feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart or the day before Pentecost. The other days the head catechist went with him and I learned that he gives the sacrament without any test at all and is very different from my approach and method but who am I to argue with the BISHOP? On Ascension the Nyamlell altar servers and I piled into the bishop's car and drove to Wedwil to bless the church there dedicated to the Archangels MICHAEL, GABRIEL, RAPHAEL. They have been praying in it since September 29th, 2011, but now it was blessed and the altar has been consecrated and the Blessed Sacrament is now kept there. On Friday evening on his return with the head catechist we met privately and he told me what he had already told many others before me that he had lined up other missionaries to take over my work in Nyamlell and I would be leaving in January 2013. The new priests would be Indians from a new missionary congregation called Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and also their Sisters would come in early 2013 and they are called Daughters of Mary Immaculate. I had heard the rumor but I knew it for sure that after eleven years here I would be going elsewhere in 2013 after my holiday at home. I am very content about the clarity of the decision but had a few problems with others knowing it before me. I shall do everything to hand over everything in good order and then get out of the way of the young blood. That next day we went to open and bless the new church in Udhom, dedicated to MARY, OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART. I went with my own car because after the church blessing Bishop Rudolf went back to Wau and I stayed on to celebrate Pentecost Sunday in the new church. Both days we had big crowds and lots of sacraments to celebrate. It was a great week in May. In June I had to buy and transport the material to roof and complete three chapels. The Christians in those places build chapel walls without any help from anyone else and we had to build reinforcing brick and cement columns so the roof would sit on them. I took Lawrence by car to the first chapel in Mabior Nyang dedicated to Saint Catherine; it took a month and he had to come out by horse-pulled cart. Then he went by cart to Wun Aruol and after five weeks he finished that chapel dedicated to Saint Lawrence, the martyr. When I was there in Wun Aruol in June before Lawrence went I was awakened at twilight and told that the Arabs were near and that everyone was running and I should get on my bicycle and move out. I refused. No one ever came and we had Sunday Mass there and in another chapel up the road and people were afraid because someone had been killed a few weeks before. While Lawrence was there, there were no insecurity events. Then he moved on to Matuic by cart and bicycle and is working there. He will finish very soon the chapel dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle. Another miracle is that we found the money to do all of this. God provides. Lawrence will then come to resurface our church benches and fix a few broken windows in our parish church so that the church will be good as new for the hand over. Lawrence has not gone home to see his family since he came to build one church Saint Dennis in Ariath but as he goes home in early November he will have built six churches - two from scratch and four doing major finishing off. Is this not a wonderful sign of God’s blessings on the missionary and evangelization work here in this huge parish? Plus there is another chapel which was a store of Norwegian Refugee Council who built a school in Gor Ayen but left their store so that the Catholics could make it into a Church. I shall have the bishop name it when he comes to bless them in January. Lawrence has been another mighty missionary and a fine brother. In June I had another car problem in a very remote area and had to do a lot of walking and praying, and out of the blue another car came from Malaria Consortium and was able to give a hand to get it started and me back to the mission for Monday and my classes. Once again I said REMEMBER O MOST GRACIOUS VIRIN MARY over and over again, which has yet to fail me. In July the rains were really good and I had to do all visits by bike and at times by leaving my car on the other side of the river in the home of one of my students. They made good progress on the bridge over the Lol but after Ramadan they left and never came back; maybe when the dry season comes they will return too. I won’t see it finished. In August we had exams and ended our first semester and after the Assumption we had a two week break. I got a phone call from a confrere in Juba to come as some official had confiscated my passport which I had sent in to get a yearlong visa as there were no entry stamps. They said that I was here as a child trafficker and that I had to appear in person and so I had to go to Juba but the plane stopped in Rumbek for refueling and without planning it I was able to go and visit the tomb of Bishop Caesar and Father Raphael and make it back to the airport without anyone yelling bloody murder. The next day I had my passport back and my visa and the visa for Lawrence all in a hour’s time but with help of some of my old students and the BVM. A Comboni brother who knows the ropes there said that we had done the impossible. The rest of the nine days I watched many new movies on my computer and a modem of another Comboni priest there in Juba and went for walks and visited a few old friends. In September we were back in school and did the serious work of making a new prayer book in Dinka as the old one is out of print and outdated. A former student did the translation and typing with special fonts and it has taken months of writing and then checking and typing and now it is in the hands of the bishop awaiting his approval. If I get that I shall try to check it more and get it printed. If he does not approve then it will die like that. In October we had a special celebration for Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus on October 1st and all the catechists and the pupils joined together for a Mass in the early afternoon. Then on the 10th we had a Comboni Day which is almost like Christmas here in South Sudan and certainly bigger than Easter here in Nyamlell. We had a mid morning Mass and baptisms and the afternoon filled with competitions and games and loud music. My class eight did a play in English in four scenes which took a half hour. At seven we had Benediction and rosary and the litanies written by Saint Daniel Comboni to Mary and then to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which we now have translated into the local language. This day we also opened the YEAR OF THE FAITH. I plan to finish the school year and finish my commitments here and have an opening of the Year of Faith in every center to introduce the new and young missionaries in all 17 places and tell them the names of the chapels under each. So that is why this letter is so delayed and I ask you to bear with me AS I HAVE HAD MY HANDS FULL. Yours in FAITH. Fr. Michael D. Barton, MCCJ.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A note from Father Michael

I am still alive and the school is in full swing and no sisters but we are opening two churches this month with the coming of the bishop and we hope to start three more permanent chapels where the Christians built walls and and we need to put on roofs enforce the walls and put in a metal door. I have the money for three but have a fourth waiting when I get funds. Michael

Sunday, February 26, 2012

First Sunday of Lent in Nyamlell

February 26th, 2012
First Sunday of Lent
Comboni Missionaries, Nyamlell, Aweil West, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State
South Sudan

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

I am very happy to write you this letter to thank you for your help and generous sharing in this missionary endeavor in the South Sudan.

Last time I wrote you last October I told you of the completion of Saint Dennis Church in Ariath, which is the second permanent Church in the county of Aweil North. That community on its own has found money from somewhere to plaster the inside of the church and paint the walls white and blue and also start a three room Comboni School. The community of Wedwil in Aweil West County put up the walls for their new church with overly large baked mud bricks and they used mud in place of cement, but they did this all on their own.

It was left to me to put up 26 pillars with small bricks and concrete to reinforce the walls and close the windows just enough to let in a light. I had to have made and installed two doors and put on the roof and the church of the Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel was opened on the first Saturday of November and the end result is something quite beautiful and very different from the others built on my watch.

Lawrence then moved to build another church dedicated to Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. I have not been to see its progress but I saw a picture that shows the walls and doors are in and the walls are up a little past them. I hope to go to see Udhom and visit all the chapels under that center beginning on the extra day of this leap year until March 7th and will see the progress with my own eyes.

This construction is our biggest and most daunting as Lawrence had to find all the material and get them to the site. This is all done with an embargo by the Sudan to make life for the Southern Sudanese as difficult as possible. Prices have all doubled and difficult to find and things are brought down from Darfur and Kordufan, which are places of war themselves. This project has cleaned me out of money both South Sudan pounds and US dollars, but with what I have in Juba in my Comboni account should be able to keep my head above water and get this church finished. Then Lawrence will go on holiday to his home in Kenya and when he comes back we would like to start a church and some class rooms in Makwei and in Aweil North County.

Our school year ended as planned right before Christmas and the certificates were prepared after Christmas. Certificate Day in Nyamlell was December 28th on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. We started with Mass and 125 baptisms, First Holy Communions and Confirmations and with the 40 which Bishop Deng Majak did on Comboni Day so they were 165 from our school last year in 2011. I give all the credit to God and my five catechist who prepared them so well and even yours truly had a group of the RCIA which I prepared and this was a record number for our school in Nyamlell and even in the parish as a whole.

In Marial Baai with a similar number of pupils and catechists only had 35 who passed and were given Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion on January 12st of this year when they also got their certificates and ended their school year. Makwei, which is a very small Comboni school and with only grass roofs and poles, had only 11 who passed the catechism and prayer examination and received their certificates on that day of December 29th of last year.

One more church school started on its own and we did their certificate in Nyamlell for Saint Dennis School in Ariath and as it just started late in the year they did not teach the catechism and only got their certificates on February 17th, 2012. Let us pray something will continue.

Christmas was very special for our parish in 2011 and for so many people who could have Mass for the Nativity of the Lord. You see we had four priests; three other Padres came to give us a hand. Father Angelo Agany (a diocesan priest), Father John Barth and Father John Tscornia (two American Maryknoll Missionaries) and myself. Father Angelo did Christmas here in Nyamlell and on Dec 26th in Ariath. Father Tom who knows spoken Arabic and worked some years in North Sudan and now works with the Catholic University of Wau went to War Cuei on the 24th and Marial Baai on the 25th and Udhom on the 26th. Father John had his first Christmas in Africa with us as he had worked many years in Cambodia and in his general administration of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in New York and is now training health workers in Wau. Fr. John had Christmas in Majak Baai and baptized more than 50 babies which was a personal record for him and on the 26th he went to Wedwi and celebrated there.

The Sisters had us over for Christmas dinner (Indonesian style) and we sang carols late into the night of the 25th. I am so grateful for their coming and their wonderful service. I have been out every day from December 24th up to now and will conclude the program of visits on March 7th of this year. During this time I will have said Mass in Nyamlell twice, on December 28th and today Feb 26 and all the rest of the days I had Mass out in the chapels and centers where I have done my first visits for this year to the whole of the parish, started even with some five other chapels visited on the 3rd and 4th Sundays of Advent and will end in early March with only pastoral work with sacrament in their plenty and visits to the sick and families. When it is over I shall have to begin again.

Now there is bread and more food in the markets than ever before and this makes feeding so much easier.

On January 6tyh our Indonesian Sisters left Nyamlell, and their community and their congregation ended their presence and commitment to the parish and to the diocese. It will be tough to find replacements and now I have a sad heart and an empty convent. I shall try to find another group of women religious to come and see if they will serve in our growing parish. Two of the sisters went to Mapuordit and another returned to her homeland for good. It will be tough to find replacements and to run the school without them. VERY SAD NEWS!!!

On the first Sunday of Advent back in November we a very interesting and entertaining choir completion. I was here for it.

On January 19th in the late afternoon I went to sleep in Nyamlell and to get on the internet and check things out in the parish center. As I was talking to the catechist and checking on the Baptismal list and registration books, a mad dog came in and bit Samuel(our cook) and Marko (our head catechist). With the help of others (not mine) they were able to kill it but both had to get rabies shots-five at a hundred pounds each and to go to the state capital for each shot and so a lot of money went into that dead dog in shots and bus fares and even the old sisters’ dog got rabies and had to be killed too.

I want to thank you for all your help, spiritual as well as material.
Happy Lent and Easter Season in 2012!

Fr. Michael D. Barton, MCCJ.

In 2011 we had 2264 baptisms, 400 First Communions and 382 Confirmations, and 23 Christian Marriages. We had 499 Masses and 50,000 Holy Communions given out and 1,575 Sacraments of Reconciliation celebrated and 512 Anointing of the Sick.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sacraments for 2011 -- St. Teresa Parish, Nyamlell

Father Michael D. Barton, MCCJ, reports the sacraments given in Saint Teresa Parish, Nyamlell Aweil, West County, Northern Bahr el Gazhal State, South Sudan: