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: