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.