Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Message from Father Michael, Ascension Parish

Comboni Missonaries Ascension Parish January 17, 2016 Dear Family and friends, I am in a place called Yuai where CRS is present and they let me use the computer and internet. So I can greet you after a long while of only prayerful daily contact and I do mean daily. In January I was in this area for the first time and visited all the three counties of the Nuer Lou that are under Ayod parish and had a lot of pastoral work masses, baptisms and church marriages and days and days of walking. In mid February, I went out of South Sudan to visit some other African countries only to clear my head from a tough year. By mid March I was back here and visited most places again by myself with a small entourage and had Easter here and even visited some chapels that I had not been before. Then that same group led me back to Magok, which I had left on the 31 of Dec 2014. After two days of rest I was back in the bush with Gawar Nuer to visit new chapels there in Halt and Minime, which is one huge river surrounded with big swamps and water and flies and mosquitoes. We are just starting in that area and so I only Baptized five souls in those three weeks there. One old catechist volunteered to move there and so the future should get better. Two things that really impressed me were hundreds of dead cows in many villages everywhere dead cows. The other, was in one hut a huge python came out from under the bed and scared me to death, but when I yelled it went back under the bed and I could not get anyone else excited about it. No big deal for everyone else but for me a really big deal. The rebel government gave me again permission to use the government school in Mogok and so my group led me back again to Mogok and we started up the new school year from May 10 or so to December 31, 2015. We had three terms with no breaks but weekends. The first and second terms were 11 weeks and the third term was 12 weeks and all with their exams. 2015 was so much better than 2014 with good attendance and good enrollment and no outside interference and a bit more support of the parents. The teachers were good and so were the children. I started a Sunday school for catechism and we had first communions and Baptisms on Comboni Day. After school I start to pump and fetch and carry our own water and wash my own clothes on some Saturdays. I learned to make pudding on big days using our neighbors' fire and firewood and they would help with the hot pans even when I would go to make popcorn. On June 27 we celebrated with a big celebration of Father ANTONIO (1965 to 2015) and killed a big bull and Mass and a wedding and plays and games and speeches. Father feels a call to complete prayer and meditation as a special type of hermit and is loved by EVERYONE. Rains were much less than the previous year but I still had lots of mud to cross going and coming from school. On one Saturday I was over making popcorn and Maria Nyapal was aiding me, when I heard her wonderful mother Roda yelling in a very nearby hut. And I asked Maria what it was. Oh, it is Roda. She was giving birth to her seventh child and there were lots of people in the compound and I was popping corn and the small children were all looking in the door and their fathers were calling them away but mystery was stronger than obedience. Martha the Aunt of Maria came out laughing and I asked was the baby like her or like me, and Martha said it was like her. You know that they named that girl Nyaabuna or daughter of the FATHER because of my presence at the time of birth. Father Antonio now always kids Roda that after the seventh time she still cries like a hyena. He had heard all about it from me. Comboni Day was another big day and every day is full of seven teaching periods and correcting and grading and recording and then selling pens and exercise books and praying and reading and resting. We have no desks and so the teachers have to bring their own chairs as do some of the pupils and the rest sit on the floor and they have to find their own textbooks since we have none in the school. Yet it so happened that before the war started a lorry broke down and was loaded with text books but are all in the hands of villagers. Yet two years we got through. It was on the 17th that I started again to move. I did try to move in June but mud and water stopped me and I went to one place and cancelled the rest. Yet now it is dry and on the 15 of December our provincial came and lots of mail and many packets of magazines and so now I am up to date on the current events of a few months ago. Then on the Dec 8th we opened the Holy Year by making a door and going through it on our knees and singing mercy on your people, Lord. Then the evening we did it all again for and with the parish and from the 18th we are doing in the chapels. I was back for the exams and certificates and gave the certificates out on the 3rd of Jan and Lou people came to escort me to their area and this is what I am doing. But first all of the upper classes passed well and only in class ones and two were there failures and only some girls in class one did not make it and no one was pushed ahead everyone had to make on their own. John Tap is the husband of Roda and father of the seven and has been with me in all these visits since I started in late December part time and now full time. He is such good company. As I walk I think of the old Toyota that I had in Nyamlell and I sing to myself to the music of a white Christmas. But the words are: I am dreaming of a white Toyota pickup with four wheel drive, and good tires that will get from here to there. In one chapel, and I have blessed six new chapels all built by the local Christians, and at St. Teresa there were very little girls as alleluia dancers and one would dance her heart out and then look at me with pleading eyes and she was thinking to herself, please do not eat me . . . Little Flower forever. Today we had confessions and the mercy Mass with government people here up to the end and then testing, and so tomorrow we have in the same chapel a Mass, a wedding and 17 baptisms and then on Tuesday a ten hour walk to the next place. Blessing and peace, Michael Barton