Peace and Greetings from South Sudan during this Novena of Mother Cabrini! I am completing a week since I left Rome for Addis Ababa and onto Juba, the capital of South Sudan. It has been a very full week and I want to share an overview with you all, from our newest nation in our Province and also in the world.
Juba was celebrating its first Centenary of the Catholic Faith established in the archdiocese on November 1st, the feast of All Saints. (Catholicism is the largest Christian group in SS.) Approximately 30 to 40,000 people congregated at the “All Saints” Parish, outside the Capital, on spacious lands provided, organized and prepared for this massive feast. All the Bishops of South Sudan and Sudan were present, as well as Archbishop Odama (a good friend of the MSCs in Uganda), the Papal Nuncio, other Bishops and dignitaries and hundreds of priests and religious, plus myriads of the Faithful coming from all over SS.
The President of the transitional government, since the civil war’s cease fire, as well as one of his vice-presidents (there are 5) and governors of almost all of the 32 States of the Nation, were in attendance also. Security was overly visible everywhere, and no one could be moving beyond designated places without authorization. There were ethnic dances, oﬀerings and speeches galore, all as part of the Eucharistic Celebration. The Mass lasted 5 hours. Fr. Jim Greene and I went, representing “Solidarity with South Sudan”; we did not stay for the food afterwards, and thus, we were able to make it home to Juba (a 15 minutes ride under normal conditions) by 5:30pm, having left the house in the morning at 8:30am. Others who left after the feasting with food, didn’t make it home before 10:30pm going on towards midnight. There is one bridge that crosses the Nile River at that point and it narrows down to single lanes in both directions, as well as there being weight restrictions.
There was much hope and national pride generated by the feast, in contradiction to the very real situation of unstable peace and the expiration date of the transitional government’s mandate (November 12, 2019) to set up the new government of National Unity. There are so many requirements not fulfilled for any realistic functioning of a government, none the less, one trying to successfully maneuver itself out of the backlash of very possible continuing civil war. Please pray with all of us here, that visible arms are not taken up again. There are varying sites of skirmishes and happenings that are giving alarm to many people.
On my side of things, I already have my national registration and my residency is in the process. Once that happens, I’ll get my national drivers’ license, and I’ll be set; no other documents required. I have begun studying the Arabic language this week at St. Mary’s College, the Catholic University founded and supported by the Italian Bishops’ Conference. I will continue doing so while I’ll be in Juba for the duration of most of this month of November. From the 23rd through the 29th, I’ll be participating in a “newcomers” workshop at the Good Shepherd Peace Center in Kit, approximately about 25 kilometers outside of Juba. This is the site where Solidarity hopes to have the new Pastoral Team, (of which I am a member), situated by mid-March, 2020.
In the meantime, after the workshop, I’ll be going to Wau, northeast of Juba, where Solidarity has its Health Training Institute for nurses and midwives, I will be present to the students there and available to them for accompaniment, as needs be. I will also continue with Arabic, along with a tutor there.
I am meeting many of the 27 members of the Solidarity Community, as they come and go from this administrative and hospitality house that we have here in Juba. We are in the whole of the “Solidarity with South Sudan” Project: 9 men and 18 women, 4 Lay Missionaries in this group from varied areas (Australia, Ireland, Italy & USA), and 17 Congregations. I don’t as yet know all the nationalities of the religious sisters & brothers, that are among us, but there is a smattering of Asian, African, from the Americas, Europe and Oceania; and people having lived and been missioned all over the globe.
I unite myself daily with all of you, as we are about all that the Lord asks of us. It is a joy and gift to be here in South Sudan in the name of our Guadalupe Province and MSCs throughout the Institute.
Peace and blessings, my Sisters, and a promise of prayer, knowing that I can depend on yours also.
November 6th, 2019