I took an early morning flight last Monday from Nairobi to Kisumu several hundred kilometers west on Lake Victoria. Fr. Martin Martiny, OP, Vicar Provincial for the East African Vice Province of the Dominican Friars met me at new airport which had only opened a few days before.
That afternoon I began a four-day program with the students aged 15 and older from both the primary and secondary division of Our Lady of Grace School. The school has an interesting history. The Dominican Friars had been sponsoring disadvantaged students at a number of schools for several years. However, when it became impossible to send the youth back to school during the post-election violence of 2008, and the compound of a nearby NGO went up for sale, Fr. Martin arranged for the purchase of that property and opened their own school. A team of friars and Missioners of Christ had the privilege of helping to direct an UZIMA! (the Kiswahili word for "Life!") YOUTH 2OOO-type retreat there in May of 2009. I returned a year later to do a catechetical program based on the Lord of the Rings films a few months later.
Since the focus of my preaching for my new "missionary preacher" assignment has been on "Reviving the Legacy of Blessed John Paul II," this time around I decided to adapt that content for a younger audience using the two really wonderful dramatized films on the life of Karol Wojtyla that were a joint effort of companies in Poland, Italy and Canada: Karol, A Man Who Became Pope and Karol, The Pope, The Man. Though fictionalized in some details they present an amazingly factual and positive portrayal of the man who altered the course of the 20th century and led the Church into the new millennium. Each of the films runs for three hours and is divided into two equal parts. The first covers his life from the invasion of Poland by the Nazis in 1939, through his ordination and ministry as a priest and bishop and concludes with his election as pope in 1978. The second begins with his first pontifical Mass and ends with his death in 2005.
The students were extremely attentive and very responsive to the program. Three things about Blessed John Paul struck them particularly: 1) how all the painful events of his youth (the loss of his entire family, the occupation by the Nazis and oppression by the Communists)all prepared him for something God would ask him to do in the future 2) his friendship with young people and 3) his visits to Africa. Members of the faculty and staff were likewise deeply moved and inspired by his example.
|Students, faculty and staff of Our Lady of Grace School who participated in the program on |
Blessed Pope John Paul II. The principal and administrator are on the far left.
Secondary students are dressed in blue, primary students in brown.