Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ethiopia: On Mission with Ugandan Team

Joseph Alumansi speaking about the personal love of God the Father.
When I visited Ethiopia last spring I had the chance to speak at length with Addis Ababa Auxiliary Bishop Lesanu-Christos Matheos about the needs of the local church, and how Franciscan Mission Outreach might be able to help. He introduced me to several local members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal who have struggled to keep this movement alive and have it grow in the midst of a religious culture overshadowed by the prominence of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and a somewhat isolated political climate. The bishop had tried previously to bring a team from Uganda to help, but was unable to do so for lack of funds.

Some of the more than 100 participants in the two-day general conference.
Because of friendships I have developed among leaders in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Uganda, and because of the generosity of FMO benefactors, I was able to assemble a small team consisting of Fr. David Byaruhanga, a priest-theologian of the Kabale Diocese, Joseph Alumansi, National Coordinator of the Uganda Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and Joseph's wife Serah Alumansi, also very active and involved in the Renewal in Uganda.

Bishop Lesanu-Christos Matheos translating for Fr. David Byaruhanga with charismatic leaders.
We arrived on Sunday evening, October 21, and launched into a very full schedule the next morning. The week began with a two-day mini-conference for general charismatic participants. Joseph covered the background and history of the Renewal, Fr. David provided the Scriptural basis and Serah witnessed to the fruits of the charismatic renewal she has experienced and seen in her own life. The following day we did a condensed Life in the Spirit Seminar, focusing on our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and our life of discipleship in the Church. The day ended with a session of praying for individual participants.

About half of the clergy and religious who attended an information seminar.
On Wednesday we spent an entire day with local leaders of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, mostly sharing the mature experience of that movement in Ethiopia. There was plenty of time for questions and answers and responding to individual concerns. In the afternoon we spent time in Eucharistic Adoration, and again prayed personally with each leader present.

Serah Alumansi (left), one of the Ugandan team members,
with Meaza Yohannes, one of the local organizers.
Thursday was an informational seminar for the priests and religious of the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa in which approximately 55 people participated. Again we provided background information, Scriptural references, statements of the Magisterium and explanations of aspects of the charismatic renewal that are commonly misunderstood. There was a small breakout session to discuss the potential benefits of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the Church, possible challenges to be faced, and concrete steps that could be taken to enable what all agreed was something good for the Church to move forward and flourish.

St. Francis Prayer group meeting in the compound of Christian Care,
a nonprofit organization they established to help feed hungry children
Finally on Saturday morning and afternoon we met with other local Catholic leaders and separately with a general audience of curious and interested people for the purpose of sharing basic information and answering questions. It was an extremely positive week for us, and one we hope and pray will be an ongoing source of blessing for the Charismatic Renewal and the Church as a whole in Addis Ababa.

Bishop Lesanu-Christos (left) with our team (left to right):
Serah Alumansi, Joseph Alumansi, Fr. Herald Brock, CFR, Fr. David Byaruhanga.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Uganda: Updates

The newly completed St. Anthony School in Matugga.
Being in Uganda afforded me the opportunity to catch up with other friends and see how their lives continue to unfold. I was able to spend a night with Fr. Simon, Fr. Wojtek and Fr. Adam - the Polish Conventual Franciscans who staff St. Francis Parish, Mutugga. I arrived at night, and the next morning was able to see the newly painted, brightly colored St. Anthony School which is now fully complete. Fr. Simon explained the color scheme for the windows and railings: green on the first floor for the earth and vegetation, blue on the second floor for the sky, and yellow on the third for the sun. It's a bright, beautiful environment in which children can learn and grow.

Dennis, Agnes and Nicolette Kiyimba.
Dennis Kiyimba, Ugandan Catholic lay missionary serving in South Sudan, accompanied a contingent from that neighboring country to the north to participate in the week of praise and worshipat Emmaus Centre. One morning I was able to travel into Kampala with him to visit his wife, Agnes, and daughter, Nicolette. I had the privilege of celebrating Dennis and Agnes's wedding at St. Matthias Mulumba Church in December of 2010. They are doing well as a young, faith-filled Catholic familiy.

Elizabeth Paskwale and Samuel Oryem from South Sudan.
One of the main reasons for being at Emmaus Centre was to have the chance to visit with Elizabeth Paskwale and Samuel Oryem, two youth from South Sudan whom we have sponsored in a nine-month formation program at Emmaus. They are entering into the final phase of their training, and have learned and grown a tremendous amount in the past year. I am extremely proud of these two young people who will return to their country in December as strong witnesses to Christ and his Church. I am also grateful to all of you who have helped to make this life-changing experience possible for them. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Uganda: Week of Praise & Worship at Emmaus Centre, Katikamu

The praise and worship team from Mbarara dressed in matching attire every day.
During the week of October 15-21, I was at Emmaus Centre for Catholic Evangelization and Discipleship in Wobulenzi, Katikamu - about 55 km north of Kampala. We have a long-standing friendship, and I've been able to visit there a number of times. During this week I served as priest chaplain for a program focused on praise and worship. The mostly young participants came from dioceses throughout Uganda, and some even from Kenya and South Sudan. The schedule included sessions throughout the day and all-night Eucharistic Adoration every night.

One of the highlights of the week was a jubilant Eucharistic procession, complete with palm branches, banners, drums and traditional attire. It culminated in an extended period of Adoration in the chapel. It was inspiring to see how the participants would sing and praise for hours on end. There was no rush to get out of church! It became an occasion for many moments of personal graces and breakthroughs, especially in the area of forgiveness and reconciliation.

It was a blessing for me to accompany these brothers and sisters, to offer daily Mass for and with them and make available the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They left full of enthusiasm and joy, reminding me of why Pope Benedict XVI has referred to Africa as the "Continent of Hope."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kampala, Uganda: St. Matthias Mulumba Parish

The entrance to St. Matthias Mulumba Parish.
While doing evangelization outreach in Kampala, I was blessed to stay at St. Matthias Mulumba Parish in Old Kampala, just below the large mosque donated by Moammar Gadhafi. The church is built on a hillside with the entrance to the compound on the upper side, and the actual church located in the lower part of the structure shown below.

Above: the sloping church structure (hall on top, church proper underneath);
Below: grotto and statue of St. Matthias Mulumba.

The church is built on the actual site of the martydom of St. Matthias Mulumba, the oldest of the Uganda Martyrs. He was about 50 years of age at the time of his martyrdom and served in an official government position at the time of his arrest. He was still a relatively newly baptized Catholic at the time he was asked to bear supreme witness to Christ. In order to be baptized he had to separate from most of his multiple wives (whom he continued to support materially), choosing only one to be his Christian wife, and so is also a great witness to the sanctity of Christian marriage. He was killed ahead of and in a different place than the other Ugandan martyrs, being hacked by machetes and left for dead, enduring an agony that lasted for several days. I had visited the church as a pilgrim a few times before, and had the blessing of celebrating the wedding of lay missionary Dennis Kiyimba there in December 2010.

Church sanctuary (above) with closeup of the baptism and death of some of the other martyrs (below).

 For more information about St. Matthias Mulumba visit the Dictionary of African Christian Biography site or ugandamartyrs.com.

Painting of the martyrdom of St. Matthias Mulumba in the church rectory (above);
stained glass window of the saint in the church sanctuary (below).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kampala, Uganda: Outreach to University Students

Panorama of Kampala skyline. Eucharistic Adoration chapel in lower  left corner.
 From October 7th through the 14th I was in Kampala, capital of Uganda. Unbeknownst to me ahead of time, my visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of Ugandan independence, which took place on October 9th, 1962. Our drive from the airport in Entebbe into Kampala was interrupted by approximately ten official motorcades carrying Ugandan government officials and visiting dignitaries who were arriving for the celebrations.
Mosque donated by Moammar Gadhafi to Idi Amin that dominates the skyline.
That coincidence turned out to be very providential, since during my visit I was speaking mostly about the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith, set by Pope Benedict to begin on October 11th. That date marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962. Two days after Uganda became an independent nation the most significant ecclesiastical event in the Catholic Church in the last century began.

Speaking to students at Kampala International University (above and below).
The principal purpose of my time in Kampala was to do evangelization outreach to university campuses throughout the city, an effort coordinated by the National Office of the Uganda Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Accompanied by Edwin and Patrick - two young men serving in the university apostolate - we visited four institutions:  Mulago Medical College, Makerere University Business School, Kyambogo University and Kampala International University. I also celebrated special Masses in several other locations, including one to mark the beginning of the Year of Faith in the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of the National Office of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kenya: Youth Encounter with MC Fathers

On Saturday, October 6, together with the MC Fathers and youth leaders from local youth groups, we conducted a Youth Encounter in preparation for the upcoming Year of Fatih at St. Stephen's sub-parish in the Huruma section of Nairobi.

St. Stephen's has a large, beautiful church, adorned on the inside with colorful paintings that depict the Last Supper, the Stoning of St. Stephen, scenes from the Old and New Testaments, and the Stations of the Cross. It was the perfect venue for such a gathering.

Once again we began with early morning guided Eucharistic Adoration followed by breakfast. After some songs and animation activities I gave the first talk on the theme of "Faith," which was followed by small group discussions led by the leaders who had participated in the previous Saturday's formation day.

Following lunch and more singing, I gave a second talk on the Blessed Virgin Mary's personal pilgrimage of faith (a description used in Vatican II's Lumen Gentium, John Paul II's Redemptoris Mater, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church), and the way she accompanies us on our own pilgrimage of faith, sympbolized by the Rosary procession through the streets that followed. The day concluded with a jubilant celebration of Mass in Kiswahili, presided and preached by Fr. Ray, MC.

One of the Missionaries of Charity sisters who attended the day said that several young people commented to her that they experienced something at the encounter that they had never experienced before, and that it had been for them the happiest day of their lives.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kenya: Eucharistic Retreat at Kamiti Prison with MC Fathers

Eucharistic Adoration in the chapel at Kamiti prison.

On Wednesday - Friday, October 3-5, we conducted the second Eucharistic retreat for inmates at Kamiti Prison, Nairobi, this time focusing on those in the maximum security block. Like the retreat we did back in April, we followed a format very similar to YOUTH 2OOO, only adapted to the needs and circumstances of  the prison.

Each day there was Rosary, Mass and a talk in the morning, and Eucharistic Adoration in the afternoon (with the exception of Friday because the retreat concluded at midday). There were simple talks about the Person of Jesus, the Holy Eucharist, following Jesus, mercy and forgiveness, and staying spiritually strong. It was a special blessing for me to be with these men on the feast of St. Francis (Oct 4), and to be the main celebrant and homilist at Mass that day.

On Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at 3:00 pm the Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession across the prison yard, accompanied by the chanting of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in Kiswahili, to the cell block where there would be adoration throughout the night. Those were the most moving moments of the retreat for me, and something I've never heard of happening in any other prison.

Attentive listeners.

The retreat once again had an transforming effect in the lives of these men who face the challenges of life in prison daily for many years, but now not alone, instead accompanied by Christ.

Fr. Ray, MC, giving the final blessing at the closing Mass.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kenya: Youth Leaders Formation Day with MC Fathers

Distributing Catholic African Bibles to participants.
On Saturday 30 September, together with the MC Fathers in Nairobi, we conducted a formation day for youth leaders from parishes and smaller sub-communities from Huruma and Mathare areas of the city. We deliberately planned this formation day a week ahead of a larger, more general youth encounter scheduled to take place the following Saturday. About 40 youth leaders participated. Thanks to the generosity and support of the benefactors of Franciscan Mission Outreach we were able to underwrite the cost of the day and present each youth leader present with a copy of the African Catholic Bible and a small Family Catechism. The youth, all of whom come from poor neighborhoods, were deeply grateful for these gifts.  

A talk on the New Evangelization.
The day began with a quiet Holy Hour in the morning, followed by breakfast. After the distribution of the Bibles and catechisms I gave a talk on the meaning and importance of the New Evangelization, after which the youths broke down into smaller discussion groups. Of course there was also time for some fun activities and plenty of singing.

After lunch we had another, more animated Holy Hour, followed by Mass in Kiswahili, celebrated by Fr. Ray, MC. Br. Jufinalis, MC, a Kenyan on his pastoral year between second and third theology in Rome, did most of the coordination for the day. It was a special joy for him (and us) to have two of his brothers and a niece participate in the day.

Br. Jufinalis, MC (left rear), with his two brothers (right front and back) and niece (left front).

Participants in the Youth Leaders Formation Day.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Zimbabwe: John Bradburne, Leper Settlement and Orphanage in Mutemwa

On Monday 24 September I accompanied Fr. Liam on the two and a half hour drive to Mutoko, the town outside of which the John Bradburne Memorial Site, the Mutemwa Leper Settlement and Queen of Peace Orphanage are located. Fr. Liam is on the board of the Mutemwa  Leprosy and Care Center and promoter of John Bradburne's cause for beatification.

Painting of John Bradburne in Mother of Peace orphanage chapel.

Following several years as a a British soldier in Asia, John entered the Catholic Church. He tried monastic life but instead became wandering pilgrim in Europe and the Middle east, eventually ending up serving the residents at Mutemwa. Hence the title given him by his biographers: "The Vagabond of God." He was a lay Franciscan, a musician and a poet who advocated for the dignity and well-being of the lepers. He was abducted and killed in 1979 during the civil war.

The hut where John Bradburne lived (above), and an adjacent one
from which he was abducted on the night he was killed (below).

Beginning at his funeral many extraordinary happenings have been associated with John Bradburne and his intercession. Many pilgrims come to the sites associated with his life, especially on the first weekend of September, close to the anniversary of his death. They pray in his hut and climb the mountain behind the settlement, as John did every day, praying the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross as they go. For more information about him, visit: johnbradburne.com.

The wagon in which John used to take the lepers to church.

It was a privilege to visit this graced place of faith, love and mercy, and to be able to celebrate Mass for the residents and staff, as well as some of the religious and lay people who serve at Mother of Peace orphanage, not far across the plain at the base of Mutemwe, another mountain.

The Catholic chapel in the leper settlement.

Mass with the lepers, the staff and members of Queen of Peace community.

The small homes of the lepers, arranged in circles.

Fr. Liam and Margaret, the leprosy care center manager,
climb Chigona mountain, something John did daily.

Stations of the cross are marked along the way for the many pilgrims who come.

The cross at the Thirteenth Station, the Crucifixion, erected by a man
cured of blindness through John Bradburne's intercession.

View of the leper settlement from the Cross atop Chigona mountain.
John planted the jacaranda trees that line the street.

Mother of Peace Orphanage, run by lay members of the Mother of Peace community, was established to help care for the many orphans and deprived children left in the wake of Zimbabwe's war for independence.

Mother of Peace orphanage with a view of Chigona mountain across the plain.

Especially at its beginning it cared for some of the many children left orphaned by AIDS, often themselves HIV positive. Before antiretroviral medications were widely available in Africa, many of these children died and are buried in the orphanage cemetery, a somber place and yet a testament to love and hope.

Some of the children who live at Mother of Peace orphanage.

We're hoping to help both the leper settlement and the orphanage get an electrical transformer to provide enough energy to a water pump located near a small reservoir not far from Mother of Peace. Right now they can only pump late at night when usage on the power line is very low, and there's only enough voltage to get the water to the orphanage and not the extra 4 km to the leper settlement. The transformer would allow them to pump at any time, and reach the settlement, too. Please consider helping with this effort.

The cemetery at Mother of Peace where many of the first orphans died
before HIV medications were made available in Africa.