Tales From Myanmar, El Salvador and Haiti

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Missioner Tales, July & August 2016

Veronica Calleman is a member of the Catholic community I serve in the U.N. camp at Malakal, South Sudan. When fighting among different ethnic groups erupted in the camp this past February, Veronica decided to flee from the area where she lived in a tent to another part of the camp that was more secure. When she heard gunfire nearby, she grabbed what she considered essential. Instead of gathering up clothes or other family possessions, she took only the bags containing the materials of the church, including altar linens, vestments, chalice, hosts, candles and liturgical books, which she had volunteered to store in her tent. For Veronica, these were not just things of the church but things of God.

After arriving safely with her family in a new part of the camp with only the clothes they were wearing, Veronica learned the area where she had lived had been burned to the ground. All she could say was that God had helped her during this terrible ordeal to find relief and shelter.

We gave Veronica assistance from the church collections to buy food and clothes for herself and her family. It was the least we could do for someone who had sacrificed all she had so the Catholic community could continue to pray and celebrate Mass in the camp at Malakal.
Michael Bassano, M.M.

While serving as a Maryknoll lay missioner in El Salvador, I would give cans and plastic bottles to a homeless man to recycle. One day when he came to the door, he asked me to fill one of the bottles with water for him to drink. When he saw that I filled it from our five-gallon drinking water container instead of from the tap, he was surprised. He told me that usually people did not give him good water. It did not even occur to me not to give him the same water I would use for drinking. I hope I can always treat people respectfully and see Christ in them, no matter what.
Deborah Northern, MKLM

One Sunday morning in Yangon, Myanmar, I had been invited to concelebrate Mass in a neighboring parish. Just before the liturgy I asked a Sister in the church whether I should remove my sandals for the celebration, as is customary in many churches in Yangon. It was only a week after recent national elections, and she replied, “It’s all right. We can do whatever we want. We’re a democracy now!”

I happily slipped off my sandals!
James Kofski, M.M.

At Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Parish in Haiti, we started a youth group. The youth now have a project of raising goats to earn money to keep themselves in school. We are very grateful to St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Waynesboro, Pa., because through their support we were able to buy goats for nine youths who are in high school. We were also able to buy tree saplings that were distributed to the community around the parish as part of the youth group’s effort to bring back the green in the heavily deforested Haitian environment.

In exchange for the goats, the young people are expected to give back the first and fifth female goat kids to the project so that more young people in the parish can participate in the program.   

Why the fifth-born female kid? We were advised that to ensure that the young people did not sell the mother goat and hence discontinue the program, we needed to make an agreement with them that while the goat belongs to them, they need to make sure two other needy youths in the parish also benefit.

The goats are like a bank. They have baby goats twice a year and most of them have twins or triplets in six months. The youths can sell the little goats and buy school supplies or pay part of their school fees. The program is making these young people happy and helping them stay in school.
Susan Nchubiri, M.M.

Featured Image: S. Sprague/S. Sudan


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Missioner Tales

Tales of life in the missions around the world.