St. Cecilia Mission Circle Ministry
St. Cecilia’s Parish has an extensive Mission Ministry. Begun by Msgr. Sammon 50 years ago, the program is still thriving due to the dedication of members of our parish who use the blue envelope every month to donate money. We sincerely thank all of you who are so generous. Whether you give a dollar or more is not so important as the fact that you care. We know that all missionaries around the world pray for you and your loved ones. They in turn ask for your prayers as well as donations. Prayer is the strength of the missionary’s life.
At the present time, we support 36 missions in 18 foreign countries and one in the USA. We have: Guatemala-2, El Salvador-2, Haiti-1, Columbia-1, Ecuador-1, Nigeria-2, Central Africa-1, Ethiopia-1, Kenya-2, Tanzania-1, Belarus-1, Russia-2, Hungary-1, India-10, Bangladesh-1, Thailand-1, Philippines-1, New Guinea-3, USA-1.
St. Rose de Lima Mission Group also support two missions, one in Nicaragua and one in Guatemala with their own fund raising activities.
Besides the blue envelopes, we raise funds by selling the Entertainment 2010 Books outside of church during the month of October. The cost is still $ 35.00 and that is a good deal for all who travel and eat out. From the finest restaurants to the fast food restaurants, a bargain can be had. Rent-a-car coupons are useful also. In addition the Books have coupons for so many shopping stores here in our community. Consider a Book and help the Missions as well as your family.
In November we will have a Bake Sale and Tupperware Party combined in the parish hall. More info on that in the Parish Bulletin in Nov.
Last June we sent every missionary a survey sheet asking them to fill it out with information about their Ministry. Many have responded and shared what their greatest needs are, how they use the money we send, where they are from originally and how long they have been in the missions. We have received many replies and will share them with you. Our next meeting will be Nov. 17th in Modular 2 at 7pm. Everyone is welcomed to attend.
Remember, the strength of Missions is prayer. So pray everyday for the Missionaries who have dedicated their lives to helping those less fortunate in the world. Thank you so much
Hello From Ethiopia,
I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by since my last email. Since I last wrote I have begun teaching at the Comboni High School and I have a new kitten (Gabby). Unfortunately, Gabby thinks the computer key board is a play toy, so I the only way I can work at home is to put her in the bedroom.
The Newest Member of the Family
I’ve attached pictures of Gabby, she is now twelve weeks old and seems to be settling in quite well. I named her after one of the patron saints of Ethiopia, Gabriel. In fact both Saint Gabriel and Michael have a feast day every month of the year in the Orthodox Church. Gabby is using the litter box with my homemade kitty litter! However, her food has been more challenging, you can’t buy cat food in Ethiopia so I’ve been trying to develop a dry cat food mixed with tuna that will be to her liking. Actually, she has become an expert at separating the homemade dry food from the tuna fish that I mix it with. So now I’m trying a mix of tuna and rice. Mark says I’m in danger of turning her into an American cat!
Teaching at Comboni High School
I have started teaching Ethics to 11th graders and I love it. It has been a wonderful contrast to my work at the Vicariate. I work at the school on Monday and Tuesday and teach five classes. I am also overseeing the reading club which you can read about below. There really isn’t a curriculum for Ethics so I have a lot of freedom in developing my lesson plans. That can be both good and bad, right now I am spending a great deal of time just trying to prepare each week for class and to adjust as I figure out what works and what doesn’t. My poor students, I told them they will have to suffer through my first year as a teacher!
I have over 200 students — I now have so much more respect for my teachers and what it takes to review 200 assignments in a week and return them to the students with meaningful comments. The class size is about 50 which is large by American standards but is considered small by Ethiopian standards. The Government schools might have between 70 to 90 students in each class. The students are wonderful — very respectful but so much more reserved than American kids. I’m hoping that little by little they will feel more comfortable asking questions and talking. As one of my first assignments I asked them to write down two topics or questions they would like to see covered in the Ethics course. Some of their responses are below.
Ideas from Students about what I should cover in Ethics/Moral Development/Character Development:
- “Much more from where you come from.”
- “What is the pre-condition to being a popular person.”
- “When to have a girlfriend.”
- “What is the most challenging thing in America during our age.”
- “The habit of work in your country (USA). Because your country is the most developed we must share these useful habits.”
- “How do I become a famous person?”
- “Discuss U.S.A. famous persons.”
- “Having in mind that you have lots of experiences, I’m very eager to learn from you clues to solve our problems.”
- “How to fix things up when we are in a different world that most of the people are not.”
- I also had several students list marital-sex as a topic, and one brave soul who even asked about pre-marital sex.
You can see by the topics above that many of the students have very high expectations of me. I will almost certainly disappoint them when they find-out that not only do I not have all of the answers, but that America doesn’t have all of the answers either.
Monday October 10 was the feast of Daniel Comboni. There was an assembly at school to celebrate and to recognize the top students from last year. Sister Daniella (School Director) asked me to speak about Daniel Comboni and what it means to me to be a Comboni Lay Missionary. It was nice to reflect on Comboni’s legacy and to see his dream being realized, almost 150 years later, through all of the students at Comboni High School.
Visit to Dadim
During the week of October 4 I was able to make a quick trip back to Dadim located in the Borana zone. The Supplementary Feeding program began in early September and as of October 10 the Dadim health team has screened over 2,900 children under 5 and pregnant and lacting women. We found that over 30% of the women screened are actually being admitted with moderate to severe malnutrition, while approximately 8% of the under 5 children are being admitted. The lower percentage of malnourished children may be due to the fact that the norm among the Borana people is to feed their children first. Anecdotally, the Dadim health workers have noted that mothers are proud when their child does not need to be admitted into the program.
Maggie, my next door neighbor and a fellow Comboni missionary, has gone to Dadim to help get the SFP program started and she will stay until early November. I have included some of her great photos from the outreach sites. While I was in Dadim I was able to visit their school and to see the School Lunch Program in action. The good news from Dadim is that they got rain while I was visiting and they have had several more days of rain since then. Even with just a little rain the grass grows and the cattle are able to graze and provide milk. We are hopeful that we will begin to see a decrease in the number of malnutrition cases over the next few months. The best news for us would be if we had to shut down the feeding program early because people are able to feed themselves.
The Reading Club Saga
I copied this from my journal entry dated October 4, 2011:
“I always vowed that I would not be one of those tight-lipped white women that seem to appear in almost every movie that takes place in Africa. Alas, today I was that tight-lipped white woman.
I have been working on an outdoor bulletin board for the Reading Club at the Comboni High School where I’m teaching. So, after hours of finding, cutting out, and laminating big letters and graphics I was ready to actually do the bulletin board. Unfortunately, I’m leaving tomorrow morning for Dadim and the bulletin board has to be done before Monday. The bulletin board is wood covered with felt so you need to nail the letters to the board. This is where things began to go wrong. I was not able to use the hammer and nails; instead I had to have Aggiso (the maintenance man) come with me to nail things up on the board.
I had envisioned that I would be able to measure and carefully place each of my lovingly crafted letters before anything would be permanently nailed to the bulletin board. But speed for Aggiso trumped my perfectionism. So I did my best and while the board wasn’t quite symmetrical it was adequate. But then came the final issue which sent me over the edge — I went from progressive easy going foreigner to tight-lipped white woman. In addition to the letters, I had a non-laminated notice that needed to be posted and I had left exactly enough space on the bulletin board where I wanted the notice to go. Aggiso then informed me that we couldn’t nail the notice, instead we had to put something up where we could use push-pins to attach the notice. “Great,” I said. Aggiso then proceeded to bring out a push-pin board that was about twice the size of the space I had left on the bulletin board. And he was ready to just nail the push-pin board onto the bulletin board and cover-up some of my letters! “Absolutely not!” I said. I made him take down the one set of letters and redo them.
It was at this moment that I saw myself and the situation. Here was an Ethopian man trying to remove nails and not damage laminated construction-paper letters. And about a foot behind him stood a white woman, in her prim skirt, with her arms crossed in front of her, and a grim expression on her face. In that moment I saw myself and it was everything I don’t want to be — imperious, arrogant, and impatient. I forced myself to relax my posture, unfold my arms and to quit clenching my jaw. I then went and helped Aggiso remove the letters and renail them, and I told him how much I appreciated his help. But I wonder how many times, when I’m tired or preoccupied, I do not catch myself.
Actually, the situation was a bit comical. It was American perfectionism hitting up against an Ethiopian culture that doesn’t see the value in spending much time on finishing touches. Mark told me I would probably have had a heart attack if I’d had to oversee the painting of my house. What I know is that there are some days when my best efforts to go-with-the-flow and to let things “be” fall woefully short.”
The good news is that 20 kids volunteered to work in the library each afternoon to run the Reading Club. Sister Daniella said that there were only six kids who volunteered last year. I told her that I am crediting my great bulletin board for the increase in volunteers. Although, I think it’s more likely that the kids are excited to meet someone from America.
As a side note, I learned that Ethiopians don’t typically assign human characteristics to inanimate objects. So my dancing book graphic with legs, arms and a smile was greeted with perplexity. One of the teachers, to be polite, told me how nice it was but you could see that he was not only baffled but a bit scared by the dancing book.
Mark, Maggie and I wrote an article about our experience in Dadim along with some of our pictures. It was originally written for Nigrizia the Italian Comboni Magazine. Since then we’ve learned that the article will also appear in Spain, the U.S. and Canada. Overall, the three of us feel like we’ve been blessed to be together in Ethiopiaand to represent the North American Comboni Lay Missionary program. The article follows:
You have probably seen much media coverage in these last weeks on the expanding drought and famine situation in the Horn of Africa, perhaps especially focused on the most desperate areas of Somalia. I am living here in the Horn along with my wife, Maggie Banga and fellow lay missionary, Tracy Doyle. The three of us are Comboni Lay Missionaries serving in the Diocese (Vicariate) of Awassa in the south of Ethiopia, and God has steered us (or maybe pushed us!) into action alongside our Ethiopian colleagues to help respond to the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding. We thought we’d share what we are seeing here, particularly in the worst-hit Borana zone.
The Borana zone is located in the arid southern lowlands of Ethiopia with Kenya to the south. As of July 2011, the UN has declared this region a full “emergency” drought area. The scoop is this: there has been a complete loss of rain since March 2010 with people now spending 3-5 hours accessing water; massive livestock deaths with over 300,000 cattle dead due to low pasture; full crop failure this year means no agricultural products; 16,800 students have dropped out of school as their families are on the move in search of water and grazing lands; increased numbers of malaria and dysentery (people choose to drink unsafe water over no water); many moderately and severely malnourished including over 15,000 children under 5 years and pregnant/lactating women. This all means the situation is grave indeed.
For the Borana people, who live a semi-nomadic pastoralist lifestyle, their wealth is their livestock (camels, cattle, sheep & goats) and every aspect of life revolves around them. Livestock is the main source of income and food, mostly from milk. The Borana have developed complex societal rules to manage access and sustainable development of their two most precious resources: grass and water. But after two consecutive failed rainy seasons, they have reached their limit. People say that as the cattle grow plump so do the Borana people and as the cattle waste away, so do the people – which is what is currently happening.
In July, the Diocese of Awassa, which serves the Borana zone, formed an emergency taskforce team mandated to plan and manage the emergency response of the Catholic Church in Borana zone. Tracy and I are part of this team. Since July, time has moved like lightning.
The Diocese of Awassa has straight away launched 2 emergency programs and others will follow. The first is a school feeding program to keep our 1100 Borana children both fed and in school continuing their education. The second is what people call a ‘targeted supplementary feeding program’ which involves screening, monitoring and distributing special food to medically treat those who are most severely malnourished (the program will target children under 5 and pregnant/breastfeeding women). This program will be delivered through the Dadim Catholic Health Centre which serves 28,000 pastoralist people through a network of community based outreach sites. My wife Maggie who is a Naturopathic Doctor has been transferred to Dadim to help get this program off the ground. Given the situation of the people, the remoteness, the horrible roads and the extent of need, the challenges will be many. But the three Sisters of Charity who run the clinic and the whole health team (almost all of whom are local Borana) all have big hearts so this spirit of service will fuel them. Everyone is praying for rain and also hoping that with many partners pushing forward a strong intervention, a full famine will be averted.
A few weeks ago, Tracy visited the family of Ato Torre, an elder in a small Borana village. Upon entering their small mud and stick hut, Ato Torre said that they would normally offer milk, but that they did not have any. He then showed her that their grain stores are now empty, the cattle are wasting and everything they had planted has died because there was no rain during the last rainy season. But despite this gloomy picture, he went on to say that “We are not experiencing famine yet, but it seems to be coming our way from Kenya.” He then added: “I know God will save our village.” Whether his village is ‘saved’ through the generosity flowing from so many people around the world or whether the rains begin to fall tomorrow, either way it is in God’s hands.
As for Maggie, Tracy and me, we will continue our best to persevere through our particular vocations. Facing a mix of desperation and hope, this pushes us to cling to Jesus, to fix our eyes solely upon him. Somehow then it becomes perfectly clear what to do, even if it is difficult. These days, it seems as if the pages of the Gospel are shining brightly, illuminating a road map of how to act, of how to love, especially when looking directly into the eyes of our suffering sisters and brothers.
– Mark & Maggie Banga, Tracy Doyle
I know this has been a long email. Thank-you for all of your support and prayers.