On Monday 19th January 2015 Fathers. John Fogarty,CSSp., Superior General; Joseph Shio,CSSp. General Councillor and correspondent for Easter Africa; John Skinnader,CSSp., Co-ordinator of the South Sudan Spiritan Group; Boniface Muema, CSSp. on his way to work in South Sudan and Martin Keane, CSSp. left Nairobi for a one-week visit to South Sudan. We arrived at Juba the same day and over-night there. On 20th January we took a World Food Programme (WFP) Flight to Rumbek, the diocese in which the Spiritans are working.
The Spiritans work in two specific areas of this vast diocese: Wulu and Mapourdit. The distances are enormous between our two Missions with very poor road conditions. There are no tarmac roads only murram whose condition for many parts is poor. This makes travel difficult and tiring. The climate is hot and dry. The temperatures were 41/42 Celsius the week we were there.
On Wednesday morning we left for Mapourdit. The Mission here is mostly run by the Comboni Missionaries who also run a very good hospital. Our involvement in Mapourdit is largely by way of running the Minor Seminary of the Diocese. John Skinnader is the Rector at the request of the Diocesan Administration. But we have planned to open a pastoral centre (outstation) at Tundwell, half way between Rumbek and Mapourdit. The population of the people there is very big perhaps in their thousands! They are mostly unevangelized but very open to Christianity. During the two day visit to Mapourdit we inspected the whole area which suffers a great deal of violence. Guns are readily available and are used accordingly! It is partly hangover from being in a war situation for the past 21 years but also cattle rustling between various clans.
Fr. John Skinnader, CSSp. runs a good seminary of about 60 boys some of whom choose to become priests. The others are prepared for good leadership when they rejoin their communities. There are enormous opportunities for evangelization which is only disturbed by insecurity and the vast distances to be covered.
On Friday 23rd January we left Mapourdit in the early morning destined to visit Wulu. Wulu was our first community in Rumbek Diocese opened in May 2012. On the way our group visited a fast developing outstation called Naktamanga, part of Wulu parish where Fr. Nolasco Mushi labours. Fr. Nolasco is planning to build a school in answer to the request and needs of the local people. In general there are few if any schools and many children who need and desire education as a way out of poverty which is so rampant. Our group spent the night with the Spiritan community.
On Saturday 24th January we had a meeting of the entire group which consisted of Fathers John Fogarty, Joseph Shio, John Skinnader, Peter Kiarie, CSSp. (who is the parish priest of Wulu Parish), Nolasco Mushi, Boniface Muema and Martin Keane. We discussed many matters pertaining to the life and Mission of our group in South Sudan. Everything is very expensive as is travel despite South Sudan possessing the oil wells. But the crude oil goes to Khartoum for refining! The Spiritan group lives a very simple life and has often to go without some of the basic needs.
On Sunday 25th January the group experienced a very lively liturgy at the parish community Mass in Wulu. John Fogarty preached the homily which was translated into the local language by the parish catechist. John encouraged the people not to get discouraged during these hard trying times and not to give up hope of a better future.
South Sudan has a population of over 9 million people many of whom are Christians or favourable to Christianity. The nation being only 3 years new and suffering from a civil war within itself is still trying to recover from the original 21 years war with the North. Generations have only seen violence.
Needles to say with the situation as it is there are many displaced peoples and the situation is not getting any better! The Archbishop of Juba once told us: “The people and the Church are tired”. South Sudan needs a great deal of help, spiritual and material to help build up their war torn lives.
Fr. Martin Keane, CSSp.