giovedì 30 giugno 2016

39/2016

Dear all, such a long time since my last post; times goes very fast!

AM WELL; notwithstanding the current bad situation in the Country we are all well. We feel really sorry, to say the list, for what once again is happening in South Sudan. People are killed in their houses and they have to run aways leaving back EVERYTHING and when they go back they found their home complitely emptied. In one of the majour cities people had to run and found protection within the Cathedral; the priests welcomed everyone for few days. Some people had to  be buried in the Church Compound and food was delivered by humanitarian aids.

Anytime I think of the Youth I work here with my heart pains. I would give them the best future possible…. but if we keep at least some hope is already a goal.

Beside that as fraternity of missionary we are doing well even if we have the sad news that one of the friar is leaving; fr. Mario will soon go back to Australia; he's been in Africa many years and now life calls him back home. Well done Mario, we will never forget you. I do hope some more friars will  ask to come here; I know it is not the safest place in the world, but it i a place where God covers us with aboundant graces.

In the picture above you can see our aspirants; five youth who would like to join our Order. They'll go Uganda in a couple of days and then they shall begin a two year formation programme as postulants; I think I'm gonna miss them. They lived with us for more than three months and they're very good. Unfortunately some of them have the family dispersed somewhere due to the fighting and have lost contacts. We pray that their family might reunite some time in the future.

Personal info: I will soon be 40!! and I am very happy!! Getting old what a blessing!

I promise to write again soom; it's all for now.

Salaam Takum
Freddy

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fr. Federico Gandolfi OFM
www.abunaloro.blogspot.com

mercoledì 30 marzo 2016

38/2016 Lidia is doing well

THANKS BE TO GOD


Lidia is doing well;mamma mia she's so tiny! She's  even got some strengths to get milk from her mother; yet it is not sufficient and the hospital had to give her a "special"milk as they say here as they have no other means to feed her. That"special" milk is very very expensive, but people have already offered to pay for it; let't keep praying and hoping in our Lord God of Life.

More good news!

We've had our first Catholic Marriage in our Parish; it's a been a great event for the whole community; the Church was absolutely packed:

Moses & Lilian



 
Have a good dayall of you
Salaam Takum
Abuna Loro



venerdì 25 marzo 2016

37/2016 A tiny life little story

This time of the year is the one I like most! I love the Paschal Triduum! Three days and three nights and one liturgy. Actually, I have to confess something: to me only three days, no nights.. I am totally and I repeat totally unable to stay awake in the night; and saying “by night” I mean after 9.30 pm… my eyes would start bleeding;  I've always been like that. I can wake up very early, 4 or 5 and no problem, but night time… no no no it’s not for me. And besides the Gospel says we children of the light not of the night :-) 
This year I’ve tried some night adoration… forget it… I can’t be perfect, can I?

Anyway, Thursday morning we all went to  the Cathedral for Chrism Mass with the Bishop and we were many priests, so many that I do wonder where all those priests are during the year. After having renewed our promises to  the Bishop I did run to the hospital and I tell you why.

A friend of mine had his wife pregnant and in the last month she’s been recovered in hospital due to a very hight blood pressure. The baby was in danger and so the mother. The doctors said they wanted to take the baby, 7th month, otherwise they both would have risked their life. Yet they were not sure if the baby would survive the operation. Two nights before the operation the mother naturally delivered and the baby safely put in an incbator. The problem is that the hospital has not electricity for many hours during the day….
Well, Thursday I run to the hospital and I baptized the little girl, she was so tiny; her had as big as my fist. She was named Lidia; I have already fallen in love with her.
Yesteday the father told me that Lidia is doing amazingly well; she even has some strength to get some milk from the mother even if it is not enough.
 
I think it was reall good to renew my promises as priest and then run to baptize a little baby who's fighting for life.
 
This is a pic of people praying in front of the Altar of the  Reposition in our house; it's been the very first time we did it in our parish
 
 
 
May God bless you all
Abuna Loro
 
 
 

giovedì 17 marzo 2016

36/2016 Randomly thoughts

1) In the last few days internet was working very very bad; not a big problem, I had many things to do anyway.

2) We are waiting for the rains and we got sand-storm



3) This is how our cook came yesterday; she walked almost an hour like this; she's great!!


4) Yesterday afternoon I was in the parish with the kids; whatever happens we shall never ever lose hope!









This one is called Subek and as soon as you lift him up he gets all soft like a dead body; he's really funny; many times he falls asleep while sitting on my lap. Both his parents are often drunk... This kids are simply looking for a place where they are not biten, but loved. This is what our Parish does; not much maybe; but it is worth trying to sow good seeds; other will harvest in the future.

God bless you all
Abuna Loro

domenica 13 marzo 2016

35/2016 - Sunday treat

Sometimes we feel we deserve some rest and a nice dinner. Sundays sometimes are very tiring; Someone has two masses in the parish, one goes to preason, two to the villages and another to the Refugee Camp; the heat affects us a lot too.

Therefore, let's have a Sunday night treat






And yes, hamburger and chips make us very happy

Have a good day all of you
Abuna Loro

martedì 8 marzo 2016

33/2016 - some relaxing time

Yes sometime I need some relaxing time too. But what to do in Juba? Swimming-pool are getting too expensive, by which I mean 3.5$; we cannot afford it; it's almost one month of internet...
Having a nice walk in the town, forget it... during the day tooooooo hot and as being a kawaja (White man) people do stare at me and keep ask for money... stresfull. Going out in the evening, forget it too; bullets are often randomly flying around...

Well, nothing else than reading a nice nice book (Love you kindle), while sitting and sweating in my room.

But what book? Ok, I'll simply give you some hints :-) These are the images you find on my book





and this effect is so cool if compared to the next one



I hope you'l have fun too

God bless you
Abuna Loro

mercoledì 2 marzo 2016

32/2016 - Mungula

Mungula is a game; an interesting game…

Yesterday I went again to John Loro's house with all the Youth of the Parish. The day of the burial we discovered that the family has very little money and did not know how to pay for that celebrations. A funeral lasts about 5 days and around 60 people would stop and sleep by the house of the dead. People the family has to shelter and feed. People are usually buried in the house compound; they dig a 2 meter deep hole and than they cover it with a lot of soil. After three days the flat the soil on the hole so that if you don't know that there is  a body there you would never notice.

Anyway, with the Youth we had a collection, a big collection I tell you and I don't know where those people  found all those money and brought them to the family. Generosity amongst the poor is something really touching.

Towards evening the boys - boys and girls rarely sit together - began to play mungula which you can see in the pictures. Rules are easy but to complicated to explain, so just one: get all the other player beans 😊 and you win.

During the chat, this time boys and girls togerher, there was an animated discussoin about married life here in Juba. As you might know men can get more than one wife; even catholic do that, most of them. It's a very radicated cultural tradition. Well, now the issue of marrying is very complicated as the dowary is too high or most of the Youth and cannot afford to pay for more than wife. The girls are upset as they say men should marry more than one wife. in fact, there are more girls than boys, so why should some girls not get married? A simple reason, isn't it? The love between a couple is something I still have to see here; or maybe it's so different I am unable to see it!!

Time to get on line now and see what I have to do with my e-lesson at the e-Uni.

God bless you
Abuna Loro

Sent from Windows Mail

lunedì 29 febbraio 2016

31/2016 - Bye Bye John Loro

We have war, we have famine, violence and shooting… but people keep dying for natural sicknesses. Yesterday we lost one of our altar boys, John Loro, 16 years old and much taller than me. I met him on Saturday as I went anointing people at the hospital. I did not know he was there and thanks God who called me to his bed side. He looked ok, scared and tired but ok. Yesterday the call "John Loro passed away". I was kind of shocked; should have stayed there more on Saturday? I don't know. I wonder if "natural death", if there is such a thing - some theologians would say no - is worst than a death due to all the inhuman things which are happening now in this Country.

Simply not ask "why?" And we go on; but I tell you; seeing all our youth and altar boys crying yesterday, beside mother and father and all the other relatives was heart braking. John Loro was put on a bed, dressed all in white and was beautiful. Death cannot be beautiful and it was shocking and unbelievable.

We tend to say that death is the opposite of life. I don't believe so. Death is the opposite of birth. There is nothing opposite to life, we are created to live for ever. We shall not forget that. And the beauty of John Loro yesterday was reminding me that. Life knows no end. In the book of Revelation it is written "I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the 'end'"; this is the unfortunate English translation from the original Greek which says "I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the TELOS" which means not end, but goal, aim, purpose, target… Jesus cannot be the end…

May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

domenica 28 febbraio 2016

30/2016 - What do Missionaries do?

Sometimes they took a selfie for other missionaries in other countries...
God bless you all
Abuna Loro e Abuna Ladu

sabato 27 febbraio 2016

29/2016 - Sunday in the Village

Today is another Sunday in the village; I will go to Digala, one of my favourite Villages. Unfortunately the catechist in Digala passed away last week; but last Sunday I went visiting him and anointed him. He was a very such and humble man and everyone is going to miss him. The catechists here in mission are very important. They have fundamental role for the running of the parish and the faith of the faithful. In our friary we are five priests and we run 8 outstations (which means chapels in the villages) plus 4 chapels within the POC of the UN, plus, obviously, the Parish. It means we cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday every where.
Going to the outstations is not always safe. We are in the process of demilitarisation of Juba and the government is moving its soldiers right in the villages where we go on Sundays. The soldiers are simply taken to the village, they have no houses, nor land, nor enough food nor water and it all ends up in abusing the poor people. The situation is very critical.
We need a radical change of hearts

Well, off I go with; my faithful motorbike is waiting for me.

God bless you all
Abuna Loro

28/2016

I think someone is watching me...

mercoledì 24 febbraio 2016

27/2016 - Let them talk

SOUTH SUDAN: PORTRAIT OF A CIVIL WAR REFUGEE

24 February 2016 – (By Richard Nield - 24 Feb 2016 - www.aljazeera.com) - 'Hour after hour after hour, all they did was kill people ... I will never forget it as long as I live.'

For the five days leading up to December 20, 2013, South Sudanese government soldiers from the Dinka tribe went from house to house killing members of the Nuer tribe in what quickly turned into a civil war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Two years ago, Juba resident Gabriel Gatluak Dak Yau, a Nuer, fled South Sudan for the safety of Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. He recalls the events of those dark days in Juba, and explains why he is making plans to return to his home country.

I will never forget 2013 in my life. I was in Juba on December 15 when the soldiers came. Hour after hour after hour, all they did was kill people, until December 20. I will never forget it as long as I live.

What happened in South Sudan at that time even the young kids know. Imagine, they were telling people go and rape your mother and your sister, and after you rape them then they will kill you.

And they were telling people eat the meat of your brother. And imagine, you are all South Sudanese together. If you have a mark [the Nuer have tribal scars across their foreheads] they will definitely kill you, because they know you are really Nuer.

It was not all the Dinka. It was those from Warrap state. They say that [Nuer leader] Riek Machar killed people in Bor in 1991, and they decided that they were going to take their revenge.

I really give thanks to God because when the attacks happened I was on the other side of the River Nile in the Gumbo area of Juba. If you tried to cross the river they would just take you and put you inside the river, they would just kill you. They killed eight of my relatives. They just rounded them up and killed them.

I wanted to get to the UNMISS camp [the UN Mission in South Sudan, which opened its gates to provide protection to Nuer civilians], but there was no way to get there safely. I waited eight days, and then eventually I reached the UNMISS camp and thanked God because I had reached there safely.

Not all the Dinka have a problem with Nuer. Not all Dinka support [President] Salva Kiir. The only person who called me in December 2013 to ask me if I was okay was a Dinka friend of mine. "Gabriel are you fine?" he asked me. "Yes I'm fine," I told him, "I'm in the UNMISS camp."

Our relationships haven't been broken by the war. We still have relationships with them. The one who asks if you are okay when you are in trouble - you cannot forget him.

I spent one month and a half in UNMISS. On February 27, 2014, I left there to go to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

It was very difficult to get here. I was afraid that if I travelled by plane that they would take my passport in the airport.

So I used a bus. When I reached the bridge across the Nile, soldiers there asked me: "Where are you going?" I told them: "I'm going to Kakuma." They told me: "You want to escape?" I told them: "No. I'm not going to escape!"

They said: "You are Nuer, we are going to kill you." I told them: "No problem." Fortunately one of the security guards came and said: "Let these people go."

I didn't travel with any of my family, but I travelled together with some of the Nuer. Most of them were boys. They don't have marks. If you have no marks, sometimes it's an advantage.

I arrived at Kakuma on February 28, 2014. I'd lived there before for 10 years, from 1999 to 2009. Now I've been back here almost two years.

I'm staying with my brother in Kakuma, who I left here when I went back to Juba. I really appreciated seeing him again. To be apart from your brother is hard sometimes. When we met again I really gave thanks to God. We'd been apart for almost five years.

My brother has been here for more than 10 years. He's at school - in Form Four. He is supposed to complete his education first and then he can go back to South Sudan.

When I arrived at Kakuma the first time, it was really different from how it is now. You'd maybe get water once a day, but now it is available. At that time you'd go to school, then go to get water, then cook. But if the dust came you could not even cook.

I owe my health to UNHCR, and I have a ration card from them. But there's not enough food. We used to get rations every 15 days, now it's once a month, even though it's not more food.

It's very hard to manage. If I have my ration card alone I will not survive. We come together in a group of 10 and collect the food. You may get sorghum, or maize, they give you oil and salt.

If it is only one person it's very hard to survive unless you have someone who can assist you somewhere. Maybe someone in South Sudan or in Africa can send money to you and you can go and buy a sack of maize.

The top officials at UNHCR don't know that this food is not enough.

I want to go back to UNMISS camp in Juba, because here in Kakuma it is too difficult. Being in the camp without any education is very hard. I wanted to get a diploma in computing, but it's very hard to get the funds for a computer. Even if I don't get to work at UNMISS at least I will get to be with my people.

The only problem with going back is the killing. Nowadays I hear there is a lot of killing there.

If you have these marks they know you are Nuer and they will kill you. UNMISS really saved the lives of people. If you go outside [the UNMISS camp] and you get killed then it's up to you because you are the one who wants to get killed.

I am waiting for Riek Machar to go back to Juba, then I will know there is peace, and that is when I will go back. If it is peaceful, I will go back to Juba town. If not I will go to UNMISS.

The problem now is that when you go back you might have lost your parents, your relatives, your friends. South Sudan has been completely destroyed.

I don't think peace will come back to South Sudan very soon. Salva Kiir doesn't want peace.

The history of South Sudan is a very, very, very sad story, a very sad story. But for the future, even though we lost many people, we have to go forward.

Source: Al Jazeera

lunedì 22 febbraio 2016

26/2016 - Very active parish

What strikes me sometimes is the "normality" of the activities we carry on during this time of such great uncertainty. Really the Country is on the edge of a new (or old) war and we behave as if nothing was going to happen. In some way it's very good, and we keep investing in these people's future. 

Today our Parish was really full.

First of all we had the Divine Mercy Prayer Group as every Monday.

Secondly; there was a DMI sister who came to teach the women how to make home made liquid soap and then sell it in the market:



The women were very exited and we hope they can start some small business.

Thirdly there was a woman given some classes to the Crusaders who are a group of mainly girls who dance during Mass and they express, with their bodies, what we pray with our lips.


and finally we some of the youth who were learning Bari. Bari is the main tribal language spoken here in Juba. They are all Bari but only few of them know how to read or maybe they don't speak their language at all as, grown up here in the city, they've just learned Juba Arabic.


How beautiful is the simplicity of "these classes". 

I hope you liked this Monday as I did.

May the Lord bless you all
Abuna Loro

domenica 21 febbraio 2016

25/2016 - Sunday in Mission

Just a quick post to let you know I felt like I've had a normal day. Normality is so special sometime and we rarely notice it or appreciate it. I do! I do I do I do!!

Today it was my shift to go to the outstation and I went to the Village of Bungo (try to find it on google map or google earth and let me know, just curious). It's about 70 km from the city and the road to go there is a true nightmare. Speed cannot be over 35 mile per house or you would be kicked off the car… can I say that I hate that road? Anyway, there are communities who deserves to be served and there we go. Here is a picture of the chapel in Bungo.


As you can see the chapel is leaning on the left hand side… well it does and ti will collapse soon; people here are not worried; they will think what to do once it has fallen… try to convince them other way… I gave up.

On the way back to Juba we stopped in another Village called Digala and we visited and anointed Paride, an old catechist who I believe next time I'll see him it's going to be in the Kingdom of God. Such a nice and holy man. I'm gonna miss him.


Well, that's my Sunday, nothing special, ordinary thing, but in a land threatened by continuous fight, I tell you that it means a lot.

Unfortunately those fights keeps going on, every day more people are life threatened simply because they belong to the "wrong" tribe. As a European I will never ever be able to understand the tribalism. It's rooted in the DNA of these people. Once one person here said "Abuna (father) the blood of our tribes is thicker than the water of your baptism"… I am beginning to understand what he had meant. We don't need stuff or money, but prayers for the conversion of hearts.

May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

sabato 20 febbraio 2016

24/2016

A meaningful way of the cross amongst the poorest of the poor. Instead of the stations we could have stopped in each one of the tukul where those people live. It's been touching, following Jesus "up to Jerusalem"... How many crucified do we still need?
We began the way of the cross as a small group and we ended up in in the Church full of people. People are asking so many things to God, but I fear sometimes we forget the One thing we need and the One thing Jesus had said that the Father will always give to his children "God himself". And this is what Jesus is asking on the Cross. "Eli eli lemà sabactani" - "why have you forsaken me"... The "absence" of God was even more scaring then death itself.
What do we ask God?

venerdì 19 febbraio 2016

23/2016 notwithstanding the difficulties

Really, situation is very bad now in the Country and we are alla bit worried. Yet this morning I went out to  buy some hope and I found it from those little ones.
I was whispering a song and they followed me... The words say "because living is beautiful, even if life's bad". The words are by an Italian singer and do fit in our situation here in South Sudan.
God bless you all
Abuna Loro

giovedì 18 febbraio 2016

22/2016 - NOT singing in the rain...

Thanks to God yesterday we had the very first tiny tiny rain… well we got some drops… but it was good (though not very refreshing).
Just after lunch time we heard noise from our thin iron sheet roof, rain was coming. We rush out in the garden looking up to the sky. Not many clouds, but it gave us hope that this very arid and too hot weather is now coming to an end. Last year rainy season had been very poor and the harvest was little. People rely on rain for their food. The WFP (World Food Programme) has announced that in South Sudan millions of people will starve if there are no helps form abroad. Now it's time for sawing but the first harvest is going to be in June or July and it's too late; people are running out of food in many counties. The war doesn't help the ONG who are really trying to help those people, but roads are too dangerous.

We shall not lose our hope!

God bless you all
Loro

martedì 16 febbraio 2016

21/2016 - Seriously...

I mean, what is wrong between me and watches? it does not depend on the brand nor the the size nor the type of battery… they simply stop working properly once around my wrist. It's always been like this. Before coming to Africa I was given a wonderful watch for my ordination; one of those cool watches that are charged by a hidden and mysterious solar panel. It was perfect, but then KALAS (end of it, all, no more in the local arabic language). Some days it goes very fast and others has to rest. As I was very thoughtful I came to Juba with another watch. My very very old swatch (22 years). It never abandoned me; but now… IT IS SO SLOW…. I tell you, must be getting used to the "african time" more than me. You know? people here still look at the position of the sun. if it is up (before noon we would say) they greet saying "Da puré" to which we answer "Na puré", if it is "afternoon" they say "Da paranà" and the reply as before "Na paranà". This is the Bari language which is the main tribal language in Juba; yet the common language is Arabic Juba, which is really not like classical arabic, it sounds the same to me, but people cannot understanding one another if speaking these two different arabic.
I'm really struggling to learn Arabic Juba; people deserve a pastor who speak their language and I am sure it would also help me in understanding their culture and their faith.
I am the youth chaplain since few months now and still have difficulties in following their thinking. They are very nice guys, and I think we go on together, yet some differences between us do tend to create tensions within the group. We, the friars, have the feeling, that the previous missionaries did to much give money and all sorts of necessary benefits; it happens now that if you don't give money, or if you don't build a huge, and mean a huge, church, you are not a very good shepherd. As friars minor we don't want to fall (brief interruption. It's 7.00 o'clock now and they are shooting outside - that's life here) into this mentality of economically driven Church or evangelisation. Juba is not a really big city, yet, but there are more than 143 different churches. Anyone can open a new Church. The catholic churches, in terms of parishes, are only 7. We are a minority; many people go to where they give, together with the word of God, meals and other benefit. Does faith go through the stomach? If I were poor as most of those people are I would probably say "yes". As sad as it sounds even Jesus felt compassion "because they were like a flock without shepherd" but immediately he multiplied the bread, which is a way to understand the Holy Eucharist. It's not easy and there's no an easy answer.
Deep poverty changes prospectives.

On Monday I started a new on-line University course on Christian Spirituality (www-e.pa.eu); to me is a challenge: first of all I have to get up even early in order to have a reasonable access to internet (5am…) secondly I need to find time during the day for the studies and thirdly because… sorry I forgot, but there was another reason… :-)

Anyway, as our first duty we were asked to post what we think Spirituality is. I read the most various definition as it was logic to happen, yet I was so surprised that in most of theme there was no reference to Jesus nor the Holy Spirit in terms of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Fair enough, the question was about spirituality and not "Christian Spirituality"; but I see no other way that Jesus and the Spirit. Even the Church teaches us that the Spirit works outside the "borders" of the Church in way we do not understand. No one is excluded from the life of the Spirit even if does not know Christ and the Spirit. In the definitions I read there were so many references to the "divine" or the "whole" or even our psych or consciousness. I think it's going to be an interesting course which will open up my mind to very different approaches even to our own faith. 

Well, once again, and thanks to God, it's prayer time again

and no the blessing in Bari language

Ti Ŋun Kabulönit lo liŋ 'borone ta: Monye, Tore Mulökötyo Loké. 
   

sabato 13 febbraio 2016

20/2016 - Sunday readings comments

From now onwards on the Religious Superiors Association of South Sudan blog (www.rsasouthsudan.blogspot.com) you'll find Sunday readings comments.
They're written for us religious here in South Sudan,  but I believe they can be of general interest. They're proposed by brothers, sisters and priests alike.

Here below the first one:

First Sunday of Lent 14th February 2016


First Reading: Dt 26, 4-10
Psalm: 91, 1-2. 10-15
Second reading: Rom 10, 8-13
Gospel: Lk 4, 1-13 

In today Gospel we are called to look, once again, to what Jesus had to face in the desert where he was led by the Spirit. The temptations are just the beginning of a story which will successfully end on the Cross.
In fact, these temptations do not end in the desert,  they accompany Jesus throughout his whole life, up to when he offers himself on the Cross. Only on the Cross they are definitively destroyed. It means the Word of God is leading us towards Jerusalem and the Calvary; deciding not to follow the way of the Cross means to abandon the Word of God.
Reading the temptations without reference to Jesus' baptism might be misleading. It is in the baptism that Jesus chose to share his condition with the whole humanity and in obedience to the Father. The temptations are the consequences of that choice; they are the sign accompanying who is in the world, yet does not belong to the world. It is in the Baptism that the Father announces the mission of the Son which is not a “doing”, but to be the “beloved Son”; a condition Jesus will defend against the tempter who wants to disrupt this fundamental and primal relationship.

The dialogue with the tempter is preceded by a time of forty days; a time of discernment where “we” prepare for the fight so that to accomplish what is truly and just; so that we shall not forget who we really are; “children of God”. The core of the temptations is in fact to remove God from our horizon and they appear to us under a moral habit; they do not invite us to do evil things, but what it might appear as good. Yet, there is no good without God. As Jospeh Ratzinger wrote “there is no possibility to put some order into this world by trusting only our human forces or by recognising as necessary and just our political and material realities and leaving aside God as an illusion which which threats us in different ways”; the temptations appear as the only reality we need: power and bread; while God is forced to appear as unnecessary reality.

The question about God and his relationship with us is the core of each and every temptation. It is the big question in our own lives. What shall the Saviour of the world do or be like? This is the question underlining Jesus' temptations.

When tempted we risk to focus our attention on the aim we want to reach and we analize all pros and cons. Very often in our activities we don't need to choose between good or evil, but what is good and what appears to be good as well; the answer is not in the best outcome of our actions, but in understaing who we really are. In front of any choice we shall ask ourselves “who am I?” and the answer will be given to us by the Word of God that strengthens and confirms our sonship of the Father [cfr. Phil 2, 5s].

If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” - Lk 4, 3 – or we can read “if you are missionaries, if you are the Church of God, give bread to the poor...”; our people in South Sudan are asking this; what is our answer? Are we commanding money to become bread for the poor? Our answer has to be found in who we really are. NGOs or missionaries sent by the Church of God? [cfr. Mt 4,4].
Jesus, in his identity as the Son of God, will give himself up as the bread for the whole humanity. The request of bread is answered by the offer of his life. 
The identity of Jesus is revealed to us by the third temptations in which God is put to the test. If God is God must respect conditions which we believe necessary in order to gain certainty. And God becomes an object at our disposal. It is not the way we find God and trust in him. God is not in the outcome of our choices or actions, but rather in the motivations and reasons of our doings as an expression of who we are.

Fr. Federico ofm

May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

giovedì 11 febbraio 2016

19/2016

Last night in our house, the moon was like a bright smile in the sky!!
Years ago I was told "exams in life never end" I sort of did not believe it.

Wrong!!

Yesterday I enrolled to another - very very very short though - University Course. It's offered by my former university Antonianum in Rome and it's the very short on-line course. I'm kind of excited, especially because connecting from Juba is going to be a huge challenge. I will try it and if it works fine I will propose it to all the religious of South Sudan and the Diocese. The course is on "Christian Spirituality" and I'd like to understand better how and if "our Christian" spirituality is western-europe orientated and how it fits within the African Culture and tradition. Just yesterday I was talking to my brother Marco (here named Abuna Ladu) on how the spiritual and faith life is different here in Juba. Maybe in Rome and Assisi, with our little circles of "good" people who always attend our Masses and our proposed groups we are a bit spoiled. Here it looks far more simple. God exists and I have to pray because its good for me! That's all.
Is faith a spiritual walk? Because it seems to us that there is no journey of the Spirit here; but is it really necessary? We're told and we do and I believe that daily God's Word meditation is important. Here they don't do it. Most of them cannot read. Are they less Christian? Ah, I can't believe that. Our faith, my western Roman faith is challenged into a new journey, from the head/heart down to my feet. Yet, paradoxically, to do this I have an intellectual approach. Am I doing it wrong? Don't think so, that's just me I believe.

On the other way we shall not forget St. Paul's words: "when I was a child I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became man I gave up childish way".
So, there is a journey in our faith, but how to distinguish what is childish or mature, or what is simple and what is unnecessary over-structured?

Challenges, everything here looks to be a challenge... And we face it and we go on.
May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

martedì 9 febbraio 2016

18/2016 martedì grasso

One picture that says it all.
A small treat before Ash Wednesday!
God bless you all
Abuna Loro

giovedì 4 febbraio 2016

17/2016 - how amazing

Yes, it's amazing!!
Some times ago, just after moving into the new house, i saw a weird plant growing and climbing along our fence. It looked like a climbing cucumber, which I don't think they exist...
I asked and I was told it was a sponge  plant... What? I really thought they were teasing me, but I was wrong.
Have you seen the picture? It looks like a green cucumber, then it dries a lot, then you peal it and finally you get a very scrub effect sponge....
Africa is amazing, I've always thought natural sponges were from the sea, but they are also from one of the hottest and driest Country in the world!! 
Amazing, simply amazing!!
God bless you all
Abuna Loro

mercoledì 3 febbraio 2016

16/2016

A great and simply joy;
yes we had another day of great time. Notwithstanding the the threat of war, the deep economic crisis which affecting the Country and the daily difficulties we are called to face, we are still able to rejoice.

Yesterday, the 2nd of February, it was the feast of Consecrated life. What a gift. The priest who was celebrating Mass said "the consecrated people are the happiest people in the world"; true or not I'm happy most of the time. Some people need a reason to be happy and struggle to find it day after day; I feel I'm rather the contrary. I'm basically happy and really serene and need to find a reason to be sad, and I tell you, I'm not looking for it at all. Yes it happens; don't deny it. I feel empathy and compassion for all the people I'm spending my life with here in South Sudan, yet even the evil I witness is not strong enough (yet?) to make me feel sad. Worried, ok. Tense, ok. Preoccupied, ok. But not sad. I believe it's a grace of God and something I have also inherited from my family. My dad is the kind of person who always tried, and I'm sure he's still trying in his old age (please don't tell him I've said "old age") to give the best to us all; while my mum is the rather "get what life gives you and make the best of it" - great combination isn't it?

Back to yesterday. All the religious of Juba came to our Parish for Mass and then we had a simple supper in our compound with also Indian dancing, Kenyan singing, Eritrea dance, Italian songs and that was it. Simple, nice, peaceful. Then people rush off as it is really dangerous to be outside in the city after 20.00; but that's our life.

May God bless you all

Abuna Loro

domenica 31 gennaio 2016

15/2016 - How much can we give?

I've just finished to celebrate the second Mass today, first in English then in Bari. I've witnessed a very touching scene.

In the gospel it's written that once Jesus was in the temple and was looking how people were given their offerings. At some point a widow turned up and left only two little coins. And it was more than anybody had given before.

On our parish we have a second collection for the building of the new church. I was rather absent minded but I was looking at the people putting their money into the box. The majority of the people give one ssp (South Sudanese Pound) which is 1/30 of a dollar. Then this old lady went to the box and opened her hand. Being by the altar I could see the money dropping into the box, but when she opened hers nothing came down, neither the two small coins of the widow in the temple that Jesus praised. I don't think she cheated anyone by "pretending" to give something for the new church. She bowed in front of the altar and slowly walked away, with a treasure in heaven.
The desire to give, even when we don't have anything at all. Sharing an empty hand. In the mathematics of God a hundred times what she's given is a lot of love and care and graces. May God bless her and her precious nothingness!

May God bless you all

Abuna Loro

sabato 30 gennaio 2016

14/2016 Pilgrimage

Dear all,

Yesterday we had a very tiring Saturday, but yet wonderful. In fact, we had a pilgrimage towards a spiritual centre which is being building for the last year and it should be ready by the beginning of the summer (did I say summer? We're in the eternal summer Country here...)

We started from Rajaf which is the first Catholic Parish of South Sudan, or maybe Juba I don't know, and we walked for 8 km stopping in different places like the two seminaries, a sisters' house, the cemetery and at the very very first Church build years ago and which is now collapsing; the project would be to restore it anew. I just add some pics here and if you want to see more you can visit www.rsasouthsudan.blogspot.com which is the Religious Superiors Association of South Sudan blog, but please wait until Monday, or Tuesday or just wait we're in Africa here...

May God bless you all


This cattle belongs to the Dinka people who are still mainly nomad.


This is the very first Church build years ago

Me with abuna Erkolano Ladu

giovedì 28 gennaio 2016

14/2016

Busy day yesterday.

We spent the whole morning cutting down "half" tree which was a perfect climbing help to get into our compound. I think it's always sad to cut down trees. In some way I feel they are wise creatures, I perfectly know it's silly, but they are old and grow slow and are beautiful and birds can nest on them and people find refuge in their shadow and they tell us about the natural rhythm of life. Not too far from Rome there's a huge - and I mean HUGE - olive trea which is dated 2400 years old. Now it is patrimony of Europe and is very well kept. Can you believe it was there before Jesus? It was there with the Roman Empire? How many families have picked up its olives? If it could only talk; well maybe it's better it doesn't.

Anyway, my dad has passed me this passion for nature and we also tried, many times and not so many successfully, to make bonsai. I love bonsai too. Some people think it's a violation of nature; I don't think so. Trees do not suffer; they adapt themselves to the external condition; and making bonsai is a very SLOW hobby; you cannot force the growing, only the shape. I'm trying to make a couple of bonsai here in Africa too. One is a mango tree and one avocado; let's see. I'll post pics soon.

Today I have been invited to a traditional wedding. The issue of wedding, or better, marriages here is a very big issue; I'll talk about it another time; now I see I'm having connection problems – what a surprise...

May God bless you all

Abuna Loro



13/2016

Michael was walking on the side of the long road which lead to Mirabilia; a small town under the immense mountains called Skytrees. The skytrees were a goal for many tourists and climbers from all over the world; and Mirabilia was just the perfect town down there.


Wearing his leather jacket and black jeans Michael was enjoying the cold wind coming from North; not a good day for climbing that morning; but he was there on a very different business. His Boss had been clear "get me Matthew; I need him and he'll need me” - had his Boss' last words been.


The cold northern wind kept the road surface very icy; but Matthew did not consider it a problem. His brand new BMW feared nothing, but scared all. His foot was very heavy on the pedal and; notwithstanding the cold air Charlotte, his girlfriend, pulled down the window and was sitting on the car door. She was amazing, the best person Matthew had ever met. He would not admit it easily, but she was his life and he was deeply in love.


Matthew and Charlotte met at the University cafeteria; he was the cool guy every girl new about and she was the Sunday afternoon waitress.


A cup of coffee and a donut” ordered Matthew the very first time without bothering to look at whoever was taking his order. And Charlotte did not let it go. “Excuse me?” She replied staring at him. “A cup of coffee and a donut, PLEASE” said that time Matthew with a fake grin on his not shaved face. But that was it. He made the huge mistake to look straight into her green eyes. And he was lost. And she let him lose himself in her.


The lorry driver, too tired, fell asleep on the wheel and in a matter of second frontally crashed against the MBW. The only sound was the romantic classical music still coming out from Matthew's radio car and his deep and slow breathing. Opening his eyes he immediately called for Charlotte, but she was not there; the impact threw her more than 30 meters out of the car and a dead man was hanging down the lorry in front of him.


Michael managed to open the driver's door and checked on Matthew, he looked fine and very lucky; but it was no luck.


Charlotte; where's Charlotte? Where's the hell is Charlotte?” Matthew kept crying and he did not care about anything else. They both found Charlotte on the field which was leading to the richest farm of Mirabilia and there they could find some help.


Once at the hospital the police kept asking Matthew informations while some other colleagues where still on the road trying to understand the dynamic of the accident; but to Matthew nothing was more important than Charlotte's life. She had to live.


Outside the surgery room Michael was still with Matthew, but no one was able to speak. The tension was becoming unbearable and the waiting a killer. Families and friends where all there, pending on the doctors words about one of the most loved girl in the whole town. Charlotte was a theatre actress, a volunteer in the elderly house and a catechist in the town Parish. Religion was the only aspect that Matthew had difficulties with. He could not believe, certainly after that morning when the supposed “almighty and loving God” was letting Charlotte dying.


“Man; trust in God” said Michael. Strange words from the mouth of a stranger, dressed like someone from the 80s - “He's the only one who can save Charlotte right now”. Mat was too angry and scared to reply; but had to face that these were probably the words his girlfriend would have told him. She was always so happy and trustful of her God that nothing could frighten her. Thinking of her happy made Mat burst out in a deep cry. Her smile, her laugh, her secret smiles were like swords into Mat's own soul. Memories were too painful right now. He was sure he was just about to lose her for ever. Yet, Michael's words touched him. He said them with great confidence and belief; he was like her, a man of faith, and that had to mean something, thought Matthew while trying to dry his eyes.


Get up” said firmly Michael “Com'n get up, we go” repeated staring at Matthew; “we go where Charlotte would be if you were in her shoes now”. To do what Charlotte would have done was like having her alive, thought Matthew, and followed that strange guy.


The hospital chapel was kind of ugly; in pinkish colour it was not very welcoming and the supposed sacredness of God was not there. The benches were uncomfortable too. Matthew was astonished as how deep contemplative Michael seemed to be in such a brief time. His all body was like immerse in some deep space out of that world; that man was at the presence of God. And Matthew felt all the pain of not having the possibility to stay with God like him. “What a strange thought” he told himself “and why this pain?”, Mat kept wondering. I'm here for Charlotte not for God. Yet, in that small kind of box behind the altar, as Charlotte was used to say, there was the miracle of the presence of God amongst his people.
Without realizing what he was doing, he found himself knelt down and talking to that invisible and tangible presence.

You are my God, aren't you? This is what they told me. We've known one another for long time and then you'd left me; sorry – he corrected himself – I think I'm supposed to say that I had left you and I wonder if you ever came to look for me...” Talking to God was easier that what he'd thought. “I've a problem. My Girlfriend, Charlotte, you know her, she's always with you, isn't she? Well, we had an accident and she's dying; I need her. Listen, let her here; the world would be such a better place with her; you can take me. I'm worth nothing and she's worth everything; you have to heal her. She's my life, my breath. If you are the good God she always talks about, well, you cannot disappoint her now. What do you want me to do? Just tell me and I'll do it; I swear. Please you are her God and My God;I know I have kind of given my heart to my car and future career; but yet, please I'll turn my heart to you. All those things don't give me love, but have taken mine, don't know why or how or when, it just happened. But you see? Now I'm back to you. I'm trying at least. I make this promise to you: I will accompany Charlotte to Church every Sunday and I'll stay with her. I won't spend that time listening to the music sitting alone in my car. Deal? You see; Charlotte's mother is a widow and has only her left; you would kill her if you don't save her. She loves her mum so much and I'll try to like my parents too. I don't know if I can forget my brother for what he's done to our family, but I will do my best to take care of my parents as Charlotte always reminds me. You've seen how a better person am I when with her. I rarely argue with dad if she's around. How can I argue with the person who make such a difference in our lives? She has no dad and I have. And I will try not to argue with him; in fact, he's the only one who always gives me very good advise; he's the only man I totally trust; but he doesn't know; but You know!! You see, I want my life, but all this family love and stuff make me think I'm not free to do what I want; but what does it mean if Charlotte is not with me? She keeps saying my family will be my happiness, but I think my family with her and then we argue. And maybe she's right. How can I build a good family with her if I run away from mine?” Thinking about a family with Charlotte was far too painful at the moment and Mat thought he was about to throw up. He did not know he could have so many tears; even breathing was difficult. He was glad to be alone in chapel with the only weird Michael's presence. Beside, that man was still praying, or maybe was asleep, yet he looked powerful.

Hey man” Matthew addressed Michael “Man we need to go back; I've talked enough to that God of yours”. - “Did you talk to him like that? He won't like it” said Michael in return. “What do you want from me? Beside, who the hell are you” - “Do not speak to me like this and in this place!!” said Michael with overwhelming strength. Mat was shocked and sat down again. Unable to speak or to move he thought again of Charlotte and all the pain was back again. Now sitting, he closed his eyes and began to talk again “I'm sorry man – he said to Michael – the fact is... Oh God I cannot lose her; she's my life man. You know, I mean; have you been in love? You know how painful it is? I would have done anything for her; I would steal the whole world for her” - “and she wouldn't like it” - interrupted him Michael: “She needs you because you are yourself; she can see in you what you yourself are unable to see and she loves it. She knows you can be bad at any moment, but she's got your heart now. She doesn't want you to steal or doing anything for her and most of all, she's entrusted her life into your hands. Do you think she doesn't know how sometimes you look at other girls? Or how you desire to have more and more just to be admired by people? And you know she trusts and loves you anyway. Now that this most precious thing is being taken away from you, you understand what it means, don't you?”. - “How do you know all these things about us; who are you” - asked Matthew in a very low and inquisitive voice.


I am Michael, an Angel sent to you from the Most High. I know the accident was about to come and I simply had to call you here; in front of Him; so that you could listen to Charlotte's prayers; she's been in front of God all these days; never giving up her hope in God or leaving the hospital. God has listened to her prayers”.


What, what? I mean Charlotte was praying for me? Charlotte? Charlotte?” - “Oh my God I'm here, I'm here; I've always been here” said Charlotte who was sitting, as every day in the last months, on the bed where Matthew had been in coma.


Different machine were immediately advising the doctors that Matthew had come back to life and was awake. Charlotte believed the miracle that just happened under her eyes.


The end

mercoledì 27 gennaio 2016

12/2016 All they need is love

Well, I have been beaten up by this little cuty... I met him at the sisters' and he immediately understood I was the one he could climb on. We've played for a while, but I was already on my way back home. When I was getting into our car he began to beat me up as he did not want me to go.

That's the language those children learn in their houses. You don't like something? You hit people and fight. Violence withing families is a real plague here, and this is what kids grow up with.

When he was trying to beat me I asked him "malo?" Which means "why?". You should have seen his face, he was kind of shocked and then started again hitting me.

Why asking "why" for the most natural thing to do? Do you need a reason to hit a person? Is it not how things normally work?

Truly, all they need is love; and it does not matter what we get in return.

May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

martedì 26 gennaio 2016

11/2016 more or less randomly thoughts

Yes, it happens even to the best football team; Yesterday we lost our game against the Cathedral team (a matter of respect? I doubt…)

Anyway; life in Juba keeps going on with worries about the imminent future. The parties involved have failed to form a transitional government; we only need to wait and to pray.

One of the things I am discovering here in Africa is how intellectual my approach to the Word of God was; and maybe not only mine. Whenever I prepare a homily or a retreat I consider the people I'm going to talk to and then ideas come up. On Sunday I was reading a comment on the day reading and I thought that what he was saying was totally non-sense here in Africa. Isn’t it great? I mean, the same gospel, the same Holy Word, the same Jesus, yet he’s present in the moltitude of the Spirit. St. Paul got it so right 😊.
 
… and the miracle of the Incarnation goes on and on and on…  Aren’t the Sacraments a true miracle? Why are we so blind?
 
On Sunday I was celebrating Mass at the UN Camp. There are 38000 Nuer; the only place where they can be safe. Going out is life threatening. Preaching forgiveness: to mothers who’s children have been killed; love your enemies to Youth whose families have been torn apart and destroied by the war; love one another, to  people who’ve grown up hated… And the Word of God accepts no silence, no reduction, no “but”.

Africa, Italy or any other “where”; we are here to come to you.

There are words I shall never ever forget; but unfortunately I do “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life”. Here’s our journey; here’s our future, here’s our eternity. nothing else matters.
 
Obliged to follow his tenderness.

sabato 23 gennaio 2016

10/2016

I was about to pray, today in my room and not in the chapel, when I began my prayer with the Word of God and the Mass Collect we pray every day this week:

“… mercifully hear the pleading of you people and bestow your peace in our days”

Bestow your peace
Bestow your peace 
Bestow your peace

NOW

in our days
in our days
in our days

You know, I’ve spent most of the night awake. Here nights are a problem. At about 11pm shootings began and I’m talking about heavy shootings, and many. They were very very close to the house and I was wondering if I had to lay down on the floor; random bullets can be dangerous. But I tell you; I was too tired even to roll down on the floor. Anyway, shooting has lasted many hours and the last ones were early this morning when I finally got up. Don’t know what’s happening in the city; we’ll see it later today.

Well, today’s first reading at mass so begins “When David had returned from the slaughter…” If I had to write my journal I would begin to say “When I got up after the shooting; I found God by my side”. My prayer, every day, shall become more “flesh” as God’s love did in Jesus.

Contemplation:
of the love of God
and of what God loves.

Every day I shall let the Word of God touch this city, this Country and its people. 

May the Lord bless you all

Abuna Loro