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

giovedì 21 gennaio 2016

9/2016


We need prayers! 

The implementation process in South Sudan is very much at risk. The two main parties seem not to find agreements and the risk to restart, or continue, a civil war is very high. This would really endanger even more the already life threatened thousands of people. There are also rumors about the Country to stop its oil production as it is now too expensive to produce it due to the devaluation of the oil itself. I want to think the parties involved will find a solution, there's too much at stake.
On the other hand working, no not the proper word, being with the Youth Group most of the time, gives me lot of hope.
Yesterday we won out second match and on the way back to the Parish I had 16 people in my seven seats car.... They sang joyful church songs all the time and many were starting at us when driving through the city. WE WERE COOL!!
Almost 6.30 time for the connection to disappear and to go for prayers.
May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

martedì 19 gennaio 2016

8/2016 Random thoughts

1. I have to be very quick due to connection problem (now it's working who knows for how long)
2.Yesterday we won our first football match; 3 to 1 vs All Saints Parish. (Next match on Thursday - pictures above)
3. It took me more than 10 minutes to download a letter from a person whom I know is reading my blog (hello Bartimea)
4. It's not even 6 in the morning and I like to spend the first hours of the day in e the chapel (that why I have to be quick)
5. Today is food shopping day, and seeing the poor in the market selecting what they can buy is heartbreaking experience, I'll never get used to it :-(

God bless you all
Abuna Loro

7/2016 The day

Today our football team should finally play its first match. It's going to be later this afternoon and I'll post some pictures.

As for now the ladies, the best and only supporters, are cooking the team meal in our church compound.

Moments of ordinary youth life here in Juba

Abuna Loro

domenica 17 gennaio 2016

6/2016 Holy Trinity Parish Football Team

And here we go with our guys!
Tell you, I'll never ever play against these ones...

And on Tuesday our first match! I'll let you know about our victory... Any doubt? You'd better not

May the Lord give you peace

Abuna Loro

sabato 16 gennaio 2016

5/2016 When brothers are back

Dear all,

finally after six month our brother fr. Marco has come back to mission. He had to stay in Italy due to his father medical conditions, but now he's doing better and Marco was able to join us again; we're very happy and thank God for his presence.

As welcoming to this non-easy-country we cooked some nice Italian hand-made pappardelle; they very good, but the kitchen looked a mess afterward...


Well, today is Sunday and is early in the morning, internet usually works just a bit better; but as I have the first Mass in the Parish I'd better go!

Peace to you all
Abuna Loro



giovedì 14 gennaio 2016

4/2016 Let's be football

What is with football?
Is there any proper serious study about football and why it has the power to gather so many people, make them play and shout and fight and sacrifice and enjoy and dream? I mean... 12 people running (ok ten, the keepers don't do it) after a ball and trying to goal... What's wrong with that? Nothing I would say, yet I can't understand the power such a sport can have in all the worlds latitudes.

Anyway; we have began the annual Don Bosco Inter Parish Tournament and yesterday I went to see the first match between All Saints and St. Vincent Parish (all against one... bad joke I know). I had a nice day.

All Saints Parish

St. Vincent Parish


Young supporter

 and the Cup to be won


Well, our Parish will play on Sunday afternoon and I won't be able to go due to the Masses I have to celebrate; but I'm sure they'll win............

May the Lord give you peace
Abuna Loro

martedì 12 gennaio 2016

3/2016 and it is one year

They say "time flies"… that's my case.

Exactly one year ago I was about to land in South Sudan for my first time; my very time in Africa and my second mission (I had been in Kazakhstan before).

I still remember (wierd) my first step on this hot soil; the air was so hot I felt it was even warming my lungs; the dust was incredible and the airport looked like a military zone full of tends and sort of shacks.

The first thing I had to do was to give some of my details and check for ebola; I was negative :-)

As soon as I stepped into the angar, which was the arrival terminal I was cought by an unbearable smell. There was no bathroom, but a latrin without the door…

Some more documents checks and then we collected our luggages. The adventure was about to start. And it did! And I panicked. And I liked it. And I like it.

Yes,  after one year I can say I am mostly enjoying it; yet, it's not easy. Cultural shock, heat, food, famine, hanger, poverty, war, civil war, petrol crisis…  but then I have the children of our parish, the Youth Group I work with, the sisters who calls for retreat and preaching and wash my alb :-) … and, very last news, I've been asked to be the webmaster of the Religious Superior Association of South Sudan (alias RSASS). I can't do it; well I'm still trying but managing a website is just too much and too complicated for  me; I therefore proposed a blog for the association as it is easier to manage and also to upload in our very bad South Sudanese Internet connection. (have a look: www.rsasouthsudan.blogspot.com).

In Juba I have also got to know the life inside the UN refugees camp; called POC (Protection of Civilians). I do really wonder how people can really live in those camp. I can't  and I don't want to take pictures on that site; but imagine tends for 38000 people; no toilets; only latrins. Scarsity of water and food; nothing to do the whole day and life threatening going out… Yes, war is something really evil and irrational. Nevertheless people there are pretty Amazing; still able to laugh, to enjoy the little - or nothing - they have and being caring for one another. They can teach a lot.

I think this is it for now; write again soon.

May the Lord give you peace
Abuna Federico Loro

sabato 9 gennaio 2016

2/2016


Dear all,
some days ago I saw one of our kids writing on a small wall of our church. My first reaction was anger and I had to go there and stop him.
As soon as I moved there I saw what he'd been writing and here we go:  
 
 
 
 
 is it touching?

 This is my church
 
Then it happened  that I actually published that picture on my Instagram account and one of my contact, a visual artist, made it like this
 
 
 
and maybe I love it even more (it's now my desktop image). I think this one could represent how that kid was seeing "his" church.
You know, South Sudan has not many colours; we are almost on the equator and the sky is never really blue, but almost whitish/light-bluish; the soil is mainly red and brown and the dry season is so dry (Oh mamma mia it's really really dry) that most of the vegetation seems fossilized... Maybe kids keep seeing colours all around them. They have a very tough life here in the city. Most of the families still live in tukul – typical one single room hut made of mud and straw – and spend all their time hanging around with practically no one taking care of them. This would be a possible and feasible life style if they were still in the villages, but here we are in a big city and the dangers are many and the rhythm has speed up leaving behind those hundreds of kids.
 
Well, I wish you all the best
Abuna Loro
 

venerdì 8 gennaio 2016

1/2016


Dear bloggers,

I haven't been posting for more than six months now; tell you the truth? I kind of forgot about this blog. I don't deserve to write here any longer ☹ Joking; more or less.

Anyway, my life's still running in Juba, South Sudan and I'm still getting used to it. Within 6 days it will be one year I've been here in the "eternal-summer-Country". It's hot, it's Always hot if not hotter.

The connection is very bad, very very bad so I'm now trying to post via mail; I will attach some pictures and I don't know where they'll come up in post; but this is just a detail.

So what has happened in these past months?

First and foremost I have been given a local name; which I really like and it is LORO; people now call me Abuna Loro (Father Loro). Names in Africa, well at least here in South Sudan, have a meaning and mine is "first male born in the family" and it is in Bari Language; the main tribe we work with. There are many tribe here in Juba and in our Parish, but the main Language is Bari. Yet the majority of the people speak Juba Arabic which is a sort of Arabic that uses our alphabet and is quite different from the classical one. I have been studying it for a while, but still I can't speak, and even the passive understanding is very bad ☹ ☹ ☹. Most of the Youth though speak English as it's going to be the new Country official Language; the whole school system is now in English. I kind of disagree with that as I believe in the importance of keeping the local languages plus a common Language which should not be a western one; but maybe it helps the development of the Country; let's see. South Sudan is still 4 years old. Actually the national feast of Independence is same day of my birthday… pretty cool! Pretty cool!!

Talking about the Country I like to think that Peace is on the way!! To much hanger and starvation up to now; please pray a lot!

Well; it's very early in morning now (connection seems to be a better at this time of the day) and I'd better go to start our day with the morning prayers with my brothers. Later today I will have 24 baptisms.

Hope to write back soon

Abuna Loro

PS: in the pictures, wherever they are going to appear in the post, you'll see PONGO; our terrifying and aggressive watch-dog