Monday, July 28, 2008

A Visit to Nkanchina No.2

Nkanchina No. 2, is located in the East Gonja district of the Northern Region of Ghana. Here the missionaries many years ago built the Oti river hospital for treatment of lepers. In 1974, the place was handed over to the Government of Ghana. The leper community here has people from Ghana and also the surrounding countries of Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ivory Coast and others.

According to their stories Nkachina was once a paradise for them, but today the story is very different. The hospital building looks ancient and dilapidated; and the residents who had no other place to go built up shacks in which to lay their head and rest their dis-eased bodies. These ramshackle mud huts are exposed to rain and sun. it was not difficult to conclude that these people live in utter poverty and destitution. Yet even the rhythm of life has continued among them.

Over the years having intermarried among themselves and raised families, the community now numbers over a thousand. The sad part of the story is that these people are completely shunned by their families and relatives, so much so that some of them have forgotten where they came from as they have spent more than thirty years in this village.

Some of their faces look so scary that it would make a four-year-old child scamper out of fright to the bosom of its mother for security. And even with their bodies in such a state of degeneration their eyes still glimmered, looking for relief. Some are so emaciated that it would appear that hunger would kill them before the disease. Their need for food, shelter, clothing love and attention were real and tangible.

Though many of them don’t speak English, I was happy when they asked me to pray for them, the request itself reminded me that God dwells in different people. I had been left feeling so helpless that just sitting and listening to their stories comforted my heart troubled by questions trying to make sense of this neglect and destitution.

In the wake of such crying need and terrible human suffering how could I not be concerned, and I wanted so deeply to promote the dignity of the human person. I felt the need to truly dare to be a disciple of Jesus and respond as Jesus would to these people and this situation. I was reminded of the words … “whatever you do to the least of these my people you do to me.”

My experience in the village challenged me to be appreciative of even the little I have. I recognized that God dwells in every human situation. I saw and experienced firsthand the trust people put in divine providence and I was reminded of “Look at the birds of the sky they neither sow nor reap yet the heavenly Father feeds them… learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.”

This experience opened me up to the big picture of God’s presence. Truly God’s revelation is the unfolding of his creativity

(Belden Nseele)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Searching For Oneself - Joyce Rupp

Good Shepherd, who finds the lost one,
the "me" I have known has disappeared.

Will I ever recover the person I have been?
Will I ever find and feel good about myself again?
Will I ever discover who I am and who I am becoming?

Protect me in this great vulnerabilty.
Assure me that I will come home to myself,
even though "my self" may be different.

Silence my impatience.
Calm my worry.
Restore my joy.
Solace my distress.
Help me to befriend my new self
with tender hope and welcoming love.

Workshop on "The Prophetic Dimension of Religious Life"

The workshop on “The Prophetic Dimension of Religious Life” facilitated by Br Henry enlightened some important roles of a prophet today. Through the class inputs, discussions, group work and videos watched we came to understand that as prophets we should:
*Criticize and energize
*Be innovative, corrective and provide witness to the community.
*Live with the attitudes, values and actions of Jesus, linking the old and the new covenant.
*Be in relationship with God and all Creation
*Bring the new community of God in which the rights of everyone, especially the most vulnerable, will be fully respected.

As religious, we are invited to enter into an alternative world that the vows point us to. Thus
...Challenging the male dominant understanding of sexuality through consecrated celibacy
...Challenge the self centeredness approach to material goods by evangelical poverty
...Challenge the unrestricted use of power by religious obedience.
Through this, we have come to understand and appreciate the evangelical vows.

The challenge that we as prophets have to accept and face is that, we should be ready to be rejected and persecuted by our own people for criticizing the status quo. This challenge can only be over come if we are in union and communion with the divine. (Constant awareness of the divine within and around us in all creation)

Being prophetic in relation to eco-justice is about responding to God’s will in all creation.In this age where the earth is crying for true prophets, we should see the direct link between nature and human beings. Unless we learn to understand the full meaning of the creation story as one which is still expanding, our response may NOT be EFFECTIVE. By embracing this view, it will help us to understand the image of God who is bigger and wider than we can grasp.

(Julias and Phelix)

The Myers Briggs Workshop

The Myers Briggs has been a wonderful experience for me to widen my knowledge of self especially on this spiritual journey in so far as it has provided a platform by which I can reflect on myself. It has also given me an opportunity to understand the way I act and respond. Ignorance is not a defense for the lack of my awareness of behaviour patterns.

Since I attended the MBTI workshop with Sisters Mary Kay and Dorez, I have gradually continued to grow into a realization and understanding of myself. All temperaments are important in the sense that I have to be more accepting and positive in my interaction with my brothers and myself.

I realized that we are very different in our preferred temperaments and as a result sometimes I face difficulties because of this. What the workshop brought to me was the realization of the difference in each of us which can be good in the community if acknowledged and recognized. In understanding the strengths and weaknesses of myself and my brothers it is imperative that I focus not on the negative aspects but on the positive ones for it will not only help the person and me to grow but also nurture the well being of the community. Realization of my strengths and weaknesses allows me to work on my weakness and nurture my strengths. This gift of realizing my limitation is one that I have been developing here in the novitiate in so much as it enables me to acknowledge the giftedness of my brothers who can contribute to my life.

Self-knowledge is important for it will shape my image of God. As I grow in the awareness of my own self I enter more deeply into the mystery of God who is within me and accepts me the way I am.

Finally, I appreciated how I respond to situations by sensing, intuition, thinking and feeling. Being an “ESFJ”, my Sensing and Feeling are stronger than my Judging. It has been a gift for me to become aware of this. I strongly believe that I will continue my self-discovery in order to widen my own understanding of who I am that will in turn help me to be accommodative and appreciative of the differences which exist between the members of the community. This will allow each of us to enter and share the others sacred stories creating an environment for holistic growth.

It was wonderful for me to attend this workshop for it has shaped my life and brought me to believe strongly that seeking God must include deeper self-knowledge.

(Mubela Mwika Jackson)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Phone Wire Theft

Phone wire theft seems to be a growing problem in our neck of the wood here in Tamale. This is the sixth time our phone wires have been stolen in the year so far.

Large sections of the phone line wire were cut off on Sunday night, and taken away apparently for the copper. How much copper they will find in a phone wire I am not sure. But it sure does ring of desperation. A quick check of the internet informs me that phone wire theft is an universal problem which often pays for the alcohol and drug addiction of petty thieves.

The last time our wire was taken we were without phone and internet for almost a week. This time round the Ghana Telecom company were much quicker in their response and had our lines restored in a couple of days. I wonder if they have more spare wire in their stores now that phone wire theft is becoming more common!!!

Final Profession

Brs Prince and Titus professed their final vows in Bo on the 19th of July at a meaningful yet elaborate Eucharist which was presided over by the Archbishop of Freetown and Bo. They were joined in this celebration by a large congregation of family, friends and brothers.

It is significant that this profession takes place in the year we celebrate the bicentenary of Br Edmund Rice and his first followers making first profession in Waterford, Ireland. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on what the vows are for us. Philip in his recent letter to the Brothers said, “Love manifests itself in the form of a vow. This is true as much for marriage as for religious life. The motive is always love. One remembers the private vow that Blessed Teresa of Kolkata made in April 1942: “I made a vow to God, binding under [pain of] mortal sin, to give God anything that [He] might ask, not to refuse [Him] anything.” The vow was indeed hiding the depth of her love for God, which motivated all her actions, especially her unconditional surrender to God’s will. Her encounter with the immensity of God’s love called for her response. Yes, truly love manifests itself in the form of a vow.

Pedro Arrupe said, “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”

Jesus said, “I came that you may have life and have it to the full.” As a religious I believe that my vows allow me to do just that. And the vows, rather than being restrictive and constraining enable me to live life to the fullest. If I doubted that than why would I or any religious live a life that would not bring them to the realization of the words of Jesus and his purpose of coming amongst us?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nelson Mandela

On the 18th of July Nelson Mandela will turn 90. We pay tribute to “Madiba” with a quote from Marianne Williamson - words often mistakenly attributed to Mandela himself. However, even though he might never have spoken these words in public he most certainly gave them energy and meaning by the very example of his own life.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party's apartheid policies after 1948. He was arrested several times. In 1963 Mandela was brought to stand trial along with other ANC leaders for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. He was to spend 27 years in prison as prisoner number 46664. Eighteen of these years were spent incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town.

During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela's reputation grew steadily. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.

Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990. The following year he was elected President of the ANC. In 1993 he won the Noble Peace Prize. Following the first multi-racial elections in South Africa in April 1994 in which the ANC secured 62% of the popular vote, Mandela was inaugurated as the President of South Africa on 10th May 1994. He decided not to stand for a second term as President, and instead retired in 1999.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Over the last few weeks a few of our community have been struck low by malaria! With the rains have also come the mosquitoes. Malaria is a constant companion to many in Sub Saharan Africa. Malaria is a rampant killer in West Africa so much so that once the whole area was known as the 'white man's grave'! Not a sobering thought!! Thankfully we have ready access to medication and although for a few days it drains you of all energy most of our men are able to get back to being themselves within a few days.
Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells.
Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite.
About 40% of the world’s population, mostly those living in the poorest countries, are at risk of malaria. Of these 2.5 billion people at risk, more than 500 million become severely ill with malaria every year and more than 1 million die from the effects of the disease.
Malaria is especially a serious problem in Africa, where one in every five (20%) childhood deaths is due to the effects of the disease. An African child has on average between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year. And every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria.
There is a lot of useful information on malaria on the Wikipedia site and also on the WHO site. Just in case some of you might be interested to read more on the subject!

Richard Walsh Visit

Richard Walsh, our provincial is here with us for a week. He is doing a few sessions with our novices on discipleship from the view point of Mark's Gospel.
He arrived here on the 3rd and was straight into classes!! A mysterious stomach bug laid him low for two full days but thankfully he is back on his feet now and ready for more class tomorrow!!!
He is on his way to Sierra Leone for the Final Professions of Prince and Titus.

Prince and Titus - daring to be disciples in Africa!

This last week we had Titus here doing a week's workshop with our novices on the Sprituality of African Traditional Reconciliation. It was a very enriching workshop and generated a lot of discussion that spilled over to the meals table!!
At the end of the week we took the opportunity to wish Prince and Titus the very best as they enbark on a whole new journey in the Christian Brothers by professing their Final Vows.
We celebrated their decision to "dare to be disciples" in Africa where they "risk being different."
During our prayer celebrating their commitment we reflected on the theme of discipleship.
"Discipleship is the first entering into relationship with God that Jesus had. It is experiencing God as Jesus experienced God. “I have shared with you everything I have learnt from the Father”
"The disciple then is a person who listens attentively for the God of Jesus in his life, whose heart is open to the word of this God, and whose delight is to proclaim this word with compassion and commitment."
"To be a disciple of Jesus and take part in the mission of Jesus is to be so caught up in the experience that Jesus had of God, that our lives reflect that Divine encounter. This is what happened to Blessed Edmund Rice."
We wish Titus and Prince well as they profess their vows on the 19th of July in Bo, Sierra Leone. We request you to keep them and their families, especially their parents, in your prayers over the next few days and join us in thanking god for such wonderful men!!!