Sunday, May 31, 2009

Comings and Goings

Recently we have had a lot of activity by way of comings and goings. We had a visit from Richard Walsh, our Province Leader from the 18th to the 22nd of May. It was wonderful having him around and catching up on news. After visiting us he proceeded to Liberia and from there on to Sierra Leone.

On the 22nd Br Frank Keane arrived in Tamale. He had visited us a couple of years back. We welcome him in our midst. He will be with us until the first week of September. While here with us he will be taking callses on Edmund Rice and the Gospel of Mark.

Vivek left for USA on the 23rd. He will spend a few days in New York before going to Chicago on the 30th where he will be doing a month long course at the Institute for Sexuality Studies at the CTU. He returns on the 2nd of July.

There will be quite a bit of movement in the next few months. We are bracing ourselves!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Riding to Ministry

This is a first in the annals of the Tamale novitiate -- Novices riding a motorcycle to ministry. Chris and James travel a good distance to get to Nyangpala for their ministry every friday. Previously they used to be driven to the ministry place and then make their own way back in the afternoon using public transport. The fact they they now ride the motorcycle, thanks to some help in learning how do so from Prince and John Bainda, makes getting to Nyangpala and back a lot easier. Both of them have now got Ghanaian driving licenses. For now James rides to Nyangpala with chris as pillion rider. The roles are reversed for the return journey.
The rest of us still use our trusted bicycles!

Operation Clean Up!!

With the rains upon us with some regularity now the vegetation around our house has burst into life! Though most of it is welcome and gives the property a wonderful many hued appearance, the fast growing grass if allowed to grow unchecked would make our house look like it was in the middle of the 'bush'. This fast growing grass also is ideal breeding and resting grounds for the malaria carrying mosquitos and some unwanted snakes. We have those too in Tamale as was discovered while doing our regular clean up.
The community got down to some serious 'slashing' and pruning and a general clean up one saturday. And as the photographic evidence shows .. we did it with a smile, bending our backs, swinging our slashers and raking the cut grass. We are told this will happen with some regularity as the rainy season progresses!

Learing to fight fire!

Recently we had an afternoon learning how to use the fire extinguishers that are installed around our house. The man instructed us how to handle the extinguisher and then let us use it to put out a controled fire. It was a good learning experience ... at least now we know what to do with these red cylinders hanging on the wall if there is a fire. However, we do hope that we never have to use them.

Glimpse at celebrations on Edmund Rice Day -- 5th May 2009

A long walk to freedom - with God

Saturday 18th April, 2009 is one of our Eucharistic days in our journey. Shekhinah clinic is truly God’s indwelling place, this revelation became authentic after pondering on our encounter with Isa –a leper, and a blind woman respectively.
Isa took his life, broke it and shared it with us. As a seeker just after the greetings he requested us to sit comfortably as he had a lot to furnish.
He spoke to us of the God in his life - “I constantly offer thanks to God who manifests himself in creatures, is known by many names and his attributes but remains the unperceived mystery for the good portion of my last 64years.The greatest test in my life is denial following my blessing of suffering from leprosy” We were deeply disturbed when he called suffering a blessing, here we asked him about his faith.
He was once a Catholic (named Simon Peter the rock) but due to parents’ demands and personal conviction of some good Islamic teachings he joined the Muslim faith. “Suffering is a blessing, a time to benefit from God’s graces” he believed. And he referred it to the Holy Quaran which he phrased “If you are sincere seek for death to go home and be with Allah”
After sharing and listening to the word of life we set off to see the other patients, as we were just passing by, out of a dark room a voice was heard saying “Please come and pray for me’ It was a blind woman sitting in her house in despair. This woman knew who we were although she could not see, so together we blessed, shared and gave thanks for we had found a waiting God.
After spending quality time with the patients it was time to rush back to the community, 200metres from this milieu, what a terrible tire burst Sydney’s bicycle had! Little did we know what was to happen to us, for as soon as we started lamenting, we recognized God as we walked for one and half hours in the hot sun. We were able to feel with the thousands in Africa, who despite the scorching sun are looking for their daily bread!
Questions were exhausted as we talked and referred our experience to the Holy Scripture and asked how we were doing in the context of brotherhood.
In some way this day deepened our brotherly love and we got a glimpse into why Jesus sent the disciples in pairs.

May Jesus continue to live in our hearts and the spirit fire burn anew in us as we continue the quest for God and his will for the universe.
(Jordaan and Sydney)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My eyes can no longer hide the wondrous fact of who you really are!

Each one of us is inevitably involved in deciphering who we actually are. There is no other who can answer that question for you. 'Who are you?' is a surface question which has a vast, intricate rootage. Who are you behind your mask, your role? Who are you behind your words? Who are you when you are alone with yourself? In the middle of the night when you awake, who are you then? Is it one of the unnoticed achievements of daily life to keep the wild complexity of your real identity so well hidden that most people never suspect the worlds that collide in your heart?

There are no manuals for the construction of the individual you would like to become. You are the only one who can decide this and take up the lifetime of work that it demands. This is such a wonderful privilege and such an exciting adventure. To grow into the person that your deepest longing desires is a great blessing. If you can find a creative harmony between your soul and your life, you will have found something infinitely precious. You may not be able to do much about the great problems of the world or change the situation you are in, but if you can awaken the eternal beauty and light of your soul, then you will bring light wherever you go. The gift of life is given to us for ourselves and also to bring peace, courage and compassion to others.
(This is a quote from the book Eternal Echoes by John O'Donohue)

The Feminine Face of God.

As the world celebrated Labour Day, the novices engaged themselves with discovering another face of God - the feminine face of God. The two day workshop will not be easily erased from the minds of the novices as it was another time to discover and experience a new perspective of God.
The workshop was facilitated by Sr. Irene, BVM, accompanied by her twin sister, Cathy, and a friend of hers, Dr Mary Walbridge. Prior to the class the trio re-counted the ordeal they had on the way due to the mechanical problem with the car, making their journey from Kumasi to Tamale last sixteen hours. Finally the formation team had to rush to their rescue and drive them up to Tamale from where they were stranded.
The workshop began in a solemn way that you can equate to a retreat, and it was very engaging and spirit-transforming. We began from what we knew which was very comfortable. God is a mystery; God is a father, no dispute there! But as we progressed, there came what seemed to be a bombshell - the feminine God. It was uncomfortable to face the issue of a Mother God. Some of us were dumbfounded and awe-struck at the mention of the feminine God. This led us to spend time looking at the traits of our mothers – their loving, ever present and caring nature and equating that with the character of God. After a whole day of discussion, short personal reflections and praying with the Bible we were convinced that truly the divine has feminine characteristics. We had the opportunity to share our thoughts and reflections at the community’s evening prayer.
Day two of the workshop focused on “Wellness”. The day began with Dr. Mary taking our blood pressure. Following that Sr. Irene introduced us to Tai-Chi. The apex of the day was the introduction to stress management techniques which were absolutely new to us.
Were not our hearts burning through the workshop? For these two days, it was actually fantastic to be part of this workshop. To me it was more than discovering who the mystery God is – it was about knowing myself and my position.
We say M’phya [thank you] to Sr. Irene and her companions for opening our eyes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Let Love be Real - Michael Forster

This evening at prayer we used a part of this poem/song and i thought i would share it here in its entirety.

Let love be real, in giving and receiving,
without the need to manage and to own;
a haven free from posing and pretending,
where every weakness may be safely known.
Give me your hand, along the desert pathway,
give me your love wherever we may go:
as God loves us, so let us love each other,
with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

Let love be real, not grasping or confining,
that strange embrace that holds yet sets us free;
that helps us face the risk of truly living,
and makes us brave to be what we might be.
Give me your strength when all my words are weakness,
give me your love in spite of all you know:
as God loves us, so let us love each other,
with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

Let love be real, with no manipulation,
no secret wish to harness or control;
let us accept each other's incompleteness,
and share the joy of learning to be whole.
Give me your hope through dreams and disappointments,
give me your trust when all my failings show:
as God loves us, so let us love each other,
with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

Celebrating Blessed Edmund

On the 5th May each year, the Congregation of Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers around the world join together to celebrate their founder’s day. Here in Tamale, we had a wonderful celebration.
It was a unique day; a strong wind took charge at the crack of dawn while birds sung their glorious melody to usher in the new day. This was later followed by showers of mild rain which lasted for the better half of the day. It was a cool day contrary to what had been taking place here and I think the first timers to this part of Ghana would declare Tamale as one of the coolest places.
We started with some cleaning by cutting short the grass around our compound. This marries with our vision of taking care of the universe and it appeared significant that it be done on this day.
Anyway time moved by and celebrations began with the Eucharist with Fr. Michael Heap as the celebrant. “We are called to love not to like” was one of the few remarks from the priest which appealed to me as far as the community and inter-cultural living is concerned. Br. Vivek also gave a reflection on the life of Edmund Rice. It made the brothers present to reflect for a while about this mysterious man. We were so blessed that we sung our own home composed song in honor of blessed Edmund. For more information don’t hesitate to contact Frank Borbor Jr.
After the Eucharistic celebration, we had a barbeque. The social committee did their best to see that everything was in control.
We had a number of visitors on this day amongst them Br. Chris Teh, the West African District Leader, our community from Choggu, and the Presentation Brothers. In fact it was a good day full of blessings. Joy was written on everyone’s face. It was colorful and enjoyable. The world broke up into silence at around 10:00pm when music stopped and the brothers retired to bed.
(Otieno & Chris)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Novices on Edmund Rice Day

Standing (L-R): Frank, Paul, James, Cornelius, Sunday, Peter Kabia, Chrispinus, Otieno
Sitting (L-R): Jordaan, Likisi, Sydney, Nicholas, Peter Ndivo, Brian

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Edmund Rice - "Turning aside to the miracle of the lit bush"

“I have seen the light break through
To illuminate a small field for a while
And gone my way and forgotten it.
But that was the pearl of great prize,
The one field that had the treasure in it.
I realize now that I must give
All that I have to possess it.
Life is not hurrying on to a receding future
Nor hankering after an imagined past.
It is the turning aside, like Moses,
To the miracle of the lit bush.”
(The Field – R.S.Thomas)

“You have seen how the Lord your God bore you, as a man bears his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.” (Deut 1: 31) I am of the firm belief that Edmund must have believed and laid faith in this ancient text to enable him to listen for God in his life.

Edmund lived a fulfilled and happy life pursuing his dream and ambition to be a successful businessman and a devoted family man. Within seven years of him arriving as a young apprentice, he had established himself as one of the respected ‘merchant princes’ in the bustling port city of Waterford. His uncle had signed over the chandling business to Edmund who by this time had also found the woman, Mary Elliot, with whom he would share his life. What more could Edmund ask for? He had the world at his feet. The society respected him not only for being a successful businessman but also a charitable man, his business was thriving, he owned a substantial amount of land and property, and was happily married with the prospect of becoming a father soon.

It was at this time when he was at the very peak of his life that sorrow came knocking on his door. In 1789 Mary Elliot died either of a virulent fever or following a horse riding accident leaving to Edmund’s care their newly born mentally challenged daughter. Edmund was torn by a deep sense of grief and in his own words experienced the very “dregs of misery”. This tragedy in his life was his defining moment. He could have been defined by this moment or he could have used it to define the path he would pursue for the rest of his life. In many respects this was the beginning of his conversion experience. Faced with tragedy some people turn away from their God while others discover their God more intimately. Edmund in these dark moments must have felt God’s blind hand groping to find his face.

Edmund had quite a few choices set before him now. He could throw himself whole heartedly into his work, consider the possibility of marrying again, remain the widower and care for his daughter or he could follow his brother into priesthood. What followed therefore was a decade of listening for God in the daily ordinary experience of life for it is the basic experience of life that each of us has that is the first and fundamental Word that God speaks to us. Edmund listened for God in his experiences and in the people that he encountered, reflecting on these in silent moments of prayer. Like Mary, he pondered in his heart all that had happened. (Lk 2:52)

This decade of the 90’s was one of discernment for Edmund. He had lost everything that was dear to his heart, yet he did not “stay in (his) weakness fingering the scraps of linen that bound the (life he) used to know.” He left the “tomb of dead hopes” to “emerge into the light.” Even as he cared for his handicapped daughter helped by his own stepsister, he used the period to rethink his life using both a practical and spiritual approach. He was very conscious of the rapidity with which life can change. He was increasingly aware of those at the margins of society – his own daughter – himself as a widower – the hordes of poor boys wandering the Waterford quayside – his Catholic co-religionists who had been marginalized for over two hundred years since the Reformation. These were years of personal struggle for this increasingly spiritually and socially aware businessman. During this time he had procured the Douay Bible (1791) and become part of an association of young men to deepen their spiritual life (1792). He reached out to the disadvantaged, setting them back on their feet and restoring their sense of dignity and humanity. He reached out to the likes of Black Johnny, Bianconi, the Connolly girls and Moll McCarthy to name but a few. He spend time at the wharfs and in slums with people living in absolute poverty and squalor and visited mental asylums, prisons, scaffolds. He initiated an organization to look after the homeless men of the city. To many he was advisor and confidant. He showed a “wonderful sympathy for God’s poor.”

Edmund must have agonized over the direction his life would now take even as his business thrived as never before. His business pursuits called him to travel extensively around Ireland and this would have given him first hand experience of the desperate poverty of the people around him. On one of these travels he shared a room with a friar who spent the entire night in prayer of thanksgiving. This had a profound influence on Edmund. Could it be that it was at this moment that Edmund came to truly pray the words of Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. Yahweh gave, Yahweh has taken back. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”(Job 1:21) Going to the continent to study for priesthood was now a distinct possibility. But when he expressed this view to a lady friend she challenged him to do for the poor boys of Waterford what Nano Nagle had started for the girls of Cork. It was in these circumstances that Edmund contemplated his ultimate transformative decision to dedicate his life to the service of the poor of Waterford.

As the decade of the 90’s drew to a close there was a definite clarity emerging in his discernment of the path he would travel having in those long years of reflection groped obscurely towards his emergent vocation. He did not make his decision hastily but when it was taken it was marked by the crisp style of the accomplished businessman who had weighed all the factors. There is an echo here of the Jesus in Luke’s gospel who “as the time drew near… resolutely took the road for Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51) Edmund’s decision was permeated by his deep and rapidly evolving sense of personal spirituality, which must have drawn a lot of its inspiration from his reading of the scriptures, his commitment to prayer, the daily Eucharist and time spent in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

As he drew the multihued threads of his varied experiences together he recognized the beauty of Gods creative pattern emerging in his life. He had seen the “lit bush” at the wayside inn where he encountered the friar who spent his night in thanksgiving prayer. He had seen the “light break through” on the crowded quays, the back streets and alleyways of Waterford where everyday he interacted with so many of the poor children of the city. He had recognized the finger of God pointing to the road less traveled from the window of lady friend's house. In Bishop Hussey’s provocative pastoral which strongly condemned the proselytizing activities of the Protestant schools and urged Catholic parents to withdraw their children from such schools he had recognized the “pearl of great prize” for which he was willing to give all that he had to possess it.

In selling his business and returning to the stable at New Street to set up his first classroom for the poor boys of Waterford Edmund had certainly chosen the road less traveled … less traveled for a wealthy businessman who had enjoyed the excitement and buzz of Waterford’s busy social life; less traveled for the chandler who had no experience of teaching; less traveled for the catholic layman forging a new path through the dangerous minefield of Protestant establishment; less traveled, as the philosophy he espoused and realized to raise the dignity and social status of the poor through means of education was counter-cultural to contemporary perceptions of social justice.

Edmund had heard the voice of God and he would follow convinced that he was being led and held by his God.

“And in the changing phases of man’s life
I fall in sickness and misery
My wrists seem broken and my heart seems dead
And the strength is gone, and my life
Is only the leavings of a life:
And still among it all,
Snatches of oblivion, and snatches of renewal
Odd, wintry flowers upon the withered stem
Yet new, strange flowers
Such as my life has not brought before,
Now blossoms for me –
Then must I know that still
I am in the hands of the unknown God,
He is breaking me down to his oblivion
To send me forth on a new morning, a new man.”
(Shadows – D H Lawrence)

Blessed Edmund Rice

This is to wish all our readers a blessed Edmund Rice day!

On this day may we imbibe the spirit of Edmund which aware of the providential presence of God in his life responded to Christ present and appealing to him in those oppressed by poverty and injustice.

Today we are called to witness by prophetic action to our option for the poor and the oppressed and to solidarity with them. We are challenged to risk being different, to dare to be disciples!

God - Source of our Being

The Life of every human being originates and depends on God alone as St Paul states, “in him we live, move and have our being”. God gives life to all his creatures, who then can claim that he/she lives by his/her own? Jesus came so that we can have life, life to the fullest. Man and woman cannot hereby celebrate life unless God is involved. For such a life would have no meaning.
It’s like a branch which cut off from a tree cannot support itself but withers. Every human being strives towards the Creator because he/she is incomplete and needs fulfillment in God as the psalmist wrote, “As the dear longs for running streams of water so my soul thirsts’ for you my God. God of life, When shall I go and see the face of God. This is our call as Christians and our invitation to look for this God all the days of our life in what we are doing. (Paul Mutuku)

Reflecting on Workers day

Looking at the situation of workers nowadays, I see most people working to meet their economic demands. It is, however, unfortunate that the majority who struggle using their physical energy in odd jobs are the less income earners, while those in executive posts use less energy in earning their superfluous income.

Most of these poor underpaid or low earners are in the third world countries while the rich well-off individuals are in the first world countries. Though even in some developing countries the discrepancy between the rich and the poor, the employed and the unemployed is growing.

It is my prayer and hope that the well-to-do who have will share with the underprivileged and those in power will strive to distribute resources equally bearing in mind those who need them most.
(Peter M. Ndivo)

African Traditional Practices

As we discussed why witchcraft remains strong among Africans, I remember that it is not only witchcraft but some African traditional practices are also strong though the church is trying to suppress them.
For a example in my Luo culture (Kenya), the practice of wife inheritance is common and it is highly rated irrespective of HIV/AIDS prevalence. At the same time, the church is fully against it and trying by all means that the wind of St.Monica blows very strong. St. Monica is a group of women in the Catholic Church especially in Luo Nyanza that have said no to wife inheritance.
To my surprise, this group who do not agree to the custom of wife inheritance, is only recognized in the church. Outside the church, they have strong regulations that the society have set for them. Just to mention a few, they are not allowed to enter any home-stead as they are considered unclean. When they die, nobody is allowed to dig their graves or bury them. That is where St. Monica’s comes in to perform all the burial rites.
To avoid this saga, a number of women have given in to the traditional custom and have allowed themselves to be inherited and later returned to church, while others have lost their Catholic faith and joined other denominations. I therefore feel that there is a great struggle amongst people and it is ranges from witchcraft to African traditional practices and to Christianity. (Otieno)