Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking forward to welcoming the New Year

Ready to enter my life’s journey
Something in me welcomes this visitor,
The hope of bountiful blessings
The joy of a new beginning
The freshness of unclaimed surprises.

Something in me rebuffs this visitor,
The swiftness of the coming
The boldness of the entrance
The challenge of an era’s good bye

Something in me fears this visitor,
The unnamed events of future days
The wisdom needed to walk love well
The demands of giving away and growing.

A new era stands on my doorstep
With fragile caution I move
To open the door for its entrance
My heart leaps with surprise,
Joy jumps in my eyes,
For here beside me at this brand new period
Stands my God with outstretched hand!

God smiles and gently asks of me
Can we walk together?
And I, so overwhelmed with goodness,
Can barely whisper and reply
Welcome in!
(Joyce Rupp)

Wisdom from Oscar Romero

As we come to the end of this year and reflect on what has been and what could have been; on accomplishments and apparent failings; for that which we give thanks and might have regrets for, we are reminded of the words of Oscar Romero:

"It helps now and then to step back and take the long view
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts;
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that can be said;
no prayer fully expresses our faith;
No confession brings wholeness;
no programme accomplishes the Church’s mission;
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

That is what we are about:
we plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that hold future promise,
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.
This enables us to do something, and do it very well.
It may be incomplete
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers not master builders
ministers not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own."

Celebrating those who serve with joy and dedication!

What a tremendous time it was – coming together and sharing a meal with the Novitiate supporting staff and their families. I simply say ‘Na tuma pam’ to all our cherished supporting staff for their dedicated and immeasurable service to this community!! I testify that these celebrated men and women are a source of encouragement and inspiration, and a challenge in many aspects, be it prayer, sincerity and their simple and sustaining life.

On December 30th many of us novices spent considerable time to prepare the workers hospitality meal. Overwhelmed by kitchen work, I imagined how novitiate life would have been without these workers presence. It was a huge sense of thankfulness that we celebrated the gift that they are to us along with their families. The children were delighted with the little presents they received for the New Year.

Bravo to the team, for recognizing the efforts of our dear workers. Without doubt this is to ‘Risk being different’ and living the life of love and service in the footsteps of Brothers Edmund and Jesus.

As I continue affirming greatly our efforts in becoming hope for the world, being brother to all and responding creatively to emerging needs of a changing world, I still hear the echoing invitation of one of our workers, “Look at us and respect us… We are God’s gift to our societies who are fortunate beneficiaries.” May we seek to always be Christ to others

In recent Justice and Peace meetings there was one statement which was echoing what I think need to be attended to especially by us, religious people. This is the issue of workers’ rights. Many people are crying for their rights as workers in their inner being, fearing to speak up. To make matters worse, the Church is seen by some people to be part of those who have jeopardized the church workers’ rights. I may ask: “are religious people innocent with regard to this?” The danger is to deny and claim that we are innocent. If we are, thanks to God, but still we should be aware and remind ourselves not to inflict pain on workers. Workers may not have voices because they fear to lose their jobs and become unemployed and then poverty will grip them.

What’s different in the way we treat our workers compared to other employers? The answer opens us to new possibilities.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"you can't connect the dots looking forward" - Steve Jobs

The link below is to a great talk I came across today. Its really worth visiting even if you do not have 14 and a half minutes to spare. It is Steve Jobs commencement address in 2005 at Stanford University.
Of late we have been looking at the year past and are in many ways looking ahead to the year that will be ... that could be. The end of a year is often that time when we step back to look at the fibres of our lives that are being woven into the most extraordinary tapestry. May we find the wisdom and the insight to recognise the emerging picture as we connect the dots and weave the strands of our life.
"You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can do it by only looking backward."
I hope you enjoy this talk as you look ahead to the New Year. May you too follow your heart! And stay hungry!

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die Video on

Christmas Night Braai!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Chris kindle!

The Joy of giving and receiving!

After last nights mass we gathered in our community room to celebrate Christmas night and to exchange gifts. There was a wonderful atmosphere of giving and receiving, of joy and acceptance.

"You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving,
nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
Through the hands of such as these God speaks,
and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving." The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life - while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

And you receivers - and you are all receivers - assume no weight of gratitude,
lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father"
(Extract from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Greetings from around our Christmas Tree!

Greetings this Christmas from all of us from our tree inside ....

... and our lantern strung tree outside!

Glimpses of our carols night!

Christmas Carols Night

On the 23rd night we had a wonderful celebration of the Christmas story through song and scripture. Jordaan and a few of the novices put together a wondeful experience for us which brought out the diversity and richness of our a various languages. The musical talent amongst us was on full display too in the singing, the playing of the organ and guitar, the beating of drums and the playing of the tin whistles.

It brought to a fitting a conclusion our Advent preparation for this Christmas. This year with the help of the Jesse Tree we journeyed along the path which began way back and followed it from the beginning of creation, through the Exodus, the prophets and patriachs, right to that night in a stable in Bethlehem.

The Jesse Tree and the Advent wreathe helped us keep the story alive and to reflect on it prayerfully.

Kenya day celebrations!

On the 12th of December we celebrated Kenya's "Jamhuri" day! We began our celebrations with an evening prayer which guided us through the history, culture and beauty of the country beautifully animated by our Kenyan brothers.

Following the prayer we continued with our cekebration in the dining room where the social committee once again laid out a sumptous spread of grilled meats and fresh salads! It was a wonderful day indeed.

We hope the pictures give you a glimpse of that day. It was also the day we put up some of our Christmas decorations!

My experience of a silent retreat

From December 14th to December 19th we had days of silence and reflection based on Mission, Prayer and Community. The retreat held at TICCS (Tamale Institute of Cross-Cultural Studies) was directed by our three formators Brs. Vivek, Denis and Henry. The tone set by the facilitators, coupled with the beauty of the surroundings, helped every Novice to enter beautifully into the spirit of retreat and discernment.
Our experience included: morning and evening group meditation/prayer, time for personal reflections and daily Eucharist celebration. These experiences helped me to be at home with myself and others, God and nature. Gradually my mind was opened to understand the core values of Community living, Prayer and Mission and also God’s love for humanity and each one of us individually.
I am convinced that our eyes were opened and we discovered God’s presence in nature. One evening I took a walk in the forest area to catch a glimpse of God, and I came to learn about the presence of God and the way the creator decorated the earth and put in place all things.
In a special way, I wish to express my sincere thanks to our team for their energy and time. Together as a team you created a retreat program so helpful to all of us. Not only did it deepen our novitiate commitment but prepared us for Christmas, and in a special way prepared us to leave the novitiate centre to begin a three-month community pastoral placement in different parts of Tamale.

On our 6 days of Reflection

“It is good sometime to step back and look at the past” said Oscar Romero once.
The six days of reflections at TICCS was a time to step aside and review the past. However, the main focus was on what will happen in the next three months. A long journey begins with a single step so they say. This was amongst the first steps the Novices have made towards the preparation for community pastoral placement.
Haffis once said that three days in prayer is better than three years in university. Within the six days of reflections, I noticed that ones best friend is oneself. The challenge is now to extend this intimacy to the entire world and to bring liberation to the needy.
And Jesus was not wrong when he encouraged his followers to love their neighbours as they loved themselves. As I go out, I expect as well to reach out to the least privileged with them same love.

Happy Christmas

May Mary, our Mother,
Queen of the Cosmos
Hold our fractured world
In her healing womb.

May we care for our Planet’s health
And reach out to one another
And all Earth-species
... in caring love

May we all learn to reach out
In genuine love to one another.

May Jesus be born again
In each of our heartsThis Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Br Mark Hallissey

It’s been a little over a month now since Br Mark Hallissey died peacefully in his sleep. Come to think of it there is no other way that mark could have passed on but peacefully. To me he was the beautiful old man at peace with himself and with the world around him. The only time I saw him in any way flustered was when we came back with our novices from watching the movie ‘The Da Vinci Code’. He was genuinely concerned for the well being of our faith and that we would risk that of our novices!
That is the kind of person Mark was. Always sincerely concerned! He took such an interest in all around him. On one occasion he called me to find out if there was a problem between myself and some of the domestic staff. He regularly phoned a young widower who had lost his young wife to cancer. On another occasion I recall how he sat with a couple of the novices on the basketball court and talked with them at length about what they were learning in class, especially the recent workshop they had been to on Islam. He frequently engaged the novices in conversation about their lives – never lecturing but always listening to the unfolding of their lives.
My most beautiful memory of Mark is of him by the death bed of Br Chris Wise. Chris had endured a painful battle against a cancer that had wrecked his body. It had come to a time where medication could do no more for him and he had just been given his first dose of morphine. The end was near. I had brought Mark to visit Chris knowing that Chris did not have long to live. When we arrived at Nazareth Home Chris was extremely restless. Mark sat by his side and gently took his hand in his and began to massage his forearm while repeatedly chanting with his inimitable quivering voice, “Be still and know that I am God.” (My hair still stands on end every time I recall that moment) It was evident to all that we had been brought into the tangible presence of God in that room that moment. Chris gradually became so peaceful and calm that it seemed like he was asleep. Mark continued to massage his forearm with love and chant softly. It was as if Mark was slowly wrapping Chris in the presence of God, encircling him in the chrysalis of waiting and stillness before emerging to new life with God. Chris died peacefully later that night.
I believe that, though Mark died in his sleep, he was not alone at that moment. I am certain that the angels of God sang him into that same chrysalis, sheathed in quiet waiting and hopeful stillness to emerge into the glorious light of the loving presence of an enfolding God even now drawing Mark to the fullness of life.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Novices on days of recollection

Our novices are out at TICCS for this week for their 6 days of recollection. This will be a time for quiet reflection on the year that has been and will provide the opportunity to look ahead prayerfully at the forthcoming three month Community Pastoral Placement.

The 6 days will allow for time to reflect on the prayer, community and ministry dimensions of our lives and discover God waiting to be found in all places. Henry, Vivek and Denis will facilitate two days each. These days will also allow us to prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way, reminding us that we are constantly called to birth Christ to a world that longs to experience peace, love, joy and hope.

We request you to keep our novices in your prayers for this week as they reflect on their lives that they may with wonder and awe recognise the patterns that are being woven on the tapestry of their life by the Master Weaver.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kenya Day - 12 December

It is exhilarating to celebrate the national day in a foreign land. We the Kenyans in Tamale Novitiate have been anticipating this crucial experience and finally it is here. Compelled by the spirit of patriotism, we have to fly our flag high and sing the songs our heroes once sang 45 years ago when the country first gained its independence. This is one of the most important national holidays in Kenya observed on December 12. The holiday formally marks the date of the country’s admittance in 1964 into the commonwealth as a republic and takes its name from the Swahili word jamhuri, which means, “republic”.

December 12 is also the date when Kenya obtained its independence from Great Britain in 1963.Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was the first president of Kenya followed by Daniel Arap Moi, now it is under the presidency of Mwai Kibaki.

Kenya is known for its beautiful tourist attraction sites. It will take me centuries to talk about Kenya but all I can say is “I am proud to be Kenyan and Happy jamuhuri day to all Kenyans.”