February 2008 Issue No 122
Welcome the Stranger
Fr. Ian Buckmaster
I am writing this short article on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It is the end of the Christmas season and Jésus is confirmed in his Ministry of bringing light to the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon and from prison those who sit in darkness. It is a revolutionary message and reveals a God who loves, who has compassion, who shows mercy. The early Christian communities had difficulty in understanding all the implications of Jesus' message. Indeed they were trying to come to terms with his awful, degrading death for a very long time. So the first great question that confronted this small group of people of the Jewish faith was: who could become a follower of Christ? Only Jews or was membership open to all? The first council of Jérusalem pushed by Peter and Paul decided that membership was open to all. Henceforth there would be no discrimination between Jew and Gentile between slave and freeman, between men and women. Nationality, race, gender, colour of skin was no longer a factor in who could become a follower of Christ. It was a revolutionary message. It provoked a lot of enthusiasm among the newcomers so much so that St. Paul in his various letters was at his wits end to correct the misunderstanding that were bound to arise over the preaching of this new doctrine. But for 2,000 years peoples have been listening to the message of Christ, have repented, and have embraced this teaching with enthusiasm and have allowed their lives to be transformed by it.
This Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord is also the 94th Day of Migrants and Refugees. The fact that there are many people who still hâve to flee their homes and country for political or économie reasons is still a big challenge in the world to day and is a direct challenge to Christians. There is a still a great deal of ambiguity about the reception that should be accorded to such people. On the one hand there is fear, fear of the stranger in our midst and their strange ways of doing things. We are constantly bombarded with messages that emphasize fear and mistrust. In many ways this is not new. Some older readers will remember the distrust and discrimination that was shown to the Irish not so long ago in countries that we now consider bosom pals.
Now, in Ireland things have come a full circle. I understand that more or less 12% of our population is not born here. A good proportion expresses a wish to return home when they hâve achieved sufficient level of économie wealth to provide them with a decent standard of living in their home country. Others want to stay and make a new start among us. They wish to contribute to our society and become the "new" Irish. Are we ready to accept them? The instinct to build walls and fences often in the form of bureaucratic obstacles is always a great temptation. Politicians with eyes on opion polls can too easily engage their mouths rather than their reason when confronted on refugee and migrant issues. The situation can be exacerbated by media headlines that tell us that we should be afraid of the foreigner. The connection between immigration and terrorism is too easily made and people are suffering unjustly as a result. Sometimes it is timidly pointed out that we have benefited from their présence. The Celtic Tiger has roared because of the presence of so many foreign workers in our workforce. The remittances they send home not only benefit their families but also the economies of their own countries. I would venture the opinion that this returning money is used more effectively than much of the aid money that is given on an inter governmental basis.
But there is another side to the storey that goes beyond the economic and social one. How do we as a Christian community welcome the strangers in our midst? In Africa the visitor is always welcomed by the Christian community. Many of our newcomers are Catholics from vibrant communities. Their presence provides us with a golden opportunity to revitalize our own local communities. They have a lot to offer us because of their own unique experience of Christ's message. I feel that we should welcome them and facilitate their integration into our communities rather than banish them to a religious and cultural ghetto. I think we have a to do a bit of work here.
As we prepare for Easter during the period of Lent, we are again asked to examine our lives and make a special effort to deepen our misunderstanding of the Good News brought to us by Jesus. There are whole areas that need our attention. Trocaire will emphasize Climate change in their Lenten campaign. St Clement 1 writing at the end of the 1 st century wrote, in an era long before anyone ever thought of global warming, "Lord you created the World according to the eternal decree now revealed in your works. Faithful throughout all generations, you are just in judgment, wonderful in power and majesty. You formed creation with wisdom, established it with prudence. Everything we see proclaims your goodness. My big fear is that I might be asked on the last day what did I do with my little bit of creation?
May I wish you all a fruitful Lent and an Easter full of the joy of the risen Lord.
Coming and Going
Fr. Diarmuid Sheehan hands over the keys of the Provincial Treasures
Office to Fr. Neil Loughrey.
Fr. Diarmuid returns to Ghana after just over 4 years service in the province. Fr. Neil has worked in Tanzania and more recently in our Student house in Cebu. We wish a fruitful apostolate to Diarmuid
and extend a warm welcome to Neil.
Fr. Andre Filion is from Canada. We welcome him to our community in Templeogue. He will replace Fr. PJ Cassidy who will return to South Africa after a short sabbatical.
Fr. Andre has worked in Chad, Burundi, India England and South Africa.
We welcome his most sincerely. He will be
bursar of the house.
Fr. Joe Mc Menamin is returning to take
charge of the Promotion Office. Joe apart from a short term in Ireland has being a missionary in Zambia for more years than we care to remember. Joe hopes to put in a big effort in visiting our benefactors in various parts of the country. It is something that we have not been
able to do for some time and we hope that it will help renew old friendships and establish new ones.
A Reflexion for Lent
'Corne, follow me, I will make you fish for people'.
Come, follow me: as disciples of Jesus, we are constantly invited to 'follow Jesus'. He is 'our way'. But as we are about to enter into Lent, perhaps should we say that Jesus' call makes itself more insistant: as Jesus is about to take to the road leading to Jerusalem, he reminds us that his journey must also be our journey. But concretely, what does that mean for us? What does it mean for us, Christians, today, to follow Jesus?
Just before he called his first disciples, Jésus left Nazareth and went down to the Jordan where John the Baptist was baptizing; he listened to John the Baptist and was baptized by him; and as we was coming out of the water, he was confirmed by God as his beloved Son: 'You are my Son the Beloved, my favour rests on you'. Jesus, however, did not launch immediately into a ministry of his own. John the Evangelist tells us that he remained with the Baptist, in all likelihood taught with him, like him, and baptized people for the forgiveness of their sins.
But when John the Baptist was arrested and jailed by Herod, Jesus, who could very well have continued John's ministry, went immediately to Galilee, and there, began his own ministry. A ministry which Matthew sums up as follows: 'Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good newsof the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan (Mat 4:23-25)..
But why did Jesus chose to have an approach to his mission which was so different from that of the Baptist's? He left the desert, and in Galilee, went to towns and villages, meeting people, talking to them, offering them healing and forgiveness.
Perhaps do we find a first answer to our question in the experience Jesus had after he had been baptized by John: 'You are my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on you'. The Father's voice, words filled with love. Words to which Jésus answered with a name which any Jew in Jesus time would have seen as irrespectful for the God of Israel: Jesus called God 'Abba', an aramaic words which means literally 'Daddy', the word used by small children for their father. And Jesus saw it as his mission to teach God's new name to the world: 'When you pray, say Abba'. 'Abba's became Jesus' life project; and it is, for us, the codeword which allows us to approach more closely the mystery of Jesus, of his person, and message, and mission.
But how could Jesus teach God's new name to his people: he endeavoured to make 'Abba', the God of immense loving kindness, to become reality, to take flesh in the lives of people who needed it most: the sick, the bereaved, sinners, marginals. He offered 'healing' to all of them.
I think that there is one word which expresses best Jesus' attitude towards people; a word which Matthew seems to see as expressing the basic motivation which guided Jesus in his ministry: 'Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; (Mat 9:35-37).
Jésus had compassion for them': we must reflect a moment on this word, 'compassion'. In Matthew's Gospel, it translates a Greek word which, literally, means 'gut feeling'. Jesus had compassion for people, for the poor, the sick, marginals. He felt their pain in his heart, in his body. But we can take one more step: the same word, 'compassion', in Aramaic, Jesus' language, refered to the mother's womb. Jesus' compassion was that of a mother for the child of her womb. It was a compassion filled with immense tenderness.
Now concretely, what could that mean for us? What could that mean if we decided to make of 'compassion', 'Jesus' compassion', our motto for this coming Lent, the motto which would remind us, day after day, of how we should relate to people, especially the people most in need of love? I know of no better comment on that word than the following lines from Jean Vanier, the founder of the Arche': 'If compassion is to be a presence, it has to be made manifest by delicate signs: a letter, a phone call, an understanding look, a discreet gift which says, 'I am with you; I carry it all with you'. Compassion is a hidden and discreet communication which offers hope. The distressed person is in danger or wallowing in despair and in the taste of death. The compassionate friend is there to help another continue on the road, to live this time of mourning or distress with a tiny flame of hope... Compassion is a word full of meaning. It means: sharing the same passion, sharing the same suffering, sharing the same agony.
Accepting into my heart the misery in y ours. Your pain calls out to me; it touches my heart. It awakens something within me, and I become one with you in your pain. I may not be able to relieve your pain, but by understanding it and sharing it I make it possible for your to bear it in a way that enhances your dignity and helps you to grow'. (Jean Vanier, from his book, 'Becoming Human' (Paulist Press, New Jersey, 1998).
'Corne, follow me, I will make you fish for people'. Perhaps should we, this year, as Lent is drawing near, decide to follow Jésus more closely, and to let his compassion fill our hearts so that, like him, we may let the healing power of his love reach out to people, and to fill their own hearts with hope.
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Just a little reminder to all our readers that Easter is very early this year. It will occur on the 23rd March. This will not happen again until the 22nd century ! However it does mean that there will be changes to our traditional feastdays at this time. Holy Week is the most important week in the year of the Church. Every day of the that week is important as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the Passion, Death and Ressurrection of Our Saviour. So what are we going to do about St. Patrick's Day? The Church will celebrate St. Patrick's Day on the 15th March this year. However the 17th March will be a Bank Holiday as usual. St Patrick brought the GOOD NEWS to us many centuries ago. It a time for celebration but let us enjoy it without forgetting the great mystery of Christ's saving sacrifice for us.
Crisis in Kenya
It was very saddened by the outbreak of violence in Kenya after the results of the elections were announced. I remember working in the parish of St Teresa which includes the big slum of Mathare Valley when elections took place in 1997. There was fierce détermination on the part of the people that the elections in their area would be fair and free.
They largely succeeded in their goal although in other parts of Kenya there was some violence. It was sad to see areas that I knew well now suffering and people being burned out of their houses. I am convinced however that the Christian spirit of the people has not been extinguished. They will cross tribal boundaries to help one another.
Already missionaries and local priests, sisters and lay people were organizing themselves to help people displaced before any outside help arrived. I think it should be pointed out that despite the burning of Churches in some areas this was not done on a general scale. The Missionaries and personnel of Aid Agencies have not been targeted. I think this is a very good sign. In fact although the situation remains tense, violence has decreased and people are beginning to reflect on the dire consequences of continuing violence. During this period of Lent, please keep in mind the people of Kenya. They are a proud people and I believe they have the leaders to restore peace to their nation.
Fr. Ludwig Peschen is a Missionary of Africa and a medical doctor and has with Fr. Riny van Broekhoven (Photo) organized the distribution of food and supplies to people driven out of the slums and who sought refuge in a big exhibition park. Fr. Ludwig writes: All together, it is amazing to see the high number of volunteers and people of good will who offer their services at different levels. Religious Sisters and Brothers are showing up everywhere, as counselors, food distributors, in looking after children or just listening to the stories of suffering and destruction. It is a privilege for us to be here and present in these days, near to people who are suffering so much.
Bishop Peter Kairu, Bishop of Nakuru is Chairman of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission made a strong statement urging people to remember their Christian roots that transcend all tribal boundaries. I quote the following extract.
"I call upon all Christians and people of goodwill to stand aside from the crowd and be counted as promoters of the much needed peace and healing. I urge our Christians not to participate in meetings where hostilities, revenge and counter attacks or anything evil is being planned. Such are the times when we are called to stand by Christ however hard the times or pressure. At the end of it all we will be judged whether we stood by our Christian values and teachings or we were carried away by the wind.
Finally, I urge you all to come out and offer any assistance to our suffering brothers and sisters who have been affected by the clashes. It is a moral Christian duty to help the needy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless. (Mt 25: 31-45).
I further urge you to continue praying for our country that a lasting solution may be found soon."
* Kenya Nairobi: 28 January 2008 : letter from Dr. Ludwig Peschen M.Afr, MD .
* From Nairobi (Kenya) 10 January 2008 "Ashes and destruction" by Riny van Broekhoven. M.Afr.
Justice and Peace :
Fr. Seán O'Leary recently celebrated his 25th Anniversary here with us in Ireland; on the 8th of December to be precise. Seán has spent all his missionary life in South Africa, ministering in the field of Justice and Peace. He experienced the sad, tragic days of "apartheid"; where thousands died for the right to be recognised as citizens in the country of their own birth. He was very much part of the transition in South Africa, from an oppressive regime shunned by the world, to a new liberal democracy that now acts as a beacon of hope for many other African countries aspiring to travel the same road.
Presently, Fr Seán is the Director of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute named after the famous Archbishop Hurley of Durban, who died in 2004, and whose roots are in Skibbereen Co.. Cork. The Peace Institute responds to the many requests from the African continent, to the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, to help other African countries to move from violent conflict to eventual peace and democracy. Most of his work takes place in other African countries such as Zimbabwe, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Swaziland to name but a few. The work involves conflict transformation, reconciliation, civil education, economic literacy, democratisation and assisting in mobilising people to be part of the process of writing their own constitution.
Very often it is Africa's "Hot spots" than capture world attention such as Darfur and Zimbabwe. However, Fr. Seán sees real signs of hope in many Africa countries, which are making brave moves towards peace and democracy away from the glare of the world media and it is important that these bold initiative be supported. The South African story, he argues, is at least worth listening to and at times can offer a way forward when all seems so lost.
With this issue of the Newsletter y ou willfind sotne raffle cardsfor our Annual Raffte. The money raised will go towards a fund that we established for the care of our elderly missionaries, most of whom have spent many years of their lives in Africa and who may one day require special care.
We hope that our elderly friends and those who already help us in other ways will not be offended by being sent raffle cards. The cards (2) are automatically put in to the envelopes. We would like to assure you that if you cannot sell the lines ourself, you should not worry. However selling lines is an ideal way of enlisting the help of a wider circle of people who are not regular contributors.
We thank all of you for your faithful support of our Missionary Society.
Most Rev Denis Brennan DD,
Bishop of Ferns, priests, religious
and the people of Ferns Diocese, on
behalf of the Missionaries of Africa
(White Fathers) we express our
gratitude for y our most gener ous
contributions during our mission
We will remember you in our
prayers and a special mass will be
offered for y our intentions.
Please Pray for our Friends who have Died
Mrs. Mary McNulty, Ballydevitt, Donegal Town P.O.
Mr. John Jennings, Upper Chapel Street, Newry, Co. Down
Mr. Sean Spollen, Tubberclair, Glasson, Co. Westmeath
Mrs. Mary Ann Bowles, Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh.
Miss Nora McDonagh, Spiddal, Co. Galway
Mrs. Joan Murphy, Meelin, Newmarket, Co. Cork
Mr. Pat Gilmartin, Park Rd. Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim.
Mr. Denis (Des) Crowley, Stookens, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick.
Mrs. Esther McMahon, Allen Hill Park, Lurgan, Co. Armagh
Mrs. Josephine Heslin, Drumgowna, Mohill, Co. Leitrim
Ms.E. Campbell, Portumna, Co. Galway
Ms Hilda Scannell, Mallow, Co. Cork
Sr. Jacinta Corrigan, Convent of Mercy, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan.
Miss Leona McGonagle, Aillebrack, Ballyconneely, Co. Galway
Mrs. Mary Doyle, Ringsend Road, Dromara, Co. Down.
Mrs. Maureen Noone, Benbeg, Bullaun, Loughrea, Co. Galway
Mr. Michael Casey, Curraghmore, Kilcormac, Co.Offaly
Mrs. Hannah Gallagher, Annagry East, Co. Donegal
Mrs. Kathleen Bourke, Johnstown, Navan, Co.Meath.
Mr. Pat Morris, Tromogue, Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone
Mr. Peter Fox, Creggan, Carrickmore, Co. Tyrone
Mrs. Elizabeth Drumm, Pearse Road, Sligo
Miss Margaret OBrien, Tobernea, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick
Mr. John OBrien, Tobernea, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick
Mr. Hubert Reynolds, Parkmore Drive, Dublin 6W and Gortletteragh, Co. Leitrim
Mrs. Mary McConville, Woodville Gate, Lough Rd, Lurgan, Co. Armagh
Miss Bridget McFadden, Gortcally, Kerrykeel, Co. Donegal
Mrs. Catherine Cassidy, Rush, Co. Dublin (Sister-in-Law of Fr. Peter Cassidy)
Mrs. Kathleen OConnor, Whaley Terrace, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
Mrs. Alice Casey, 30 Barrett Place, Macroom, Co. Cork.
Mrs. Brigid McIntyre, Tara Court, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Mrs. Mary McDaid, Porthall, Lifford, Co.Donegal
Mr. Johnny McDonald, Marian Road, Templemore, Co. Tipperary
Mrs. Nancy Sheridan, Drumhalla Lwr. Rathmullan, Co. Donegal
Mrs. Rosaleen Long, Drumhalla Lwr. Rathmullan, Co. Donegal.
Miss Dympna Maguire, Seaview Terrace, Rathmullan, Co. Donegal
Miss Winnie Doherty, Glenvar, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Mr. Hugh Kerr, Umricam, Ballyheerin, Letter Kenny, Co. Donegal
Ms Josephine Maguire, Cloncoose, Newtowngore, Co. Leitrim
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
May they rest in peace with the Father
PLEASE REMEMBER THE MISSIONS IN YOUR WILL
Our legal name is Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers).
A suitable formula is:
I give to the Society of Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) the sum off €........... free of
duty. And I declare that the Provincial of the Society who now resides at Cypress Grove,
Templeogue, Dublin 6W shall be in good discharge.
Carry on the good work you have been doing during your life by helping to spread the
Gospel after you have gone to the Father.