Sometimes, I wonder how far this journey has brought me but then when I look back at my life, I see how generous God has been to me. I must say I am blessed with lovely parents. Over the years, I realized that my father is a man of great integrity and inner strength and that my mother (RIP) was a wonderfully compassionate person who taught us Christian values. This reminds me of the Word of God which says “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, do not reject your mother’s teaching: they will be a crown of Grace for your head, a circlet for your neck.” (Prov.1:8.) The cumulative effect of my parents’ example and their love for us all was of great influence.
I grew up in a “Cradle-Catholic” family, with strong catholic values: the family has been blessed with two priests: our Uncle Fr. Santino Kadu (RIP) one of the first diocesan priest of Arua Diocese who unfortunately died after a long painful illness shortly after his ordination. My cousin, the late Fr. William Nyadru Mia (RIP), a Comboni missionary killed in 1991 in Karamoja after three years of his priestly service.
Inspired by the late Fr. William and my daily contact with the Comboni missionaries in my parish Moyo, Arua diocese, I requested Fr. Aladino Mirandola, one of the Comboni priests in the Parish that I want to be like Fr. William.
However, when I joined secondary school, the desire to religious life diminished as I wanted to study and become an engineer. At A Level, I offered; Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (P.C.M). Besides the routine classes, we had series of weekend recollections as Young
Christians students (YCS) and as vocational group to which I belonged.
It was during one of these recollection days that my life changed. I remember vividly, “As Jesus was walking on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him ‘Follow me’. And he got up and followed him.” (Mt. 9:9) This is how my journey began.
Before joining the postulancy of Comboni missionaries in August 2000 to start my formation journey in Jinja, I did my primary studies in Saint Dominic Moyo Boys primary school and secondary studies in Saint Joseph’s college Ombaci, in Arua. Having finished philosophical studies in Jinja, in August 2003, I went to novitiate to Namugongo and on 8th May 2005, I made my first religious profession as a Comboni missionary in my home parish of Saint Mary Assumpta, Moyo, with now Fr. Phillip Andruga Kenyi, a South Sudanese Comboni missionary and I was then assigned to the theologate of Lima-Perú.
I arrived in Lima-Perú in August 2005 and I finished my theological studies on the 04th January 2010. From 2010 to November 2011, I was assigned to Kyamuhunga Comboni community in Busheny, Mbarara Archdiocese where I did my missionary service. On 14th January 2012, Saint Mary Assumpta, Moyo parish was packed with jubilant faithful to witness the colourful priestly ordination of the fourth Comboni missionary son of the soil, Fr. Alfred Mawadri.
After ordination, I was assigned to South Sudan and since then, I have been working in Holy Trinity Parish in the community of Old Fangak in the northern part of Jonglei State in Malakal Dioceses, working among the pastoralist Nuer ethnic group. The journey hasn’t been easy and is not easy still; one needs to nourish it with prayer.
Missionary experience in Old Fangak, South Sudan
Old Fangak that is located in northern part of Jongley State under Malakal diocese is the remotest mission in the entire South Sudan. I have worked in Old Fangak since May 2012. The confreres, Fr. Christian Carlassare the then parish priest and Fr. Gregor Schmidt warmly welcomed me in the community and the people were equally hospitable.
Fr. Christian introduced us to Nuer language, other pastoral activities and the Nuer way of life. During this time, I can affirm that Holy Trinity parish, Old Fangak is a quite diverse area that presents various challenges, for example:
There are no roads; therefore, we have no vehicles or motorcycles or bicycles, no mobile telephone network. Besides, the place is remote and very difficult to reach and there is a lot of flood around Old Fangak during rainy season which makes footing difficult. There is high level of poverty index in the region. The Nuer are pastoralists with many cows, but, they value cows for marriage and rarely will they sell or kill for other reasons.
In addition, the annual rain pattern is unpredictable and unreliable, hence, it does not favour a consistent agricultural production. The inter-clan conflict aggravated by the current ethnic conflict that started in 2013 affects our missionary activities as well. In fact, the last four years of ethnic conflict in South Sudan have been very difficult for the people. The great HOPE after independence in 2011 is vanishing in thin light.
Economically, there is scarcity of basic goods in the market and high inflation rate of South Sudanese’s pounds to US dollars. Many lives were lost in the conflict, thousands of people have been displaced and many family ties have been broken. The mission in Old Fangak is considered a mission of first evangelization, as a missionary has to study the Nuer language and its cultural forms; integrating the Word of God with the culture of the people. I believe that the Word of God has strengthened the people to live this difficult moment with hope.
When I see the only street in Old Fangak packed with jubilant children and youths in the morning going to school and in the afternoon going back home, my heart is filled with joy.
Despite the above mentioned challenges, I will still say that my missionary experience in Old Fangak has been an enriching one. I learnt a lot from Fr. Christian and many Christian leaders, who have taught me to be patient, humble, prudent and hopeful but above all, to work together.
When Fr. Christian left to work in Juba as Vocation promoter and animator of pre- postulancy, we continued building a strong Christian community, formation of Christian leaders and the education of the youths in schools as an integral part of evangelization.
Saint Daniel Comboni said in Khartoum “…your suffering will be my suffering and your joy will be my joy…” hence making common cause with the people God has entrusted to him and therefore, teaching us to do the same today. I am grateful to the Lord and the confreres with whom I have shared these years of experience and I leave tomorrow in His hands.
Let us always “Remember the past with GRATITUDE, embrace the future with HOPE, and live the present with PASSION”. (Letter to Religious for the Year of Consecrated Life)