The 24th of July we have started the 3rd African Continental Meeting of CLM in Anchilo, Mozambique.
We have come from all over the continent to meet as one Comboni Family to discuss and collaborate on our missionary vocation, our experiences, and our struggles following in the footsteps of our founder St. Daniel Comboni.
We ask for your prayers to the Holy Spirit to guide us through this time of community and reflection.
Exactly a year ago I was still in Poland, now I am in St. Jude Children’s Home but not only.
Since my return to Gulu has not passed another year yet but everything looks different than it was before. Just like everyone thinks the return is easier- familiar place, people, culture. Despite this, I am still learning something new. This is also a result of changes in my mission- I’m not only in the orphanage but also in the school running by St. Monica community, in the prison and also in the house for our older boys.
The area of our missionary service has expanded considerably, not only mine but also Asia’s and Carmen’s – each of us has found new places of commitment which enriches our community in sharing and experiencing mission.
As I mentioned above, besides my daily activities with children in St. Jude (the redeemining the level of education, motivational support and self-esteem of children, feeding and caring for children with disabilities, having fun and praying together with young girls) I have engaged in other projects as well.
St. Monica is a place running by one Community of Sisters. They have many different projects-activities like School of Basic Literacy for Adult Women, Tailoring school, Clinic and Kindergarten. At this Kindergarten, twice a week, I have classes with children who have learning difficulties. Our classes take place in the classroom where I try to show the child, within a half hour (classes are held individually) that he is able to write, count or answer questions. However, the most important is to make the child feel accepted and that someone believes in him. Unfortunately, the biggest problem among these children is very low self-esteem, they are timid and they do not feel like special. They come from many families where everyone is the same and if you are slower in learning or writing, it means you are worse, stupid.
The another place is a prison where I’ve already spent two weeks together with a prayer group celebrating Mass or sharing the Gospel with the prisoners – so far this is the beginning, so I am still new in this but I am so glad I can be there. I also hope to go to the prisoners-women but it will start after Easter.
The boys’ home is the part of St. Jude but this is separated house situated about 2 km from the Orphanage. On Saturday afternoons, I go there to read with them the Gospel of coming Sunday, to talk about their problems, help with study. For example, one boy is in P.3 class (Primary School) but still has problem with writing his name, concentration or memorization – but this is not due to his laziness. His difficulty of acquiring the knowledge is caused by the boy’s mother who was drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Unfortunately, alcoholic fetal syndrome (FAS) and AIDS (drugs are very strong and have side effects) have a great impact on their ability and functioning in the life and also in school.
Time goes by very fast, each day is similar but events, faces, other situations are different. Everything teaches something – mainly about myself. I am grateful to God for the gift of this vocation, sometimes difficult but surely full of His love and power. Because no one of us would do anything if it were not His will.
For this extraordinary time of Holy Week I wish all of us moments of silence and desert – that in our organized daily life we find time for Him and on the Day of Resurrection let our souls be filled with Faith, Hope, and Love.
Last days went by with these two ambivalent feelings. Moments of sadness interspersed with moment of great joy- this because of our children.
On All Soul’s Day we attended the Mass which was celebrated on the local cemetery situated near our St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Gulu. After the Mass we went with our children to pray at the tomb of our small Angel-as we used to call Moses, who died 6 months ago. After prayer we covered the tomb with flowers which we’d picked from the tree growing in St. Jude Children’s Home.
Here The Day of All Saints is a day of great joy- in this special day children receive sacraments of baptism, First Communion and even Confirmation. The Mass in the Cathedral is pretty long- 4 or 5 hours, because there are for example 150 children to be baptized. Anyway we are in Africa, so the length of the Mass is normal, and good that our Cathedral is big and long so all people can enter. After receiving all sacraments all people gathered in the church, lift up their hand and candles and shout loudly to show their happiness. At the beginning, I was very surprised that the day, which in Poland is a calm day of reflection and prayer, here in Gulu is a one of the most happiest day. But when during the Confirmation each candidate reads the name of Patron out you get the feeling that All Saints gather in one place- beautiful experience, unforgettable.
Children from our Orphanage received the sacraments of Baptism and First Communion earlier- on October 28th– memory of St. Jude, who is a Patron of our Orphanage. Children from both schools- Nursery and Primary, all workers, orphans and friends of our Orphanage met under the big tree to celebrate the Mass. Seven our children have been baptized and eight children first time received Holy Communion. It was a very joyful day for all of us. Children who received First Communion were in different age, between 10 and 16. None of them asked about toys or super gifts. All of them were prepared well by our catechist.
I came back to Uganda 5 months ago- I already live according to my routine, which is different from the one which I had 2 years ago. Now, the majority of my time I spend with children. In the morning with babies and disabled, in the afternoon with children from Primary 1,2,3 and children from Nursery School. But many different people who come to our house break our daily routine, for what we are very grateful. Some of them come for short time- like Peter- our Lay Comboni Missionary from Poland or for longer like David- Comboni Lay Missionary from Spain, who came for more than one month. Also meetings with Comboni Family, during the feast like on October 10th- the Feast of Comboni or just simple accidental meetings on the street, in the town or in the church. All these meetings give us a lot of joy and positive energy. So if someone plans to come to Uganda for a few days or maybe for longer, remember that our house is always open and you are welcome.
“Our children have just finished their holiday season. This time it lasted unusually long – 3 months. The reason was the election of the new president of Uganda which took place on 18 February 2016. Fortunately everything went well and there were no big problems. In less than three weeks I will be back in Poland again. Well, something ends, something new begins. During the holiday season, I spent most of the time with the youngest children who have some problems at school. It was a kind of remedial classes. After the renovation work, the classes were held in the dining room that was turned into the class room. We spend a lot of time there, learning but also having fun. We painted, created things from plasticine, coloured and cut. In Poland it is something common but for my kids in Uganda it is always something special and new.”
Besides being the general administrator, here I am also someone between a baby sitter and a social worker. All this time I have been here, I have discovered that this is the best place for me. It is amazing and surprising at the same time, because it was not something I had intended to do. Mission teaches obedience and commitment in places where there is a need, not in places where one thinks he/she should be. Sometimes our imaginations are not real; our point of view differs from the real and true needs of the world. Because we think that our needs are: time for prayer and, above all, openness to the Holy Spirit. We also need all of these to discover what God really wants from us, in this particular place. I can’t say I know it already, but I search for it, all the time. I am starting to understand why I have been sent here. Now, as I am actually finishing my two years mission experience, I know I will return here, to my children, to St. Jude.
St. Jude is not just children, but also people who work there. Baby sitters, people who look after the children – I spent lots of time with them. At the beginning of my mission, I was dedicated to managing all the employees, which was really hard, as I was the youngest person here and I was preparing to become their supervisor. I was supposed to check and assess. It was not a very comfortable situation, because I came here to help, not to control. However, as I mentioned before – mission teaches humility, but also verifies our vision about ourselves, our knowledge and behaviours. I have to admit that sometimes even the easiest things ended with some misunderstanding. The way of being, talking, gesturing were interpreted wrongly. Fortunately, we have learnt from one another eventually.
Mission is also a community, very extraordinary in my case. We were sent to a totally new place and created a new community in Gulu – before it had been only in Matany – where Danusia (another CLM) was. There were four of us, young and inexperienced girls: three Polish and one Spanish. Even the time we spent in prayer, talking, resting but also arguing and causing misunderstandings, was beautiful and intense. What always united us, though, was the mission, the people and, most of all, prayer. Each one of us is a different picture of God, but with the same faith and big open heart.
On behalf of my community and myself, I would like to thank all of you, for every little gesture, holiday cards, emails. On behalf of my children, I would like to thank for all the financial support: thanks to it our children now have new uniforms, better food, the possibility of better health control and … we coloured their world. But most of all, I would like to thank you for every prayer, every sigh about us: without you, we would not be here
My first mission in St. Jude Orphanage in Gulu is coming to an end. My contract is over in March. During these almost 2 years I worked among Acholi people. My first duty is working in administration. But I try sometimes to do something with children in the afternoon when I don’t need to be in the office. I’d like to tell you about an amazing girl who I work with, who has thought me a lot and who shows me every day what is the most important in the life.
Jacqueline is a 16-year-old autistic girl, who appeared in our St. Jude few years ago. She previously lived with her grandmother, but because she did not have time for her, Jackline spent days with goats, which were around. When she came to our center she could not even walk, so this skill she has been taught here. In addition, due to her “company” Jackline instead of talking rather she produced (and sometimes she still does it) something like goat’s scream. After more than a half-yearly treatment the frequency of issuance this horrible sound has been reduced, but it still appears, especially when she is dissatisfied, hungry or something makes her upset.
My work with Jackline is a beautiful and extraordinary adventure. I have already learnt very much from her. It is amazing how every day I can discover something new in her, a new character trait, things that she likes and she doesn’t like, favorite color, food. The beginning of my work with Jackline was quite hard, because she does not speak. In addition autism is linked with some degree of disability (mental retardation). So, at the beginning I had to learn everything, her response, why she behaves in this way, what means the sound that she does notoriously, what means that expression. But slowly, slowly, I have discovered many things and I have noticed a lot. As I mentioned above I’m still learning and it is the biggest beauty of this work. But it wasn’t the most important at the beginning. The most important thing was to gain the trust. For children with autism it is hard to trust someone new. Jackline initially did not want to even grab my hand, she was afraid when I pulled her hand and wanted to take a walk, even she did not want to smile. It was a difficult time because I did not know how I should react, how to work and what path peel to somehow cope with this problem. I knew one: love for a child is the most important, if you give sincere love to someone, then the child will feel that you care about her and finally the child will trust. And this is indeed the best solution. Of course classes, stimulation is one thing, but love should be always above everything. And the greatest expression of her trust was one of her gesture when she was sick. One day I was looking for her in order to take her to classes and accidentally peeked into our small “clinic”. It was there that I found Jackline-weak and sad. She was sick. First thing which we do is malaria test. So we had to do it. And in her case, the nurse knew it would be the worst, because she doesn’t allow anybody to touch her. But when I entered the room and our sight met I saw in her eyes peace. Although she says nothing by sight and behavior she can express everything in a very beautiful way. The visit came to an end successfully. But when I was going with her to go out, Jackline suddenly put her head on my knees and decided to just lie down. Yes, we spent the whole afternoon like that -she quietly was lying on my lap and me with great joy and emotion of heart watching her. This was for me the most wonderful experience and the best proof of her trust and confidence. Of course I still continue my work with Jackline, because there is still a lot to do, but slowly, slowly, I hope that even more will develop.
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