March 2012

Here in the Diocese of Tshumbe the ministry is hard but the results are very satisfying. I was able to bring many children from the deep villages to a residential school, where they are generally doing well. Almost 75 percent of them had good grades.

The children who at first complained are now getting used to life in the city. When I go to visit people in villages, I find some young boys and girls who show some ability to study. I offer to support them if they come to a bigger center. It is where they become “more civilized” – they learn to read, write, and have some exposure to the wider world.. I am so happy that many of them like the program.

Congolese men press palm oil from a drum. The photo was downloaded from Wikipedia.

The hardest part of this ministry is feeding them. The school children are freshly from the villages, and they eat a lot. I wish I had a permanent way of feeding them. I want to construct a traditional system of making palm oil and some local soap. To do that, we need some six empty “futs” or metal drums.

Palm nuts are boiled in a metal drum and then dumped into a “malaxeur.” The nuts are ground and the oil comes out of holes in the bottom of the press. The estimated cost to start this project is around $900.

Last week I visited Lodja, a city in the Diocese of Tshumbe where the Grande Seminaire Jean Paul II is located. There we celebrated the ordination of transitional deacons, on their way to the priesthood. I would like to write more but the battery of the computer I am using is draining. Mine has never been fixed since was crushed.

I send my best wishes for a holy Lenten season.

Let me attach the letter I sent to some friends a few weeks ago:

I am Father Albert from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I am already settled after my ordination in July. I was asked by my bishop to open up a new station out of my parish since people are isolated and there is no church there. I started to build a small chapel with a thatched roof so I can go there regularly. My hope is that I can create my base there so the place will one day become a parish.

The only problem is that the place is very far away from the main center. It is 75 kilometers from the big village. There is a serious problem with healthcare. In fact, there are so many problems but I want to single one out. I witnessed a very bad situation last week. A lady died on her way to the hospital because her village is about 80 kilometers from the “good” hospital. It made me feel bad because if I had a car I could transport her. I did all I could and have now received in our orphanage the two children that she left.

A man told me yesterday about a Catholic organization in Austria that is committed to mobility in the third world. The organization is called MIVA (Missionary Vehicle Association). If you have time, could you please contact them for me? I am desperately in need of a car so I can do my work as I can. Besides what I am telling you, my parish in itself has eighteen communities located in long distances from one another. I could visit all of them if I had a car.

I have many young boys and girls from the villages to study here in the parish school. I brought them here because they do not get an education in their villages. There they face many problems. Some of them get pregnant as early as 13 years of age. I could really use a car. Catholic women accompany me in my work with the school and the orphanage, and it would be easier to drive.

I am planning to open up healthcare center (a “dispensaire”) to store vaccines. If I had a car, I could bring vaccines to different villages and inoculate the children. Preventable diseases make the children’s lives very hard here in the Congo. There is no storage place in the village so they do not have access to vaccine. We cannot use a bike to transport vaccines and ride over 75 kilometers.

Please, if you can, do your best to help the people of my parish. I can ask some of my friends from the parish to chip in some money in case the Austrian organization MIVA requires some payment. We are also in desperate need of solar panels for electricity.

Pray for us. We need your help.

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