Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Never Just One Thing

What's next?
Since my last entry, I was on vacation with my family.  Upon my return we have finished two weeks of Summer Fiesta with two groups of volunteers, had a Bingo Night Social, sponsored 19th Century Kids Games at the Tomato Festival and currently are hosting a joint Bible School with the Methodist Church featuring three volunteers from Maryland.  In the mission field, it is never just one thing at a time.

This buzz of summer activities all accomplish various missionary goals in a variety of ways.  Sometimes managing these events and the various people associated with them feels like the announcer of a three ring circus and it has the same thrills and spills. Yet, that is what brings life to this ministry.

Spills and thrills
At the trailer park in Central Point, we served about 35 kids with our bible school and an average of 25 with the next two weeks of Summer Fiesta.  Summer Fiesta was possible because of two volunteer groups, one from New Jersey and the other from Pennsylvania.  Also one publishing company and another individual supplied us with educational books and art supplies.  This allowed us to help the children improve math and reading skills.  It also provided a positive community experience for many of the kids in the park. 
PA volunteers from Summer Fiesta

Look at all those prizes!!
The Bingo Night was part of the monthly social at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Maynardville.  We have a desire to be one faith community even through we have Mass in English and Spanish.  Therefore, we are trying to hold once a month a bilingual Mass, social and games.  Bingo works across cultures well.  The joy and laughter combined with the various foods really makes for sense of family and language does not become a barrier.

The Tomato Festival just celebrated its 20th year in Grainger County.  It features an art show, produce vendors, food, and the famous tomato wars.  Our church was asked to fill in a gap.  The group that has done 19th Century Games for kids was not able to come.  Therefore we were in the heritage area with the civil war canon, the gospel tent and the blacksmith.  It was our first time to participate and since neither Br. Craig nor I had been there before, it was not so easy to know what to expect.  Overall it went well with the kids enjoying the various table games, ring toss, nine pins and the ol' time races.  Our goal was to be a positive influence for families and to support the local organizing committee.  That was achieved.

Tire Roll
Some of our volunteers working the games
Now this week we are on day two of Bible School in Maynardville.  We are blessed with three volunteers from Maryland who brought with them the arts and crafts supplies for our week.  This is a joint Bible School with the Methodist Church.  They only have about five children so together we are stronger.  Also, this is the church that first allowed us to have Mass in their building while we got started.  Thus, it is a joy to do this exciting program together.
Together we can do anything!!

In the midst of this buzz, the normal activity of daily Mass, paying bills, and visiting the homebound and those in the hospital continues.  So at least in these missions, it is never just one thing!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

First Catholic Bible School of Grainger County

The group from St. Clair with Glenmarians

"Rise and Shine and Give God your Glory, Glory" has been my morning song for the last five days.  It worked too well, because we really had to get our children "out of the muddy, muddy" after four days of rain.
Song time

Arts and Crafts
We are very grateful to our friends from St. Claire Catholic Church, Cincinnati, Ohio who came to help us.  This was a different type of Bible School, but worked out very well.  We set up a tent owned by a parishioner in his backyard in the center of Central Point Trailer Park in Grainger County.  Each morning we shared songs, a Bible Story, recreation, and arts and crafts.  The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) supplied a free lunch each day and parishioners from Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission provided snacks.  A special thanks to Wright and Cox IGA of Rutledge which also donated food for the morning snacks.

Game time
With four days of rain it was a special challenge, but with the energy of the volunteers and the help of Clive Otieno, a Glenmary Seminarian, Br. Craig, and others it worked out.  I believe the kids had a great time, bonded more as a community, and learned a little more about the love of Jesus.

Arts and Crafts
 The next two weeks the Tennessee Glenmary Volunteer program will continue to work at the trailer park leading our first Summer Fiesta:  a morning of education and fun.  Hopefully, this too will add to a great summer for kids who normally spend all day in their trailers waiting for their parents to come home from the tomato fields.

Clive sharing the Bible Story of the day
In the midst of this Bible School there were a few other events have happened since my return from Kenya.  We held our first ever Mission Advisory Team meetings for both communities.  This is like a parish council and it is another step in developing a Catholic faith community.

First Advisory Team of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
 Also we had a small miracle (or maybe a large miracle).

One of our parishioners went into pre-labor at only 6 months of pregnancy.  Late in the evening Br. Craig and I drove to the hospital.  We anointed the mother and the small child inside the womb.  Two nights ago Br. Joe and I returned to the hospital to bless Riley, our 1 pound and six ounces, 13 inches long miracle.  It is truly awe inspiring to see such a small child doing so well.  How can anyone imagine that abortion can be justified?  God loves life and every life is precious.

Now tonight it off to some local entertainment,  that is the Rodeo!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kenya Interlude

Praising God with the girls at St. Albert the Great Catholic School
I have dedicated this blog to the development of our Catholic Missionary efforts in Grainger and Union County, TN, but I wish to take a small Kenya interlude.  I had the  priviledge to travel with Fr. Crispine Adongo to his village for his Masses of Thanksgiving.  Accompanying me were Br. Craig and Br. David Henley, our vocation director.
Br. Craig, Br. David and Godfrey's sister

This was a real priviledge since prior to being here, I served as the vocation director for Glenmary.  Thus, I was part of the journey for Fr. Crispine to come to the U.S.A. to serve as a priest in the United States.  Completing this phase of his "safri" (which means journey) by sharing his joy with his hometown and family was truly special.

Fr. Crispine surrounded by his fans
The village, Ulanda,  is small and rural, but it has a Catholic High School for girls of 1,000 students, thus making it close to the size of Maynardville, which is about 1,700 people.  These girls were bright, animated and curious.  I was able to share a Mass with them and be a part of their Saturday afternoon youth group.
Openning Procession for Sunday Mass of Thanksgiving

Br. Craig, Fr. Cris and myself with family and friends
Sunday was the parish Mass of Thanksgiving with started around 11 and ended somewhere close to 3 p.m.  This did include the program following Mass.  The sense of joy and praise was very evident.  On Tuesday we went to the home of Fr. Crispine for a Mass.  Many people walked several kilometers to attend.  During the after Mass program, gifts were presented to Fr. Crispine.  They included a bull cafe and several sheep and a chicken.. 
Gifts for Fr. Crispine

In between these two Masses we had a tour of the local sugar factory, which produces 80 % of its own power by converting the by-product of the sugar cane for fuel.  Also we ended our time at Naribo game park where we had a nice time viewing the animals including seeing the LIONS.
Br. Craig, Br. David and myself ready to tour the Sugar Cane Factory
Now that my small interlude is over, it is back to the basics of missionary life.  This week will include several baptisms and next week begins our first Bible School in Grainger County.  Assanti sana (Thank you very much!!)