Writing from the Sudan in June, Richard O’Dwyer SJ described his first visit to Lomarati, a remote mountain location to which he had been invited to say Mass. He was stunned, he wrote, both by the glorious mountain scenery – “as green as Ireland!” – and by the warmth of the welcome he received from the people there. They had not had Mass in Lomarati since 1993! Now he writes again about the travails of beating a path to Lomarati for Sunday Mass under the big mango tree (like the one in this photo) which passes for a chapel. 200 people turned out for the Mass, during which 43 children were baptised. Richard now hopes to help turn some disused buildings into a chapel and a school.
SUNDAY MASS IN THE SUDAN
Richard Dwyer SJ
I managed to reach Lomarati on Sunday 23rd August after a 4-hour delay on that same morning. The damn vehicle would not start! Finally around 11.30am it kicked into life! I had tried the previous Saturday on the Feast of the Assunmption to reach Lomarati but a puncture messed things up and before we reached there, heavy rain forced people to go home. The chapel there is a big mango tree!
Anyway, we arrived there by 1.15pm on Sunday 23rd August to find 200 people in, around and under the mango! We had 43 children and infants for baptism. As we arrived, I could hear the congregation singing the Gloria and the sun was shining down on all of us! I have to say emotionally I was quite overcome. The sheer joy of the people was palpable.
As we continued with mass, and the baptisms, the clouds began to gather and there were rumbles of thunder growing louder all during the liturgy. Incredibly, as I gave the final blessing after a liturgy of close to 2 hours, only then did a squall of wind herald that rain would soon follow.
The catechist in Lomarati, George Owot, is a good man. He had organised the baptism ceremony very well. He came 4th out of a class of 28 in the Cathechist probationary month in Gulu. To prevent our vehicle being punctured again, he had press-ganged the whole of Lomarati to slash the grass and undergrowth beside the green mountain road for a distance of 7 or 8 kilometres all the way to Kicenga on the “Main” (atrocious!) road. The shorter grass allows the driver to see tree stumps and fallen trees at the side of the road and to avoid our tyres being speared by sharp stumps and the stubs of broken branches.
On my first visit to Lomarati at the end of May, I had been shown two bungalows that had been the homes of the managers on the tea plantation there owned by a Kenyan company. Their roofs were destroyed in the war and they were surrounded by almost impenetrable bamboo. They have potential for use as a school and a chapel if re-roofed. They had completely cleared the bamboo around one of them in order to allow us to inspect it. Apart from needing to be re-roofed, the walls and floor were perfect without a crack to be seen.
I want desperately to help the community of Lomarati re-roof that building. They are determined to begin educating their children within the bounds of the village again. They are a hard-working group of people who want to develop their community. I hope to give them one of two pairs of oxen we are hoping to receive funding for before the end of the year, I felt they would make very good use of the oxen, as well as take good care of them. Please God, the project will receive the funding it so desperately needs!