facebook Fr Alan in South Sudan: A Week in the Life of Loreto – Bishops, graduations, an ambassador, and the Pope. - Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
10 Mar 2022

“It has been a busy week. There are rarely quiet weeks in Loreto, but this last one has certainly kept us all on our toes. Thankfully it has all been positive, and in light of the challenges we see on the news now, we are especially grateful.

Last Monday the Irish Ambassador to Ethiopia, Djibouti and South Sudan, Nicola Brennan, visited the school with a member of her team. Their arrival meant a 50% increase in the number of Irish people in Lakes State. It was only for a day, but in that short time they saw all of the exciting ministry that Irish missionaries are involved in, including the schools, the Primary Health Care Clinic, the Catholic University, outreach to people living with leprosy, and the local parish run by the Spiritans. It is the same anywhere around the world. The Irish are a small group, but we punch well above our weight.

The Irish Ambassador to Ethiopia, Djibouti and South Sudan, Nicola Brennan, with her colleague John Callaghan and members of the Loreto Community.

Ash Wednesday brought not just the beginning of the Lenten season, but also the news we had been waiting nearly a year for, the date for the consecration of Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare. Fr. Christian was shot several times last April in a home invasion in the Holy Family Cathedral. After a period of convalescence, he is ready to return and will be consecrated on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25th.

With just over three weeks’ preparation time, everyone has leapt into action. We are expecting anywhere between 5,000 and 7,000 people to attend from all over the Diocese and South Sudan. Some will even come from as far away as Italy, the Bishop-elect’s home country. It will be a wonderful, grace-filled, joyous, prayerful, and chaotic day. His return will mark a new chapter for the Church here that will seek to address the desire for vision, reconciliation, and evangelisation.

“The challenges we face are formidable.”

Last, but by no means least, on Friday we had the graduation of our Senior 4 students. They will soon finish in Loreto altogether and sit their final national exams. Many hope to go on to university and study law, teaching, journalism, healthcare, business, IT, and a host of other subjects.

The graduating class of 2022 at Loreto Rumbek.

On the day the students were joined by 1,000 family members and friends who celebrated the day with them. While this ceremony is similar to many taking place around the world about now, here it is remarkable. These young women have had to fight against almost insurmountable odds to stay in school. When they began four years ago in Senior 1, there were ninety of them. This year’s graduating class was comprised of fifty-two students. Many were taken out of school for forced early marriage, and, despite the very best efforts of the team here, did not return. It is important to note that when it comes to retention of students and completion of studies Loreto ranks among the very best in the country, but the challenges we face are formidable.

Several cultural dances were performed as part of the celebrations at the 2022 Loreto Rumbek graduation.

During their graduation, the girls spoke of their own hopes and dreams for the future. Their time in Loreto has helped them to reach a standard that will give them a say in their future that many young women here will be denied. After the Graduation Mass, the morning programme of speeches was interspersed with cultural dances and songs. Parents’ representatives spoke of their pride in their daughters and their belief that these will be the future economic, social, and political leaders of South Sudan. The day was also a good opportunity to showcase the work of the school with the visiting political dignitaries and bring them on board with the work we do.

"During their graduation, the girls spoke of their own hopes and dreams for the future... After the Graduation Mass, the morning programme of speeches was interspersed with cultural dances and songs."

Now that the week is over, another one has begun and it looks to be exciting as well. Please keep our preparations for the Bishop-elect’s consecration in your prayers. I’ll keep you updated on the coming and going. Thank you for all the support that you have given to our ministry here. During the week the MSC Missions Office transferred money that was given for our work in South Sudan. It is just enough to complete a new project for a toilet block, replacing outdated pit latrines. Little by little we are improving every day.

Ben Nhialic areer kek a yin,
Fr Alan

P.S. Almost forgot. We also got news that Pope Francis is coming to South Sudan in July. We are already planning our walking pilgrimage to meet him in Juba. It’s only 427km!”

One thousand family members and friends joined the Loreto Rumbek graduates in celebration of a very special day.

Read more from Fr Alan’s missionary journey in South Sudan: