It’s a busy time here in Loreto Rumbek. I have just arrived back from leave and we are straight into Holy Week. As we are a boarding school, we have been able to maintain a rigorous lockdown and this has allowed us to celebrate the Easter Triduum. What a gift! When I was back in Ireland at the beginning of March, I had not realised the inability to join my parish would have affected me as much, but it did. There is something in the coming together; the meeting of old friends and new; and the raising hearts and minds to God as a community of faith that is an integral part of who we are as Catholics. It’s something I don’t think I’ll take for granted again.
Well now I’m back and we’re moving. It’s not just Holy Week that has me running around the place. Our final year students are sitting their Leaving Cert as I write this. It would normally happen earlier in the year, but understandably everything has been thrown up in the air. Each day I pass by the hall to wish them well. As I have explained before, there is a lot riding on the results of these exams. In fact, their outcome will determine the students’ future for themselves and their family. If they can do well and maybe even get a scholarship to university, they could raise an entire family out of poverty, while securing a better future for themselves. Simply put these two weeks will make all the difference in the world. Please do keep them in your prayers.
As the final year girls finish their exams, they begin their journey home, leaving Loreto for the last time as students. We saw a number of them off during the week with plenty of songs of joy and more than a few tears. God willing, they will return to the school when the results are published, but this time they will do so as graduates. Some will take part in the school’s intern programme. Here they work in the various departments for a two-year commitment, including translating for the patients in our clinic, acting as a teacher’s aid in primary school, helping with logistics, supporting the development programme, and working in the secondary school. Once they have completed their time, we fund their university course entirely. Many who are considering a future in teaching, nursing, or business get wonderful hands on training in the field. The intern programme has been a great success to date. It gives people an opportunity to study at third level that would never have been possible before.
Our celebrations for Holy Week were especially beautiful. On Holy Thursday for the Mass of the Last Supper we had the washing of the feet, with our builders, cooks, nurses, staff, students, and interns acting as the apostles. Good Friday was suitably quiet and reflective. The girls led the Stations of the Cross in the morning across the compound, finishing up at a large, simple metal cross we have by the clinic. In the afternoon we were well up towards 40C, but we still had the Passion and adoration of the Cross. On Holy Saturday our students spent a time of quiet prayer, waiting at the tomb of Jesus. Finally, for our Easter Vigil we began with a truly spectacular bonfire for the blessing of our Paschal candle. Then, under a perfectly clear African night, we processed by candlelight to begin our Mass. It was joyous, with all the readings, hymns, and rich liturgical symbolism. This time of Resurrection marks a new beginning, as we commit ourselves to be an Easter people of hope and joy. Alleluia is our song!
Happy Easter or as they say around here Miet puou jot rot Yesu Kristo,
Read more of Fr Alan’s journey:
– Looking for a Sign on the Way to South Sudan
– Building a Better Future in South Sudan
– Chirstmas greetings from Fr Alan in South Sudan
– A Cup of Sugar and Maybe a Goat
– Mock Exams and Real Life in South Sudan
– As Easy as Baking a Cake