Maryknoll Society in Mozambique

by John Sivalon

In a 1995 World Bank report using basic economic indicators, Mozambique was ranked as the poorest country in the world. Two major contributing factors to this degree of poverty existing in Mozambique are the two wars that it has experienced since the 1960s. In terms of the Church infrastructure, the first war may have been the most destructive. Frelimo nationalized most of the Church buildings after independence and did nothing to keep them up. Rectories were destroyed, schools became dilapidated, projects were half completed and left to deteriorate, churches were misused and religion in general was scorned.

In conversations with some of our hosts, it was said that the second war was much more destructive for the general population of Mozambique. It was much more widespread throughout the country and much more indiscriminate in its killing and destruction. Thus many more people left their homes, their small plots and their personal possessions and fled to neighboring Tanzania or Malawi. The armies of both Renamo and Frelimo followed slash and burn policies leading to the most striking initial observation of my first visit to Maryknoll's newest commitment in Africa - a near total lack of animal life, both domestic and wild.

As we drove into Mozambique and toward Lichinga, the diocesan center of our new Maryknoll mission apostolate, I was filled with a certain anxiousness about what we were going to find. This anxiety quickly changed to a sense of hope. Many people had returned and others were continuing to return. Some were at the stage of living in grass huts and the fields near their homes were in the process of being cleared. Others had built mud huts and had already harvested at least once with their store bins full of corn. Some had built mud brick houses and obviously had enjoyed a series of harvests. This was the hopeful sign. The land is fertile, and in a situation of peacetime, could obviously sustain life at a level quite above what you would imagine of the poorest country in the world. In peace Mozambique would quickly move out of that infamous ranking.

A second sign of hope was the openness and friendliness of the people themselves. The scars of a harsh colonial rule, two wars, and an indeterminate amount of propaganda had not destroyed the joy, hospitality and friendliness that we have come to associate with Africans from our experience in Tanzania. Many people were able to speak Swahili and many more while hesitant to use it, had some knowledge of it, could definitely hear it and when pushed would eventually speak it. Thus, when stopping on the roadside, when looking at some of the centers of our new parish, when meeting some of the lay leaders and when stopping to watch some local fishermen pull in their afternoon catch, we were able to greet people, to have basic conversations and to gain a very early, remedial understanding of the situation. In all these travels there was never the hint of suspicion, fear or anger. In fact, we saw more of a military presence in Malawi than in Mozambique.

A third sign of hope was the Jesuit Bishop of Lichinga, Dom Luis Gonzaga Ferreira da Silva. Here we met a man full of hope, enthusiasm and energy. As he ran up the stairs late for our meeting, his steps denied his 74 years of age. After saying good bye to us on Sunday morning, he ran down the street catching up with the youth and joining them for a pilgrimage walk to the top of a local mountain in solidarity with Pope John Paul II's youth festival in Paris. His love for Mozambique and for the people was confirmed by his surviving the two wars and especially by being allowed to remain after the war of independence. His home is a gathering place, where local volunteers are welcome with guitars and laughter, where simplicity reigns and where meals reflect the real absence of meat.

This is a man who shows no signs of bitterness for what had been done to the Church. This is a man who shows no signs of bearing a burden even though his diocese is as large as the country of Malawi with one local diocesan priest who is 70 years of age. This is a man looking to the future, to rebuilding and to renewing. This is an inviting man looking for companions in this endeavor.

Maryknoll has joined him. After the Tanzania Region of the Maryknoll Society unanimously endorsed pursuing this mission work, the Tanzania Regional Council contacted the Maryknoll General Council and they responded by assigning  new people to this apostolate: Father Ken Thesing,  Brother Ed Redmond. Father Bill Vos of MMAF accompanied Father Howie O'Brien and myself on our trip to Lichinga. Bill is hopeful, as are other MMAF members in Tanzania, that sometime in the future they will join this apostolate. The Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa (an African Sisters Congregation) continue their struggle for the freedom to respond to the invitation of Dom Luis and to join in a collaborative effort. The Tanzania Region continues to look for Tanzanian laity, priests and Sisters in an effort to strengthen our presence.

The Metangula Parish of the Diocese of Lichinga cries out its challenge to the Mission Vision Statement of the Maryknoll Society. God's fertile soil beckons its welcoming foundation for human promotion. At the same time it calls for its intelligent use without abuse which is evangelization. The 80% "nominal" Muslim population is an invitation to the intricacies of religious dialog which is evangelization. The growing number of restored churches holds out their embracing hands to the hundreds who wish to celebrate and worship which is evangelization. The maimed, the wounded and the sick plead for the caring accompaniment which is evangelization. The whole area and all its people after thirty years of minimal contact hunger for the proclamation of the Word which is evangelization. And Dom Luis Gonzaga, Maria and Simon the local Church leaders, and all those whom we met along the way say, "you are welcome."

Maryknoll Society in Sudan

by Thomas Tiscornia

In 1976 the Maryknoll Society established a Society Unit in Sudan sending Bill Knipe, John Conway and Tom Mantica to set up a National Pastoral Liturgical Catechetical Center, along with two Maryknoll Sisters, in Juba. In April 1978, Tom Mantica died in a small plane accident near Malakal. After Tom's death, the group was joined by Tom Keefe.

In late 1978 Joe Glynn joined the Unit and worked with the Archdiocese of Juba. The Unit was terminated in 1981 and Bill Knipe went to teach in the Comboni School in the Diocese of El Obeid for several years. Joe Glynn remained in Juba until 1982. During the years 1982 to 1984, Jack Quinn also lived in Juba while he was working with the Apostles of Jesus in vocation and formation work.

In 1987 the two regions of Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) responded to the AMECEA appeal for assistance to the church in Sudan by sending five members (Flynn, Knipe, Morris, Breen and Tiscornia) to work in the diocese of El Obeid. These men assisted the diocese in pastoral, seminary, administration and language school positions. By 1995 we no longer had any members there.

Again in 1998 at the invitation of the Bishop, Tom Tiscornia returned to do pastoral ministry in the liberated area of the diocese of El Obeid. He iserved in the area of the Nuba Mountains. Ken Thesing responded to the plight of refugees in southern Sudan as director of Catholic relief efforts and assistance. Today Ken and Tom have moved on, but Maryknoll's presence continues through the efforts of Frs. John Barth and Jim Noonan.

Maryknoll in the Land of Kilimanjaro

by Arthur Wille

Maryknoll began its missionary work in Tanganyika, East Africa with the arrival of Fathers William Collins, Albert Good, Joseph Brannigan and Louis Bayless in Nyegina Mission in 1946. They were welcomed by the Missionaries of Africa (formerly called the White Fathers) under whose tutelage they would learn the tribal languages and culture. Each week the priests spent 2 to 3 days visiting the people in their homes. 

William Collins and Lou Bayless began working with the Kwaya people along the shores of Lake Victoria. Bert Good and Joe Brannigan moved to north Mara Region to work with the Luo and Kurya peoples respectively. Knowledge of the tribal languages and culture were important for the work of primary evangelization which became the main focus of Maryknoll's work.

Maryknoll Society in Namibia

by Richard Albertine

The Maryknoll Sisters wanted to establish themselves in Southern Africa to help the Church there, especially in the important post-independence years. Apartheid had been such a negative force, and as Christians the Sisters wished to give Christian witness to the reconciliation processes taking place in Southern Africa. Namibia was attractive because the Church was at least a generation behind other African areas. The Sisters aided the Bishops in the important areas of education and catechetics on the national area. Others arrived in turn and began in basic Church and Community Development work. The Maryknoll Fathers undertook to help the local Church in the formation of the first Major Seminary on a national level for diocesan priests who number less than five in the whole country.

Maryknoll Society in Egypt

by Douglas May

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers' history in the Middle East began in 1978 when a small group went to Yemen as the Arab-Muslim Unit to be a Christian presence among Muslims. The primary work was in a trade school for orphans and juvenile offenders.

In 1983, the Unit officially settled in Egypt and changed its name to the Middle East Unit. Its primary work was with lepers, the sick and the formation and education of both Christian and Muslim youth through teaching at various schools and institutes.

In 1988, the Unit expanded its outreach to the Holy Land and several Maryknollers worked among Palestinians in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Bethany. The Unit was officially closed in December 1998.

In January 1999, the Africa Region started a small initiative in Egypt when it allowed Father Doug May to return there and join the staff of the Coptic Catholic Seminary. Father May serves on the formation/education staff of the seminary. He also engaged in prison visitation ministry, assisted with sacramental services among the English-speaking community in Cairo, and helped to build the Our Lady Queen of Peace Home for Mentally Handicapped

For several years Doug was the house manager for Maryknoll in Nairobi, Kenya but has recently returned to Egypt and continues walking with the people he has come to love.