by Thomas Tiscornia
A.J. Cronin's Keys of the Kingdom tells of when Shen fu finally got to his mission he found that the Church had survived many years because of the care and dedication of the catechists. This very same situation I encountered when I recently visited the area of the Nuba Mountains in Sudan during Holy Week. For twelve years the Christians, who are scattered over the many mountains, were encouraged, instructed and ministered to by over thirty catechists. They had received basic training themselves when the parish of Heiban was functioning and staffed by a priest. Due to the civil war in the country these people were left pretty much on their own, yet God was with them and the faith flourished as even others were baptized by the catechists.
Bishop Macram Max Gassis invited and now supports a group of three Apostles of Jesus (2 priests and a Brother) who are working with these people. This actually is the area of Heiban parish where Maryknoller Joe Morris had been assigned to work in the late 1980's. It is a vast area of mountains and shallow rivers with a semi-desert terrain. It has been under the control of the SPLA since April of 1996. The people live almost totally off of the land and their greatest needs are salt, soap and clothing. The Church has been able to provide some of these for the catechists and also through a food-for-work program when some development work is done by the people.
For me it was a special Holy Week sharing it with Bishop Macram, the Apostles of Jesus and the people of the Nuba Mountains. Amazingly the Arabic we learned back in the late 1980's was still there and I felt most welcome by the people.