Recently we read a letter from Br. Bill Firman SFC, the Executive Director of Solidarity with South Sudan. Since gaining independence in 2011 as Africa’s newest country this nation has been plagued with violence that has left hundreds of thousands harbored in refugee camps seeking safety. Some ask if missionaries are still needed in the world today. We’ll let you answer that question.
As you may be aware, conflict returned to South Sudan in late 2013 testing the resolve of the Catholic Church to continue the mission. As the South Sudanese Bishop Erkolano expressed so succinctly at a Solidarity With South Sudan Board meeting,
“If the missionaries leave, the people lose hope.”
This organization, Solidarity With South Sudan, is a collaborative effort by many religious congregations to send missionaries to live and work among a suffering people and identify even more with the Passion of Christ, and his challenge, ‘Could you not watch one hour with me.’
The facts are that, although they have only been able to maintain a presence in Malakal through Maryknoll priest, Fr Mike Bassano, working as chaplain in the UN Protection of Civilians Camp, their other enterprises are thriving: they have 123 students in residence following three-year programs to become registered nurses or midwives in their Catholic Health Training Institute (CHTI) in Wau where Maryknoll Fr. Tom Tiscornia serves; and they have 121 resident students in their Solidarity Teacher Training College (STTC) in Yambio where Maryknoll Lay Missioner Gabe Hurrish is serving. The quality graduates from these well-resourced institutes are highly regarded throughout South Sudan and are now helping their own people significantly.
Their Pastoral teams continue to offer many programs training local pastoral workers, including trauma healing facilitators, and provide two of the four permanent staff at the new Good Shepherd Peace Centre just out of Juba. Further, they have a thriving 50 hectare ‘model farm’ providing training in best self-subsistence agricultural techniques, and employing up to 80 workers daily, while providing food in support of their STTC and the 6000 Internally displaced people clustered around the Church in Riimenze.
In spite of the setbacks, Maryknoll has served with this organization, Solidarity With South Sudan, through these ten very productive years since the organization was founded.