“It is a very great poverty to decide that a child must die so that you might live as you wish”
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
November 1st, 2017 ALL SAINTS DAY
My dearest brothers and sisters,
I greet you in the Name of our Triune GOD who is our Dearest Father ABBA, our Dearest Brother JESUS and our Dearest Holy Spirit LOVE. I have lived in Ethiopia for over a year now while still caring for 86 youth in Kenya (I visit them every three months). Our bishop, Lesanu Christos of the Eastern Catholic right has been very gracious to me as I serve the Sisters of Mother Teresa, our pre-school and school children, the sick, the poorest of the poor and the university students in this northeastern state of Afar in the capital town of Semera. We are only two hours away from Aden, Yemen, where last year on March 4th, ISIS killed 16 people; 4 of them were Sisters of Mother Teresa. ISIS kidnapped the priest who was just released on September 13th after being held prisoner for a year and a half. The story of Fr. Tom’s survival was international news as he met with Pope Francis immediately after his release. This was the second time that ISIS killed Sisters of Mother Teresa in Yemen—just two hours away from where we live.
Mother Teresa placed a sign in all the chapels of her sisters. It reads: “Oh priest of God, offer this mass as if it were your First Mass, your Last Mass, your Only Mass.” I take that very seriously when I offer daily Mass for my sisters and brothers here. I like so much what St. Paul said to the Philippians 3; 13-14, “I am still not all that I should be, but I am looking forward to what lies ahead. I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Jesus did for us”.
We live among 96% Muslim in this state of Afar where I am the only priest. Creating good relationships with our Muslim brothers and sisters is a gift of love. When I was in Albania which is 70% Muslim, I read the story of Muzafer Pipa, a Muslim lawyer who defended our Catholic bishop and priests during the reign of Communism—for which he was tortured and murdered. He is a saint in heaven. The people we serve here are mostly Muslim and they are very good people of God.
In Kenya, with the elections, there was repeated violence and killings. My son Clinton was tortured and murdered unjustly by police on June 16th. His body was found in a remote forest and kept in a mortuary for three months until he was finally identified. We buried Clinton next to his brother on September 7th. May he and Dancan rest in peace. Clinton was 19 years old and he had just become a father on March 11th, three months before he was murdered. I now care for his son Jayden and Jayden’s mother.
The joyful news is that our family witnessed 6 marriages being blessed in this past year and a number of Baptisms. Our family has grown to be 86 youth now, still needing your support and love. We are called “the family of Jesus” and we do our best to live up to that name. We are many different tribes, but we all have one Father who is in heaven and we always try to help each other. My foot which was injured in Kenya last year in January with severe nerve damage, has not yet improved. I wear a brace to go outside. Doctors say it can take up to two years for that many nerve to heal—if the are not dead.
In last year’s newsletter, I mentioned that the highest temperature on earth was recorded here t 500 degrees Celsius (1060 degrees Fahrenheit). I failed to say that recording was found deep in the volcanic rock that we live on top (this was once a land of volcanos). Daytime temps go beyond 120 degrees while at night it is often 95 degrees or more. We do not have AC, nor do we always have electricity, but I do have a fan. We do not have running water here, so water must be carried for taking a bath and flushing the toilet. It is a simple life with lots of dust and flies, but we are not here for comfort. It was on Sept. 15th, 1990 that Mother Teresa asked me to be a missionary for her Sisters, and I have never regretted accepting her request. I have served the Sisters of Mother Teresa for over 30 years in Chicago, Haiti, Albania, Peoria Il, Charlotte NC, Uganda, Kenya and now Ethiopia. Thank you JESUS for this great gift! I am a very happy priest!
Our Holy Father Francis has a special love for the poor and always shows concern for them. On his 80th birthday, he had breakfast with the homeless in Rome. He has written much about “the poor are knocking at our door.” One out of every 10 people today lives in extreme poverty. This is unacceptable. “Every life is sacred”. Fr. Ron Rolheiser of Milwaukee wrote a very powerful article entitled: “How we treat the poor is how we treat God”. I also want to thank the USA bishops who spoke out against the terrible sin of racism.
When asked what her secret was, Mother Teresa said: “I pray”. Mother prayed with all her heart and soul. She continues to be a guiding light, a shining star for all of us. PLEASE PRAY FOR US. IT IS THE GREATEST GIFT THAT YOU CAN GIVE US. If you want to help us financially, we very much need and appreciate this gift as well.
Thank you so very much for all your kindness and love. We greatly appreciate any help you offer us. We continue to pray for you every day. As we prepare for the birthday of Jesus, let us share His Love with all we meet through the Heart of His Mother Mary. We love you!!! God bless you all!!! Merry Christmas!!! And Happy New Year!!!