Monthly Archives: November 2011

Baraka – Blessings

Happy Thanksgiving!


It’s an early morning and the neighbor’s rooster is crowing. Today is a day to count your blessings and I’m not sure that this rooster is one of mine. Blessing has taken new meaning for me here in Kenya and is one of the reminders of how my journey continues to call me to deeper faith in the One from whom all blessings flow.


Blessing can seem to be ubiquitous here. I learned the word Baraka as part of the first Swahili proverbs I was taught. Haraka haraka haina baraka. There is no blessing in rushing. I was then taught the common saying – Ubarikiwe – May you be blessed.  In the traditional Swahili culture, younger people are to ask for a blessing from an elder, saying Shikamoo, with the elder responding, Marahaba, a practice still prevalent in the coastal area where I work. But it took me some good amount of time for all the blessing around me to soak in.


Children are a blessing. Visitors are a blessing. Rain is a blessing.


I’m slowly learning not to refuse blessings.  Sometimes the gratitude of others I work with or am able to assist spills forth as a blessing on me.  I want to say, “It’s part of my job.” or “It’s no big deal.”  I try to cover my embarrassment by responding that God has already blessed me.  And the response is another blessing.  I was blessed last week by a Hindu restaurant owner who asked me what I was doing. I have been blessed by mothers, widows, grandparents, community health workers, and even practical strangers I meet. I hope to be more gracious in receiving these blessings and more generous in my blessings of others.


Today is Thanksgiving. The other blessings, not of words, but of those that I hold within, make me teary-eyed as I remember them today, not from sadness, but gratitude.  My family, friends, moments of connection with others, being in mission, these children I try to serve, the beauty of creation around me, the faith I have been given.  I have so much to be grateful for.


Including the children, visitors and rain.


May you be blessed and may you have the grace to receive the blessings you are given.

Santa Terezinha

São Joaquim community – Parish of Sta. Terezinha

When I moved to Brasilândia, I began working with the parish of Santa Terezinha.  Like most parishes on the periphery of the city, it’s made up of several worshiping communities, each with its own chapel.  The church of Santa Terezinha is the seat of the parish, and the largest of the communities.  Nossa Senhora de Lourdes is nearby and hosts an animated congregation.  The three smaller communities, São Joaquim, Santo Eugênio, and São José, are in the poorest areas of the neighborhood — with São José located in a hillside favela.  Check out the parish blog here.


Many residents of Brasilândia are migrants from the Northeast of Brazil — an area with its own rich culture and traditions (and historically one of the poorer areas of the country).  One of my first Sundays with the parish, we had a “Missa Nordestina” — Northeastern Mass — celebrating the culture of our migrant families.  For the offertory procession, people carried/danced with various symbols of the Northeast.  I was only able to capture the first minute on video, check it out here:  Missa Nordestina


Not every community in the parish has mass every Sunday.  Eucharistic celebrations are led by trained lay ministers and the parish’s deacon.  This is partly due to the fact that there’s only one priest per parish in Brasilândia, but also because for a long time in Brazil there was a movement to increase and promote lay leadership.  In the past, lay leaders performed almost all baptisms and witnessed weddings as well.


The pastor of our parish, Padre Valdiran, initially asked me to get a Confirmation program going for the parish’s youth — but that’s morphed into creating a formation course for people wanting to serve as catechists and well as organizing the entire catechesis program for the parish!  Right now only a few of the communities have any catechesis offered, and there’s no preparation for Confirmation whatsoever.


The parishioners have been very welcoming — during my first month in the parish, I lost track of how many different times I was presented to various communities.  Each time, the congregation sang a song of welcome.  Everyone’s been patient with my Portuguese, and many folks love to try out their few phrases in English on me.  I’ve been to a few parishioners’ homes for meals, and meals at the parish house (often cooked by Valdiran himself) are fun and full of good conversation.

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