Monthly Archives: December 2011

HIV = Hope Is Vital

Hope stands.

Hi. It’s a warm December evening in Mombasa and I’m enjoying our newly-hung Christmas lights and Christmas carols being sung by the voices inside my computer.  We are now entering the last week of advent.  Someone told me yesterday that it’s like the final stretch of a horse race when everyone is on their feet with excitement. I must say this year I feel more like I’m one of the horses trying to make it to the finish line.  My ministry is supporting the education of children who have been orphaned by AIDS.  The school year starts again on January 3rd.  The holiday season has become mixed with buying pencils, pens, notebooks, erasers, and balancing my 2011 budget so that I can pay 2012 school fees in time for the high school students to take their post-holiday exams  on the 4th.


On Friday I toured the Kenya Port – the gateway of goods to East Africa – with some of my students. I was most amazed not by the tons of goods, types of ships, 2400 cars per ship, etc, but by my students. We have been accompanying a group of 18 in career counseling for the past four months. I struggle to know how best to help them, but this is one new mechanism we’ve tried. If only we could translate their intelligent questions into an education system that honors differences in learning styles, their self-reflection into skills that help them succeed academically, their hopes into an economy that offers opportunities for young people without connections or top notch grades.


Since the tour ended earlier than expected, we managed to fit in a trip to Fort Jesus, a testament to the 16th century Portuguese presence and power in Mombasa. On it, the students found the painting above.  It’s messages are hopeful ones for a chronic disease like HIV.  Hope is vital.


This weekend I have been reminded to set aside my expectations of how many Christmas cookies I can bake and be present to the coming of God in our midst.  This time of advent is to be a time of waiting in hope for Christmas – for a new beginning in the new year – for new life to be born again within us – to believe in not only possibilities but also in miracles.

Finding My Ministry

When a Maryknoller finishes language school in their placement country, the next task is to find a ministry.  The experienced missioners in country help out — setting up meetings, coming up with ideas — but the new missioner can also find their own contacts.  I had let the Maryknoll Brazil group know that I was interested in pastoral ministry, and that I liked the idea of a parish setting as well as prison ministry.  It was through one of our Maryknoll sisters that I become connected with Sta. Terezinha.


1st planning meeting – somehow I don’t look as stressed as I felt!

When I first got involved with the parish a few months ago, I realized that the pastor was announcing to the parish that I was starting a program to train catechists.  This caused me no small amount of panic because a) despite over a decade of ministry in the church, I don’t have any experience with parish catechesis (I was never even a CCD teacher), b) I have no experience training catechists and don’t know anything about teaching children, and c) my Portuguese needs quite a bit of work!  I expressed my concerns to the pastor, and he said, “Don’t worry, you have all month to learn Portuguese!”  Great.  My sympathy for Moses and Jeremiah — when they protested to God that they didn’t have the skills or experience to do what he asked — increased greatly.


Our first planning meeting with the catechists felt to me like a disaster!  There were about 15 people there, all talking very fast and all at the same time, and all complaining about the state of catechesis in the parish (lack of resources and unsupportive parents, and who knows what else I missed because of the language!).  And the pastor announced that I would begin the course for catechists the next week.  Ack!  Fortunately, it’s only gotten better since then.  I formed a leadership team with a group of experienced catechists and they’ve been a great source of ideas and advice.

Catechists’ Formation Program


An initial group of about 20 has now stabilized at around 12 people, and I’ve been surprised at how much I’m enjoying myself. I’ve picked up a few popular education techniques from colleagues and am using various dynamics and group work rather than just lecturing.  I’m getting good feedback — the catechists (to-be) say that they enjoy the course and the more dynamic way of learning.  And when I said at the last meeting that we don’t have an encontro next week, there were some real expressions of disappointment in the room!  What a relief.  I’ve still got a ways to go and lots to learn, but now I’m looking forward to it rather than dreading it.  Graças a Deus!

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