Tuesday, December 24, 2013

One Church, One Tribe

        As many of you probably have heard or seen in the news things are not currently going so well here in South Sudan.  It all began on the evening of December 15th when an “attempted coup” occurred in Juba and since then rebels believed to be lead by former Vice President Riek Machar have taken control of multiple South Sudanese states. Thousands have been killed and injured, and tens of thousands of people have been displaced. To say the least it has been a far from peaceful week leading up to Christmas. It has been sad to see this young nation turn back to its violent roots just as it was beginning to progress forward. One of the major problems that has caused so many problems for the people of South Sudan is that of tribalism. The people here do not identify themselves as South Sudanese for the most part but as a Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Zande, etc. There is a lack of unity, which has once again resulted in suffering though before it was between North and South and now it is between themselves as a nation.
            But if you want to learn more about the conflict I am sure CNN or the New York Times can explain it much better than I can so I will spare you a poorly written news report and try to shed a little joy on this whole situation. Among all the suffering and unrest in South Sudan in a little village outside of the nations capital of Juba something very joyful happened. You might think that Christmas would be forgotten this year among all of the fighting but you would be very wrong. Due to the conflict all Christmas Eve masses in the diocese of Juba were cancelled but here in Gumbo we just celebrated a little earlier, with a 3pm mass. People were singing, praising, and celebrating the coming of baby Jesus as if there was no conflict at all. As if there was peace here in South Sudan though that is far from the truth.
            Going into the mass my mind was still terribly distracted by all that has been going on and a frustrating afternoon of scrambling to get everything ready for the mass at the last minute had only put me in a less joyful mood. But then something amazing happened and everything changed. Amid all the bad news and the struggle this nation is going through we welcomed over fifty new little boys and girls into the Catholic Church through the sacrament of baptism. The Christmas joy had finally arrived in Gumbo! It was such a gift and all my distractions just went away and all you could do was be joyful and smile.
       The parents all lined up in the middle of the church as Fr. David and Fr. Jacob went through and baptized them one by one welcoming them into Christ’s church on the eve of his birth. It just shows that in the darkness the light is always shining and that light is Christ. On a side note, I also got a kick out of some of the little ones sucking on their baptismal candles as if they were candy. It was an added Christmas present to an already incredibly beautiful moment. What was most beautiful about the whole celebration was that amid all of the tribal and political tensions for a few hours everything was different. There was no separation, no tribes; we were all equal; we were all one people, one Church celebrating Christ together.
        With that I wish you all a Merry Christmas! Thank you all for your continued prayers and support it means so much to me as I continue on my journey here in South Sudan. Please continue to keep this nation and its people in your prayers. Pray for peace for they need it badly here, and we can only hope that things do not worsen as we enter into a new year. Enjoy your families and friends during this joyful celebration of Christmas and remember that it is all about Him! And the word was made flesh..and dwelt among us! Our Lady Queen of Peace, Pray for us! 

                                                                      MORE PICTURES!!!!

Nativity Scene in the Parish Church!

God is with us!

Babies eating candles!

More babies eating candles!


  1. Pat, thanks for your update and sharing the news of your Christmas celebration together with pictures of the newy baptized eating their baptismal candles. Know that you and Mike are constantly in my prayers as well as the community and the people of South Sudan. Hoping and praying for peace and your safety. Merry Christmas!

  2. Gosh. And you thought you had no skills (and we all know girls like guys with skills)... this blog was wonderfully written. I am honored to have you to grow in my faith here this year Pat!

  3. Amen! Thank you, Pat, for this uplifting update -- it is a powerful reminder that the love of Christ unites the people of the world no matter what the circumstances. Peace be with you all!