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South Sudan
Posted Sep 09, 2018 by Tony O'Riordan

Church of Sticks Yields Faith, Hope and Love of Gold

Estimated read time: 5 Minutes

Sometimes location is everything. I felt this today when I led the celebration of Mass with the small number of Catholics who are refugees in Doro Camp.  You can see from the photos that the church building is simple, made of sticks and grass and the roof has lots of ventilation!

The ceiling is no Sistine Chapel, but the random pattern of holes leads the eye of the simple worshipers up towards the endless universe as God has made it.  

The floor is not laden with carpets, or marble or tiles. No the floor is the earth and clay which in the Gospel reading of today's Mass we recall that Jesus touched and made into a paste to heal the man who was deaf and could not speak.


When I arrived they brought what few chairs they had to the church. They sang joyfully the hymns. They prayer freverntly their prayers. In their poverty and troubles they have an ease, a freedom and a peace that no money or security can buy. They know they are not alone - their God is with them. They are the ones spoken of in the  second reading we read at the Mass from St Jame's letter  -  it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom.  Here in Doro Camp, in one of the poorest places on earth today, I saw in abudnacne what so many people in the world chase and many do not find because they do not know where to look. It is not a pious turning a blind eye to the harsh realities of life, but an inner strength to remain joyful, loving and hopeful in a world of mess and challenge. 

The state of the church building in Doro is not in any way a reflection that this building does not matter to the community. In fact it matters greatly. The condition of the church building simple mirros the conditions of the homes in which these people live. But the building and the strength of the institution is not where I think we should look.  It is in the lives and the hearts of the people.   Materially they are poor. They have few possesions in life. They have many burdens and troubles. Yet they are spiritually  rich - they are wise, pateient and joyful. And they are so quick to share what they have with me after Mass as we sit around and chat about their lives.

The Institutional Church in Ireland and elsewhere has lots to learn from the poor and those who struggle in Ireland and elsewhere.  The Church is the People. In the real struggles and strength of those who struggle, there we find the Spirit of a God who cares and sustains and gives strength, peace and joy. For too long, and even still, we fail to take heed of what the second reading says, and I think I will paste some of it here. Some of you may find strength in it. 


Now suppose a person comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor person comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed person, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor person, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?
  Listen,: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.
So I have been back here in Maban almost two weeks now. The security situation is calm but unpredicatble. Most organisations are still restrciting their activities to a bare minimun and most staff have not yet returned.  I am staying at our own JRS compound and working with some of our local staff to support some services such a Early Childhood Development Centres and also supporting the volunteers in the Refugee Camps. One of the great things they have been able to do during this security crisis is to distribute plastic sheets to provide shelter to vulnerable elderly people and children. I am delighted that this has happened because these sheets arrived into our store shortly before the attacks on July 23rd. Thankfully due to the work of the volunteers these sheets are now providing much needed shelter from the rains which are frequent these days.  
Tomorrow I hope that I will be joined here by another Jesuit, Ken. He is from Keyna and was ordained in June. Hopefully this will be the start of a return of more of our staff as the security situation settles down.  So I will leave it there for now, except to say thank you all for your recent messages of support and your prayers. It was great to see many of you when I got home last month. 
I will keep ye updated on progress here. 
Blessings to your all. 



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