23 October 15
Don’t be envious of each other – Non essere invidiosi l’uno dell’altro
Goodness gracious this password is helpful for those who might live here. It would be hard for the poor people not to be envious of the richer ones. But I have found a wonderful goodness too among the people I have met. There is no need for us to be envious too much I suspect.
I have had my first day in Antula in the town of Bissau. It is an extensive town but quite small, and there is a great mixture of houses, some well built others very small and primitive, and people who sit around a lot of the day it seems. I was blessed to be taken around everything by Celso, who has put himself at my disposition. He also does various jobs. The parish is huge in extent, and like the other parishes in this town. Nothing special for here except they do not have their own church building.
It was impressive to meet the two young parishioners who are in charge of the 2,500 catechumens. They have the whole thing organised and know exactly who is doing what and if it has happened or not. For instance each catechumen has a session once a week. Quite a task to organise. It is all in their hands.
I saw the very interesting parish buildings, and the kind of life that is lived here among the people. The space for the new Church is right against the main road. The buildings slowly develop and they have almost built the outside of the two towers. The roof is still to go on. Then all the internal work. I think it is done piece meal so to speak. Celso told me they are in touch with the firm that will do the roof.
It is so hot and humid. It is not always like this. This is the rainy season, and so it is very humid. Sitting still you perspire. After a siesta yesterday we went down to the centre of the town to see the buildings, the port etc. Especially we stopped outside the cathedral built by the Portuguese. I have a good photo of it, and on its front are two big clocks that do not work and show different times.
We saw the admin centre of the Church. All the priests and religious know each other. There are about 20 or so diocesan priests, and many men religious. They take the brunt of the work I suppose. The bishops are from Guinea Bissau. I met a load of priests working in the curia there, and then a most impressive auxiliary bishop. He is a philosopher and studied in Rome so speaks excellent English. I gather he is much appreciated by everyone, and in him I had a vision of the amazing strength of the power of God. It must have been like that in the beginning times in England and Ireland. A man like St. Bede or St. Columba would be giants of union with God, whereas there would be others who had a lot still from their non Christian background. Thinking about this auxiliary bishop, I can see him as a great cardinal one day, and who knows if one day there will not be an African Pope. Here in the community there are three Italians and one priest from Senegal. He is very impressive too, also an Oblate, ordained 10 years. There is no barrier between him and the others, and he is simply an excellent and much younger member of the community ready to do anything, and helpful and friendly. He has the good name for an Englishman of George! He cannot speak any English.
I also have experienced the roads. They vary. Some are asphalted. Then they turn into red mud tracks with great potholes. These potholes are nothing compared to roads in the bush. We will visit the bush soon.
The people cook often outside in the street. We passed a lot of that as we went to mass last night, preceded by the rosary as it is the month of October. It was run by the laity. There are nuns in the parish and I have a picture of an old Portuguese nun who must be only 4 foot plus a few inches in height. She packs a powerful punch. I imagine her as the equivalent of Sister Veronica.
It is good being among such good friends in this community.
Have a good day. I am more willing not to be jealous of anybody after one day here.
Keep smiling, Fr Jonathan