There was much rejoicing when the computers sent from St. Genevieve Church in Panorama City arrived Sept. 8 at John Paul II Philosophicum Seminary in Yambio, South Sudan.
Father John Ngbapia, rector, called out immediately to the seminarians to help offload the boxes of 15 new laptops carefully repacked by St. Genevieve High School students after they had downloaded the online Project Guttenberg (world libraries) to each computer. The shipment also included two LCD projectors, one laser printer, back-up batteries, power strips and replacement ink cartridges.
From Advent last year to this year’s Lent, the St. Genevieve Elementary and High School communities raised $50,000 for their South Sudan Project, of which more than $10,000 went to the computers. Another $17,000 was donated to the newly-established St. Genevieve’s Girls Academy in Tombura; $20,000 to the Comboni Sisters Rainbow Community/Nzara Hospital; and $3,000 for the building of a church center in the new parish of Our Lady Help of Christians in Mboki.
St. Genevieve was inspired to help the people of South Sudan when Bishop Eduardo Kussala of the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, South Sudan, visited the parish Feb. 15-27, 2013, coinciding with a visit from former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. The former president had been very involved in monitoring the referendum that gained independence for South Sudan (from Sudan) in 2011.
In preparations for the Carters’ visit to St. Genevieve, Sister of Social Service Deborah Lorentz (a good friend of St. Genevieve High School) shared with the pastor, Father Alden Sison, and the president-principal of the parish schools, Dan Horn, that she had met Bishop Kussala at a theological colloquium in Nairobi, Kenya.
“The proverbial light bulb lit up,” Father Sison told The Tidings, and an email invitation was sent to the bishop, who “amazingly” committed to being present a few days before, during and after the Carters’ Feb. 19 visit to St. Genevieve.
“Bishop Kussala celebrated Mass with our schools and also preached at all the Masses on Sunday to our parishioners,” noted Father Sison. “Almost immediately the idea began to help the fledging country of South Sudan, which at the time was barely two years old. Bishop Kussala’s simple witness to the gospel of peace and dedication to the nation building of South Sudan was an inspiration to those who heard him.”
The parish and its two schools engaged in several fund-raising efforts, including collecting money at school Masses, holding free dress days and offering food items for sale benefitting the South Sudan project. “The goal was 100 percent participation in both the elementary and high school, and we were able to meet that goal,” said Father Sison.
Father Ken Deasy, a St. Genevieve High School supporter who has visited several foreign missions as an archdiocesan representative, volunteered to travel to the Tombura-Yambio Diocese to personally assure St. Genevieve parishioners that 100 percent of their donations would reach the designated recipients.
He made two trips financed by private donors. On the first trip in September 2013, he assessed needs throughout the Tombura-Yambio Diocese, and on his second trip last May, he spent time with local missionaries to assure them that they would be “receiving the love (monies/prayers) for their projects.”
“They so very much enjoy the visit of anyone,” said Father Deasy, whose last trip was 35 hours by plane to Juba, the capital city of South Sudan, followed by 15 hours riding in a Jeep on a dirt road to Yambio.
While in South Sudan, Father Deasy visited the newly-opened St. Genevieve’s Girls Academy in Tombura (named by Bishop Kussala in honor of its Panorama City benefactor), and he delivered school supplies donated from St. Francis Xavier School (Burbank). Father Deasy’s travels also took him to Nzara, where he brought 20 blood pressure devices to the only hospital in the area run by the Italian Comboni Sisters, who also direct The Rainbow Community serving over 700 families with relatives living with HIV/AIDS.
“Through our ongoing relationship with Bishop Kussala and the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio,” noted Father Sison, “our students are learning in a very real sense what Vatican II teaches us: that the Church is missionary by nature; it makes real what they are learning to be, ‘missionary disciples,’ as Pope Francis called for in Evangelii Gaudium.”
Father Sison has just returned himself from a missionary trip on behalf of the parish to the Philippines’ typhoon-ravaged island of Leyte in the Archdiocese of Palo (where Pope Francis is scheduled to visit during his trip to the Philippines in January.
To contribute to ongoing fundraising, send checks made out to St. Genevieve High School (write South Sudan project in memo line) to the school, 13967 Roscoe Blvd., Panorama City, CA 91402-4214. Videos of Father Deasy’s recent trip to South Sudan are available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFLSNHN5jts; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prub63fgsEU; and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTbsgmKCRnU.