Miracles were on the mind of former President Jimmy Carter when he returned last week to his self-proclaimed favorite high school in America: St. Genevieve in Panorama City.Accompanied on the Feb. 19 trip by his wife, Rosalynn, who was visiting the school for the first time, Carter spoke to a packed gym of students, school parents, faculty and guests following a concelebrated Mass presided by Bishop Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio Diocese in South Sudan.“I’d like to express my awareness of God’s many miracles,” said the 39th president of the United States. He noted that he and his wife have been visiting Southern Sudan on behalf of the Carter Center for over 25 years during Sudan’s civil war and, more recently, as Southern Sudanese prepared to vote on forming an independent state.“They voted almost unanimously [in 2011] to form what is now about the newest nation on earth, a nation of free people who profess their faith in Jesus Christ,” said Carter of South Sudan. “It’s truly one of God’s miracles to see this new nation.”“Another miracle for me and my wife has been the friendship formed between St. Genevieve and our home town of Plains, Georgia,” added the former president, who was feted on his 85th birthday party by student choristers from St. Genevieve, which also sent cast and crews from two of the school’s recent musicals to perform for the Carters and the local Plains community. When Dan Horn, St. Genevieve’s principal learned this summer that the Carters would be able to visit the school together, he proposed that the students collect money to donate to the Carter Center, a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization founded in 1982 by the Carters, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. Since the start of this school year, the school’s 630 students collectively raised $8,500, which was presented to the Carters after the Mass.“I also consider it to be a miracle that the students of St. Genevieve have contributed so generously to the Carter Center,” said the former president, adding that the Carter Center has been working to reduce Guinea Worm disease, prevalent in South Sudan.“My prayer is that one of the coming miracles of God will be for us to see the last case of Guinea Worm on earth,” said Carter. “If you don’t mind, I would like to devote this $8,500 exclusively to the eradication of the Guinea Worm in South Sudan.” The assembly applauded their approval in the school’s packed Lenten-theme-decorated gym.“I thank you for this beautiful moment in this high school,” Bishop Kussala told the assembly following the Mass. He noted that, although he has been twice to the Carter Center, he had never met Carter before and he publicly thanked the former president for his many efforts in helping South Sudan. The former president had been a member of the Carter Center’s team of observers of the 2010 voter registration process for the Southern Sudan referendum on self-determination, one of the key steps in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended Sudan’s 22-year civil war that had caused more than 2 million deaths and displaced 4 million. South Sudan became an independent state on July 9, 2011, with 98.83 percent of the electorate opting for secession.Craig Tucker, who accompanied Bishop Kussala from South Sudan to the U.S., told The Tidings that their local reception over the previous four days, including at a Feb. 17 dinner at the Sisters of Social Service Retreat Center in Encino, had been very warm and welcoming.“The interest in everyone in what we do has been amazing, magical,” said Tucker, who assists the bishop in social projects to improve the lives of the people in South Sudan, which has an illiteracy rate of 80 percent and an infant mortality rate between 30-40 percent. “It was nice to hear straight from President Carter’s mouth the connection that Dan Horn and St. Genevieve has been able to bring together,” said Tucker. “It’s just amazing to see the work that the Carter Center has done and see Bishop Kussala, who has directly been affected positively by that work. It was just beautiful to see them together up on the stage.”Contributions toward improving the lives of people in South Sudan can be made through the Comboni Missionaries, www.combonisouthsudan.org; to see some of the social programs in progress in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, log on to www.dpo-cdty.org. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0301/sfcarter/{/gallery}