Africa sows seeds of progress - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Africa sows seeds of progress

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bishop Matthew H. Clark — accompanied by Father Joseph A. Hart, diocesan vicar general and moderator of the Pastoral Center — recently returned from a pastoral visit to several African dioceses. This is the fourth installment of Bishop Clark’s reflections on the experiences of that trip.

Our hosts in Africa were unfailingly and abundantly kind to us, and we enjoyed our conversations with them very much.

One common theme of our conversations was the challenges facing our hosts. Believe me, they are many. Needs are great; resources are thin. A favor we enjoyed throughout this experience was the opportunity to visit vocational schools, medical clinics, hospitals and service centers established to serve those in need. Most of these facilities are in their beginning stages and very humbly equipped. At one vocational school we visited, the boys and the girls were working on electrical circuits. They had to do that lesson from notes and dry runs because the power failed that day.

Whether it is a class about serving or cooking, auto mechanics or welding, carpentry or computers, equipment is old-fashioned and in short supply. And that is hard on all involved. Multiplied by one hundred, their resources could not begin to solve the problems around them. But they do what they can, confident that the seeds they plant will one day yield fruit beyond their imagining.

Many of the facilities and much of the equipment they have are made possible by the gifts of organizations and individuals from other nations, including our own. Our hosts are genuinely grateful for that kind of help and have asked me to convey their thanks to the parish communities and individuals in our dioceses who have supported them.

But most of all, I think they are grateful for the relationships that have begun and are growing through this kind of association. As a result, we talked a lot about how to nurture such relationships so that we can share the precious gifts of friendship, spirituality and visits to one another.

* * *

Bishop Philip Sulumeti attended St. John Fisher when he was a young priest and lived at St. Louis Parish, Pittsford. Today, he is bishop of Kakamega in Kenya.

Joe and I had a chance to speak with Bishop Sulumeti one evening at Archbishop Ndingi’s residence in Nairobi. It was a fascinating moment for us because the bishop shared with Joe and me some of his experience of chairing a committee that will be critical in the process by which Kenya decides whether to revise its constitution.

The situation is a delicate one. There is a great diversity within the country. The challenge to honor the values and convictions of all in a foundational document, like a constitution, is a daunting one. But the bishop commits himself to the work with a steady spirit. When he speaks of the task he likens the work to a bus trip. If they are to have a successful journey, all Kenyans — women and men, the well and the ill, the young and the old, Muslims and Christians and Hindus, the poor and the wealthy, etc. — must be on the bus when they start and when they arrive.

Bishop Sulumeti was ordained a bishop at a very young age and has been at it for a long time. Although he is clearly still full of energy, he will be much relieved when the constitutional question is resolved — most especially if that happens in a very positive way. At the end of the conversation he told us that one day — sooner than later — he hopes to return to Rochester to visit old friends and to rest awhile. I didn’t mention it then, but I believe in my heart the thought that when he comes, it would be wonderful if he would speak to us all about the effort in which he is now engaged.

Peace to all.

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