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 fifth and final installment of Bishop Clark’s reflections on the experiences of that trip.
We did have two opportunities to enjoy the wildlife of Africa. One afternoon in Kenya, we had a tour of the Lake Nakuru game preserve. We drove slowly over many miles of road and saw lions, rhinoceros, water buffalo, several kinds of deer, zebras, wart hogs and pink flamingos. I was especially impressed by the lions — a pride of seven who clearly were staked out to select their evening meal from among the animals who would come to the lake for an evening sip of water. It was interesting, too, to see a mother rhino and her little newborn. Little here is a relative term; this babe weighed hundreds of pounds.
Later in our travels to Tanzania, we stayed the night in the Mount Meru Game Lodge. We didn’t travel to see the animals this time. We didn’t need to; they were in an adjacent plot of land separated from us by a moat and a fence.
At one other game park, we had a chance to see many giraffes, animals we had not previously seen. I had never seen them in the wild before and was surprised to learn that their greatest enemy is man. Apparently, their acute vision, the power of their kick and the defensive use they make of their powerful necks keep them relatively safe. They are most vulnerable when they stoop to drink because their necks are exposed to attack then. But, when they do stoop to drink, the others in their group surround them facing out and watch for the approach of enemies.
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I thank you very much for your patience in reading this attempt to share the experience that Father Joe Hart and I had of Africa.
I mentioned earlier in this story that I opted not to do a day-by-day account because I thought it would be too repetitious. That is true. But it’s also true that time for writing during the trip was at a premium. The days were full and, when they were done, I had little energy left for writing.
Perhaps, more at the heart of things is the fact that I found the experience nearly overwhelming. I don’t think I have ever been anywhere where I saw people struggle so hard to enjoy things we can easily take for granted. I refer to such goods as decent health care, a chance for a good education, sufficient and nutritious food, pure water, appropriate assistance from the government, and freedom from the onus of governmental corruption.
On the way home, I stopped in Rome for four days. It was during that stay that I was able to think about what I had experienced in Africa, and begin to consider next steps in the development of the wonderful relationships we enjoy with our friends. I expect that that process of sorting it all out will continue for a while.
As I come to the end of these reflections, I want to thank two people who were great companions during the African days. One, of course, is Father Joe Hart. Joe is a great traveling companion — easygoing, always helpful, lots of fun, unflappable in confusing or pressured situations.
The other is Father Francis Eworo. Francis, who is from the Diocese of Ogoja, Nigeria, has been serving at our Cathedral Community for 14 months. During that time, I have learned a lot about Nigeria, the customs and culture and the life of the church there.
Francis timed his vacation back home so that he would be in Ogoja when Joe and I arrived. It was a great pleasure to see him in his home territory and to enjoy his extremely generous hospitality. I’ll look forward to his return to Rochester. It will be good, having finally had a chance to visit his home, to learn more about the people among whom he was ordained to serve.
Everywhere we went, people asked us to thank you for your friendship and generous support. They send the promise of their prayers and ask for us to remember them in ours.
Please pray for the church in Africa. Please read about life there when and as you can. Please pray that we will honor and develop our relationships to the church in Africa in the most fruitful ways possible.
Peace to all.