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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 22, 2016

Not much to report in the last few weeks. I have been trying for some time to get into the prison as a chaplain (not an inmate---been there, done that). Holy Moses, they want more information than the CIA. I should just refer them to the CIA and copy their files. But, the minister who is in charge of all the other ministers who minister at the prison is a very friendly guy but doesn’t easily brook foolishness. Ha! When I went to see him on business, I didn’t realize that I parked in a mud puddle, and when I walked into his office, he said “ look at your shoes”. Holy Moses, I dragged a bucket full of mud into his clean, clean office. Talk about being embarrassed. I offered to clean it up and promised that next time I would bring a broom but also would follow the Muslim tradition and leave my shoes outside the door. He wasn’t impressed. I finally filled in all the papers and still have to go to the bank to get a stamp from them and then, I think, I will be OK.
    We have had several home masses and gatherings which are always enriching. I have also been busy with haircuts before Easter. I will wait till after Easter for mine.
    Quite a few visits to hospitals, even one I never heard of before. It is more a psychiatric hospital where people who have had mental breakdowns can get some peace and quiet and get themselves back together again.
    Last Saturday, I was called away from the supper table by a young man who identified himself as a  colleague of Mona, one of Fr. Guy’s guys who is doing nursing here at St. Mary’s hospital. He had been attacked with a knife and had been sliced across the face from above the left eye down to the bottom of his nose. Thanks goodness, no damage to the eye. We went first to this guy’s house to get Mona’s key and then to Mona’s room to get some clothes (what he had been wearing was soaked with blood). Then off to the hospital (RKKhan, a regional hospital not too far away). His other friend had organized for an ambulance to take him there as it looked bad and bled like crazy. He stayed with him the whole day in the hospital (this happened at 9:30 in the morning and we arrived at 6:30pm). Great guys, really good friends. I waited in the parking lot while Skumbuzo took Mona’s clothes up to him. I was preparing for Palm Sunday and said that I would visit him the next day after the service. However, when Skumbuzo returned he said that Mona had been discharged and we cold pick him up. So we drove to the emergency entrance and loaded up Mona and his other friend. He had a huge bandage around his head also covering that eye. I took them to their homes and took Mona to his room. I left him there knowing that when the shock wore off he would feel a good bit of pain so I told him that I would visit him in the afternoon tomorrow (Palm Sunday). I managed to see him yesterday and took him to the hospital to make a report. It is important because he can’t afford to miss any time on duty now as it is part of the requirement for passing. He went today and will be reporting for night duty tomorrow. Wednesday. I keep my fingers crossed.
     I attended, some time back, a gathering of Americans invited by the consul here, Frances Chisholm, to her place for an informal lunch. I have been avoiding American gatherings for the last 50 yrs. telling everyone that I can go to America and see all the Americans I want. I didn’t come to Africa to see Americans. However, there is a program connected to the hospital indirectly, that started out as an HIV outreach program (St. Mary’s hospital was the first hospital in South Africa to introduce ARV’s). It developed well and morphed into a more wholistic program that has several branches. One is a mobile clinic that gets deposited at a school in a village where all the children are checked out be a qualified nurse for any beginning symptoms of illness (eyes, ears, teeth, etc.) to get early intervention before things develop more. They are helped by other organizations as well as the University dental program. Another is a program that concentrates on pre-school children who are the children of child headed households. The idea is that while someone is looking after these little kids during the day and feeding them with a decent meal, the older kid or kids can get to school. I told Frances about this so she came out and we took her on a tour of several of these places where she could see with her own eyes a genuine and great need that was being addressed by these programs. But there are only a few now and they need to expand as the need is great. Frances, with her accompanying guru was able to give suggestions as to how  and where to get funding from American programs that would most likely fit the bill. I think it was a good meeting, and hopeful.
    On Palm Sunday after the service, I visited a guy who has a construction firm to get some idea what we could get for the R80,000 that has been collected already to get some kind of temporary accommodation for our community that meets every Sunday at Savannah Park. It is a poor community and will take about 500 yrs. to get the R2,000,000 together to build a new and proper church. After doing kind of cost analysis, he came to the conclusion that if we used basic cement blocks, it would be better and about the same as if we used 2 X 4’s with what we call zinc sheets. He said the material alone would cost almost R97,000. If you add the labor it comes to about R150,000. At the present rate of exchange, the extra for labor would come to about $ 10,000. I think I am going to try to see if anyone wants to pitch in. If we get started, we can just add on and up as we get the funds. Never a dull moment.
     Now I am getting ready for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. It will all be in Zulu so it is a challenge. But they are important days as they tell the story of what we are all about. I will clue you in after Easter. Let me wish you all a happy and holy Easter and don’t forget that Easter was a huge surprise. Totally unexpected and impossible happened—coming back from the dead. Wow! So if you seem to be in a situation where there is no hope, well, Easter is a reminder that no matter what, there is always hope. Just hang in. Love and Peace, Cas.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

March 5th, 2016
Hey, a whole month has gone by and I am behind as usual. Since most people had pushed off for home after our meetings, there were only a few of us left at Abbot Francis Home so I bought a couple of pizzas for the house. Wow, I didn’t realize that pizzas were so expensive, but as a once off it was more than worth it. That was on the 4th of Feb.
     I headed back for M’Hill on the 5th, early in the morning, stopping to visit Coolock House, which is a retreat house that was taken over by Mariannhill  right on the sea (Indian Ocean) and I am wondering how we are going to pay for it. We don’t rely enough on competent lay people to advise us when it comes to  “worldly” things like this and too often we get stung.
     When I got back to M’Hill, I found out that the priest who was supposed to take over as chaplain at the hospital won’t be available till some time in May, so I have been going to the hospital for Mass every morning at 5:45. After Mass and breakfast, I usually go up and visit the patients to whom I gave communion, to find out more about them and to encourage them and remind them that they are being supported in prayer every day. I also greet all those in the ward and offer a blessing on them, praying that they recover quickly and get home again, whole and healthy.
     I went to Dr. Moffat whom I haven’t seen for many months now, and he says that my blood pressure is good.
     I had forgotten about Ash Wednesday being on the 10th and had promised to pick up some friends from Italy at the airport that evening, so Savannah Park had to get someone else to give out the ashes.
     Manuela Carida and Pupa Brunori, friends from Rome, whom I met in Zimbabwe, sent by their group to get information  about the ugliness of apartheid. That must have been around 1989 or so. They belonged to a group called Colletivo edili de Monte Sacro. On Monte Sacro most people are in the building trade, brick layers , plsterers, carpenters, roofers, etc. and the living conditions were horrible. When it was discovered that the owners were the Catholic Church, they abandoned their allegiance to the church and worked , through this organization, for a better society. They are both retired now and just came for a visit for a few days. In that short time we managed to visit 1) the orphanage  2) the monastery  3) the Aids Outreach program and Wellness Program  4) SEDA, an organization that tries to give business skills to young people so that they can start their own businesses instead of depending on someone to hire them. 5) The Hurley Peace Center in the heart of Durban that offers food once a day to the street people, as well as a place to have a shower and clean up after roughing it again, several offices for refugees to make sure that they have the right papers and to help them find places to stay and improve their education (like basic computer courses, etc. ) and also the clinic that treats the street people who would never have a chance to be treated otherwise by nurses and doctors who volunteer their time and talents for this. It is probably the only center in the world where Christians of all faiths, as well as Muslims, Hindus and Bhuddists, all pitch in to help the down and out. They make sure that the food they dish out is Halal so that Muslims can eat in peace.  I discovered that Raymone Perrier, the director of the Hurley  Center  speaks Italian so my guests were delighted to converse in their home language. Raymond is from the UK but took Italian when he was in college. We were also given a tour by a young may from the Congo who arrived here some years back as a young man and was sponsored byArchbishop Hurly for his education. He now is on the staff and helps many others to find their feet in their new place of exile.
    Then we had lunch at a Greek restaurant and enjoyed a lovely Greek meal, including, for me my favorite Baclava.
    On Sunday the 14th Feb. I traveled to a parish at Verulam. Everyone knows that this is an Indian (from India) area. However to my happy surprise, there were about 500 people in the church , both black and Indian (maybe even a few whites). I was lucky to have brought along my “travelling kit” so that I could switch back and forth between Zuluhe and English and make everyone feel welcome and at home.
    During the announcements it was mentioned that there had been some misunderstandings between some members of a certain group, probably mostly because of language difficulties. That prompted me to give an impromptu homily on the necessity of  recognizing that when we are trying to pull together people of different language groups and different cultures, we are bound to find hitches and difficulties. However, if we, who are professed Christians, in a parish setting, where there is peace and a good atmosphere, cannot get our act together, what can we expect of Syria and Iran and Afghanistan, and Lebanon, and Egypt, and Palestine and Israel???? So don’t give up. Just do it, in the name of the Lord, please!!!
     On the 17th, using some of the money that you all have sent for this purpose, two of us pitched in to buy a used car for Mike Pillay, the leader of the community at Savvanah Park. He was driving a 1982 Honda, and it was really falling apart and was costing more to keep repaired than we were willing to put out. He uses it to transport old people to the hospital, to get their pensions, to bring them to church, to bring communion to them, as well as get his wife to work and back and take the children to catechism in English at a neighboring parish. He uses the car for other people so we decided to stop pouring money into the sink hole of trying to keep that jalopy ( scorocoro) going and get something reliable. We used your money since you said that we should use it for good causes. His wife and children were ecstatic. It is a 2005 model, just like my Huyndai Atos. It should last  a while.
    On the 18th of Feb. Sr. Consolata asked me to accompany  her to the hospital to visit a prisoner who had been sentenced to life. We had to just through many hoops to get permission to do that and to our disappointment, when we got there and got in to the various queues  to find out how to get to her, we discovered that she had been discharged the day before. Bad communication. However, when I asked Sister why she had gotten a life sentence, she said that she didn’t know and didn’t want to ask. I thought that that was not  a very good way to take he job, so I got on the internet and, through the public records, found out that she had done an insurance scam, faking dead people and getting their insurance and even arranging for some of them to have an early death. No wonder she got a life sentence. I told sister that you don’t find out the why by asking the convict because it could easily be that they would give you a story about how the whole thing was unfair, and how they didn’t deserve this sentence, etc. etc. etc. But if you really want to help someone, the public record of their judgment is there. Then you know what you have to talk about to help them.

     On Saturday the 20th I gave a presentation on Justice in the Gospel of Luke, and also a second presentation on The Spirituality of Justice and Peace. It took the whole morning and  I hope that it was OK. I didn’t have time for an evaluation and am still waiting for it.

    On the 26th, I was invited, as a resident American, to a party at the Consul’s home in Durban North, a nice part of town. Frances Chisholm. A nice woman. I managed to organize for her to visit St. Mary’s hospital and the Outreach Program and Wellness program  in earl y March. She may be impressed, I hope, and use some American money to support these programs that are meant to help and uplift the poorest of the poor.

     We had several home masses, partly to renew and revive old friendships, and partly to celebrate brirthdays and memorial days for those members of the family who have gone on before us. At one of those visits we were assaulted by a vivious thunderstorm. As we watched the rain come down in buckets and the wind  trying to tear the roof off, I remembered that I had left my car window open. Ha! Too late. As I dashed out to close the window (electric), in the first 2 seconds I was drenched, and got more drenched as I sat on the now-soaked seat of the car. Ha again. I took my shirt off which Gerry put in the dryer, but, modestly kept my short pants on. Hmmm.
     I was busy on March 4th, the feast of St. Casimir, my namesake, using the slasher , trying to cut down some of the tall, tall grass on the side of the hill beside our place where when, because it was wet underneath, I slipped and started sliding down the hill and managed to twist my ankle again, but not severely. So I am using the knee wrap to give it a bit of support.

     It is our custom, when someone has a feast day or birthday, to have a bit of a celebration at lunch time. Bishop Lobinger is “Friedrich” and although  his feast is today, we decided to combine. He said that he would get the wine for the meal and that I should pick up the liquer  that we usually have a sip of before lunch.  I got something called “Jugger naut”, claiming to be a local South African product from local herbs. Ha. It really has a punch. So by the time I had a few sips of this and some wine, I knew that my nap was going to last a bit longer that usual, and it did. Ha.
     Well, that’s it for now. This coming week it will be hospital visits to various hospitals, visits to the prison ( I am trying to get permission to be a part time prison chaplain),  Class with the novices, and a home Mass for a friend who had his right foot amputated because of diabetes. Never a dull moment.

I have already pre-packed my suitcase and weighed it to make sure that it isn’t overweight. I still have time to check and recheck to make sure I don’t take what I don’t need and to make sure I have what I will probably need. People think I am a nut case. (I guess I am). I wish you all a very happy and hopeful Easter. May we all share his conquering in one way or another. Love and Peace, Cas.