Republic of South Sudan

The Spiritan community in Wulu and Mapourdit Seminary.

Joe Shio and the Superior of the Union of the Circumscriptions of East African Foundation (UCEAF) Martin Keane visited the newly created Spiritan Mission in WULU, Rumbeki Diocese, South Sudan from 22nd – 28th August, 2013. It was the first visit by a member of the General Council since the beginning of the initiative of Spiritan inser-tion in South Sudan. They carried with them a letter of encouragement from the Superior General John Fogarty.

The Country

After nearly three decades of major civil conflicts, South Sudan gained inde-pendence from the Islamic Republic of Sudan and joined the international community as a new sovereign State on 9th July 2011. It is a land-locked country with an estimated population of 13 million. South Sudan borders the Islamic Republic of Sudan on the North, Ethiopia on the East, Uganda, Kenya and the DR Congo to the South and the Central African Republic to the West.

Social-Economic Reality

Though South Sudan possesses a lot of natural resources such as Oil, fertile land and iron ore, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world with an estimated 92% of the population living below the poverty line. Decades of civil war have had a very negative impact on its people and property. People have been on the run throughout the many years of war and have lived as refugees in and outside their Country. Because of the lack of peace and a stable living environment, the people have had no opportunity to make good use of their talents and time to exploit the fertile land and other God-given resources. Education, Health, electrici-ty and transportation infrastructures are very poor indeed! In brief, poverty in south Sudan is stark, cruel and de-humanizing. In this context, the Suda-nese Bishops’ Conference sent out an invitation to religious missionary Com-munities to return to South Sudan. In response to this call, the General Coun-cil decided to set up a new Spiritan Community in WULU, in the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek under the umbrella of the Union of Circumscriptions of the East African Foundation(UCEAF). Wulu was a place of much fighting during the war as is plain to be seen in the local infrastructure and in the memory of the people.

At the moment there are three Con-freres in South Sudan. Peter Kiarie (Kenya) and Nolasco Mushi (Tanzania) live together in a newly constructed house at Wulu Parish. John Skinnader (Ireland) is now Director of a junior seminary in Mapourdit, about 60 Kms from Wulu. The majority of the resi-dents of Wulu come from the Dinka and Jur-ben ethnic groupings. The main spoken languages are Jur-ben, Dinka, English and some Arabic. There is a significant parcel of land designated for a church and parish structures but as yet nothing has been built.

Pastoral

The local community and especially the parishioners have shown great trust and confidence in the recently arrived confreres. They are seen as signs of hope for the future of the area. The number of Christians is gradually growing. Our confreres collaborate with other religious communities and diocesan clergy in their pastoral enga-gements. New women’s groups and youth groups have been established in the parish. They have three catechists taking care of six pastoral out-stations. There is a good relationship with local civic leaders also.

Challenges

South Sudan has not completely stabi-lized politically and ethnic tensions remain major threats. The pastoral needs in the area are many, such as counseling for victims of war, providing education for the young, projects pro-moting the empowerment of women, health care education etc. During the long civil upheaval during the war, ma-ny have lost the know-how to cultivate the land and grow crops. This is something that will have to be addres-sed going forward.

For the new Spiritan community, they will have to work out a pastoral plan adapted to the needs of the local po-pulation. They need to be supported with sufficient resources, both in fi-nances and personnel, to grow their presence in the area. They have to buy everything for their upkeep, including water. The Confreres I met are general-ly happy with what they are doing and believe that South Sudan is truly a mis-sion land where Spiritans should be. They however need our on-going sup-port, prayer and encouragement.

Important dates

– June, 2011: The decision to open a Spiritan community in Wulu, in the diocese of Rumbek, South Sudan was made by the General Council.

– 30th May, 2012: The first member of the new community arrived in South Sudan. Two more members arrived in South Sudan on 02nd November, 2012.

– The community is currently made up of three confreres from three nationa-lities- namely Fr Peter Kiarie- from Ke-nya; Fr John Skinnader- from Ireland and Fr Nolasco Mushi- from Tanzania.

– This new community is confided to the solidarity of the union of cir-cumscriptions of East Africa (UCEAF).

By Fr. Joseph Shio, CSSp.

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