Oct. 11, 2013, edition

In Tanzania
Maryknoll Father Daniel Ohmann, native of Greenwald

“I spend my time with the Watatulu tribe. The Watatulu are a group of cattle people that has migrated up the Nile River over the centuries. It seems from present Iraq and Iran, perhaps around Abraham’s time. It also seems they must have had long contact with the Jews. Many of their customs are right out of the Old Testament.


Father Daniel Ohmann

“Their resistance to the Gospels is just as strong as Jesus found when trying to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. I find consolation in that. I’ve been with them now since 1997 and have baptized just four families. I spend my time with them visiting homes, helping the sick, trying to do the best I can to make Christ known and encouraging them to let their children go to school.”


In Uganda
Benedictine Father Gabriel Ssenkindo, alumnus of St. John’s University


Father Gabriel Ssenkindo

“The year 2012, one would say, begun with a bang. The parish had a pastoral visit of Archbishop Denis Kiwanuka Lote, the local ordinary, who presided over the confirmation of over 600 candidates. This set a tempo of activities in the course of the year. Over 1,000 infant baptisms were done and over 900 candidates received their first holy Communion. The catechists and special ministers instruct and prepare the candidates before the celebration of the sacraments. Other sacraments are celebrated, though these three are the most eventful. It is not uncommon for a pastor to listen to over 300 confessions in a day, especially, before the celebration these sacraments.

“One of the parish councilors, a medical doctor, organized a camp of free HIV testing and counseling. HIV is still a big challenge in the parish and country as whole, especially in rural areas where illiteracy is high. Being a rural parish, most people are not sensitized enough in regard to HIV. In addition to the camp, we have a community based organization (NYAI: Nagoke Youth Aids Initiative) formed by Lucy Achieng and me. The group is comprised of young people, most of who are HIV positive. Their main activity is to go to schools and villages, sensitizing people through song and drama. Through the group, we started a couple of projects, e.g., pig rearing for income generation and positive living.

“June 3, 2012, was such a big event in the parish. Not only did we gather to celebrate the Uganda martyrs day, it was the formal launching of the sacramentary. The event brought together Christians from the three neighboring parishes that constitute our deanery. Some had to walk from as far as 30 miles from the parish. Notable in attendance were a cabinet minister (secretary in the Ugandan government), a local tribal king and some prominent politicians from the area.”
— Father Ssenkindo served as pastor of St. Teresa Parish in Uganda. He was assigned to the Benedictine community in Kenya in January 2013.


In Minnesota
Father Oswaldo Roche, native of Venezuela


Father Oswaldo Roche

“This year, highlighted by the Year of Faith called by Pope Benedict XVI, was my first experience of mission outside of my country, Venezuela. My work as a priest has been to share my Catholic faith and to administer the sacraments in the Hispanic communities which pertain to the parishes in Waite Park, Cold Spring, Melrose, Morris and Pelican Rapids.

“It has also been a year of getting to know many people, both within our diocese and others as ministers, musicians and families growing in the faith.”
— Father Roche is a missioner to the St. Cloud Diocese.


In Ecuador
Franciscan Sister Joan Gerads, native of Freeport


Sister Joan Gerads

“Early in my missionary experience in Venezuela, actually just 40 years ago, I was introduced to the Latin American priority of the church: the formation of small Christian communities. That has been my principal ministry and passion ever since, and still is.

“In Ecuador, a country that is 95 percent Catholic, only 10 percent actually go to church. So we meet in the homes and call the neighbors together to experience a mission for a double conversion: to God and to their neighbors.

“There are so many moving testimonies of conversion that I have never tired of doing this work. I love it.

“We started a few services with the help of lay people to provide growth opportunities for these new ‘converts:’ a School for Leadership Training and a school to form spiritual directors, really ‘companions on the journey’ among their neighbors.

“I give workshops and courses to strengthen the communities, and I do spiritual direction with people who have graduated from the School for Spiritual Directors. A few of them have begun their own group to share their spiritual growth.”


In Minnesota
Father John Phillip Odero, native of Kenya


Father John Phillip Odero

“Some of my activities included administration of the sacraments namely, holy Eucharist, baptism, confession and marriage. I also gave talks at schools, attended pastoral and financial council meetings, visited the sick and elderly people, attended to office matters, counseled, gardened, attended partnership meetings and encouraged youth ministry.

“I have learned that the challenges people face here are more or less the same challenges faced in other parts of the world. The important thing to note is how culture plays an important role in our lives and we need to strengthen our cultures.

“. . . In the parishes I have been making Missionary Cooperation Plan appeals on behalf of the Mission Office. I am always touched with the spirit of sharing. The people are ready and willing to share what they have. This is not necessarily based on material sharing but sharing in other areas, for example to pray for the people and even share photos. . . . The people here try to have missionary spirit even if they are not able to travel to those places and preach the word of God to them.”
— Father Odero is a missioner to the St. Cloud Diocese.


In Ghana
Divine Word Father Fred Timp, native of Freeport


Father Fred Timp

“I have been working as the province secretary of the Divine Word Missionaries Ghana Province for the past few years. I am sitting at a desk and using a computer a good part of the day to write letters, receive and send emails and keep the addresses of our members, bishops and others we work with up-to-date.

“I do a lot of the shopping for food and other needed supplies. Taking care of the guest house is part of my daily activities. I also book the rooms and give out the keys. When a light burns out or a toilet doesn’t flush properly I do whatever is necessary to get it fixed. When new missionaries are arriving, or older missionaries are returning from home leave, I often go to the airport to meet them and bring them to the guest house, for their first night at least. It isn’t very welcoming to just give such a person a key to a room and say ‘good night,’ so I will often sit with the person and talk for an hour or two, offer them something to eat and drink, until they have relaxed and unwound enough from the long journey to fall asleep when they go to their room.

“I am happy I can continue doing my share to proclaim the Gospel by using the skills and experience I acquired over the years to enable the next generation of missionaries to do their best.”