An incredible Tanzanian experience Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Mar. 12, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

Catholic Relief Services:     loving outreach of U.S.

By Susanna Herro

Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the loving outreach of U.S. Catholics to people of all faiths in 100 countries throughout the world. Through Operation Rice Bowl (ORB), we feed the hungry both here in our diocese and abroad. ORB is specifically geared to supply food.

The upcoming CRS collection on March 22 funds the many other projects that are greatly needed — especially clean water, agricultural education, and micro-lending to help people support themselves.

Our diocese has a special relationship with the Diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga, Ghana. With the help of CRS, our diocese has been able to supply 50 families with donkeys, carts, harnesses, and training to greatly improve the lives of families.

CRS is a highly respected charity that has more than 60 years of experience in how to get things done. Give from your heart and show the world we care!

If you need further information or want to schedule a speaker, contact Susanna Herro, director of the diocesan Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach, at 608-821-3086 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


“Get out of the truck!” said my friend, Fr. Leo Kazeri, as we approached his mission church at Etaro, in Tanzania. Along with Fr. Deogratias Makuri, a young priest assisting Father Leo, we were arriving to celebrate Mass, but the road was blocked by over 100 people, smiling in welcome.

Father Deo and I got out, Father Leo drove off, and the people formed a procession with glorious singing and dancing, escorting me to their church.

That was just the beginning of an incredible celebration.

Father Leo has been a friend of mine ever since his bishop sent him to study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, while I was pastor there in the early 1980s.

He is a priest of the Diocese of Musoma, on the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. Though very poor by any standards, the Diocese of Musoma is not as poverty-stricken as our sister diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga in Ghana.

An ‘incredible ministry’

Since I was traveling to Ghana to further our inter-diocesan relationship, I had decided it was a good opportunity to visit my friend in his parish on the other side of Africa.

There’s more to his “parish,” though. He has seven missions to care for, three of them building larger churches. He has established a secondary school for 500 students, along with dorms to house them. He has established and directs his own social service agency to address issues of girls’ education, domestic violence, AIDS, safe drinking water, etc.

All of this while being many miles from anywhere, with terrible roads and unreliable electricity.

And those are just the highlights of his incredible ministry.

Father Leo had asked me to preach (he translated into Swahili), baptize 72 children, and assist him with five Confirmations and three weddings — all in only three hours!

After Mass, there was much singing, dancing, and tributes, as well as a dinner in my honor, for which they had killed a cow. (I was presented with the tongue — another honor!)

An ‘essential lifeline’

I was humbled and awestruck by this experience. The harmony of their singing, dancing, and drumming is a sign of the deeper spirit within them. This is a community of people who know they need each other and know they need God.

They have very few of the distractions which wealth provides and which seems to inhibit us from valuing what is more deeply important in the life of any human being.

What in theory I cite as a spiritual advantage is, of course, a discouraging disadvantage for all practical purposes of simply living. Their great poverty denies them essential health care, education, transportation, and the comforts and security which we expect as our birthright.

So when we support Catholic Relief Services, we are supporting an essential lifeline of dedicated leaders like Father Leo, who lack only the money needed for the people to care for themselves and the many loving Catholic communities like Etaro.

Fr. Stephen J. Umhoefer is pastor at Nativity of Mary Parish, Janesville.

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