McFarland parish has begun relationship with sister parish in Tanzania Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Fr. D. Stephen Smith, Pastor, Christ the King Parish, McFarland   
Thursday, Mar. 08, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

Fr. Abdon Mapendo Minde
Christ the King Parish in McFarland has entered into a sister parish relationship with St. Benedict Parish in Ilungu, Tanzania. Fr. Abdon Mapendo Minde, the parish priest, left, is pictured with Bishop Evaristo Marc Chengula, IMC, of the Diocese of Mbeya, Tanzania. (Contributed photos)

MCFARLAND -- How can we as Catholics in the U.S. become more aware of the economic and social disparities of underdeveloped countries? To what extent can we live out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy with less-privileged individuals?

In what ways can we share information about our cultural differences, develop and maintain real and personal relationships, and exchange spiritual and materials gifts with our brothers and sisters-in-Christ?

In early November 2017, Christ the King Parish in McFarland took measures to respond to these questions. Christ the King Parish has entered into a sister parish relationship with St. Benedict Parish in Ilungu, Tanzania, in East Africa.

About St. Benedict Parish

Fr. Abdon Mapendo Minde is the parish priest of St. Benedict Parish. Father Minde provided a description of his parish and an overview of the unique challenges that he faces and the goals that he envisions.

St. Benedict Parish is a newly established parish in the Catholic Diocese of Mbeya, Tanzania. It was inaugurated on February 10, 2013, by Bishop Evaristo Marc Chengula, IMC, of Mbeya.

The parish is located in Ilungu Ward in the Mbeya Rural District. Ilungu Ward is made up of seven villages.

St. Benedict Parish serves nine outstations, which are the small churches in the various villages. It is in a remote and mountainous area, 43 miles from Mbeya City, and 19 miles from a paved road.

Limited resources, unpaved mountainous roads, worn vehicle, etc. make ministry to the outstations difficult. Father Minde explains, “As the sole priest in the parish, and the remote geographical location of the outstations, I am able to go to each outstation only once every one or two months to celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments, and address other Church issues. To supplement my visits, the parish has appointed catechists in each outstation to provide Sunday prayer services, but without Holy Communion.”

The total population of Ilungu is about 12,000 people, of whom only 1,800 are Catholic. Paganism is the dominant religion; however, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches are mushrooming in the area, drawing Catholics away from St. Benedict Parish. Some Catholics are also returning to their pagan roots.

The Wasafwa people are the major ethnic group in the area. They sustain their livelihood by engaging in subsistence farming on small plots of land, growing Irish potatoes, maize, and beans in small quantities. A few of them raise livestock on a small scale.

Facing many challenges

St. Benedict Parish is extremely needy. The nine outstation churches are in very poor condition. The low and declining number of Catholics and their hand-to-mouth existence make their financial support of the parish difficult.

Construction of the buildings at the new parish has not yet been completed. The parish infrastructure is still lacking a parish office, a pastoral hall for seminars and meetings, facilities for priests and the seminarian assigned during the summer months, as well as development projects to sustain the parish.

Father Minde said, “Financially, the parish per month gain is no more than $50, which I must use for food, travel to required diocesan meetings, contributions to the town, and to help with the basic needs of lay faithful including the elderly and children. There are not enough resources to reach to all the churches in the parish.”

These challenges have not deterred Father Minde from his vision and mission for the Catholic Church in Ilungu. He acknowledges that because Ilungu is in a mountainous area and has been difficult to reach, it has been neglected and thus lacks most of the infrastructures it needs such as roads, schools, health care centers, etc. Illiteracy is a major social concern of the area.

Father Minde is adamant that the Catholic Church has moved to this area, not in a short-term fleeting way, but to stay and to offer Ilungu residents various forms of apostolate and programs of ministry fittingly adapted to the exigencies of time and environment.

Mission and objectives of St. Benedict Parish

The mission that Father Minde has for St. Benedict Parish is to exercise pastoral as well as social services such as education, health, women development, agriculture, water for domestic use, and animal husbandry in area.

Objectives of St. Benedict Parish include:

• To preach the Word of God to all people of God that they may inherit the kingdom of God.

• To run educational institutes from the grassroots level, that is, nursery school, primary school, secondary school, vocational training school, etc.

• To assist the marginalized sectors of the community by providing them with relevant education and information in order to assert their rights and seek improvement of their living conditions with particular emphasis on women, street children, orphans, the disabled, and HIV/AIDS victims.

• To improve access to clean and adequate quantity of water with increased access to sanitary facilities and hygiene education by building the capacities of communities and local groups.

• To promote health and nutrition in rural areas and to improve the standard of living for rural women by training them and integrating them into economic and social life.

Developing relationship

Christ the King Parish became aware of the opportunities for its parishioners to support and learn from Fatger Minde and the parishioners of St. Benedict Parish, when Frater Peter Kazimoto, seminarian at the Peramiho Major Seminary in Tanzania, was assigned to St. Benedict Parish for the summer of 2017.

Through Divine Providence, Frater Peter contacted Mary’s Rosary Assemblers of Christ the King Parish for Rosaries to distribute to the parishioners of St. Benedict Parish. This encounter led to meeting Father Minde, via email.

As pastor of Christ the King Parish, I believe that first and foremost, the two sister parishes need prayers to determine the Lord’s will for this relationship, including the role that Christ the King Parish should have in addressing the needs of St. Benedict Parish and the greater Ilungu community; and the development of real and personal relationships between the parishioners of both parishes.

Father Minde has identified illiteracy as the premier social issue to be addressed. I would like to see our parish support the building of schools, beginning with the primary level, where children can learn but also receive nourishing meals and have other needs met to the extent possible.

Children and their parents from both parishes could then begin developing relationships by learning about each other’s culture, language, etc.

In the next several months, Christ the King parishioners will be learning more about St. Benedict Parish and the people of Tanzania through bulletin articles, discussion groups, etc.

On June 10, seminarian Francisco Ogbonna of the Diocese of Madison will speak on the behalf of Father Minde at all the Masses at Christ the King Parish. All are welcome to attend.

For questions or information about supporting these efforts, contact Fr. Steve Smith, pastor of Christ the King Parish, at P.O. Box 524, McFarland, WI 53558, or call 608-838-9797.


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