Days of Reconnecting
Our first few days in South Africa are usually spent reconnecting with old friends. Over nineteen years, we’ve developed some very warm relationships – and the cultural norm here is to first greet everyone before any work can begin. It is quite a nice tradition.
Some of you may remember Fr. Masilo Selemela, a priest that we met when first arriving in South Africa in 2000. Masilo was a newly ordained priest at the time and we knew right away that he was very special. His kindness, understanding, patience and faith is boundless. He visited us in the United States one summer and made many new Michigan friends.
We are delighted to reconnect with him whenever we visit his country and this year was no exception. And, by the way, we weren’t the only ones who could see his great qualities. He has now been appointed Rector and President of St. John Vianney Seminary, the only seminary in South Africa and probably the youngest man to ever hold this position. It was great to catch up with Masilo and witness the good work he is doing. During our dinner together, we often pepper him with questions and situations mostly having to do with cultural differences and his guidance helps tremendously in our work with our young Bakhita girls.
Upon our arrival at St. Brendan’s and after our initial greeting and refreshment with Sr. Rotee and Sr. Amaka, we got down to business, planning our visits to each Bakhita girl. Sr. Amaka has been heading up the Bakhita Outreach Team for one year now and has exceeded all our hopes and expectations. She has cared for and supported the girls who had to leave the Bakhita Village home when it closed.
Next week, we’ll begin a round of visiting and delivery of the wonderful gift bags made by our loving and loyal friends. Photos to follow!
Two years ago, we told the story one of our Bakhita girls named Lettie. She lived at Bakhita Village and entered St. Brendan’s as a grade 8 student. During her first year at school, she received news that her granny was completely blind and was being cared for by Lettie’s younger brother. So, Lettie made the decision to leave St. Brendan’s and return to her home village to care for her granny – but she missed school and thought about all the lost opportunity for an education.
Lettie really wanted to return to school and we felt that it would be the best thing for her. There are few opportunities for a young person living in poverty and dropping out of school. So, we suggested that possibly some other person could care for the granny allowing Lettie to return to St. Brendan’s and allowing her brother to return to his local elementary school. Success! Lettie and her brother are both back in school.
One cannot return to St. Brendan’s without a riotous greeting from the cleaning ladies. They are a jolly, hard-working group of ladies who deliver food to the student eating areas and clean up around the grounds. In an African country this also means sweeping the dirt of every dead leaf or loose pebble. Each year, we are met with hooting and hollering and singing and dancing. Some traditions are just too much fun to miss.