Friday, November 30, 2007

Additional Faces of AIDS

The upper picture is from St. Aloysius Gonzaga High School, a Jesuit secondary school for AIDS orphans in the largest compound in Africa. They estimate 30,000 students of secondary school age in the Nairobi compound and many of these are single or double orphans. Janet Quillian and I visited the school in February of this past year. The school is serving over 300 students and they hope to expand. The school is based on the Christo Rey model, which places students with employers who help pay the cost of education and provide the students with work experience.

The second picture is from Ndola, Zambia and reflects the work of CRS and the Diocese of Ndola in home-based health care. The young woman is an orphan caring for four sibilings. The two women on the outside are volunteers who visit the orphan's homes. The woman in the center is the social worker in charge of the project. Poverty is a challenge in the compounds for many people live hand to mouth with little ability to look to the future.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

AIDS Patron Saints

The patron saints of AIDS are Blessed Anuarite Nengapeta, a young Sister of the Holy Family d’Isiro-Wamba and a midwife who was murdered resisting the sexual demands of a rebel leader in the Congo in 1964 and St Aloysius Gonzaga, a young Jesuit who selflessly gave his life caring for victims of the deadly plague in Rome in 1591. The artistic rendition above is located at the AJAN (Africa Jesuit Aids Network) in Nairobi, Kenya and was created by a Jesuit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

AIDS & Advent

(A reflection from my homily for the 1st Sunday in Advent)

December 1 is World’s AIDS day. Advent provides a way to look at the reality of AIDS in our world, for Advent is a season of hope and a season of new vision. When we live with something for a long time, there is a danger that we can lose hope and fail to see possibilities. The reality of AIDS in our world can lead us into darkness and desolation but we need to remember that God does not want this disease. God does not want people to suffer and God does not punish people with sickness and death.

The prophet Isaiah gives a vision of hope and guidance for a people in desperate times. God calls us fervently to see that this is not a time of judgment or a time to remind blind. Rather, Isaiah’s vision of peace urges us into action, to become instruments of healing and advocacy, of compassion and justice, maybe as never before.

We believe in a God whose justice decries each act of violence and discrimination, whose heart breaks with illness and pain, and who weeps with each one that dies. God urges us to open our eyes to fresh possibilities, to beat the weapons of stigma and intolerance into instruments of understanding, compassion and care.

God works in the midst of darkness calling us to become the human family we were created to be. In the face of sorrow, pain and loss, God calls us to see more fully that we are one family, one creation, and one body. As brothers and sisters, we are the Body of Christ and the Body of Christ has AIDS.

World AIDS Day - December 1

CONTEXT. Zambia's first reported AIDS diagnosis in 1984 was followed by a rapid rise in HIV prevalence (that is, the proportion of people who are living with HIV). At the end of 2005, UNAIDS/WHO estimates that 17% of people aged 15-49 years old were living with HIV or AIDS. Of these million adults, 57% were women. Young women aged 15-19 are around six times more likely to be infected than are males of the same age. Unlike in some countries, HIV in Zambia is not primarily a disease of the most underprivileged; infection rates are very high among wealthier people and the better educated. However, it is the poorest who are least able to protect themselves from HIV or to cope with the impact of AIDS. A little under 40% of Zambians live in towns or cities, and HIV prevalence is considerably higher in these urban areas than elsewhere. It has been estimated that urban areas contain 54% of all adults living with HIV or AIDS.

STIGMA. Because HIV can be sexually transmitted, it is often presumed that those living with the virus have brought disease upon themselves by having many sexual partners, and moral judgments are made. Women are especially vulnerable to this prejudice, and they may also be blamed for infecting their children (even though the father is often the first to be infected).
Stigma does not just cause pain to individuals, but also hampers prevention and care programs. Those who fear becoming stigmatized will be unwilling to volunteer for an HIV test; even purchasing condoms or discussing safer sex may be seen as an indication of infection and so be stigmatized. People who know or suspect that they are HIV-positive may be reluctant to reveal their status - even to their partners and family - or to come forward for treatment.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Waiting in Line

Bureaucracies are the same world-wide. I need to renew my visitor’s visa on a monthly basis. I entered on November 1, and because another Jesuit was going to immigration, I thought I would tag along. The first office did not renew visitor’s visas so we went to another location. Patiently I waited in queue with the other people, only to find out that I was too early, because they were only renewing for November now. I could come back on Friday or Monday. But the waiting time provided me a good opportunity to do some people watching. A few observations: everyone seems to have a cell-phone; waiting and queuing is the name of the game and people are very patient; smoking is not that obvious and like the rest of the world, one doesn’t smoke in public places; and even though you think that no one knows you, you can always be surprised. As I was sitting outside the Public Services building waiting for a ride, a woman greets me, Hello Father.” It is not that I stand out, but there are not that many white people in downtown Lusaka. Once again, I was struck by the friendliness of the people. My guide through the immigration process was Ken Johnson, a Jesuit surgeon, who works at a hospital in Choma. He is a member of the Southern Province via Chicago. He was in Lusaka on his return from a Jesuit AIDS gathering in Zimbabwe.
I have a funeral this morning and then I will work on the coming "Come & See" vocation day of recollection connected with the novitiate visit of 12 candidates, the first Sunday of Advent and other odds and ends. I saw my first Advent wreath and it was made from cedar boughs.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pilgrimage Day

Today I joined members of the parish at the National Marian Shrine on the outskirts of Lusaka for their annual pilgrimage.

We joined the Cathedral and Good Shepherd parishes for the event, which drew about 300 pilgrims. A committee from each parish organizes the event which includes rosary, confessions, Eucharist and benediction. The highlights for me were the music and the dancing. Two parishes provided choirs that sang well-known vernacular hymns. During the liturgy there were a number of processions which also featured dances by two groups of young women. And of course, each activity had a homily. Efficient Americans would begin fidgiting before the homily as the liturgy lasted more than two hours.

The shrine is located on a large piece of property and is still being developed. There is a large church on the property that is not completed, and the goal is to raise more money to finish the shrine. The service was in an covered out-door auditorium. The picture shows the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. I was fascinated by the folk art that surrounded the auditorium, below are some of the illustrations are from the life of Mary. Some of the illustrations are painted on tree trunks.

Wedding Feast at Cana

Assumption of Mary

Art from the Marian Shrine - Flight into Egypt

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving: Gratitude and Food

Happy Thanksgiving! While the feasting may not be the same as you are experiencing, the feelings of gratitude are very present. Two thoughts in this entry: food and gratitude.

The food at St. Ignatius is outstanding. The house is staffed by a housekeeper and a cook and both provide very good meals. The breakfast meal is simple but there is always fresh fruit, dry cereal, and porridge. The coffee is very good, and while it is instant, it surpasses what I have experienced in the states. Sunday is special with pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage.

The mid-day meal (1:00 pm) always has soup. Like most families the lunch meal features left-overs. But again, there is always fresh fruit. The table has a number of spices not seen at Arrupe, Peri Peri sauce and various chili sauces.

The evening meal (6:30 pm) is more elaborate and generally has a meat course, fresh-cooked vegetables, cooked greens, potatoes (we are a little Irish) nishima (we are Zambian) fresh fruit, ice-cream and cake round out the dinner.

There have been a few surprises, but none too great. We have had liver, tongue, and gizzards (peanut butter is always available). The fish is quite good though there are a few surprises including kapenta is a small (2 inch) dried fish that is served in sauce and eaten whole.
We have had some game as well. Nishima is the national dish and is eaten for most meals. It is a white boiled corn meal that is augmented by the various sauces or gravies. The Zambians eat it by rolling it into a ball and then using it to gather other foods. We have had some celebratory meals that are really mixed grills with chicken, beef and sausages.

As we approach Thanksgiving and the Advent season, I am very grateful. This is a bittersweet time as I recall the death of my Mother on Thanksgiving eight years ago. But I am blessed with good memories of Mother and the knowledge that she enjoys the fullness of life.

As I look back on the past year, I am so appreciative of the gift of good friends, of the gifts of healing and reconciliation and the realization that my life is rich with meaning. I will thank God on Thanksgiving Day and remember you in my prayers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Traditional Medicine

Traditional healers are part of the culture of Zambia, particularly in the rural areas. However, because people have moved to the urban center, some enterprising healers have set up practice and advertize in the newspapers.

Traditional medicine at work Problem! Problem! Manhood extension, marital, impotence, fibroids, infertility, employment, court cases, low sperm count, sport, stomach pains, hiccups, prolonged periods or no periods, backaches, swelling of the testicles, miscarriages, swelling stomach or legs, promotions, skin diseases, protection of properties, treated lucky jewelry and protection, no sexual feelings, runaway husbands or wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, stolen or lost properties and many more. Contact the Specialist Doctor Cholembedwa.

They promise nearly the same cures that one gets from the spam producers on the internet.
But it is interesting to note that some of the traditional medicine healers have an awareness of the herbs and materials that do prove to be helpful in treating disease. In this way we can learn from the traditions. I am using a Colombian recommendation regarding B12 to deter mosquitoes, and thus far I have not been bitten.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Parish Ministry

I am getting a few more calls this week, as the parish priest (pastor) is on vacation with his sisters. I am more aware of the day-to-day existence of some of the people. A young man came to get assistance for transportation to the Copperbelt. He had come to Lusaka to see his grandmother and get help for school fees. He did not finish grade ten because he was unable to pay the fees. He wanted to beat the rainy season home, because he was concerned that his lodging was not waterproof and that his textbooks might be damaged. He clearly wanted to finish his education so he would not land up on the streets. Wisely, the parish has an active St. Vincent DePaul Society that provides assistance. The young man will have to return to speak to them, but hopefully, they will be able to help.

Being the new or least-experienced person on the block presents opportunities. I am working on a number of mini-retreat days. I will help with the “Come & See” day for young men interested in the Jesuits. They are expecting a dozen men to attend. Fortunately, I know that the candidates are most interested in meeting and hearing from the 16 novices. It will be a good opportunity to meet them. I will give a half-day retreat to CLC members who are making their commitment to Ignatian spirituality, and that will be a chance to see the impact of the CLC in Zambia. Then the eight day retreat for about eight Jesuits which will be at the Novitiate and the last project is a two day conference sponsored by the Ignatian Spirituality Center on spiritual leadership. I met with the Josephine Shamwana Lunga today to talk about the conference and we will collaborate on the talks and the workshop. She has twenty six years as an active member of CLC and has headed the Zambian Council of the Laity. Once again, these are great opportunities. Keep them in your prayers.
I took the picture during the skit performed at the children's liturgy. Those in white are the king and two angels with the sheep and the goats in the background.

Zambia Stamps and Flowers

Home Mass and Tombstone Unveiling

It is Sunday morning in Zambia and people are just leaving from the 7:00 am Mass. Today, I will have an opportunity to be with the deacon for the children’s Mass. The children gather in the Church hall for a special liturgy of the Word and Mass. Yesterday we heard first confessions and there were over fifty preparing for their first communion on December 2.

The picture is from a tombstone unveiling at Leopards Hill Cemetery. The family honored their mother, grandmother and great grandmother who died at 86 in 2006. We began with a home Mass and then went to the cemetery. The music group for the 8:15 am vernacular Mass added beautiful music to the liturgy. They use drums, shakers and other percussion instruments. Once again, it was a powerful experience of the hospitality and the warmth of the people. Family and friendship are key elements of the culture. The group featured in the picture are from the music group.

Yesterday we had our first strong rain. It came with lightning and thunder and a full downpour. It lasted less than an hour but left the air clean and fresh. The rain landing on the soil creates a unique and beautiful odor. Things begin greening and the rain is important for the beginning of the planting season.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Zambia has three daily newspapers; however two are closely associated with the government and the ruling political party. The international coverage is refreshing as it can be broader than what we receive in the United States. The papers often feature headlines that are clearly designed to catch your attention. I thought that I would share a few of them with you.

Snake exposes adulterous couple
Tortise sender says sorry
Girl Guides body calls for castration of defilers
Woman beats husband to death at beer party

While we may find this unique and senasation, I think that they draw from the tradition of the British tabloids. I would caution that the headlines do not define Africa or its sophistication. The Church receives greater attention than what we see in the West. The same papers covered a talk that the Archbishop gave “democracy won’t grow without principles. The Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection publishes a monthly basic food basket index that is very helpful. And one cannot challenge awareness with the headline, “Namwala DC bemoans farmer’s ignorance about climate change.” I think that Zambia may be more on target than some in the United States.

100th Anniversary of the Birth of Father Arrupe

Jesuits throughout the world are remembering the 100th anniversary of Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ, the 28th superior general of the Jesuits who died in 1991. Father Arrupe is considered to be one of the most influential Jesuits in the history of the Society. As General, he led the Society through the renewal that followed Vatican II.

He is held in highest esteem by Jesuits for his courage, his leadership and his vision. The Jesuit community at Seattle University bears his name, Arrupe Jesuit Community, and the classroom wing at Jesuit High is named after him as well.

It was a gift to be with the Jesuits of Lusaka as they remembered him. Last night we gathered and told stories of meeting him and the ways that he touched our lives. The missionary Jesuits had recollections of his visits to Zambia and the vision he had that established the African Assistancy, created the Zambia/Malawi province, and founded the Jesuit Refugee Service. He was a man of very deep spirituality and he had a passionate love of God and the service of God’s people.

He was a personal witness of Hiroshima and that event touched him deeply. He brought the Jesuits into the modern age with the emphasis on faith and justice, the purpose of Jesuit education being “persons for others,” and helped us rediscover our Ignatian roots.

In addition to all these qualities he was a man who truly loved the Society of Jesus and his companions. Many stories told of his humor and the ways that he could set people at ease with his personal charism. We commented on how fortunate we were to have him as General and then to have Father Kolvenbach succeed him. Join us as we pray for the wisdom in the selection of the 30th superior general during the coming congregation that will meet in January in Rome.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Odds and End Reflections

The internet was down for the past few days and it freed me from the technological attachments.
Zambia is quickly becoming technologically savvy. Cell phones are ever-present and used and have provided a means of close communication. As in America, people need to be reminded to turn off their phones when they enter the Church. The community is wired for broad-band and that allows people to access the computer at all times.

I am very impressed with the music that I hear at Mass and in the neighborhood. I mentioned that there are choirs for three of the Masses. I said the 11:30 am Mass and it draws a younger crowd. The music was lively and upbeat. The Church is filled with a very joyful sound that blends English hymns and liturgical songs with Zambian songs. Many of the songs come from the American gospel tradition but they are given added flourishes with drums and special arrangements. The 10:00 am choir is cutting a CD and it should be ready by Christmas. The children’s choir meets on Saturdays to practice for their holiday presentation, so if I miss the commercial Christmas preparation, I do get to hear familiar songs from time to time.

Because we are within the Church compound, many groups use the church hall for gatherings. These gatherings feature music that is amplified through speaker systems, so we are able to share in the celebrations. Last Saturday there were fireworks in the city as a part of some local celebration. So, even when the sun goes down, life continues.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Some First Experiences

I experienced some firsts this past week and they had enough newness to make them interesting.
I heard my first confessions and shortcomings and sins are the same world-wide. People are well-prepared for the sacrament. Later that same day, I had the opportunity to bless a man’s new car.

I presided and preached at a funeral of a parishioner on Friday. The man died in his mid 50’s from diabetes and was an electrical engineer. He and his wife were active in Marriage Encounter and that community was evident as the supporters of the wife and family. Their dress identified them and they sat together as a group. Following the dismissal, the casket is taken to the rear of the Church for viewing and then the family and friends take the body to the cemetery. The small Christian communities provide the burial service.

Father Bert Otten, SJ came to visit last week. I lived with Bert at SU until his retirement from the Engineering faculty and his move to Zambia. He is working on appropriate technology projects in Chikuni, which is the Jesuit center south of Lusaka. He was in Lusaka to gather equipment that could be used to ventilate and cool a bush computer classroom.

Jesuits world-wide are preparing for the 35th General Congregation in Rome this January. The community gathered last week to discuss some of the topics that will be discussed in Rome. This community is unique in that both Zambia/Malawi province delegates live in this community (the Provincial and the Formation Assistant). There were over a dozen participating in the discussion and the conversation covered familiar concerns. There will be additional meetings in the next six weeks.

Another first was a foray to the local shopping mall. I believe that there are very few familiar items that one could not get in Zambia. The stores are modern and well-equipped and many folks were shopping. As in the US, these are not the places that the poor shop; but they are well frequented by the middle-class. Starbucks, McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken have not established themselves in Zambia; however Subway is here. I joined the pastor for coffee at a shop owned by a parishioner that was superior to most in Seattle.


This is a picture of a Flamboyant Tree that I view from my room. I face toward the parish parking lot. On the other side of the residence is a yard and garden. I haven't done much exploring yet, but hope to do so in the next day or so.

The parish has a large complex which includes the Church, the parish offices, some staff residences and a hall. We are one of the few places that does not have a full-time security guard, but that is due to the quality of the staff that work for the chuch and the community.

I had the opportunity to say the 1730 Sunday Mass. I am very impressed with the activity of the parish. Six Masses on the weekend, four with their own choirs, one Mass in Bemba, and a children's service twice a month. And then to top it they also had two weddings and a funeral. All of the Masses are nearly packed, the music is remarkable (separate choirs) and people participate and are very active in the parish life.

Did some shopping today with one of the scholastics. We got most of the items at two large supermarkets that resemble QFC or one of the major chains in the US. We did the fruit and vegetable shopping: melons, oranges, papayas, pineapples, kiwi, cabbage, and the like. The only thing that made it different than a trip to the Broadway Market were the greens, which we picked up at a local market.

We had the first rain today, so it has cooled off a little. I am adjusting to the metric system, so the degrees get translated, the miles become meters, and even the kawache (money system) has to be converted. It is part of the challenge.

It would be difficult to imagine a warmer welcome (person in addition to heat). I really enjoy the Jesuits and I am looking forward to meeting others. I have got myself on Skype and that makes it very convenient for the telephone calls. Ten hour difference nows from Zambia to Seattle. Prayers are with you all.

Friday, November 2, 2007

First Impressions

Day one in Zambia has come and gone, most of it in recovery from the flights, which were long and uneventful. And fortunately, my luggage arrived with me, so I am now settled and nested at St. Ignatius parish in Lusaka. Jim McGloin, SJ met me on arrival and another Slovenian Jesuit who was on the same flight. We stopped by the novitiate on the way to St. Ignatius and I was able to see Joe Danel, SJ and Peter Titland, SJ. I will return to the novitiate for the province retreat in December.

The welcome at the parish could not be more hospitable. I am settled in my room on the second floor of the residence, which adjoins the Church. The room is comfortable and clean and has all that I need, including good screens on the windows. There are about six or seven living in the community with some coming and going all the time. I know that I will learn from these men, for they have years of experience in Zambia and fortunately several are native Zambians.

I attended two Masses in the parish. They have two daily Masses (6:30 am and 5:30 pm) and they get a good crowd with spirited singing. I will test the water this coming Sunday at the 5:30 pm evening Mass. They celebrate six Masses on the weekend. I am impressed with the lay participation and the sense of joy that I experienced in the celebration. The morning Masses have many religious women, as many of the religious view St. Ignatius as a home parish.

I will help out in the parish as needed and also become involved with the work of the Ignatian Spirituality Center. The Center is starting the Spritual Exercises in Everyday Life this coming Sunday, so I may have an opportunity to observe. I realize that the quality time will be in being and not so much in the doing. I am yet to be connected with my own computer, but once I am, I should have Skype and some of the other contact opportunities.