A Village Mass

On Sunday October 7th, my family arose early to get to the 7:30 breakfast on time. I had two slices of bread (slathered in butter and marmalade), a cup of warm milk (with a very generous amount of sugar), and eggs. Then we packed for church. I was very sad because I lost my 10,000 shillings bill (around $3). I perked up though as we drove through the countryside because it was difficult to remain sad as the wind steadily wore my face, and I admired the mountains in the distance. One looked like it was from a fairy tale – it was so round! We went along a very bumpy road to get to the parish, following the truck of an Italian priest named Fr. Tonino and an American missionary named Ms. Sherry Meyer. Along the way we picked up a cameraman who wanted to photograph the mass.

The parishioners gave us a very impressive welcome. As we drove in they sang a welcome song, led by the school’s headgirl. We soon discovered that we were not the main reason they were excited. Rather, they were happy to have a priest for Mass for the first time in 3 years! This unfortunate situation made me appreciate the weekly Eucharist I have elsewhere. My Dad interviewed the cameraman on his work with a radio station as we walked through the surrounding fields, while Fr. Tonino administered reconciliation to the congregation. During the liturgy we witnessed a very impressive baptism service (for more detail, see my brother’s blog “45 Babies”). The Mass was in the most popular regional language, Lugbara, so we couldn’t understand it, but Ms. Sherry translated the main points of it. The songs of the mass were marked by unfamiliar instruments. I had heard of some stringed instruments they used like the adungu but not some of the others, such as a local instrument that looked like a fiddle. After the priest baptized the babies (again, see “45 babies”), we went through the first liturgy of the Eucharist the parish had seen in three years. Reconciliation, Baptism, Eucharist: we had half the sacraments in one day!

After the Mass Father Tonino took me outside. Father was a member of the Combonis, and he was touring local churches that had not seen a priest for some time. We sat down, and coincidentally, I was positioned so that I was in the pictures for the first communicants. A score of people came to have objects blessed by Father. A local man (I think he was the Catechist) talked, and then my Dad talked, and then Ms. Sherry talked. The bishop had requested that each parish give a present of 60,000 shillings ($15.85) or one goat. This parish though, gave 60,000 shillings, and three goats! The goats were later taken to a goat farm at the radio station. It was high time for lunch, so we went down to an empty classroom at the Catholic school. The food was very good. We talked about our schools and families, and discussed a school map that showed Africa at the center of the world (Europe was very small).

We got in the car and were sent off in a terrific storm of cheers and song. Reflecting her rural country girl roots, Mom enjoyed driving us back over some really bumpy roads. The whole experience was very fun and revealing. I will never forget the strenuous clapping as the goats were brought in, the song the children sang to welcome and see us off, or the endless baptisms. The mountains provided perfect scenery for a fun-filled, complete, delicious, musical, sacred, impressive, amazing, and spirited Village Mass!