November 20, 2020
Notes from Africa
Gekano Parish has 50 “centers” (what we in the United States informally call ‘Mission Parishes’). On Sundays, the three priests of the parish and I go forth to celebrate Masses at the various centers, each of us usually celebrating three Masses, at 7:00, 9:00, and 11:00am. To date, I have been to forty of the fifty centers.
Traveling to the centers usually means an adventure. Lately, because of rains, the roads have been muddy, filled with pot holes and ruts. The four-wheel drive on the vehicle has been engaged consistently. Navigation also provides a challenge. Even though, I know my way to many of the places, there are a few places that I do not know well and easily take a wrong turn. In the Kisii Highlands, it is easy to become disoriented on the winding, twisting roads. If a location is obscure in my mind, I usually travel to it on Saturday “to find my way” as I do not want to be too lost on Sunday mornings.
Each Sunday is an adventure. On a rainy Sunday morning, I arrived at a center shortly before 7:00am, and no one was there. I checked my notes to make sure I was at the right place. Shortly after my arrival, a man and his daughter came and unlocked the church. Often, it seems, people begin arriving and preparing for Mass once the priest arrives. It is a challenge for the people because some priests operate on Mzungu time (that is, they are punctual) and other priests operate on African time.
Many of the centers are in the process of being built or renovated. I find construction to be an ongoing activity in most buildings in Kisii land. Some of the centers are large enough to seat 250 to 300 people. Other structures are humble edifices of tree limbs and roofing sheets that hold 40 or 50 people around which a larger, more permanent structure is being built. (See pictures.)
Most Sundays there is at least one story I can tell about happenings during the celebration of the Masses. Recently, at one center, a young mother with her new born child came from during the offertory procession and gave a chicken as an offering of thanksgiving for the birth of her child. A chicken would be valued at US $5.00, the equivalent of a daily wage for this area.
At another center, a lady was at the lectern proclaiming the first reading. Her son, two or three years old, came and stood by her. Eventually, he unbuttoned his pants and became pulling down his underwear to urinate. My jaw dropped as I said to myself, “The boy is going to urinate in church in front of God and the gathered Christians!” The mother had the presence of mind, without losing her pace of reading, to shoo the boy to his sister in the front row and took the boy out of the church to relief himself.
Every day is an adventure.