On Saturday March 4, 2017 Fr Michael Barton was able to send an email to friends giving a very brief update of his situation in South Sudan.
On Friday all was peaceful in Motot, South Sudan. By Saturday, though, we all were running away as the government forces were coming from Yuai and Pathai. Tanks arrived killing many people, but I had already left for Mass and visiting the sick in Waat. On my way I passed many youth going to Motot to join in the fighting and looting. Even though Waat was mostly deserted when I arrived, the priest’s house was prepared well for me.
Later that afternoon some wild youth came and accused me of arriving with the enemy. They took my glasses. The chapel catechist and some women managed to reclaim my glasses and made the youth apologize.
I did not sleep well but still celebrated Mass in Waat on Sunday morning with a small congregation. It was peaceful and the government troops retreated back to Yuai.
The President Salva Kiir Mayardit is asking for help for famine victims but HE is the main cause of the famine.
On Monday (February 27) I traveled to Walgak and celebrated Ash Wednesday the three Catholic families there. By Thursday I was in Lony where I was able to bless a new chapel and baptize five people. On Friday I arrived in Lungkien. And of all the things, I arrived there by way of a white Toyota full of guns!
For now, all has returned to normal in Waat, and things are peaceful in Lungkien too.
Comboni Missionary Fr. Michael Barton has spent the better part of the last 40 years serving as a priest, teacher and parish builder in what is now known as South Sudan.
And for most of that time, the region has been entrenched in civil war.
An Indianapolis native, Fr. Barton first ministered in Sudan from 1978-87, witnessing the beginning of Sudan’s second civil war in 1983. After serving for five years in Michigan, Fr. Barton returned to South Sudan in 1993, where he has lived ever since. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but war broke out once again leaving many in the country running for their lives.
For the past couple of decades Fr. Barton has faithfully served the people of South Sudan, often hiding with them in the bush and ministering to their needs.
Every year Catholics around the world prepare for the Easter season with forty days of fasting and prayer. Easter is that wonderful time of year when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is preceded by Lent, a season of self-examination, fasting and penance in preparation for our Easter Day celebration.
The Catholic Church begins Lent each year on Ash Wednesday. This is a time to reflect on our own mortality and the need for ongoing repentance. The ashes, applied to the forehead in the sign of the cross, remind us that we are from dust and to dust we shall return.
And while some of this may sound bleak, the reality is that during the forty days of Lent we are preparing our hearts and soul for Easter – a joyous celebration of the resurrection of our Lord!
As you being your Lenten fast this year, try something new. Service is just as important as sacrifice when it comes to preparing for Easter. Below is a list of some things you can do for Lent from prayer, to fasting, to service. Ash Wednesday is March 1 this year!
1. Prayer of Examen each day: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen
2. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours: http://universalis.com/
3. Go on a mini-pilgrimage – set aside a day during Lent to visit a nearby monastery, basilica, or national shrine.
4. Give up pessimism and sarcasm, and replace them with wonder, hope, and compassion.
5. If you give up something such as coffee or sweets, donate the money saved to a mission or charity. We can think of some wonderful missions to support!
6. Wake up early every morning for prayer and contemplation, even if it is just five minutes.
7. Don’t buy anything you don’t NEED – Focus on how God helps provide for you needs. You will probably save quite a few dollars. Consider adding it to your savings or donating some it.
8. No gossiping! Just like the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
9. Say something nice to someone (family, friends, or strangers) at least once a day. Try to notice the clerk at the grocery store. One small act of kindness can change a person’s day.
10. Take time to learn more about the life of Catholics and Christians in other countries – you will begin to see how wonderfully diverse and spiritual our world really is!
11. Attend Mass on a weekday or attend Eucharistic Adoration.
12. Switch from regular radio to Christian radio or Catholic talk radio – even if just for your morning commute.
13. Find a way to give more of your time to your local parish or community – volunteer at the food pantry, visit the sick in your parish, visit a nursing home, bring a meal to the fire station, etc.
14. Study the life of a different saint every day. There are so many to choose from! Maybe you could start with St. Daniel Comboni.
15. List five things you are grateful for every day.