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.