As Catholics, we have a wonderful responsibility, by reason of our baptism, to bring
about change for the good in our world. But in order to do that, we need to become
aware of the necessity to bring about change, first of all in ourselves, and then
in our local parish communities. This is what we are asked to do this Sunday by the
Holy Father, because people today, either consciously or unconsciously wish for change
and they also want “to see Jesus”. October is the month for missions and Pope
Benedict has asked people to reflect on “Building Ecclesial Communion as a Key to
Mission”. On the last Sunday of the month in parishes throughout the world, people
will be offering prayers and small monetary donations for the work of the Church in
Fr. Timothy Lehan S.V.D is secretary general of the Secretary
General of the Propagation of the Faith under whose guidencethe Pontifical Missions
Societies (PMS) operate. He told Emer McCarthy the story of how the prayers and donations
of Catholics worldwide have helped one young priest – a former child soldier – become
a source of hope for the many children still trapped by war in his native Uganda.
do not know Fr. Stefano personally but .. when he was 16, he was abducted by the Lord's
Resistance Army (LRA) in 2003 in an attack on the minor seminary in the diocese of
Gulu in northern Uganda. He was kidnapped with 40 other seminarians as the rebel group
wanted the seminarians to fight as soldiers in its ranks. They were forced to leave
the peace and quiet repose that the seminary offered them for their studies for the
horror and pain of the killing fields”.
“For two months, he says, the killing,
raping and torture was part of daily life. The rebels wanted to teach the boys how
to kill”. He even saw some of his friends beaten and kicked to death in front of him;
others he saw slaughtered with machetes when they stopped walking because they could
go no further on the long marches. “I saw things I never imagined I would see. A man
cannot escape all this, but God works miracles. Prayer was my only hope. During the
long marches I prayed the Rosary using my fingers because I had no beads”
months after their abduction, government troops attacked the rebels. In the confusion
and fighting Stefano managed to escape and after walking for many days not knowing
where he was going, he was found by an army patrol. However in this misfortune he
was more fortunate, he managed to escape before being forced to kill anyone”.
remembers that his parents and brothers did not want him to return to the seminary,
but he knew that the seminary was his place. Most of the seminarians taken that night,
he says, “were eventually killed and 12 are still missing”. Today after his long and
traumatic ordeal Stefano has become a priest. Like the disciples of the New Testament,
he too found Jesus persuasive. Despite all that he had suffered, he was prepared to
go back on the road that the Jesus offered him”.
“Through your collaboration
on World Mission Sunday, you help Stefano to continue his journey in helping others.
For example the Diocesan Radio station in Lira has a special programme on which family
members send loving messages to kidnapped children convincing them to come home. Messages
are also sent by abducted children who have returned and want to tell their companions
not to be afraid, and to come home. The rebels are against these initiatives for peace
and they set fire to the radio station. But the aerial did not burn and, with the
help of missionary aid groups, this radio continues to broadcast programmes helping
to restore peace and reconciliation in Uganda. Every year your donation helps heroes
like Fr. Stefano and his Bishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu or Bishops Franzelli of
Lira or Hiiboro of Tambura Yambio in Sudan and their missionary priests, religious
and laity to continue to bring hope to the people of their troubled region”.
lets partake actively as a family in the Church in the celebration of this World Mission
Sunday on Sunday the 24th of October by reading and studying the Holy Father’s Message
and by giving your donation to your local parish, so that missionaries like Fr Stefano
may continue to offer their lives and work in the service of others on our behalf”.