By Father Mike Bassano, MM
Sun contributing writer
TANZANIA — Stefano was bom 89 years ago in a small village west of Tanzania bordering the countries of Uganda and Rwanda. He left his village when he was very young and travelled to Shinyanga where he found work as a security guard for the Maryknoll Sisters. He spent over 50 years as a guard for the Sisters before retiring because of ill health.
Stefano did not want to return home to his village as he had been away from home so long and decided to find another place he could call home. After wandering around for many years he returned again to the Sisters, asking them where he could find a place to stay. They suggested to him that he come to our home in Musoma where he has been with us since 2004.
Stefano enjoyed being in his new home where he found acceptance and people to care for him. He enjoyed coming to the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday as well as during the week. Stefano was my teacher who helped me to learn Swahili as well as some words in Sukuma, his own native tongue. This past year his health began to fail due to malaria and other problems. He could not eat very much but still enjoyed some snacks and special treats we would bring him. No matter how his health was, he still wanted to be faithful to attending the Eucharistic celebrations and so we either walked side by side with him or, eventually as his health deteriorated, brought him to our chapel in a wheelchair.
Weeks before his death, Stefano knew that the time was coming for him to leave us. One morning as we were bathing him he was very weak and so I carried him back to his bed. Once I made him comfortable and covered him with a blanket, Stefano looked up at me smiling and said: “You know I will be going home soon.” I replied,
“ You want to go back to your village after all these years.” He then responded by saying, “No, I will not be returning there but I am going home to be with God.” He then took my hand and smiled at me. I told him that he would be enjoying his new home although we would miss him here.
Stefano died in June 2010 and he will always have a special place in our hearts here at our home of compassion. In this Easter season we rejoice in the promise of new life in Jesus who rose from the dead.
Like Stefano, may we always find our true home in God who loves us!
Father Mike Bassano