With a poem in his heart, missionary heads back to Africa

Writing poetry, Father Michael Bassano says, gives him a feel for his own journey of life — where God is leading him. (Sun photo | Tom Maguire)

Father Michael Bassano speaks of his ‘vision and hope for all of us’

By Tom Maguire
Associate editor

Intrepid missionary Father Michael Bassano, MM, has written another emotional poem, shortly before his return to South Sudan.

   The Binghamton native was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Syracuse in 1975 and eventually became a missionary. Since 2013, he has served in the United Nations camp outside the town of Malakal in South Sudan, which has been embroiled in civil war. The people in the camp are needy, and Father Bassano pastors them and tries to raise money for rice for them. (Monetary donations can be sent to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, N.Y. 10545-0302.)

   As a Maryknoller, Father Bassano gets a three-month home leave every three years. He came back to the States in May and was set to get on a plane Sept. 4, headed for Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and thence to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. His leave was longer due to his recuperation from kidney-stone surgery.

   Days before he left, Father Bassano wrote to the Sun: “Hope to be in the U.N. camp on Friday, Sept. 7. There is a deep longing in my heart to be back with the people to see how they are doing in the months that I have been here in the States.”

   His new poem, “Reflection,” he said, “speaks of my vision and hope for all of us in this world centered on the belief that we are the one family of God on this earth.”

   During his home leave, Father Bassano, who colleague Deacon Paul Bork said has spent his missionary career in “increasingly more dangerous and desperate locations,” also wrote a poem called “The Journey.”

   In an email, Deacon Bork, director for mission education and promotion for the Northeast Region of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, said of Father Bassano’s poetry:

   “It mirrors his mission focus: His poetry reflects his encompassing vision of the beauty and the unity of God’s creation. It’s a vision that sees all of us as God’s children wherever we may happen to be on this earth. It’s also a vision and a prayer: a vision of how God wishes the world to be, peaceful, compassionate, and united; and a prayer of acknowledgement that someday in God’s time with the cooperation of people of faith, this vision will come to be realized.”

   “His poems to me explain the depth of his mission,” Father Bassano’s niece, Gina Wright, of Rotterdam, N.Y., said in an email. “I never really understood what he meant when he said it was his calling but when you read his poems, you get it, it’s within you, it’s something he was born with.”

   She said her uncle will always be her hero: “He has taught me so much about life. Since I was a little girl, he always found time to talk to me about my ‘problems’; he would send me letters, poems, and books to help me find my own way in life. I still have the Giving Tree he gave me when I was a little girl.

   “During his recent visit we had extra time (thanks to that kidney stone) and we talked a lot about what he does in the South Sudan and what the people are going through; his compassion is something we all can learn from. … I love, appreciate, respect, and admire him; I want to share his mission with others so we can all be better people. … I have the best memories, pictures, and stories that I will hold close to my heart while he continues his journey.”

   At right is Father Bassano’s latest poem, written longhand on Maryknoll stationery Aug. 22.

 

Reflection

Created in Your image
Precious daughters and sons are
Filled with gifted enlivening Spirit
Crafted beautifully as the star.

With awareness of purpose
and meaning have we
Conscious of an ever
evolving identity.

of the destiny to live
as one family on earth
Your desired plan
even before our birth

Our renewed humanity
raised up beyond compare
beyond nations or borders
embracing all with compassionate care.

As gifts to be received
with arms open wide
Attempting to close
the expansive divide

that would separate us
preventing us to be
interdependent yet
totally free

the vision is clear
and always true
to live in Your love
mirrored reflection of You.