By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
Maryknoll Missionary Father Michael Bassano, a native of Binghamton, reports that churches and mosques have been allowed to reopen in South Sudan but he is restricted from celebrating Masses in person due to his age risk factor.
The houses of worship must adhere to health guidelines to protect people from COVID-19. A priest named Father Gabriel filled in for Father Bassano Sept. 20.
“On Sunday, I celebrated the Eucharist alone in my room,” Father Bassano wrote in an email to the Sun. “After reading the Scriptures and receiving Communion there arose within me a strong conviction that Jesus is always present to us wherever we may be.
“We become what we receive — the Body of Christ bringing healing and hope to our fragile, suffering world.”
Although he cannot be with his parishioners in the church right now, he wrote that they “remain united in thought and prayer”; and that his heart “is longing to be back with the people again but the time will come as I wait with patience and eagerness to see them again.”
He is the Catholic chaplain for people who have been displaced by civil war in the UN Protection of Civilians (POC) camp outside the town of Malakal in Upper Nile State. Up to about 3,000 of the 30,000 displaced people are members of his parish.
Father Bassano reported 43 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UN camp but added that the number had not been updated in weeks because the WHO doctor was ill in the capital, Juba, more than 300 miles to the south.
“We pray for all who are sick that they find healing and for those who have died to rise to new life not only here but throughout our world,” he wrote.
Father Bassano has resided at the UN camp steadily since November 2014. He has rituals of getting up early, praying, reading Scripture, listening to music, writing poetry, and walking alone in the fenced-in compound to watch the sun rise.
He recently reflected on a pre-pandemic incident he calls “Muddy Roads”:
“During the rainy season in Malakal, South Sudan, from May to October the roads are wet with sticky mud (or ‘cotton mud’ as local people call it).
“One day as I was walking through the United Nations camp visiting people, my feet got stuck in the mud. Trying to move forward with my boots on, one leg got stuck and the boot came off. I tried to balance myself on one leg while attempting to get the other leg back into the boot. When the children saw my predicament they started laughing and myself along with them. Then three young people came to my rescue and held my arms while the other boy put the boot back on my foot.
“At that moment, I realized how much we need one another in journeying together through the difficult, muddy roads of life.”
To help Father Bassano’s missionary work, send a check that notes that it is for Father Michael Bassano’s Mission Account; send it to Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, P.O. Box 305, Maryknoll, N.Y., 10545.
Here is a recent poem written by Father Bassano; he introduces it: “We give thanks to God for the miraculous gift of life even in these challenging times of the pandemic.”
what will be
keeping dreams alive
trusting things improve
nothing is permanent
change inevitably coming
reverberating through creation
breathing new life
of God’s healing love
living in You
miraculous gift of life