By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Maryknoll Missionary Father Michael Bassano, a native of Binghamton, continues to take action for the people in “dire need” in the “forgotten country” of South Sudan.

He recently helped deliver rice to a county in Upper Nile State. In recent emails to the Sun, he wrote that over 6.5 million people in the African country are “in severe shortage of food.

“The money that was given to me to buy the rice was donated by our generous Catholic people in the USA to our Maryknoll famine-relief project. … I want to thank you … for all your prayers and support to the people most in need in South Sudan.

“God bless all of you and may the Spirit of Pentecost bring healing love and compassion to our wounded humanity.”
“No matter where we are,” he wrote, “whether in the good old USA or in this forgotten country, we are all members of the one Body of Christ.”

Father Bassano previously ministered in Chile and Thailand for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

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 northeastern South Sudan. Up to about 3,000 of the 30,000 displaced people are members of his parish.

Eight hundred households (4,500 individuals) benefited from Father Bassano’s rice project. The main recipients were people with disabilities, single mothers, orphans, families supporting orphans, and people who are elderly or blind.

Father Bassano also has a grinding-mill project in conjunction with the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) team, wrote Deacon Paul Bork, Director for Mission Education and Promotion, East Region of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

The project involves purchasing and then installing a grinding mill so that the people of the surrounding areas do not have to walk as many miles to grind their grains — sorghum and maize — into flours that they can use to feed their families, Deacon Bork wrote. Because the purchase and installation of the grinding mills is so expensive (7K US each), Father Bassano was able to purchase just one for now, with the hope of purchasing and installing three.

To help Father Bassano’s missionary work, send a check that notes that it is for Father Michael Bassano’s Mission Account, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, P.O. Box 305, Maryknoll, N.Y., 10545.

According to an online report by Eye Radio, “Your Eye on South Sudan,” a coronavirus case study has identified South Sudan as “the world’s most dangerous country to live in during a pandemic.”

“Here in our camp,” Father Bassano wrote, “we have eight sick people suspected of having the virus and whose tests are being sent to Juba [the capital]. We have 1,892 cases confirmed throughout the country and we keep praying God will watch over our vulnerable people.”

A 23-year-old Rwandan peacekeeper in the camp became sick and was sent to Juba to be flown to Rwanda, he wrote; she tested positive there and died three days later.

“All of our Rwandan soldiers in the camp are being tested,” he wrote, “and we all remain on high alert to protect ourselves. We pray for that young Rwandan woman peacekeeper as well as all who have died from this virus in our world. We pray for the healing power of the Spirit to come upon those who are sick.

“In the midst of all that is going on with this pandemic as well as the systemic racism and police brutality that is affecting our world, I still find hope in believing that we can be better in appreciating the extraordinary beauty that is life.”

He added: “Let us pray for one another that God continue to protect and watch over all people in this world from COVID-19.”

Father Bassano tapes his Eucharistic celebrations for Nile Radio, the public station in the camp, and he continues to write poetry. Here is a poem he sent this week:


Message clear

shouted from rooftops

perfectly understood

to open hearts

Keep positive

keep hoping

keep dreaming

keep believing

Staying alert

heightened awareness

of future changing

of justice forthcoming

All is not lost

simply look around

enlightened promise birthing

envisioning everyone as

the Body of Christ

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