By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Maryknoll Missionary Father Michael Bassano, a native of Binghamton, reports “a few weeks of emotional ups and downs” because of COVID-19 in South Sudan.

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.

In recent dispatches to the Sun, Father Bassano wrote, “This pandemic in our world is teaching us of both the fragility and resiliency of life.” He reported that two of his co-workers at the UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] where he lives tested positive for the virus and one of them died from complications:

“We were all shocked and saddened by his death as he leaves behind a wife and two young children,” he wrote. The second colleague “has tested positive again and is in isolation for one more week. He will be tested again after this but he feels better now and is recovering.”

“Because of the situation of two of our friends being confirmed with the virus,” Father Bassano wrote, “we have been in isolation from the rest of the UN compound and confined to our small container rooms [food is brought to them] with some time to get out and walk in our fenced-in compound for the past two weeks. We have also been tested for the virus and Aug. 26 we received good news that we here in the compound have all tested negative!!!! Amen, Alleluia.

“In our POC camp there are now 39 confirmed cases of the virus as of [recent] news from a WHO doctor. In Malakal town there are 19 confirmed cases with 21 at the UN mission compound and 10 at our humanitarian hub. We are doing our best to stay well and healthy while praying that God watch over our people to protect them from harm.”

He wrote that all the churches and mosques are open again, “but at times people are not taking the health guidelines seriously especially about social distancing and wearing masks. Our Catholic church opened with over 360 people attending without allowing children or the elderly over 60 to come. Therefore I am not allowed to go as well because of my age and instead the catechist of the church did the liturgical service [in the absence of a priest] in our church in the camp. …

“In my room I have rituals of getting up early, praying, reading Scripture, listening to music, writing poetry, as well as walking alone in our fenced-in compound to watch the sunrise and get some exercise.”

  Responding to Father Bassano, Deacon Paul Bork, Director for Mission Education and Promotion, East Region, Mission Appeals Team Leader, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, wrote:

“It’s so good to hear from you and to learn from you about life in the camp and surrounding area. I am uplifted by your poetry which is so hopeful and trust-filled in the midst of the reality around you (or perhaps because of the reality around you). I’m grateful to you for your perspective on your quarantine, in that you see beauty in your small fenced-in compound area. As you say: ‘fearing nothing, inwardly free. …’

“Thank you for your faith-filled example. You and those whom you are with are in our prayers.”

Here are recent poems by Father Bassano:


Scented flowers

colorfully adorned

rising up calmly

caressed by wind

Calling upon You

fearing nothing

inwardly free

protected from harm

Seeing reality

as it can be

consoling insight

Spirit touched

Sense of quiet peace

charting the course

facing courageously

every challenge of life


Reflecting upon

wonder, fragility

and resiliency

of life

Awareness of

living in present moment

accepting whatever happens

amazing beauty of nature

Longing for

healing of world’s suffering

ending war, violence and disease

dawning day of peace

without hatred

Imagining that

You are life in us without end

You are Sun rising in our

hearts never setting

You are endless ocean

of which we are loving

waves of Your making


“You must be out

of your mind.”

an often quoted phrase

expressed by many

as being wildly crazy

Another truth speaks

earnest seekers searching

for new school of learning

providing sense of purpose

Differing opinions vary

however wisdom suggests

to those pure of heart

alternative direction to follow

Being out of your mind

living in the heart of God

may indeed seem foolish

but ultimately life changing


Stressful moments

fearing unknown

anxiety increasing

palpitating heart

Worrying about things

not yet seen

finding inner peace

praying in silence

Knowing You are there

present in our lives

confronting dark night

nestled in Your arms

Surrendering to You

forever hopeful

loving guardian of life

refuge of trusting hearts

Taking us beyond

happenings of today

towards brighter future

envisioning together


Sunrise inaugurating

dawning day celebration

bird’s musical concert

tree branches swaying

Awakening to greet

bright glorious morn

miraculous gift

gratefully received

Loving, healing presence

indwelling in all

embracing our journey

wherever it leads

Looking to the poor

looking at shining stars

looking in discovering

compassion’s heart

“Do not be afraid”

comforting words

graced with sustaining hope

and unending life

Personal mantra

on lips and heart

“Beloved Jesus

ever alive in me.”

— We hope and pray for better times to come in our lives. Stay well. Let us keep each other in thought and prayer. Loving regards, Mike

Website Proudly Supported By

Learn More