By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Maryknoll Missionary Father Michael Bassano, a native of Binghamton, maintains his rituals in his tiny quarters while in isolation because of a COVID-19 outbreak in his UN compound 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 a dispatch to the Sun this week, Father Bassano wrote:

“This pandemic in our world is teaching us of both the fragility and resiliency of life. Here in our Malakal area there are 77 confirmed cases of the virus which includes our camp, Malakal town, and our UN compound with five deaths. Throughout the country of South Sudan there are 2,450 confirmed cases with 47 deaths. But I am sure there are many more because there is a lack of testing and poor health infrastructure with only one testing center in Juba [the capital, over 300 miles to the south].

“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 last weekend 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 our church in the camp.

“We have just received news that two members of the UNHCR staff on the compound where I am living have been confirmed as having the virus. One man named Cashif is now in critical condition and in coma at the hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. The other man named Daniel is recovering with minor symptoms and is now in quarantine. Please keep both of them in your thoughts and prayers that they recover with God’s healing presence as well as all who are suffering in the world during this pandemic.

“As a result of these two cases in our compound all the other nine members of the staff as well as myself are in isolation for 14 days and remain in our small container rooms. Food is brought to us each day and sometime during this week we will all be tested with the samples sent to Juba which is the only testing center in the country.

“I am feeling fine and in good health and hope for the best that we all stay in good health. 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’s report, 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, especially Cashif.”

Below are three of his poems that Father Bassano wants to share:



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


  • Stay well. Let us keep each other in thought and prayer.

Loving regards, Mike


Website Proudly Supported By

Learn More