A visit to Kanabea Mission

St Bernadette Gauthier gives us word on the latest activities at Kamea.

Kanabea parish was, as usual, a hive of activity. On the 18th Fr. Maurice Adams was remembered at the Eucharist. On the 19th the silver Jubilee of the latest arrival Sr. Dorothy David was celebrated both privately and publicly with a beautiful Eucharist and shared meal. It was an opportunity to speak about Religious life and the Cluny Sisters in particular, which Fr. John invited me to do.

The saw mill is functioning well. Workers are being paid local wages, but all timber (very good timber apparently) is donated by land owners for both the church and the school. This is very significant, a sign that the missionaries patient invitations to participate are bearing fruit. Fr. John was particularly patient over this need to wait for the people to really own the church and school as theirs.

The School ‘reform’ is proceeding with difficulties. Kanabea ‘top up’ has taken scores of youngsters who have missed out doing grade six. This year, however, these were declared illegal and were suspended which led to much heartache and even an attempted suicide. The top up books arrived only this year. (i.e. Grades 7 and 9 attached to a primary school). The government set up only 4 elementary schools (grades 1-3) in the parish which left scores of villages without teachers, the intention being to set up new ones in 2003. The Bishop moved and set up 19 Bible schools in Kanabea Parish alone, so that all Christian communities have their own, led by Grade ten leavers. Many of these came through Bema High School and then the CODE centre. St. Tresa takes a special interest in the ‘teachers.’ The teachers receive a modest Diocesan stipend, and to all intents and purposes these schools serve as elementary schools. Their name saves them from being illegal. A brother of Fr. David Kamau, Martin, has been named inspect or of these elementary schools, a good move, as in isolated places, children are completely at the mercy of their teachers conscience. Another good teacher has been named inspector of mountain schools, and this is already bearing fruit. He is trying to remedy the fact that some quite large areas have been without teachers for a number of years.

There are now 67 catechists and prayer leaders over the mountain parishes, 30 of these in Kanabea parish. Fr. John supervises them and gives them in-services. As in many activities, the Kamina parish is also included, otherwise the whole fabric of that parish would have collapsed.

The sisters have convened a women’s gathering for this weekend and are expecting 300. They remained undaunted; undertaking all manner of activities on the station and radiating out to the most remote villages, including of course the Kamina, Ivandu and M’Bauia areas. A systematic training of five women per village in the skills of cutting and sewing has been undertaken; they stay one week, several hours per day. Modest projects have been started; nutrition, chickens screen printing, helping in the hospital. Sr. Rachel continues the family life program throughout the Diocese in spite of many difficulties, distances, transport and the fact that often only women come.

Anne Fogarty, a lay missionary from Melbourne, has taken part in all these activities and acts as a secretary to everybody. She has so settled her soul into Kanabea that she has requested staying another six months. She lives with the sisters and relates really well to the national staff, the people and expatriates.

Fr. John Flynn and David Kamau patrol extensively, the latter comes from Hawabango and patrols all through Kanabea. He recently gave the Catechists’ retreat. On going formation still takes place; e.g. A course to village recorders whose task is to map their village and record deaths births etc.

Bishop Marx is planning some pilgrimages to Bema for the year of Jubilee; the logistics of accommodation and the possibility of two thousand Kamea attending, is providing somewhat of a challenge.

My visit to Kanabea was inspirational, the harmonious relations between expatriates among themselves and with nationals, the level of apostolic energy and inventiveness, the prayer life, would, I believe be very contagious to anyone who truly opened themselves to it.

Sr Bernadette Gauthier