Sep 2015 visit by Dirk Juttner
"Let the Children come to me" *
Cutting the tape to open St. Mary’s Girls Hostel at the CMM Sisters Motherhouse in Masasi was the highlight of my visit to Tanzania this year. This Hostel is for 20 girls from distant villages, who attend one of the secondary schools in Masasi.
It was only during my visit there last year that we finalised the building plans, and now the building was finished and stood ready to receive the first intake. The opening ceremony started with a service of thanksgiving celebrated by the Bishop of Masasi in the convent church, followed by a procession to the hostel. It was a big celebration in true Tanzanian style with much singing and dancing to drums, attended by a few hundred people who enjoyed a good meal afterwards. This is a real step forward for the Community of St. Mary (CMM). Tumshukuru Mungu. (Thanks be to God).
The welcome I received from the Sisters was as hearty as ever, and the time I spent in Masasi gave me plenty of opportunities to hear the Sisters thoughts and concerns, and hopefully to be of some help.
There was also ample time to meet the Masasi diocesan staff to discuss matters relating to local diocesan projects, parish churches, HIV Aids sufferers, clergy widows, the seminary and the dispensaries, and schools within the diocese.
A further highlight on my visit I was very much looking forward to was to be the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the building of the Rondo Chapel, a grand building created during the time when Trevor Huddleston CR was bishop of the diocese. The Friends of Masasi and Newala (FM&N) had paid for substantial repairs to the roof and the beautiful ’Creation’ stained glass windows. This celebration however, had to be cancelled due to a shortage of water at Rondo high up in the hills. The students of the junior seminary and the ordinands training centre there had been sent home because of this problem.
At the School for the Blind in Mtandi, where the Diocesan Office is based, I was received by the headmistress with a big hug, which was obviously due to the support given by the FM&N. This is part of a Government primary school with over 1,000 local children. Seventy-two blind children, some of whom are also albinos, are boarders at this government school, which thankfully is in the position of being able to feed and care for the children.
There followed a visit to the ‘School for Intellectually Impaired Children’ (to use the correct name!) in Lulindi, some 20 miles away. As always, it was a joy to be here again. A group of children ran to take me by the hand and led me to the head of the school. One little girl hugged my legs, as that was as high as she could reach! This is the only Tanzanian school of this type run by the government. At least they had food, but they do need help in a few areas.
It was good to put the head of this school in touch with the school for the physically handicapped children (originally a Polio Hostel) in KwaMkono – started by a Sister of the UK Community of the Sacred Passion, under whose wing the CMM Sisters were originally founded. This school, administered by the Diocese of Tanga and well run, is supported by The KwaMkono Disabled Children's Trust. Here too, the loving care that all children need is given with great dedication.
The next stage of my visit was to Sayuni, in the SW Highlands, eleven hours by bus from Dar es Salaam, with one stop! The Swiss doctor accompanied me for the sixth time, in order to assist the CMM Sisters in upgrading their dispensary, which is in a remote location, to a health centre. Here we are making good progress, and we hope to get Government recognition after sorting out the present water problems. Much work has gone into this project with the addition of a children’s ward, a large maternity unit, a laboratory, and now a mother and child clinic, which is in the process of being built. The number of patients attending this centre has increased dramatically and so more staff have had to be engaged. The government has also placed seven fully trained and paid personnel here, which demonstrates the success of this venture.
Once the dispensary has achieved the status of ‘Health Centre’, it will be another great step forward for the Sisters after five years hard work on the project. Now, we can only hope that enough CMM Sisters will come forward to be trained as nurses, midwives and laboratory assistants to run this health centre in the future.
During my five weeks in Tanzania, I visited ten of the eleven CMM houses in Tanzania, scattered over the country in several different dioceses. I travelled 2,800 miles (4,500 km), mainly on buses, often for hours on end. Sometimes it is amusing travelling on local buses, with people having live animals such as chickens and ducks with them. On one occasion, as the bus hurtled along the dirt road, a woman sitting next to me, after a chicken excreted on her dress, put the chicken on my lap while she shook her ‘canga’ (the cloth rolled around her dress) out of the window of the bus, and my only thought was what do I do if it happens to me .… ? - but that is Africa!
During my visits to the various schools catering for special needs children, the opportunity to see for myself the amazing level of love and care they receive, especially from the Sisters, was an enriching experience.
Assisting women and children is one of the principle activities of the CMM Sisters, and they carry out this task with tremendous love, treating each one with dignity. Their relationship with those they serve is a reminder to me that we, like all those around us, are children of God in need of love and care.
* Mt. 19.14