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When your eyes swell with tears because of the goodness and joy of people who surround you
Friday, 17 May 2013 Written by Katarina Baotić

Katarina BaotićAfter our visit to Rushooka, a parish in Uganda not far from the Rwandan border, fra Ivica asked me to write something about our trip. My first idea was to put everything I had seen on paper, but then I realized that my enthusiasm would require pages upon pages to write everything down.

As we arrived in the parish, we were greeted by clamour and cheerful voices from a crowded churchyard. All the people from the parish were dressed in their best clothes for the occasion. Everyone knew that day was something special, and everyone was especially happy because of it. The reason for their joy was the Solemn Profession of one of the young friars. After attending Masses back in our Kivumu, I thought that nothing could surprise me anymore, but just before the start of the ceremony, as we waited for the Solemn Procession, the choir started singing and literally left speechless! Beautiful sounds filled the entire churchyard!

Many times in my life I have had the opportunity to listen to professional choirs singing a well-rehearsed repertoire during Mass, but this was so much better. These people weren’t singing from notes, they were singing from their hearts! ...two choirs, joined into one for this special occasion, sounding like one voice.

But my excitement didn’t end there. In the church, accompanying the beautiful rhythmic melody of the choir, were several young people performing a rehearsed choreography, surrounded by small children who observed them in awe, trying to catch the steps and the moves.

Usually when you know that the Mass is going to last more than three hours, you spend the whole time thinking about how it will never end. However, those three hours just flew by, like it was fifteen minutes. Throughout the Official Rights, there was singing and dancing. For the Offertory the parishioners had prepared the fruits of their own hands’ labour, bringing bananas, avocado, onion and many other fruits and vegetables to the church. They all have so little, but even the little they have, they are happy to share and to give from their hearts.

When surrounded by these wonderful people, no one could be left untouched. Their goodness, cheerfulness and their honest smiles are able to cheer up even the most sullen among us. And so we didn’t care about having to get up very, very early the next morning, still tired from the journey. Several times my eyes swelled with tears because of my disbelief that such kindness, joy and happiness could be found at a single place.

The Mass was celebrated by the Provincial, a missionary from Italy. In his Homily he expressed joy because of the reception of a new brother in his big family and he told him that he would never be alone on his journey because now he has brothers who will always stand by him. The Mass was attended by many priests and missionaries from Congo, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Madagascar… and they were all happy to have a new member. After the rites, everyone – the parishioners and priests - gathered for a feast. When we exited the church almost all people from the parish looked for our fra Ivica in order to shake his hand and exchange a word or two with him. In their eyes you could read gratitude for all that he had done for these people during his stay in this Parish, including the construction of the church in which they had just finished celebrating the Mass.

Unlike Rwanda, where people only serve drinks on their parties, in Uganda they also serve food. Meat was on the table during the lunch, which was a sign of the importance of the feast to the people. We used the time after lunch to take a walk in the Parish and visit the convent of Daughters of Divine Charity in which one of our Bosnian-Herzegovinian missionaries, Sister Bogdana, lives. She was also our guide through the Parish. Along the road everyone wholeheartedly greeted Sister Bogdana, especially the little children. A beautiful cheerful boy named Emanuel caught our attention.

Sister Bogdana told us that he was HIV-positive and that his mother had abandoned him when he was still a little baby. But the joy on his face when he saw a new and unknown white person and his excitement when I held him in my arms didn’t leave me unmoved. Once more I was assured about the warmth of the beautiful people of Africa and their kindness. I hope that this will not be my last visit to this cheerful country and that I will have the opportunity to write many more pages about its people.

Translated by Branimir Mlakić
Edited by Valerie Kae Ken

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