Father Ochaya sensed a lot of solidarity among parishes during his summer mission appeal trip
By Nathan Rumohr
Many Canadians associate education with the government, but for the youth of South Sudan, the Catholic Church is almost the only education provider.
Father Martin Ochaya Lino, from the diocese of Juba in South Sudan, made this clear during his mission appeal trip to the Archdiocese of Vancouver during the summer. The priest is raising funds to help individual students pay tuition at schools in his home diocese and to establish a rehabilitation centre for orphans affected by war and disease.
His trip was successful; Lower Mainland Catholics responded.
"So far we have seven children sponsored," said Pat Deppiesse, the project administrator of the Mission Appeal Office of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
War and government neglect has left South Sudanese youth to be educated in overcrowded classrooms sometimes as large as 200 students. Father Ochaya said this situation is hazardous for children, who become vulnerable to diseases.
Teachers can go without pay for months in public schools, leaving children without a teacher in the classroom most of the time.
Father Ochaya said by South Sudan standards the schools in the Diocese of Juba are functioning well, but are still subject to overcrowding, as the diocese tries to fit in both tuition-paying students and the poor.
The Juba diocese also hopes to use appeal monies to establish a centre to rehabilitate children affected by war. War and Africa's ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic has left many South Sudanese children orphans.
Father Ochaya said his time in Vancouver was encouraging, and he was impressed by the compassion shown at the parishes he visited.
"I am grateful that there has been a positive response," he said. "Besides the money there is also a sense of solidarity. After Mass many parishioners came up to me to share their concerns and their prayers."
He met a 12-year-old parishioner at Immaculate Conception Parish in Delta. The girl impressed Father Ochaya by getting behind the mission appeal and organizing bake sales after Mass with her siblings.
This resulted in the sponsorship of three students in Juba. She also set up an email account to help raise awareness about the kids in South Sudan.
"She got up at the end of Mass to make the announcement and everybody lined up to buy the cookies," Father Ochaya recalled.
Donations for Father Ochaya's mission appeal can be made through Pat Deppiesse at the Mission Appeal Office, 604-683-0281.