Fr John Kirwan mhm writes from his isolated post in DR Congo about the frustrations of failing communication networks and the rising tension in the country as the negotiated deadline of the presidential elections is likely to be missed.
“I am writing this off-line with a view to copy-pasting it (or sending it as an attachment) when I have an adequate internet connection. I have composed messages on-line, only to have the connection cut as soon as I pressed ‘send’ and the messages disappeared (neither sent nor in drafts). That had me spitting feathers….
I kept putting off writing till the internet problems were solved, expecting that to happen soon. There is some improvement now, but the contact is still not normal. We keep trying, also using telephone company internet modems; but their services are erratic too. It is over two months now since I had regular email contact…. Very frustrating!
I am glad to be back here; and am getting used to taking the back seat, giving advice if asked, but trying not to interfere. A couple of older local priests died while I was away; so now I am the senior cleric in the diocese, treated with respect most of the time. I don’t mind at all being called the ‘patriarch’ or ‘dean’ or the elder brother (l’aîné) …. But I have to get used to people innocently saying, ‘Oh father you have grown old’!
I am kept busy enough in spite of having less meetings to attend than before. I might write more about that in an Advent/Christmas newsletter I am planning. One time and energy consuming activity has been that of receiving people and listening to their stories (mainly tales of woe). Since 26 August I have had over 360 visits (of about 80 people)…. They still have the idea that missionaries are there to give financial support. We try to tell them that was never the reason for coming on Mission. But still some of their problems are very real in this poverty-stricken area, and they have drained my limited resources.
The destitution in this potentially prosperous country is a tragedy. It is also helping to deepen the political crisis that could come to a head next month…..
I am keeping pretty well although I tire more quickly than I used to, and have had the odd cold.
Life goes on with its joys and tragedies – typified in the diocese with ordinations last month, and the burial of a much-loved local sister the day before yesterday.”
John Kirwan mhm