OLSH sisters came to South Sudan in January 1995, but their mother, "Our Lady of the Sacred Heart", had preceded them by more than a hundred years.in 1875 Daniel Comboni (founder of the church in East Africa) and a contemporary of Jules Chevalier (founder of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) consecrated the whole of Sudan to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Is it any wonder her daughters were destined to follow.
Sr Jo Kenny and Moira Lynch were the pioneer missionaries who came in 1995, almost by chance, but there is no such thing as chance. Jo requested to work with refugees. Contact made with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Sydney coincided with an appeal from Bishop Caesar Mazzolari of the Rumbek diocese to the JRS in Nairobi, which resulted in the first OLSH community at Mapuordit in South Sudan.
Mapuordit mission was established in 1993 under the care of the Combo ni Missionaries, two years before we arrived.The country was in the throes of civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Yirol town was attacked by government forces and the people had to flee, leaving all possessions behind. They settled out bush, where there was a water hole, and the area became Mapuordit.
God had other plans for Sr Jo Kenny but she played a key role in the establishment of the mission. Without her inspiration, we would never have seen the light of day. She left in July of 1995, Moira remained, and the following year, 1996, Sr Maureen Carey and Mary Batchelor arrived. In August of that same year our mission was raided by SPLA rebels, and we were arrested and taken to a Bush prison, named "Rol" for twelve days, accused of subversive activities -spies for the Khartoum government.
We spent the next few months back in Australia and when we returned to South Sudan we were two in number. Sr Maureen's skills were needed in Australia, so Moira and Mary shared each other's company for the next five years, until the arrival of very welcome reinforcements: Sr Wendy (a teacher) and Sr Korea I (a nurse) in 2001. At the time, 1996, South Sudan was classified, "the poorest country in the world" - a title well deserved. Moira and Mary lived for those early years in the Comboni Compound, and the living g conditions were basic, to say the least, well in keeping with what surrounded us outside.
Moira was a nurse and set about establishing a clinic, consisting of two or three bamboo huts, a limited supply of medicines from OLSH Overseas Aid, no qualified medical staff except herself, a constant stream of patients - victims of violence and war and disease etc. Though Moira is long gone from Mapuordit her memory lives on in the hearts of so many people.
Mary was a teacher and took her place in the school where numbers rapidly increased from 200 to closer to 2000. Classroom s were bamboo huts with grass roofs, dirt floors, maybe a log to sit on. Snakes fell from the roofs and antinovs flew overhead, threatening to drop bombs and sending children flying out into the bush. But we were never bombed, though surrounding villages were not so lucky including the airstrip, which left us marooned for periods of time.
Twenty years have passed since that arrival date in January '95 and so much has happened since that day.
Moira clinic is now a well established hospital, run by Dr/Br Rosario, a Comboni Missionary - ably assisted along the way by OLSH nurses: Moira (Australia), Koreti (Kiribati), Philo (PNG), Pauline ( a volunteer nurse from Australia) - and supported by "OLSH Overseas Aid" in the training of nurses and other medical personnel, and the supply of needed equipment. People. come from far and wide to Mapuordit, bypassing hospitals along the way.
Education has developed:
- bamboo huts have given way to permanent buildings,
- a well equipped secondary school prepares students to take their place in society,
- Adult Education gives opportunities to those deprived during the war years ,
- Girls' education is a priority and on the increase,
- Teacher Training is also a priority
- "Satellite Schools" scattered far and wide are given assistance,
- our schools have been enhanced by the presence of two Indonesian sisters, Sr Virginia and Valentine who have contributed greatly to the development and the spirit of our schools.
- both primary and secondary schools now have local leadership, an achievement attributable to Srs Philippa and Lorraine whose years of leadership in our secondary school were geared towards the development of leadership qualities among the South Sudanese.
- From Day one our preferential option has been for the poor, with feeding programs available for the poor and the blind, the disabled, the lepers , and the destitute. The presence of Sr Rita in Pastoral Care has opened the door to more self help programs, to increased water supplies for gardens and crops, fruit trees and vegetables. Rita works to improve the status of women, to raise their standard of living, to establish income earning projects: management of restaurants, cooking classes, etc.
The 2014 community at Mapuordit consists of five OLSH sisters: Sr Wendy violet (Australia, Community leader), Sr Rita Grunke (Aust), Sr Philo (PNG), SRS Virginia and Valentine (Indonesian), the perfect example of a community for an International Congregation. So Mary Batchelor left Mapuordit in August 2014, after 19 years.
The aim of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is "to be on earth the Heart of God", to embrace all South Sudan es, to bring g peace and love to this land, to relieve as far as possible the extreme poverty of our people.
Help us by your prayers for our country, still torn apart by tribalism and corruption.
An attempted coup to overthrow the government in December 2013 plunged the county into war again, resulting in thousands of refugees and displaced people, stripped of all their possessions. Added to this famine has earned the country another title, "The Hungriest place on earth".
"Save the Children " organization estimated that up to 40 000 children would die of starvation in South Sudan this year.
If anyone would like to contribute to the work of the OLSH sisters in South Sudan, please make a donation to:
Your support as well as your prayers would be greatly appreciated by the Mission workers and the people we serve.
Sr Mary Batchelor olsh