By Rev. Fr. David Smith, MM
THE 1950S: MARYKNOLL GIVES LIFE TO AN INFANT CHURCH
It was in October of 1954 that Lou Bayless, Joe Brannigan, Al Schiavone, John Rudin, and Edward (Eppie) James began Maryknoll’s missionary work among the Sukuma people of Shinyanga. Al and John went to Kilulu Parish, while Lou and Eppie started at Busanda and were shortly thereafter joined by Maurice Zerr. For the first year, they lived with White Fathers. In mid-1955, Lou received two assistants at Busanda: newly ordained Donald Sybertz and Philip Sheerin. The White Fathers at Buhangija were joined by James L. Lenihan, Al Smidlein, and Edward McGurkin.
In that same year, the first two diocesan priests were ordained: Fr. Zachary Buluda at Sayusayu and Fr. Joseph Kaboye at Busanda. Thomas Keefe arrived at Mwanangi-Nassa where he learned the Sukuma language and worked for the next three years together with the Eppie James, George “Tiger” Egan, and Tom Burke. It was during those years that the church at Nassa was built. Meanwhile at Gula mission, John Wohead was learning Sukuma under the tutelage of White Father Lammeke van der Schans and Maryknoller Moe Zerr.
By early 1956, Brother John was primed in the language and ready to begin his work as master craftsman for many of the church buildings found throughout the diocese. He began with repairs to the rectory and cistern at Sayusayu where the many-talented George Pfister was living. In April, Lou Bayless moved to Buhangija parish rejoining Fr. Koenen, W.F., who once again handed over the keys within a few months. For that year and the following, Buhangija was home to Maryknollers Charles Liberatore, Jim Lenihan, and the adventurous James Bradley. Regarded as being both kind and thoughtful, John Rudin left Shinyanga when he was made Society Superior in Nairobi. In 1957 he became the bishop of Musoma.
The area which is now Shinyanga Diocese was once part of the Diocese of Mwanza, administered by the White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa). Ed McGurkin was named Bishop of the new diocese of Maswa and had his Consecration cards printed by that title. One week before the consecration, however, the title was changed to that of Shinyanga. The ceremony was held on October 3, 1956, in Hartford, Connecticut. As the first Bishop of Shinyanga, he lived at Buhangija until the Sukuma language school was built – the current staff house of the Shinyanga Commercial School. He guided Maryknoll’s missionary efforts and nurtured the infant diocese for the next nineteen years. He is fondly remembered by the early missionaries as being wise in giving them a lot of freedom in their pastoral approaches. This sustained an enthusiasm and vivaciousness in the apostolates that encouraged creativity in announcing the Good News. The prudence of Bishop McGurkin’s policy in requesting small plots of land for new mission sites is evident now as land is becoming more scarce and those with huge tracts of land are coming under attack.
By 1958 there were over twenty Maryknollers working in the diocese. Jim Lenihan opened Mipa parish, moving there in October. Over the course of the next three years he would be joined at times by George Weber and Brothers Cyril Vellicig, George Carlonas, and Victor Marshall. They founded the Catechist Training Center and many primary schools. Their catechist, Emmanuel Kidola, was the first from Shinyanga Diocese to complete the course at Bukumbi Catechist School, Mwanza.
Dick Hochwalt’s first pastoral assignment was to Busanda parish – initially with Moe Zerr and later with sensible George Weber and witty George Daley. By 1959 Moe had become first pastor of Bugisi where John Wohead had supervised the building of a new church and rectory while residing at Busanda. Moe was soon joined at Bugisi by Cyril Vellicig, Ray Kelly and Lionel Bouffard. Don Sybertz transferred to Kilulu with Charles Callahan, Tom Gibbons, and Ed “Tex” Schoellmann. He remained there for the next ten years.
John Wohead spent a couple years at that time repairing the rectory, making benches for the church, building an outdoor kitchen, and installing cement floors. He recalls a commanding John Ridyard trying to convince a couple of women in the village to join the catechumenate program, but they stubbornly refused each invitation. On his days off, John Ridyard used his membership in the Mwadui flying club to rent a small airplane. He frequently flew around the diocese making power dives above each of the missions as his way of greeting the Maryknollers. Well, it just so happened that those two women were walking nearby when John dove his plane down over Kilulu. The women fell to their knees and cried out, “Please don’t kill us! We’ll start attending religion classes now!”
At first covering Ndoleleji as an outstation of Wira, Tom Keefe eventually established Ndoleleji as a parish in 1961, building there a church, rectory, school, dispensary, and houses for U.S. Peace Corps volunteers who taught in the school. The Ndoleleji property was given to the Church by Chief Maximillian Shoka. Tom moved to the new parish house where he resided until 1967. During this period, two European lay missionaries were among the very first of their kind to join the missionary efforts of Maryknoll at Ndoleleji. They were Frans Van de Laak and Joseph Rott.
THE 1960S: MARYKNOLL BUILDS THE YOUNG CHURCH
The decade of the sixties found the young church in Shinyanga diocese in a building frenzy. Parish centers as well as outstations were started and expanded with great enthusiasm. Schools and health clinics were established everywhere that Maryknoll worked. For example, after completing the rectory at Bugisi, the skillful John Wohead erected schools and chapels in several villages. He then added a bell tower, garage, and workshop to the mission compound. He next moved to Mipa to assist George Weber and cigar-loving Jim Lenihan with the construction of cisterns, a convent, a workshop, and houses for the catechist training school.
Ed Killackey served as Diocesan Education Secretary for many years and was responsible for many schools being built, including the Buhangija School for the Blind that continues to the present. This job involved a great deal of work and responsibility, because the Ed-Sec was in charge of all the schools and teachers in the diocese. The Ed-Sec office and book store were at Buhangija. Others who served in this position over the years included Charles Callahan, Joe Brannigan, and Charles Kenney.
One of the great services that the White Fathers did for the development of the country was to establish “bush schools” at most of their outstations. Many of these were subsequently registered as primary and middle schools that were administered by the Shinyanga Diocese. During the mid-sixties, all of the schools throughout the country were turned over to the government. Many Maryknollers were in favor of this transfer of property and responsibility, reflecting the enthusiastic spirit of independence that prevailed throughout the new Republic of Tanzania. The turning-over also served to free the missionaries to devote themselves more to evangelization and the building of the local church.
Charlie Liberatore, as pastor of Buhangija from 1959 to 1961, began the dispensary that grew into the first of twelve Mary Hannon Mahoney Memorial Clinics and Mother-Child Health centers. Charlie operated out of the tiny building that is presently used as the Chancery office at Buhangija. In his distinctively charming and amiable way, Charlie dispensed medicines himself, carrying on from his days at Sayusayu where he was involved in the complete scope of medical treatment. His experiential knowledge often proved far more effective than mere textbook solutions.
Ernest Brunelle arrived in Tanganyika in late 1959 and attended Sukuma language school at Gula and Shinyanga Town. He spent the first half of the sixties at Mwamapalala parish, first with the inventive Bob Julien and later with George Pfister. The parish had been started by Bob in 1958 after being given a plot of land by chief Limbe Ng’winula. Initially living at Kilulu while the church and rectory were being built, Ernie recalls that the first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Christmas of 1960. The Uhuru rains of 1961 flooded the nearby pond up to the church doors. Roads and bridges were washed away, so in order to get to the annual retreat in Nairobi they resorted to riding a railway flatcar to Mwanza and then boarding a steamship for the trip north on Lake Victoria to Kisumu, Kenya.
George Cotter arrived on the scene in August of 1960. He remembers being in language school with Bill Tokus, Dick McGarr, Mike Callanan, Paul Fagan, John David McGuire, and Ed Killackey. George was first assigned to Gula in 1961 where he worked with Marvin Deutsch and garrulous Walter Stinson until 1964. Ruminative by nature, George recalls there being hundreds of catechumens studying for baptism, but also having plenty of time for hunting trips to the area around Lake Eyasi.
Most of the Shinyanga Maryknollers looked forward to the annual trips out to that wilderness area and many a story continues to be told about their adventures. Dan Ohmann managed to get lost one time and ended up sleeping in a river bed hidden at the base of an embankment for fear of lions. The wind had prevented him from hearing the others blowing the Landrover horns until the following morning. Another time, the competitive Cyril Vellicig shot and wounded a lion that he mistook for a hyena coming into camp at night. The lion roared and ran off into the underbrush. Trying to drive around to locate it, the group discovered that their camp was surrounded by dozens of lions. Not many slept in their tents that night! Leo Kennedy sat in his truck until morning smoking a big cigar – all that was visible to the others was the glowing ash in the middle of a dense cloud of smoke.
During yet another trip it was John Wohead’s turn to cook. Someone had mistakenly put a jerry can of gasoline next to the cooking fire in place of the normal jerry can of drinking water. When John went to pour some water into a pot on the fire, the petrol ignited, splashing over him, as well. He managed to get his pants off quickly and to roll on the ground to extinguish the flames, but he was still badly burned. Don Sybertz claims to have saved John by covering him with a blanket, but to this day John continues to chide Don, “You were too late!” To which Don always retorts, “You still haven’t thanked me for saving your life!”
In mid-1961, Al Smidlein took over as pastor of the Shinyanga Town Parish. Being an outgoing person, Al’s dedication over the next thirteen years would make his name synonymous with the Town. He was the fostering father of the Shinyanga Commercial School that he opened as the parish hall. Al supervised the enlargement of the original, small church building expanding it to its present size. Brother John Walsh did the architectural work on the new structure. At the church’s dedication, Al welcomed President Julius Nyerere to the ceremonies.
Arriving in the country for the first time in August 1962, John Lange was a man of unbounded compassion. He joined the Gula crowd in mid-1963 and devoted himself to opening new territory and outstations for the ensuing five years. Later he was joined by a work-loving Thomas Gibbons and the friendly Tom McDonnell. Their efforts eventually spawned two new parishes: Mwanhuzi and Mwandoya.
Sometime during the sixties, while stationed at Busanda with the magisterial George Daley, a young Leo Kennedy learned an important mission survival tactic. Over a hundred rambunctious school children arrived at the mission to attend a week of catechism classes, but in their free time they took to punching holes in some of the twenty-odd, corrugated iron, rain water tanks upon which the mission depended. Fearing not for the delicacy of their infant faith, George ordered them all to return home until they learned to respect the church property. To this day, some of those same tanks remain in working condition! Clean water for the missions and for the village people among whom Maryknollers have lived has been a constant concern over the decades.
From August 1961 to March 1962, steady Lou Bayless continued Maryknoll’s missionary work in Nassa with Michael Callanan. During that period, four Maryknoll Sisters came to establish a clinic at the parish. Lou vividly recalls the road to Mwanza being closed during November and December of 1961 due to the downpour that came to be known as the Uhuru (Independence) rains. John Wohead arrived to repair the storm damage to the rectories and to improve the school, clinic, and church buildings at both Nassa and Chamugasa.
The determined Phil Sheerin followed Dick Hochwalt as pastor of Buhangija in 1963, and later Paul Fagan took over from Phil. Charlie Callahan founded Old Maswa parish in 1962, naming it the church of St. Ann following on his mother’s name. By the late sixties, Paul Fagan became its pastor. His great love for the Sukuma people has since manifested itself by the development of the largest dispensary in the diocese, numerous workshops, a children’s home and craft school for invalids, a convent, and sizable church buildings in the distant centers. The idea Paul started inspired many to attempt to improve the quality of villagers’ lives through improved methods of appropriate technology and farming techniques, including extension services and model farming plots.
Fresh from Maryknoll Society service in Minnesota, a down-to-earth Daniel Ohmann reached Tanzania in 1964 and began working at Chamugasa in 1965 with Jim Bradley and at Malili with Eppy James. It was there that Dan met Mr. Edson Moyo, a Malawian carpenter and builder who had been trained by George Carlonas. Moyo began working for Dan building churches and houses and moved with Dan to Ndoleleji in 1967 where he continues to aid the building efforts of the church to this day. At Ndoleleji, Dan was active in building and supporting an agricultural training center that later became a catechist school. He and Moyo installed windmills in many villages to provide water during the seven month long dry season each year. Various Maryknollers worked alongside Dan during the seventies and early eighties, including Herb Gappa, Ed Schoellmann, Dave Schwinghamer, Larry Lewis, and the animated Jim Lee.
After teaching at the national seminary at Kipalapala for several years (together with Maryknoller George Putnam), Dick Hochwalt was assigned once again to be pastor of Buhangija in 1967. Bishop McGurkin and Bob Lefebvre were there, along with John Ridyard as Diocesan Treasurer. Dick returned to Kipalapala later that year for another four semesters of teaching canon law.
Thomas Shea arrived in Africa in 1967 and came to Sukumaland in 1968 after attending language school. He worked for a few months at Mwamapalala while a pastor was sought for Wira. Charlie Callahan went to Wira as pastor in 1968 and was immediately joined by Tom. Together they strengthened the village outstation communities. In 1971, Bishop McGurkin appointed Tom as pastor when Charlie moved to Mipa. Wira was home for Tom for 24 years. His love for the Sukuma people and theirs for him became obvious to all when Tom spent over a year in the United States caring for his mother. Hundreds of letters were exchanged between this dedicated, parish shepherd and his devoted flock.
1968 was the 100th Anniversary of the Church in Tanzania. The diocesan celebration was held at the Nyalikungu Sports Field in June, and all Maryknollers were in attendance. Having spent a decade at Kilulu, by 1968 the typically unhurried Don Sybertz was ready for a move. That was to Gula where he had over eighty villages through which to roam. Of all the places in that vast territory, Don fell in love with Mwanhuzi – an African version of Dodge City as it was in the 1860′s. He moved into a small, mud block house that officially became a rectory in 1975 when Mwanhuzi was made a parish. Don was its first pastor, and he dedicated the following twenty years to evangelizing the Sukuma people through the innovative use of their traditional songs and sayings.
The wild team of Herbert T. Gappa and William Gilligan descended on Africa in the latter part of 1968, and Finlander jokes were introduced to the southern hemisphere. They were the last Maryknollers to learn the Sukuma language as an initial course. (It is rumored that their teachers threatened to strike after being subjected to that pair of students.)
In 1968 Ernie Brunelle joined Phil McCue at Kilulu for a year and then was alone for another three years. An indoor bathroom was added to the rectory. Despite the objections of parish council members (who wanted to keep the parish clinic’s profits for church use alone), earnest Ernie initiated a water project for the whole village bringing a pipe from the Senani river. To this day, the villagers continue to benefit from Ernie’s vision, and the church at Kilulu is recognized as being in service to the wider community.
The end of the decade saw a man land on the moon. A quieter, but certainly no less momentous, event took place within the world-wide church. Rome ended the Law of Commitment by which each mission territory was placed under the direct rule and administration of a missionary society or congregation. The immediate effect of that change was to make Bishop McGurkin the first resident Bishop of Shinyanga directly responsible to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith rather than to Maryknoll, New York. In the long-term, however, the step led to the rapid advance and development of the local churches and to indigenous bishops.
THE 1970S: MARYKNOLL DEVELOPS THE GROWING CHURCH
From early 1969 through Lent of 1971, Herb Gappa assisted first Jim Lenihan and then Castor Sekwa at Sayusayu parish. It was the first time that a Maryknoller had been the associate priest under an African pastor. Brother Frank Norris was at Sayusayu during this period, as well. George Cotter was roaming through the diocese during the early seventies giving three day Biblical seminars in outstations of many different parishes. He estimates that at least 5000 people attended the course over three years.
As economic conditions deteriorated throughout the seventies, the roads became worse and approached being unbearable. Up until the present, travel is a torturous adventure and avoided whenever possible. Ill-mannered drivers make the situation even worse. As luck would have it, a forthright Lionel Bouffard was driving to town one day when two trucks in a row forced him off into the ditch. Both drivers barreled towards him smack in the middle of the road refusing to move over to their side. Lionel was steaming mad, so he resolved to himself that the next driver was going to have to move over for him and not vice versa. Shortly, a vehicle appeared on the horizon heading towards Lionel. Sure enough, it was cruising right down the middle of the road. Lionel held his ground and continued heading straight down the center of the road, as well. Holding on to the steering wheel with nerves of pure steel, Lionel was rewarded at the last moment when the approaching vehicle swerved off the road into the ditch leaving Lionel unscratched. He felt pretty good about himself until he received a letter shortly thereafter. “Dear Fr. Bouffard, Why did you try to kill me with your car a few days ago? Signed, Bishop McGurkin”
From Malampaka, Lou Bayless returned to Buhangija in 1971 where he has served now for 25 years. During that tenure he has worked alongside many of Maryknoll Shinyanga’s greatest missionaries: Bishop Edward McGurkin, Fathers Charles Liberatore, the ever-bouncy Eppie James, John Ridyard, comical Jim Bradley, Charlie Callahan, the sociable George Putnam, Dick Hochwalt, Ernest Brunelle, Jim Lenihan, Al Smidlein, and Brothers Cyril Vellicig, John Wohead, gentle Gene Casper, blustery George Carlonas, Frank Norris, and the humorous Kieran Stretton.
The seventies witnessed several attempts at “team ministry” with mixed degrees of success. One major experiment was conducted at Mwanangi-Nassa and included Moe Zerr, John Wohead, Joe Sullivan, Dan Zwack, and the well-liked Randy Madonna. A second attempt was made at Mwamapalala by a knowledgeable Carl Meulemans, Mike Bishop, the imaginative Dick McGarr, Tom McDonnell, and for a short period of time Paul Fagan. As had always been suspected, however, these trials confirmed that the typical Shinyanga Maryknoller thrives best as an individual!
Moving over to Ndoleleji for most of 1971 and the start of 1972, Herb Gappa teamed up with David Schwinghamer to combat the sky-filling, dust storms by performing native American, rain dances. They claim to have been effective – or at least famous! Dave participated in teaching at the parish’s Family Training Course. For the rest of 1972, Herb covered the Mipa homestead on his trusty motorcycle doing a lot of pastoral visits and sacramental ministry in the villages furthest from the parish center.
During 1973 and 1974, Dave and Dan Ohmann joined forces with Don Sybertz and Ken Thesing to try a team approach to ministry and catechist training for the Gula-Ndoleleji areas. In mid-1974, Ken began working part-time in Shinyanga Town as the Coordinator of the diocesan Agricultural Program, replacing Mike Duffy. When Jim Lee was assigned to Ndoleleji in late 1975, Ken was able to move to Shinyanga to work on the Program full-time. He served as such for six years, recruiting five United States Agriculturalists to do extension and demonstration work among the people of Shinyanga and Musoma.
Rain, traditional dances, and weddings are among some of the most important events in the Sukuma culture. After successfully filling up the river with a major rain dance one time, Herb Gappa recalls having to cross the swollen torrent in a tiny styrofoam boat. Missionaries would on occasion have to leave their vehicles on the far side of the river and walk the four miles to the mission since there was no bridge in those early years at Ndoleleji. To avoid the hike, Herb floated down river towards the mission and came upon two crowds of people – one on either side of the river – yelling across to each other. A wedding had been planned that day. Being afraid of the deep waters, the bride’s family was saying, “If you love us, you’ll send your son over here.” While the groom’s family was saying, “No, if you love us, you’ll send your daughter over here.” As Herb floated between the two groups, he reflected on how marriage – and perhaps mission – must involve compromises from all involved!
Bishop McGurkin asked Jim Lenihan in 1973 to return to Salawe to teach the Christian community there to live without a resident priest. He accomplished that task over the next three years. At the same time, Ernest Brunelle returned from a Stateside sabbatical and went to work at Malampaka where he resided until 1981. He shared the mission life briefly with Kevin King but for much of the time he was on his own. Ernie frequently visited his neighbors, George Delaney at Sayusayu or Bill Murphy and Dick McGarr at Nyalikungu. During these years many became active in the Yesu Caritas group started by Phil Wallace at the Shinyanga Secondary School near Mwadui mine.
From mid-1973 to early 1974, John Lange helped out at Sayusayu and then headed off to language school in Musoma to learn the national language of Swahili. In September he moved into Nyalikungu, Maswa, as pastor and spent three years animating the village outstations. During that time he was joined by the industrious William Murphy and the effervescent Bill Gilligan – also, on the Overseas Training Program were seminarians Robert Jalbert and Kevin King.
The government’s program of forced villagization in 1974 contributed to creating a famine situation throughout Sukumaland and much of the rest of the country. Dave Schwinghamer joined Don Sybertz at Gula where he eventually took over as pastor and stayed until 1979. In the midst of famine relief efforts, the vast Gula territory was further expanded into four sub-parishes. Reflecting back on the villagization scheme, however, Ken Thesing observed that by concentrating people into small areas, the church was given an unprecedented opportunity to organize praying communities and to form a system of catechists to preach the Word of God in a more focused setting. It was out of the need to train catechists for over 100 new villages that Ndoleleji, Gula and Wira started their own one-year catechist training program.
True to his reputation as a considerate man, in 1975 Bishop McGurkin retired and returned to the United States. Bishop Castor Sekwa was consecrated that year and became the first indigenous bishop of the diocese. Lou Bayless noted that just as independence was given a heavenly welcome (the Uhuru Rains), so too the new bishop was welcomed by a hurricane-force storm that blew the roof off of the Buhangija rectory!
Herb Gappa, known for his progressive approach to mission, joined Paul Fagan at Old Maswa at the start of 1977. From that base, Herb began the establishment of a parish in the new district center of Bariadi. The Catholic community there has been innovative in promoting the concern for the land by demonstrating the importance of trees, water, and careful farming methods. Herb moved to Bariadi while construction of parish offices, rectory, church, and hall were in process. Now he is making plans to build a second parish on the other side of Bariadi town.
THE 1980S: MARYKNOLL NURTURES THE MATURING CHURCH
From 1980 to the end of 1982, Ken Thesing resided at Gula parish which was then being staffed by the Society of African Missionaries. From that base of operation, Ken developed the new parish of Mwandoya, situated some thirty miles east of Gula and having fifteen outstations – some as far away as fifty miles. In that area, Ken established a church presence in some villages that had never before heard the Gospel message. He said the first Masses in several villages and worked with catechists to organize the first praying communities.
Beginning in 1982, Dan Ohmann shifted his work efforts from Ndoleleji to nearby Imalaseko, a center of Mwanhuzi parish. He and Don Sybertz maintained their “retreat” house on the bluff overlooking the Mangu river at Ndoleleji. Surrounded by a rare colony of Fischer’s lovebirds, they enjoyed the serenity and played tennis. Ken Thesing took over as pastor of Ndoleleji where he stayed until elected to the General Council at the Maryknoll Society Chapter of 1984. (At the completion of his six year term, Ken was subsequently elected Superior General of Maryknoll – the office he holds at the time of this writing.) Cyril Vellicig has been a shrewd and effective treasurer of the diocese since 1978. His business savvy showed as early as 1961 when he was working as Maryknoll’s procurator in Nairobi. The Regional Superior, Paul Bordenet, had a project going for wood carvers but it was not proving to be a financial success. Despite the fact, he often enthusiastically told Cyril, “We’re going to make a lot of money selling these items,” but it just never happened. So one day he asked Cyril for his suggestions on how to make the project viable. Cyril didn’t beat around the bush. He responded, “Liquidate the stock!” As Paul’s face turned beet red, he blurted out, “O.K. Mister liquidator, what do you propose to do?!”
Famine struck hard in 1984. Being acutely sensitive to the plight facing the Sukuma villagers, Ken Thesing was instrumental in notifying international relief agencies in Dar es Salaam about the coming disaster. During much of 1984 and 1985, American-donated bulgar wheat and cooking oil were distributed in most parishes to stave off starvation. This massive endeavor became a full-time job for many Maryknollers, but their dedicated efforts left a lasting impression among all the people of Shinyanga.
As part of the relief work, Dan Ohmann began visiting the nomadic Wataturu tribe around Lake Eyasi. Although he was the first Shinyanga missionaries to reach this small, remote tribe, by helping them with famine relief, they came to trust him. Dan gradually learned bits of their language and started sharing with them the message of Christ. Inspired by Dan’s efforts, newly-ordained Jim Eble joined the mission to the Wataturu in 1988 and endeavored for two years to learn their language and gain their trust. The Wataturu, however, proved very reluctant to embrace new concepts.
In August of 1983 after straightening out the Treasury Department at Maryknoll, New York, in record time, Dick Hochwalt returned to Shinyanga – at first getting re-acclimated at Wira for a few months and then returning to Buhangija as Chancellor of the Diocese. Figuring that the third time must be the charm, he became pastor of Buhangija again in 1990 when it was officially re-opened as a parish. “Hocky” has spent the past thirteen years there, walking with the Sukuma people through the valleys of famine and AIDS.
In October of 1985, Leo Kennedy moved from Old Maswa to become pastor of Nyalikungu together with newly-ordained David A. Smith. The parish had been without a priest for most of that year, so they were received with much rejoicing. Bishop Sekwa appointed Dave to be the diocesan youth director, and as such he joined the national convention of Young Christian Workers when they met with President Nyerere to express their concern over the legislature’s agenda on artificial birth control. After Dave was appointed pastor of Ndoleleji at the start of 1988, Leo’s jovial nature was rewarded by Bishop Sekwa’s sending him a newly ordained African priest each year. Leo was living up to his nickname of “Guku” (grandfather).
As a seminarian, Dave Smith had already lived at Ndoleleji for a couple of months in 1983 while his classmate, Peter LeJacq, was there for a summer of medical fieldwork. When Dave was later asked to move and Peter inquired where, all Dave needed to say was, “To the end of the world.” Peter’s immediate response was, “No! Not Ndoleleji!” In the land of dry season dust and rainy season mud with no in between, Dave first spent five years covering the thirty outstations on his own while administrating the mission compound that included a large dispensary and maternity center, a carpentry and welding shop, a sewing school, a tractor and grain grinding machine, and a parish bookshop, library and office.
Expanding the baptismal programs and religious education programs in the village schools, while reviving the parish council at the parish and village levels, the vigorous missionaries saw the number of Christians in the territory double in seven years. Large center churches were built in the two most remote districts with the local Christians comprising the labor force. Beginning in 1993, Bishop Sekwa started assigning newly ordained priests to Ndoleleji each year to assist Dave with the continually expanding, pastoral work. Now plans have begun to build a new parish in the center located at Mhunze town.
In 1983 Bill Tokus became pastor of St. Paul the Apostle center at Shinyanga Secondary School, and the following year a new church and chaplaincy center were blessed by Archbishop Marko Mihayo of Tabora. Marv Deutsch then succeeded Bill. After serving as chaplain to the students of the Shinyanga Secondary School for six years, Marv moved to Shinyanga Town to complete the diocesan Youth Center that Bill had begun building in 1978. A priest who is both spiritual and practical, Marv single-handedly got the stalled project back on track. The Queen of Peace Youth Center was officially opened in April of 1989. That same year, Brother Kevin Dargan joined Marv at the Center
Being one of the most well-read Maryknollers in Africa, Kevin has been instrumental in creating the best library in the Region. The Center offers activities for the town youth on a daily basis and conducts retreats and seminars throughout the year. The hospitality of Marvin and Kevin to all Maryknollers and diocesan personnel has been enjoyed immensely in recent years.
THE 1990S: MARYKNOLL EMPOWERS THE AFRICAN CHURCH
After ten years of Society service in the Development Department, Ernie Brunelle returned to Tanzania in 1991 and took up residence at Buhangija. He devoted himself to teaching religion in several of the secondary schools in and around Shinyanga Town in conjunction with Kevin Dargan and Marv Deutsch. Living in the city and working with young adults, Ernie became intensely aware of their many problems. The AIDS epidemic was in full swing, so burials of young adults were common. In 1993, Ernie started a small metal-craft workshop to give the local youth a usable trade.
After visiting Shinyanga during a sabbatical in the mid-1980′s, Lou Quinn was enamored with the Sukuma people and elected to move from Taiwan where he had served for many years. He spent the second half of 1992 in Bariadi with Herb Gappa, and in 1993 became the associate to an African pastor at Sayusayu. Like an itinerant contemplative, Lou spends a lot of time walking through villages in the area making first contacts with people who have yet to hear the name of Jesus.
During the first half of the nineties, the Maryknoll Society contributed greatly to the construction of the Shinyanga cathedral. First John Wohead and later Marv Deutsch were instrumental to the actual building of the church. The Ngokolo cathedral was dedicated in May of 1994. On the same property, Marv built a new diocesan office block and a hostel for clergy. Both were dedicated and blessed by the Papal Nuncio to Tanzania during his pastoral visit to the diocese in January 1994.
SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD
On June 10, 1994, one of the longest-serving Maryknollers in Shinyanga Diocese went to his eternal reward: Charles Callahan, pastor of Mwadui Mine Parish since 1977. He arrived in Shinyanga after his ordination in 1955 and served his entire priesthood working in various locations throughout the diocese. Charlie will always be remembered for his delightful disposition. His direct manner and off-beat humor brought life to many a gathering; and although he often posed as a lighthearted joker, he was very serious in his fidelity to his priesthood and service to his people. Charlie hated phoniness and always talked “straight from the shoulder.” He expected others to do the same. He was often heard to comment, “Never try to B.S. a B.S.’er!”
Over the years, the Maryknollers who have lived among the Sukuma people of Shinyanga have been touched by their gentle ways. In seeking to make them more Christian like us, we find ourselves becoming more Christian like them. Without even realizing it, we have become more patient and less hurried than typical Americans. Hospitality and greetings have become second nature to us. Respect for the sanctity of human life and the ultimate importance of human relationships has drawn us closer to the path of our Lord. In a very real sense, we have become “natives” of Shinyanga having been born into our missionary vocations here and having been fulfilled in our priestly / brotherly lives here. We are grateful to God for having been sent among the Sukuma tribe. In sum, Charlie Cal, who is the first Maryknoller to be buried in the soil of Shinyanga and the first priest to be interred in the grounds of the new Mater Misericordiae Cathedral, once told me, “The Sukuma are the most beautiful people in all of Africa… maybe the most beautiful people that God has ever made. We have been blessed to have been sent to live among them, to share the joy of our faith with them, and to die knowing that we and the Sukuma people have learned to love one another.”