During the week of 31 October, I covered 780 km [483 miles] in four days visiting projects and institutions enrolled in our Needy Child Program. For most of the trip I traveled on gravel roads while driving in second and third gear.
In Taza, in the Haydia tribal area, the Maids of the Poor and the Capuchin Fathers run a clinic where they perform orthopedic surgery and a specialized eye procedure for people with trachoma. There is also a model needy child program with 126 children.
In the village of Emdebir I was eager to meet the dynamic young priest, Abba Girma. Recently we provided him with a grant to purchase a small Toyota jeep; he used to walk tremendous distances to reach his parishioners.
After visiting Abba Girma I called on the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady. We have provided funds to construct a building housing a womens promotion center and a kindergarten. The structure is well built, but simple and in keeping with the conditions of the countryside.
During the week of 7 November, I made a two-day field trip into the Gurage region of Ethiopia, which is approximately 194 km [about 120 miles] east of Addis Ababa.
Cardinal Paulos, the head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, recently assigned a newly ordained priest to the area with instructions to build a new church next to a clinic in Geche.
I brought the young priest, Abba Tsegaye, back to Addis Ababa with me he had an appointment with the cardinal. He spoke of his plans to build a very simple chapel of mud walls and a corrugated tin roof. He plans to live in the sacristy. He has no transportation of his own and he walks to the various mission stations around the village. I was impressed with his humility, his simplicity and his zeal to serve the people in this impoverished area. It gives one great hope in the future of the church, despite the impossible problems it faces.
The young cleric asked if I wanted to see St. Josephs Chapel, one of his stations. I agreed and we were off on a no-road. We arrived after a 45-minute drive I do not know how long it takes for him to walk. There I found a dilapidated church. Abba Tsegaye told me this is the second largest chapel in the area, with 950 parishioners. He celebrates Mass only once a month; it is difficult to get there on foot and he has many other stations to attend to.
I hope that in time he will present a request to Catholic Near East Welfare Association to assist in the repair of St. Josephs Chapel.
Brother Vincent Pelletier, F.S.C., is Director of our Addis Ababa office.