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10 December 2009

Dear Friends,

As I write, some of you may well be looking out your window at a major snow storm and wondering about how are you are going to do this or do that. I talked to NY yesterday and Wisconsin today and snow was flying in both areas. I still remember how my brother Pete and I looked forward to the “no school days” and playing in the snow and really didn’t mind the challenge of doing barn chores when snow was knee deep. I could never have believed how different my life would be in the many years to come, especially the last 49 years.

You may remember from my last newsletter that I am facing two major challenges in my life that are quite different from any that I faced in the past 49 years. First challenge: I am expecting my Bishop Aloysius Balina to open the Diocesan Shrine of Divine Mercy here in St. Peter Parish before Easter in 2010. His yearly calendar has not yet been published so I don’t have a definite date. For me this will be the most important and challenging undertaking in my life and one that would be frightening if it were not for the inscription that Jesus told St. Faustina must be written on every painting/picture of the Divine Mercy, it says “Jesus, I Trust In You”. It is easy to say but not easy to say sincerely. By the grace of God, I am able to do the latter. This week we completed the simple but beautiful shrine in the church. Now we have many things to do on the church grounds.

St. Peter Parish will be a place of pilgrimage and prayer during the year and a place of my graces on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter. In coming years we may have many pilgrims who simply want to pray or are in need of spiritual help. My daily language is Kisukuma. Using Kiswahili will not be easy but necessary when there is a group of non-sukuma speaking people. There will also be a parish to run, plus:

The second challenge: again from my last newsletter you know that at our request of several years ago our Dispensary has been upgraded by the Ministry of Health in Dar es Salaam to a Health Center. We are the first dispensary in the history of Shinyanga Diocese to receive that status. It may just seem like terminology but it has two major consequences. The first is that we will be able to do some operations like c-sections, hernias, some fractures and most important we will be able to give life saving blood transfusions. So often children have been brought to us who needed transfusions but we had to take them to the District Hospital in Somanda many miles away. Many of them died before the procedure could be performed.

The second consequence is that being a Health Center is the step that may well result in our being a hospital. Yes, a hospital! It is already being mentioned locally. The prospect of being a hospital has greatly affected our thinking and plans in the past few days. If we are some day to be a hospital, then we need to build staff housing in an area a short distance from the hospital so as to conserve what room on our present property for a hospital sized laboratory and operating room plus the many more wards we will eventually need.

You are probably having the same questions that I am having, namely where will the money come from to build a Health Center that may eventually lead to a full sized hospital. In my naiveté I give God the credit for getting us in this position and since He really owns all of the money in the world, perhaps He will find a way of sharing it with us. Our parish is a missionary parish in the midst of a very non-Christian area. Roads have been our great evangelizer and have helped many people come to know Christ. Perhaps God is now telling us to take care of people in body (Hospital) and soul (Shrine of Divine Mercy). Your prayers are essential and perhaps someone reading this will know of some person or foundation that is devoted to medical work and would like to help an area where many lives are lost due to lack of local medical facilities. We are here in the front line and can help.

This is a long letter but I needed to write it to lay the foundation for future newsletters keeping you updated on our challenging life here at St. Peter’s.

Our website has been updated and will occasionally have changes. You will find a new section that gives a link to information on our medical work.

If you have not or do not get my picture Christmas letter you will find it on the website along with past letters and newsletters. I would love to hear from you.

Love and prayers,

Fr. Paul

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