Day 13 – Fr. John’s Tanzania Mission Trip

Sunday, Jan. 29


I awoke before my alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. this morning, made my coffee, said some prayers, did a short bit of journaling, brushed my teeth and, since it was Sunday and we were going to Mass, shaved.  Then I showered and dressed.  We had agreed last night to meet at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast, but since I had done some journaling this morning, I was running a bit late, which I decided meant that I was early in African time.  I got to the restaurant about 8:00 a.m. and learned that we were planning to leave at 8:20 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. Mass at the Mwanza Cathedral.  We went downstairs to the portico at the entrance of the hotel, where two taxis were waiting for us.  We got into them and off we went.  As we drove along, I noticed that our driver was playing Christian music videos on the dashboard screen of his navigation system from a thumb drive plugged into a USB port on the dash.  I wasn’t aware that you could do that, and I resolved to try it on my SUV when I got home.  Our driver, who was following the other driver, made a sudden turn into a filling station in downtown Mwanza, had the attendant put in about 5,000 shillings’ worth of petrol, which was about two and a half liters, or a little more than half a gallon.  I both texted and WhatsApp’ed Fr. John, who was in the other taxi, to let him know about our stop, and when our driver pulled out of the filling station and onto the street, we saw the other taxi waiting for us a couple blocks ahead.


We eventually turned off a paved street and onto a very rough road/driveway similar to the one that leads up to St. Peter the Apostle in Fr. Matthew’s home parish in Nyaragusu.  The road/driveway rose up a steep hill for a couple short blocks and dead-ended in front of the cathedral.  I was surprised that the road wasn’t in better condition.  On either side of the road we saw vendors selling sacramentals, Catholic books and Bibles, fabrics with religious designs, and other religious articles.  I was 8:45 a.m., but as we got out of the taxis, Fr. John said it sounded like Mass had already begun.  He went to check with someone standing outside the church and learned that the Mass had actually started at 8:30 a.m., and that we had been misinformed about the starting time of the Mass.  Fr. John told us that there was another Mass scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., and we all decided to wait for that Mass and spend the time beforehand sightseeing.


We didn’t get beyond the first few vendors selling Catholic articles on the sides of the road/driveway before we all stopped and started shopping.  Scott bought several rosaries to take home to his family for 2,000 shillings each, a total of about $5.50 U.S. for all of them.  I bought what I thought was a very nice one for Theresa for 5,000 shillings, or about $2.25 U.S.  Jill bought some fabric that she liked from another vendor.  Then we walked a few blocks to the secondary school (the equivalent of a high school in the U.S.) that Fr. John had attended in Mwanza, which is called “Pamba,” which means cotton in Swahili.  Fr. John gave us a tour of the school and told us about his school days there.  Then it was time for us to head back to the cathedral for Mass.


The 10:30 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral in Mwanza was celebrated very similarly to the way the Mass at the Cathedral in Geita was celebrated last week, except that unlike what happened in Geita last week, in Mwanza today:  (1) because the Mwanza Cathedral is smaller, the congregation was smaller; (2) the main celebrant of the Mass wasn’t the bishop of the diocese, but was a wonderful, enthusiastic, passionate, humorous, energetic and relatively young priest named Padre Ngasa (yes in Tanzania they call their priests “Padre”); (3) there weren’t several concelebrants but only one, our Padre Johnny (as he is called here in Tanzania); (4) there weren’t a bunch of E.M.s to be mandated; (5) there wasn’t a celebration of a sister’s 50th anniversary; and (6) there weren’t any dignitaries to be introduced to the congregation but only we poor missionaries from northern Colorado.  Yes, after a two-and-a-half-hour Mass with not one but two homilies by Padre Ngasa, one during the Liturgy of the Word and one following the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Padre Johnny, as he had done at the Mass last week in Geita, called the seven of us up to the front of the sanctuary, where we once again had to introduce ourselves and say a brief word to the congregation, which applauded each of us individually after we spoke.


A couple of the impressive sights we witnessed during the Mass were as follows:


  • The choir and organist were conducted by a very adept young man who couldn’t have been more than 10 years old. He clearly knew the music and the lyrics of the songs, which he sang along with the choir as he conducted it, knowing when to have the choir sing fortissimo and pianissimo, when to have the basses, baritones, tenors, altos and sopranos come in and drop out, etc.  And the singing of the choir was just as beautiful and moving as the singing of the choir in Geita was.  Once again I was weeping with joy at the beauty of the music and its spirituality.


  • One of the parishioners who was apparently paralyzed from the waist down but didn’t have a wheelchair, dragged himself up the main aisle to the collection basket twice, using his arms and hands as his legs and feet, dragging his limp legs out to his side as he moved forward. I was moved to tears again each time watching him.


After the dismissal, as we waited outside the cathedral for Padre Johnny to join us, many, many parishioners, a few of whom spoke English, came up to us to greet us, to welcome us and to shake our hands.  The people here just never cease to impress me with their warmth and friendliness.


After Mass, Fr. John led us on foot for several blocks through downtown Mwanza past an unending column of street vendors lining both sides of every street to a taxi stand, and we got a couple taxis to take us to a restaurant with which Fr. John is familiar, located next to the hotel where we had gone our first day in Mwanza (ten days ago).  It was a small open-air restaurant that Fr. John said had great fruit plates and good pizzas.  He knew what he was talking about.  We had three large pizzas and three large fruit plates with pineapple, bananas, watermelon, papaya and avocado, and everything was delicious.


After our late lunch a few of us, Fr. John and myself included, walked across the street to get some more cash at a couple ATMs, one of which was the same one I had used ten days ago to get my first Tanzanian cash.  Then we loaded into two more taxis and headed back to the Malaika Beach Resort Hotel.  We all decided that we’d do our own thing for the rest of the day and evening, with no group plans.  I went to my room to relax, but the housekeeper had turned off my air-conditioner earlier, and my room was once again too hot to stay in it until it cooled off.  I went down to the bar and restaurant, thinking I might find Scott there and have a Kilimanjaro with him, but I didn’t see him or anyone else from our group there.  So I walked around by the pool, where I saw several people sunbathing and playing in the pool, and then back up to my room.  Although my room was hot, there was a delightful breeze blowing outside, so I opened the sliding glass door to my balcony, closed the screen door to keep out any inquiring mosquitoes, and opened a large sideways-sliding window in my bathroom which had a screen outside the window.  That gave me a nice cross-ventilation through my room, and with the breeze blowing through the room it wasn’t miserably hot, although it was still pretty humid. Then I got out my computer and started journaling.  It was not quite 6:00 p.m.


I ended up spending the next five hours catching up on my journals and texting with Theresa.  At one point a housekeeper came in to spray for mosquitoes, noticed that I had my a/c on with my sliding glass door open, and closed not only my sliding door but also my drapes.  I told myself I’d open the drapes and maybe even the sliding door again after she left the room, but I never got up from my computer to do so.  At 11:00 p.m. I finally called it quits with the journaling, took a shower, organized my stuff in my bags for a quick check-out in the morning, set out my clothes for tomorrow, and was just about to get into bed, when I noticed a three-inch gash in the mosquito net over my bed.  I hadn’t seen any mosquitoes in my rooms here either when we first got to Mwanza at the start of the trip or since we had gotten here yesterday evening.  However, the fact that yesterday evening and again this evening a housekeeper had come into my room to spray for mosquitoes was enough to convince me that I needed to mend the net.  Robert Hawkins had suggested to me before I left that I carry a needle and thread for just such a reason, and I had those with me, so I sewed up the gash in the net, felt much better and crawled into bed, setting my alarm for 5:00 a.m.


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