Pauline Celebrations

My young friend, Winnie (the daughter of one of our lay collaborators)

July 2008

It’s been two rather busy months since I got back to Nairobi! Apologies for the lack of personal emails but I hope this update of my life here plus some colourful, moving images and sound will make up for it. In case you’re wondering, the political situation here can be described as “relatively peaceful” compared to Zimbabwe but there are still subtle undercurrents while the two leaders try to adjust to a coalition government. Meanwhile thousands of displaced Kenyans from the unrest in January have made or are making their way back to the villages and towns they were forced to leave while at the same time also embarking on the more difficult journey towards healing and forgiveness. There are still sporadic tribal unrests in various parts of the country with the occasional reports of violence including the torching of properties. Here in Nairobi though, we are relatively safe but the Sisters caution against going out at night. At first I thought they were being kiasu (overly cautious) to the core but later I realized how prudent it is to be out of the streets (even in a car) at night – better safe than sorry.

So one night last month, when I was invited to my first Singaporean gathering, I was actually given a curfew to be back by 9pm!!! Fortunately the S’pore gang (a small group of about 4 couples and their children and a missionary) was most understanding and we started early at 6.30pm. It was a delight for me to discover that there are actually other Singaporeans living here in Nairobi (Father Vincent Lee is also here but his mission post is way out of Nairobi). Most of them are here because of their non-S’porean husbands – a Spannish conservationist, an American missionary and a Malaysian businessman. I look forward to meeting them again. (Thanks Y.Y. for hooking me up with them!)

Two Pakistani Junior Sisters, Fazilah and Sobia (above) have joined our community. (Juniors have not made their final profession yet but are in the post novitiate stage called temporary professed.) They will be studying here for two years. At present they are my badminton partners! That’s the main exercise I get to do here alternating with a little workout in my room and some yoga prayer.

Most of you who are living in the northern hemisphere are probably having hot weather now but Kenya is south of the equator and the months of July and August are the coldest – at night it gets as low as 15°C (60°F). (There isn’t any heating in the house so the loo seats are freezing in the mornings - gosh, I sure do miss those heated loo seats in our convents in Japan!)

Apostolate wise, we finally finished the video production of the Stations of the Cross – a 50 minute DVD. Or at least we thought we did. When the community previewed it, they voiced their concern that some images were too gory! I guess a bit of the spirit of Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ seeped into the production! We had put some real images of torture and manslaughter to show how Christ still suffers today in his mystical body of humanity but it didn’t go very well with the preview audience. So I have to tone down on the gory bits – the bloody images including a scene of an actual abortion. Not that I'm into gory stuff but I didn't want to produce a sanitized meditation on the devotion and wanted instead to bring home in a vivid way the real issues of the injustices and violence suffered by so many today. But I guess the images can be disturbing for some so I’ll have to do some re-editing…. The DVD will probably be available by next month in case any of you are interested. It’s in the African context but all the songs and reflections are in English. Here’s a sneak of the opening titles and the first station (let me know what you think of it):

While recording the a capella songs for this production in our make shift studio, one of the Juniors (they were the choir) took a clip of the session with me as the “sound engineer” etc.! Here’s a snippet:

Over here you have to be pakaliau! (= all in one = wear multi hats = jack of all trades!) It was also my first attempt video editing on my own (instead of just directing an editor) and it turned out to be a very good learning process and I’m glad for the experience.

June – the month of Paul is usually a month of professions and celebrations for us. This year the Kenya community was graced to have 3 young sisters professing their final vows. The community really worked hard for the celebration which took place last June 14. Apart from photography and video taping, I helped with the decorations with another sister. You might catch the result of our hard work in some of the clips below but here’s what we did for the chapel with the 3 “brides of Christ.”

Sisters Anne, Helen and Millicent made their final vows last June 14, 2008

The celebration (mass etc) in the church lasted 4 hours! (Double the length of mine back in 2003!) After the service, the reception lasted another 2 hours. Why so long? Well, the Africans are fond of dancing, and singing…..and more dancing and singing…. For your viewing pleasure, and to give you a taste of the sound, colour and more of celebrating African style, here are some clips:

At the Novices’ thanksgiving meal as the second year novices conclude their novitiate.

Reception after the final profession with a cute little boy really grooving (the sisters who made their profession are decked with tinsel!)

A smaller celebration in the convent in our community refectory - but a typical dance to bring in the cake!

At the Kikuyu (a major tribe) thanksgiving mass of one of the 3 sisters, Sr Anne, at her village parish which I was fortunate to attend

At Anne’s thanksgiving celebration, we were also given some fermented porridge (!?!) which is a must for any big celebration. (I must confess I only took a sip and gave the rest away to a bunch of kids!)

Here in Kenya, disposable plates and cutlery are quite rare (in many ways, they are extremely environmentally friendly) so since the adults used up all the plates at the reception, these children ate their lunch with their bare hands – and they seemed quite used to it.

The second year novices have left for their respective countries in Africa (and one to India) to make their first profession. Congratulations to these ten beautiful and generous young women who are embarking on the greatest adventure of their lives! Meanwhile the first year novices are now the second year novices and this month I also have to prepare classes for them on apostolic community – please pray I’ll teach them something useful for life!

The week after my last post saw natural disasters hitting two communist nations in Asia. First it was the catastrophic Cyclone Nargis that killed thousands of Burmese, then Sichuan province in China suffered a massive earthquake and millions have been left homeless while hundreds of thousands perished! Where is God in all this? – is the usual question atheists would start asking, and even believers. I won’t even attempt to give a clear answer except to say that in my experience and faith, I know that God is a loving, merciful God and even though he/she is all powerful and able to prevent disasters, at the same time there is something in nature that is ruthless and relentless. Only a forest fire is able to break open the acorns of pine trees, leading to a re-birth and regeneration of another forest of pine trees. Somehow nature has its ways of purging and renewing…. Is it all part of the great master plan? Perhaps. There is no chapter in the bible that best exemplifies the faith filled response to suffering than the Book of Job – “the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh, blessed be the Lord.” This also reminds me of Blessed Pier Giorgio’s line that for Christians who have the joy of Christ within them, suffering must not be equated with sadness. Not easy to live but I have witnessed people suffering from cancer and other illnesses yet remain cheerful and giving. Like Job, they are able to embrace their sufferings and misfortunes. I guess it’s ultimately what drives you – yourself and your own powers or something or rather someone more powerful within you… (sometime back I wrote an article called Where is God in all this tragedy? Or something to that effect – it's under the label Spirituality in this blog or you can also read the i-paper directly here:

Our next project at Paulines Audio Visuals is to come up with a CD of songs based on the letters of St Paul – 29 June 2008-2009 being the year of St Paul declared by our German Shepherd in Rome (sorry, couldn't resist that!). It’s the bi-millennium anniversary of the birth of St. Paul! So to end my posts from now on, I will leave you with some of my favourite passages from Paul: To start off, the hymn of Love from 1 Cor 13:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels,
but do not have love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers,
and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away all my possessions,
and if I hand over my body
so that I may boast,
but do not have love,
I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind;
love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice in wrongdoing,
but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
1 Cor 13:1-11

I pray that each of you grow in this love which Paul describes….and find faith, hope and joy in the process. Please whisper a prayer for me now and then too.


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