9/9/2013 9:14:00 AM Parishioners trek to Africa to give and receive good will
Photos by Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss
Helping plant bananas in the Otaruni community land are Caroline Perrin, Mary Beth Younce and Robert Ilosvay.
In Otaruni, Tanzania, presenting the St. Pius Youth group photo to Fr. Materu, are: Robert Ilosvay, Fr. Peter Siamoo, Anthony Ilosvay Julie Rentz, Fr. Peter Materu and Mary Beth Younce.
Members of St. Pius X Parish from Portland, Oregon, heard this heartfelt welcome at every turn during their travel to Tanzania this summer. But we were especially welcomed at the small out station of Otaruni in the Moshi Diocese. We traveled with Father Peter Siamoo, who is serving in our parish and who was born and raised near Otaruni, in the Tanzanian Diocese of Moshi.
This is the second time our parishioners had gone to Otaruni. This year we saw and used the toilets and sinks at the church compound that our small donations last year had helped provide. In gratitude for our gift, Otaruni had sent Father Sean Weeks, pastor of St. Pius, a colorful vestment embroidered with the words,”St. Pius X pray for us.”
We presented Father Peter Materu, pastor at Otaruni, a thank you letter from Father Weeks.
This growing faith-filled relationship is inspiring and enriching in so many ways.
Our parish also sent us with t-shirts from a fund-raising campaign that said, "St. Pius X” and “Many Gifts, One Body in Christ.” The words perfectly expressed the connection we felt for the people of Otaruni. We freely distributed the shirts and wore them while we helped plant banana trees in the Otaruni community area.
Parishioners who were not able to travel with us participated by sending rosaries, toys, soccer balls, and medical supplies, and collecting used books for shipment to Tanzania. Many St. Pius school children sent drawing and letters. Tanzanian children responded by writing back to their new American friends. The St. Pius X youth group sent a framed group photo with greetings in Swahili.
We met many young people in the Otaruni school and church compound. One girl came to thank a St. Pius parishioner who helped with her school fees last year. Many other young people came this year hoping for help with school fees, also. Father Materu hopes to better educate the teachers at the vocational school.
The cost of this year’s travel included funds for community support to help Otaruni. Practical education of young women is a pressing need. Learning tailoring and knitting will give students a way to support themselves. Father Materu told us our donated funds this year would provide more sewing and embroidery machines, and a new knitting machine. This provides enough machines to begin a new class of about 30-40 girls who do not have a chance to attend high school. The donation was also enough to pay for two years of college education for one of their teachers. This will impact generations in the community.
Otaruni also hopes to add more classrooms, to provide a mill for corn, and eventually build a bigger church.
The Tanzania Travelers will tell the parish about their experiences at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, in the St. Pius X Community Center. Several in the group hope to return to Otaruni and Moshi in subsequent years. Some hope to attend the ordination of their sponsored seminarians, who may some day come to Oregon as Father Peter did.
We left feeling a strong connection between the people of Tanzania and Oregon, knowing that we are One Body in Christ. We were impressed with their joy, faith, and generosity. We listened to the Tanzanians and we learned from them. A teenager in our group noted that we were changed by our time in Tanzania. He said he learned from the Tanzanians that, “We don't need things to be happy.”