A worker in the Lord's vineyard
ST GEORGE’S Parish in Masumba, in the east of Zambia was created by His Lordship George Lungu in 2016. It was part of St Mary´s Parish in Chikowa. I came to this parish in May of 2016 and shortly afterwards in the August of that same year, we began to function as a parish. Of course, mentoring the Catholic community to accept and take ownership of the new parish reality comes with its own benefits, demands, challenges and joys.
Masumba was created as a sub-parish in order to cut down on the long distances people were forced to cover to reach the parish centre in Chikowa. It was also hoped that pastoral care would be brought closer to the people as a result of having a priest in their midst and, indeed, people are now able to access that much-needed pastoral care almost on a daily basis. Sacraments are now very close to the people and available regularly. To do that still sometimes proves challenging! On one occasion, I had to cross a small river (above)—with no other option than to physically enter the water—to administer the sacrament to St Joseph's Christian Community.
With a new parish comes fresh responsibility. Having a priest closer to the people unavoidably entails the responsibility of taking care of the priest himself. At present, the new parish doesn’t have basic infrastructure like the priests' rectory, so I have to reside in rented accommodation some 13 miles away from the parish itself. The parish community have tried their level best to construct the priest's residence using local resources and have made an impressive start (above). However, they have been unable to complete due to a lack of resources and materials.
Masumba parish is also situated in the game management area of the South Luangwa National Park. It is in the Luangwa Valley too and being in a valley, our area is prone to natural calamities like floods and droughts. In 2018, we had a partial drought and this year we are afraid that we might have floods. There is often animal-human conflict, most roads are usually impassable during the rainy season and only stronger vehicles like land cruisers are able to withstand our terrain. At present, we don’t own that kind of vehicle and currently depend on a motorbike, bicycles and occasionally a hired land cruiser (above) to reach our parishioners.
If we were able to finish the priest’s residence, we would be able to cut down on the costs spent on rentals and the fuel used to reach the office, but also just having somewhere where the priest can comfortably rest after a day of parish work would allow him to be rejuvenated for the continued apostolate.
Isaiah 52:7 says: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing Good News, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, Your God is King.”
Everywhere I go for in my pastoral work, I find people eagerly awaiting my arrival (above). This is what drives me to tackle seeming obstacles such as flooded rivers to go and meet the people, because I know that my efforts are never in vain. Doing it brings satisfaction to my heart just as someone once said: “The thought of what I have done will be like sweet music to me at midnight. The omission of it would have caused discord in my conscience…” This is what drives me and gives me joy after all is said and done.