Called to Mission
Jesus calls us to go and make disciples of all the nations by sharing the Good News in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is missionary by its very essence.
Even when the numbers of his followers were very few, Francis of Assisi sent them out two by two to preach the Gospel. He himself went to the Middle East and met the Sultan, an encounter which has much to offer for a reflection on nonviolence . He was a man on fire with the desire to tell others of the love of God that Jesus has made know to us.
The Franciscan Brothers first went to Africa in 1936 when they opened missions in Nigeria and later in
Cameroon. Today they continue their presence in the African Continent with missions in Kenya and Uganda
The Brothers went to Kenya in 1976 to develop and manage Baraka Agricultural College, Molo, Rift Valley Province, on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru. Over the years they developed Baraka College into one of the primary institutions in East Africa for the promotion of sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD). Today the focus of the college’s six programmes is on rural communities of the Region.
In 1979 the Brothers established St. Joseph’s Junior Seminary in Molo and managed it until 1992 at which time they handed it over to the diocese of Nakuru. The Brothers also developed and manage one of the most successful day schools in Kenya – St. Francis Secondary School, Lare, Njoro District. Also in Lare Division they run a poly technical school and a rural development programme for the promotion of the integrated development of the Lare geographical community. In 2009 at Molo, the Brothers also started a Peace and Environment Centre for the promotion of peace and care for the environment.
A key part of the mission of the in East Africa over the years has been the formation of young African men as Franciscan Brothers. These men come mainly from Kenya and Uganda are now gradually taking over the work begun by the Irish Brothers in 1976.
ADARA (UGANDA) MISSION
The Franciscan Brothers officially opened their mission in Western Uganda in February 2012. With increasing numbers of African members, the Brothers felt the call to move further afield. From the discernment process gone through (which included visits to several diocese) it was clear from the great needs of the people of northern Uganda and the charism entrusted to us through our patrimony that God was calling on us to serve His people in this part of the world. As the only Franciscan Community in the north of the country we have the added responsibility of promoting the broader Franciscan Charism that has so much to offer humanity at this point in history. Our mission is in West Nile , the most westerly part of Uganda bordered on the west by the DRC and to the north is the recently formed country of South Sudan. Our new home is in the village of Adraa which has Nebbi town (pop 30,000) to the south and Arua (pop 60,000) to the north. The establishment of our mission in West Nile has been made possible with the support of the Bishop, priests, religious and people of Nebbi Diocese, as well as our many friends and partner agencies that support us.
Much of Northern Uganda is recovering from the ravages of civil war inflicted on the region since 1985. Combined with economic and political isolation this has resulted in high levels of rural poverty. Rural communities live in nuclear villages and land is held under customary ownership. Farms are fragmented and the emphasis is on growing food rather than seeing the farm as a business and a source of a sustainable livelihood. Some villages of a hundred plus households in our area don’t even have a pit latrine.
The Franciscan Brothers believe that sustainable agriculture is the most appropriate development strategy in response to the realities facing rural communities in Northern Uganda. As a concept, sustainable agriculture is a process, based on four pillars - economic, environmental, socio/cultural and political institutional. This concept, properly understood and implemented, will lead to the achievement of sustainable livelihoods of the farmers concerned and lay the foundation for sustainable rural development. Sustainable agriculture will be at the core of the Franciscan Brothers’ ministries in West Nile.
As is the case with everything we do in Africa, our work in Kenya and Uganda depends on the generosity of many agencies, and our good friends and local community groups that believe in and support what we do.
The United States
In the course of the nineteenth century, Brothers from the Irish communities established foundations in the United States, which became independent Institutes in their own right - in Brooklyn, New York ( www.Franciscanbrothers.org ) and in Loretto, Pensylvania. These continue to flourish.
A new venture to the United States began on July 31st, 1957 when three Franciscan Brothers left Cobh, Co. Cork for California. The invitation to go to the United States came from Cardinal James F. McIntyre of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who at that time was setting up schools throughout the diocese. The diocese today has about 50 secondary schools many of which were started in the 1950sand 1960s by Cardinal McIntyre.
St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs was the first mission of the Brothers in California and after 57 years they still have a presence in the school. The Brothers took up duty in St. Bonaventure High School, Ventura in 1966 and continued there until 2007. They were involved for a time in a number of secondary schools in Los Angeles Archdiocese over the past fifty plus years. As well as St. Paul and St. Bonaventure they ministered in Bishop Diego, St. Bernard, Santa Clara, Pius X, Bishop Montgomery and Chaminade High School where they still have a Brother on the staff.
From 1967 to 1999, Brothers had a community in the Bronx, New York. Members of that community taught in a Cardinal Hayes High School and in St. Philip Neri grade school as well as being involved in promotion work for the Congregation.
The Pioneers: Back: Bros. Nicholas Slattery RIP, Martin Murphy RIP, Kieran Sharkey RIP Front: Laurence Grimes and Paulinus Horkan
Br. Paulinus Horkan,
who was among the first group of Franciscan Brothers
to go to California in 1957,
returned to in Ireland in 2014.
He spent twenty- seven years at St. Bonaventure High School,
Ventura - most of that as Principal.
Lady with a Mission - Sarah Oates
This is an edited version of an article that appeared in the Irish Country Living Magazine of the Farmers Journal on October 12th, 2013.
Having reared three sons, Sarah Oates is used to being the only female in the house – though she never expected that she’d one day be in Uganda as a lay missionary with the Franciscan Brothers. It’s been a journey in every sense. Raised on a farm in Carlow, Sarah came into contact with the Franciscan Brothers after winning a scholarship to their Agricultural College in Mountbellew (Co. Galway) in 1980. There she met fellow student and future husband, Michael Oates from Galway. They married in 1982 and had three sons: David, now 29, Mike 27 and Stephen, 22. Sadly, Michael passed away in 1999. Sarah, who was running her own sewing business, closed it to stay at home with the boys for a year. She returned to work as a cleaner in the Mercy primary school in Tuam in 2001.
With further training, Sarah soon found herself taking on many new roles, including a part-time position as secretary in the local gaelscoil (Irish language-medium school) Iarfhlatha. However, it was while working as an administrator with Tuam community development resource centre that she had the life changing experience of participating on an exchange to Tanzania.
After visiting Swaziland with Skillshare the following year, Sarah became drawn to the idea of becoming a lay missionary, studying “Spiritual Direction” with An Croí in Drogheda, followed by training for mission with Viatores Christi.
“I had no idea where I would be going or what I would be doing,” said Sarah, “but I knew for sure this was where I was meant to be.”
As an active member of Mountbellew’s Past Pupils Union (PPU) Sarah had long been involved in fundraising for the Franciscan Brothers Mission in Kenya. With a new project planned for Uganda, Sarah contacted Br. Tony Dolan (former Mountbellew principal) and in September 2012 – with a leave of absence from her work – travelled to Africa to volunteer as an administrator in a new agricultural college just being established in Adraa. The PPU assisted Sarah with flights and insurance costs.
While the work is rewarding, Sarah admits there are challenges, such as the struggle to learn the language of the local Madi people. Phone and internet reception is also poor, so, although she manages occasional visits home, it is hard to keep in touch with loved ones.
“I’ve only managed to Skype twice,” says Sarah. “I know that I am missing out on a lot, especially watching my granddaughter Ava, who is now three, grow from a baby to a beautiful young lady.”
However, she feels her late husband is with her in a way that “cannot be explained in words”. And that whatever path has led her from the west of Ireland to the West Nile province is the one that she was meant to travel.
“When I meet some of the challenges that I don’t understand and can’t see a way around, I remind myself that I am here because God wills it,” she explains.
“I may never know why God wills it, but I accept that, for whatever reason this is where I am meant to be.”<