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Summer 2024 newsletter


Gabe Hurrish, South Sudan

South Sudan Sunday Mass with Baptism

Father Blessed Oyovwe baptizes children during Sunday Mass at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Riwoto, South Sudan.

So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (Rom 12:5).

At 4 a.m. the old, crusty rooster wakes me with his raucous bellowing. What he thinks he will accomplish at this hour is beyond me. I roll out of bed in my small single room that I call “home.”

Sometimes I feel that I don’t so much live in a parish as I live in an African village which happens to have a church in the middle. I am surrounded by noise in this remote mission. Workers to my west, primary boarders to my south, sisters to my east and a very noisy workshop and vehicle parking area to my north. I seldom experience quiet except at these early morning hours.

Mass is at 6 a.m. in St. Mary Magdalen Parish. As I prepare to walk over to the church, I can hear the 150 girls in the primary boarding area. They have an admirable way of going from deep sleep to full-speed life — shouting, calling and laughing the minute they awake. Children are not into quiet.

Mass is a lovely way to start the day. I greet the Ugandan Sisters of Mary Mother of the Church, the St. Patrick’s Missionaries from Nigeria, the seminarian from Kenya and the elder Toposa ladies who must have walked for an hour or more to get to church this morning.

I sit with the elders during service. They all acknowledge my presence as they enter and take their traditional seats. The mothers carry their newborn babies on their backs. Little bobbing heads gaze at me with wide eyes and wonder what is wrong with that guy? He is so white!

The priest residence is just across the driveway from my room. A place where I can get a cold glass of water or joke around with the young priests. The religious and lay missionaries will get together on Sunday afternoon for a community meal — a time for prayer, light conversation, laughter and sharing from the past week. I often sit next to Sister Mary because I like her gentle approach to life. She is strict in the school, but you would never know it hearing her soft voice and tender demeanor.

Gabe with two students

Gabe with two secondary students from St. Mary Magdalen Parish

Throughout the day I am greeted repeatedly as people pass by my veranda moving from who knows where to who knows where? I am rarely alone and often have to go to remote parts of the compound to find a bit of peace for my daily meditations. Even then everyone knows where the foreigner is. The community takes special interest in their international guest. Through God’s grace, I have learned to reciprocate.

I prepare meals on a small gas stove. I usually only eat beans and rice or noodles. If someone comes by, I share what little I have. I have given clothing items to those who are wearing rags. Children are forever at my gate asking for sweets. Workers are always borrowing my tools. Many Toposa elders come to ask for a cup of water or a small bite to eat. Hunger is endemic in South Sudan.

Lack of solitude has taken some time for me to adjust to. It is the African way of life to never be alone. I am included even as my culture struggles against the invasion of privacy. Yet I know that I am cared for. Sisters bring me little snacks. My neighbors share their chapatis (flat bread). My colleagues stop by for a chat. Students visit because they are bored. All in all, a simple life full of pleasure. I thank God for such experiences.

Please continue your wonderful prayers and support of my work and Maryknoll Lay Missioners. I have found MKLM to be a very responsible and dedicated group of men and women working in forgotten corners all over the world. Maryknoll Lay Missioners is a good investment in the Kingdom of God. Praise the Lord.

With prayers,

Please consider supporting my mission work at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Riwoto, South Sudan, with a donation via the button below. 

If you are able, I invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 

Gabe Hurrish
Gabe Hurrish works in parish ministry at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Riwoto in the South Sudanese state of Eastern Equatoria. He has served as a Maryknoll lay missioner in South Sudan since 2018.