question arises of why Maryknoll is here in Mtoni Parish, this heavily Moslem,
working-class neighborhood of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Given Maryknoll’s
priorities of urban ministry, youth and AIDS, this seemed a place we should be.
The fact that it’s one of the three places [the now] Cardinal Polycarp Pengo
asked us to consider was an added plus. The question of what we are doing and
should be doing needs to be addressed as well.
we’re doing is easy enough to answer in a word — we’re helping Dar es Salaam
Archdiocese to start and staff a new parish. That, in and of itself, is
certainly a missionary enterprise. In fact, at times I feel more actively
involved in mission here than I have in some of the other places I’ve worked in
Dar. Yet, what I’ve had to question myself on is the fact that I seem to feel
most "missionary" when I’m doing things, such as anointing and bringing Holy
Communion to the sick of our parish or working with VIWAWA (Catholic Women’s
Organization), that aren’t essentially missionary endeavors. I’ve become
increasingly convinced that the missionary outlook we bring, more than the
specific works we’re involved in, is what justifies our presence in Mtoni. This
perspective both informs our work and leads us to enter into new ministries
within the parish structure.
example, Mtoni is roughly 80 to 85 per cent Moslem. Obviously, interreligious
dialogue is one of the things we should be doing. While I don’t have the
experience or the skills to do that on more than a personal basis of offering
friendship, Tom Tiscornia, who arrived in September 1995, does. Upon arriving
in Mtoni, Tom immediately began contacting some of the local Moslem leaders,
using Arabic with the young people he finds reading the Koran, etc. This, of
course, will be a long-term project, but it has begun.
has a school for mentally handicapped children as well as a school for the
deaf. These offer possibilities for future ministry as well, not just on our
part, but involving the local parish community as well.
Snyder will arrive in Mtoni in late November bringing his own gifts and insights
to the parish. Some might feel that three Maryknoll priests in one parish is
overkill. However, I don’t agree. Our purpose here is not simply to start a
parish. As I see it, one of our major goals is to help the parish understand
its own missionary side. This will take time, and it will take using our
various talents. The Christians are very excited about the transition from
being an outstation of Chang’ombe to becoming a parish in its own right. That
excitement is contagious and is one of the things that makes being here so
enjoyable. However, it also means that the orientation is understandably more
inward that outward looking.
There is a lot to
do. Yet there is good reason for hope. There are good people here. When Tom
and I go off to visit the sick, we never go alone; there is a small group of
Christians who accompany us. Some of the Small Christian Communities have taken
collections of food for the poor. In a number of ways, committed Christians
here reach out to others. To encourage the growth of that spirit and help
develop a parish structure is the challenge and the hope.