Friday, January 12, 2024
Young people from South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Rumbek are walking from Rumbek to Tonj, some 125 kilometers, in a seven-day pilgrimage they started on Sunday, January 7 to sensitize communities in the East-Central African nation on the need for peace. [
In the picture: Bishop Christian Carlassare and the youths of Rumbek on their peace pilgrimage to Tonj. Credit: Good News Radio/Rumbek Diocese. Text: Agnes Aineah – ACI Africa]

Drawn from the 17 Catholic Parishes of the South Sudanese Diocese, the 96 youths who are joined by some Priests as well as women and men Religious serving in the Diocese have been doing five-hour morning walks and spending the afternoon hours taking part in the activities of the communities where they are welcomed.

Their aim is to demonstrate to members of the local communities along the way, and where they are hosted the importance of living in communion with each other, the Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese, Bishop Christian Carlassare, has told ACI Africa. Bishop Carlassare spoke to ACI Africa on Tuesday, January 9, the third day of the peace pilgrimage. The pilgrims had already been to at least four Parishes, attracting more participation in the pilgrimage along the way.

Credit: Bishop Christian Carlassare.

They started by marching along the streets of Rumbek in South Sudan’s Lakes State, passing through the four parishes within Rumbek township, and ending up at Loreto Rumbek Primary and secondary school, where they spent their first night. From Loreto, they headed to Abiriu, a locality some 30 kilometers from Rumbek where the young people had “a wonderful ecumenical experience,” Bishop Carlassare said.

“A protestant Church in Abiriu welcomed us in their midst,” he recalled the Monday, January 8 experience. He added referencing Mazzolari Teacher Training Institute at Cueibet under the leadership of members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), “Now, we are at a teacher training college that is operated by the Jesuits.”

“We will go to many other parishes and hope to visit many chapels and communities,” the Italian-born member of Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ), who has been at the helm of Rumbek Diocese since his Episcopal Consecration on 25 March 2022 further said. He continued, “The response has been very encouraging. In total, we are about 100 people on the move. We are however joined spiritually by everyone in our Diocese and in communities where we are welcomed along our journey.”

Bishop Christian Carlassare. Credit: Good News Radio/Rumbek Diocese

Bishop Carlassare said that the intention of the peace pilgrimage has been to bring together youths from different Parishes and institutions of the Diocese of Rumbek to have an experience of journeying together, to know each other, and to make communion with each other. Organized under the theme, “Be Seeds of Hope”, the pilgrimage is guided by the message that Pope Francis delivered on his peace pilgrimage to South Sudan in February 2023.

On January 9, the pilgrims meditated on two key words related the theme of the day, “To Journey”, namely, “Memory and Commitment: to remember the footsteps of those who have gone before us with a good example in order to achieve the common goal of communion” and “to commit ourselves towards unity and love”, one of the pilgrims posted on the WhatsApp wall of Rumbek Diocese. 

The pilgrim continued, “By preaching the Gospel of Christ to reach out to our family members and brothers and sisters and doing the work of Charity and to be compassionate to one another by accepting the suffering of each one of us for the glory of God and to bear witness to Jesus Christ.”

In the January 9 interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Carlassare said, “Our theme comes from the call of Pope Francis last year for us, to be ‘seeds of hope.’”

He added that the pilgrimage was inspired by the Holy Father who referred to himself as a ‘Pilgrim of peace’ when he visited South Sudan. “We are having a pilgrimage that is an experience of prayer, a feeling of being in touch with God and with one another and understanding the call we have received,” Bishop Carlassare said, adding, “The second word is ‘walking’, involving movement where we have to be active in the peace that we so desire. The last word is to journey and that means not being stuck in our own places.”

The Catholic Church leader, who started his Priestly ministry in South Sudan in the Catholic Diocese of Malakal in 2005 told ACI Africa further said, “We feel that we are called to be pilgrims along with Pope Francis.”

“We have to continue the journey every year. Our youth are coming together to pray and to share the hope for us. The hope for peace where the youth are no longer manipulated by those in power. We don’t want to see youths marching on the streets with guns ready for violence. We want to see the youths that are able to change the course of history,” Bishop Carlassare told ACI Africa on January 9, the day the pilgrims walked 25kilometres, from Abiriu to Cueibet.

On Wednesday, January 10, the fourth day of the weeklong pilgrimage, the pilgrims embarked on a 21-km walk from Cueibet to Angrial. “We are still contemplating on Pope Francis’ message to be Seeds of Hope that in a future will produce a fruit,” one of the pilgrims shared on the WhatsApp wall of the Diocese.

Ahead of the pilgrimage, on January 7, the Feast of Epiphany, Bishop Carlassare shared this poem and reflection, which concluded with his pilgrimage prayer:

Why are you so confused, Herod?
Why do you fear the Lord who comes?
He does not pull down any human kingdom.
He who opens the door to the kingdom of God.
Like this you may end up buried under your palace
Whereas the wise Kings left their palaces of old
For something better than myrrh, frankincense and gold.
They did not set foot on a journey because of the star.
But they saw the star because they began to walk
a lifelong pilgrimage alongside all kind of people
Always ready to welcome dreams of fraternal love
Always ready to open new paths of hope
To find the Lord of Life in every poor shack
Of every new Bethlehem.

May the youth of Rumbek have a blessed and fruitful peace pilgrimage as it begins today and takes them to meet several communities till they reach Tonj on Sunday, (January) 14.

[Agnes Aineah – ACI Africa]