BISHOP MAZZOLARI / “A Minister of God in Sudan: a gigantic experience”
Monsignor Cesere Mazzolari celebrating mass
A meeting with Msgr. Cesare Mazzolari, bishop of Rumbeck, South Sudan, who died while celebrating his daily mass on Saturday 16 July, on South Sudan and his work there.
To point the way to Loreto School, situated six kilometers from the city centre of Rumbek, city of 300 thousand inhabitants in South Sudan (officially ‘only’ 60 thousand, but displaced persons have swollen this community with their shacks), a white stone has been placed by way of a roadsign, a signpost for anyone following the great colonial road that leads to the city of Wau: “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone”. This remark is made only half in jest by Monsignor Cesare Mazzolari, Bishop of the diocese of Rumbek, a missionary for 30 years in these lands of distant Africa, destination of the great apostle Daniele Comboni.
To visit this girls’ school, the only one of its kind in all of the emergent state of South Sudan, means to touch with one’s own hands the ‘revolutionary’ force of education. The rejected stone, in this instance, refers to the girls of the Dinka, the chief of the Nilotic (i. e. Negroid) tribes of these plains. After all, it is the women who have to shoulder the burden of the greater part of the labour, whether at home or outside it: the education of the children, domestic chores, a job outside. To give an example: going to get water, in these latitudes, is far from being a trifle – for it requires a journey of many kilometers on foot every morning and every evening. Here at Loreto School, however, the girls receive something different: they go to school, they are educated and they prepare to become leaders in their society. They have the enjoyment of a small well-maintained Eden. “Ah, you can always see the hand of the Sisters,” exclaims Bishop Mazzolari, who hails from Brescia, though his vocation came to him in America (he studied and worked in California) and he is Sudanese by adoption. “Look at the flowers and the plants: everything here is so beautiful!”. And in fact the interior of the building looks as though it has been architect-designed, considering the modernity and good taste shown in the ordering of the rooms. Right now the 54 girls at this secondary school are preparing for their end of year exams. The teachers – all from abroad, Uganda and Kenya, which tells us a lot about the backward situation of Sudan, the 150th poorest country in the world – are testing them in English, science, geography, and history.
Loreto School is indeed a one-off in the whole of Sudan, a country that was previously the largest in Africa, dismembered by the historic referendum which on 9 January this year sanctioned the independence of the South after 23 years of extremely bloody civil war. […]