Today being the feast of the founder of the Salesian order, and the Salesians running St. Joseph parish, we celebrated at mass.
To facilitate everyone taking part, they scheduled one mass. To facilitate our getting there and out of the parking lot in one piece, we walked. The kids did a great job walking there, and the older two walked back as well without complaining. The twins needed carried home, but that’s not too surprising.
The chief celebrant was the Bishop of Gbarnga Diocese. He gave a good homily about how he knew Don Bosco, both through books and personal experience. After giving a summary of the saint’s life, he talked about how Don Bosco helped him through seminary, how they had a personal relationship, and how they still communicate today by e-mail. He was, of course, referring to two Salesian priests who he knew very well and in whom he saw the embodiment of the Salesian charism. The bishop also talked about the lessons of Don Bosco for us, today, and challenged us to treat children the way that the saint did. I was impressed that the bishop actually called out harmful (but customary in Liberia) practices, such as “fostering.” Often, poor, rural families will send their children to be “fostered” by a distant relative, or just a rich acquaintance, in Monrovia with the expectation that the child will be treated well and get an education. More often, the rural child becomes free labor for the family (without getting an education), while the rest of the family, including the natural born children, live a life of relative ease. So, a pretty good homily, definitely one tied to the local context.
With the one mass scheduled, I should have seen the fundraising pitch coming. Oops. Only this time it was multiple pitches. I do get tired of them putting additional songs, children’s performances, and appeals for funds after communion, but before the post-communion prayer.
We’re working to finish the new building, as well as landscaping the outside. As part of finishing the interior, they’ve contracted with a glass company in India for a stunning mosaic on the back wall of the sanctuary, as well as stained glass windows. The mosaic is reminiscent of the one at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Monrovia (sorry, that probably doesn’t help much), or of various “Christ in Majesty” or Christ Pantocrator mosaics. The stained glass will be various sacramental images, as well as sixteen (!) Stations of the Cross. They decided to add one at the beginning, Peter betrays Jesus, as well as a station for the Resurrection at the end. Unfortunately, I believe the Vatican has said that adding the Resurrection as a station is not actually in keeping with the prayer. I wonder what it does for the possibility of obtaining an indulgence. In any case, they made a couple of pitches for funds, and sort of did an altar call for people to pledge funds and/or organizations and families to fund one of the Stations. Sigh. This part seemed to take longer than mass itself. Again, I do wish they wouldn’t do this before the final blessing. You feel like a hostage at times.
God does have a sense of humor, though. Every time my wife and I have thought about making a donation to the building project, but weren’t sure how or for what, they have done a fundraising push like this. Lights, pews, a parish vehicle, and so on. This time, we were going back and forth between just procuring Stations on our own to donate, or seeing about having a confessional constructed, or at least a confessional screen. Since it seems that all the Stations have been spoken for, we have our answer.
Now we just have to find a carpenter, and a few pictures of old-fashioned confessionals for the carpenter to follow.