Letters from Africa – March 2015

Dear Friends of Africa,                                                      March, 2015

Last month the Headmistress of Mazinde Juu had the sad duty of attending the funeral of the father of one of our third year students, Elizabeth by name. During a private moment in the evening of the burial, Elizabeth pointed out to Sister Evetha the high wall around the courtyard of the house, topped with shards of broken glass. She then said “See how much our father loved us, me and my two sisters? Who will protect us now that he is gone?” She was referring to the fact that she and her two sisters are all albinos and savage attacks upon on sufferers of albinism in Tanzania today continues unabated. Outright kidnapping and maiming especially of children for arms or legs as well as other body parts are common gruesome newspaper stories. Some very thought provoking editorials delve deeply into the barbaric practice and seriously probe the deplorable superstition founded on gross ignorance. Superstition is still doing well and thriving at all levels of our society. And now with the national elections approaching, there are open allusions that the political hopefuls are leaving no stone unturned to secure a successful election. The belief is widespread that witch crafting using  the skin or body parts of albinos is one of the most powerful and efficacious  means of securing a successful outcome of any grand human illusion whether it be finding gold, winning an election, or landing a big job. The sky is the limit.

The President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, recently met with the leaders of the International Association of people with albinism and pledged full support in eradicating the evil practice which is rife in our country and during the very last days of the meetings a 6 year old boy had his arm severed by the devilish dealers in body parts. The dichotomy between public policy and actual practice could not have been more dramatically brought out. Cries of the national shame and the blemished image of our country also fill lengthy columns in the national daily news reportage. However the common belief that politicians will exploit every avenue to secure elections tarnishes every campaign speech and promise.

During the last Presidential election which coincides with the parliamentary election as well, I was approached by one of the hopefuls for a post in parliament. He had a promotional T-shirt with his image and logo colorfully portrayed on the front and asked me confidentially whether I would wear it during the 12 hours of Election Day. I thought at first that he meant it as a joke but he was serious.

 With regard to the baleful record of human suffering brought about by such superstitious practices, I recall a long conversation I had with a well educated and highly regarded Tanzanian on this very topic. He was a devout Catholic and spent many years with the International Refugee Services as an administrator. At the time I was the priest appointed to a Refugee Camp in the South of Tanzania during the war for Independence in Mozambique. My friend, Cassian by name, had invited me to his home for supper and we continued our discussion after our meal. This was some 45 years ago and even then secondary education was a very special prize to have achieved. Cassian‘s book shelf was well stocked with Swahili and English titles. On my departure he handed me a rather thick green bound volume entitled in gold lettering “750 Irish Superstitions”. He told me to be sure to return the book as soon as I finished with it.

Now having come this far in my revelations about witchcraft and superstition I must make a confession of having indulged in it myself. The occasion was a robbery at our school, a minor seminary for boys in the South of Tanganyika as it was known then. During a Sunday night movie entertainment for the boys, my room was broken into and my clothes closet forced open. Oddly enough the only item taken was a steel ammunition box containing cartridges for my 30.06 rifle. The rifle came in handy to frighten off the stray lions and hyenas which frequented our school compound at night and also more to the delight of the boys to fetch an antelope or wild pig from time to time adding a bit of bush soup for the table. I was relieved that the rifle had been left for had it been taken I would have been in serious trouble with the police who were very strict on the regulations concerning the safe keeping of firearms. I suspected that the thieves were only interested in money and mistook the heavy steel box for a small safe.

However this was still a loss for us and furthermore the fatal shooting of a local shopkeeper added to my uneasiness. The police were making a village by village search of every dwelling and persons owning firearms were to make a full accounting of weapons and ammunition in their possession. Here I am now the owner of a rifle without a bullet to go with it. Records were also kept of the purchase and use of ammunition and these were also scrutinized by the police during the yearly inspection and licensing of guns and ammunition.

I had a bit of authority as prefect of the school at the time and told the boys that instead of sports that afternoon they should all make a search in and about the property and a reward of 50 cents would be given for every bullet recovered. Monday and Tuesday passed without the recovery of a single bullet. The police were approaching our village and would be demanding an accounting from me within the next 24 hours.

That Tuesday night at supper over my tea I had a brainstorm. I took my used tea bag in a bit of newspaper and back in my room I arranged a little framework of bamboo around the broken window and then suspended the tea bag in the center of my construction. The pathway behind our building was a thoroughfare to and from all our local villages. The next morning one of the students came to my office and told me that he had seen the metal box. He took me to the back of our building and there neatly covered with fresh grass was the green US army ammunition box with every bullet, 52 of them, accounted for. But not only was the use of black magic effective in recovering the lost items but the security of our school boundaries was now assured. The trespassing on the school property as a shortcut stopped abruptly as of that day.

To tell the truth I felt guilty in pandering to the local fears of witchcraft. I confided in a fellow priest, an African father, and he told me the end in this case justified the means. He also told me that the general belief of all the local people was that we whites had just as many spells and antidotes to them as the Africans. The problem for them he said that the Africans could not really tell what antidotes an African could use against white witchcraft.

While on the subject of white witchcraft, I recall a lion hunting expedition I was called to join to drive out a pride of four lions who had taken over the village springs. It was a first encounter with lions for me and one which I only reluctantly participated in. Frankly I was a bit scared and being the only participant with a gun, my position in the drive was to be point man backed up by villagers with spearmen and others with bows and arrows. Even the primary schoolboys absconded from school to take part in the hunt. We did manage to kill two of the lions. Two ancient tribesmen put one lion out of the game with their homemade bows and arrows and I managed to dispatch a second. The two remaining lions seemed to have disappeared or so we believed. But the point of this narration is the witchcraft element. After I had gone back to the mission the men who had taken part in the lion episode all came to the mission. To tell the truth I was calming my shattered nerves with a double shot of Gorden’s Gin when they arrived. I could not believe that I had just been a matter of three feet from an enraged lion bent on my demise and my defense was not at all great hunter’s skill or cunning but just putting my rifle in the lion’s mouth and letting go. When I answered the knock on my door, it was a rag tag assortment of warriors of sorts with a varied collection of knives, spears and clubs. When I asked what I could do for them they said they wanted ‘’dada’ from me, meaning medicine. The medicine needed was to ward off any evil that the dead lions might wreak upon us. It was their firm belief that being the cause of death, even an accidental one, to any of five animals namely, a lion, a leopard, a hyena, a kudu, (a very regal antelope) or a human being, required a very special ‘dawa’ to neutralize the evil spell attached to the death of any of the above. I looked back at the half empty glass of Gorden’s and knew that it would hardly suffice for that crowd. But it dawned upon me that it being Ash Wednesday and “Remember man that thou art dust”, that surely the holy ashes could also suffice for warding off the deadly curses. So I led the whole troop into our makeshift chapel where all dipped their fingers into the bowl of ashes, swallowed some and rubbed the ashes on their faces and then took big swigs of holy water which was always on hand in a great earthen pot in the sanctuary. We all rested peaceful that night. However it was well that the villagers all stayed securely inside that night for the two remaining lions who escaped the daytime drive paid a visit to every house where there was a bush knife or spear that had been bloodied in the killing of the two lions that day. Fortunately there were only claw marks on the earthen walls and veranda floors and sometime a bit of damage to the bamboo doors to let the occupants of that house know that they were on a watch list. You can take it or leave it, but I was there and am happy to be still around to tell the tale.

I am writing this letter tonight on the 26th of March, bathed in the comforting glow of our energy saver bulbs powered by 4 hundred watt solar panels on the roof of the building. It has been my dream of using as much of the friendly African sun to help us illuminate our school in the night time hours. This was part of our appeal last year and we are now on the way to the reality of the dream. We have always had solar of a very minor sort to light stairways and critical areas during black outs on the national grid. These are becoming more and more frequent and fueling a generator is almost as expensive as the national electric power supply. So in January we started in earnest in implementing the solar electrification of our major buildings. The present classroom building contains four large study halls with 65 students in each hall. Along with labor this investment comes to about four thousand dollars.  If this trial period is successful then I’ll continue to solar power all our study halls and eventually the entire school complex. With our electricity bill running to three thousand dollars a month our investment should be repaid easily in a year or two.

Along with the sun powered lighting we are also going to fully supply our kitchen with biogas. Our pilot project has functioned beyond our expectation for over a year so the time is right for us to gas power all seven of our 40 gallon kettle stoves. We are talking of keeping seven hundred and thirty teenagers from the brink of hunger. Our consumption of firewood keeps 3 men fully employed to keep these fires burning. Although wood is a renewable energy source, I’d rather see our forests return to their original species which blanketed our hills for eons. This year we have planted 1400 indigenous species of trees and some wag commented that who would be around in 150 years when they matured. I replied that we all could look down from heaven to see the Usambara Mountains again adorned in their original arboreal splendors.

I so well recall my first association with the scattered Christian communities here, especially the sick calls, bringing the sacraments to the sick and the elderly. One venerable old woman would delight me with her stories of escapades herding her father’s two cows and six goats. She had vivid stories of driving off elephants and buffalo, pelting them with stones when they got curiously close to her precious live stock. What a sight that would have been with an eight year old girl driving off five ton elephants and two ton buffalo with shouts and pebbles. Now, the only wild animals to be seen are the occasional Blue or Colubus monkeys who help themselves in the patches of sweet corn which is equally desirable to the rapid expanding human population.

In my former letter I described the ordeal of a new mother called Ester, who had worked for us in the Kindergarten of our parochial school for a number of years before getting married and moving off to Arusha with her new husband. Ester had skirted death by just a matter of hours, snatched as it were from eternity by the gifted healing hands of our devoted Sister Avelina who does part time duty in the government hospital in the town of Korogwe about a two hour drive from here. Sister Avelina also by the way had spent a couple of years with us as a student teacher when we first opened Mazinde Juu back in 1989. As I was giving the anointing of the sick to poor Ester, she uttered a lament from a breaking heart saying “Why O Lord did you give me my son Michael and then taking me away from him? Who will care for him now?” Obviously that prayer was being answered as she prayed it and within hours the deft doctor’s touch brought Ester out of a crisis of acute sepsis, back to the land of the living and just as important to both of them the maternal care of Michael. My sincere thanks for your loyal support of the future mothers of Tanzania.


2015easter01                      ESTER & MICHAEL TODAY





Father Damian Milliken

Newsletter – Easter 2015

Easter 2015

Happy Easter!

“Yes, Christ my hope is arisen…. Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have Mercy, Victor King, ever reigning.” (Easter Sequence)


Dear friends of St. Paul’s Abbey,

Happy Easter! May the risen Lord give you and your loved ones His abundant grace, peace and happiness. We pray that you have a glorious and blessed Easter season.

Brief Monastery News

On January 1, we started the year of the sheep with a New Year’s Greeting after Morning Prayer. We greeted one another with faith, hope and love in Jesus, giving thanks for God’s great love and grace.

Renovation: The renovation of our retreat house and the installation of fire alarms and smoke detectors in the entire monastery building have almost been finished. We opened the retreat house on April 2 for the Easter Triduum Retreat. Around 6 retreatants and several guests attended the Easter Triduum Liturgies. We are still waiting to change from our old boiler to a high efficiency natural gas boiler and to replace some of the windows to prevent heat loss.  We expect that the construction will start this spring after the snow melts and ground the thaws.

Visitors: We always welcome guests and visitors to our community. On January 10, Srs. Lumen Gloria and Caritad Choi and Philipa of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing visited us and had lunch with us. Srs. Lumen Gloria and Caritad Choi are Congregation Council members of the Tutzing Sisters. While they visited their sisters at the Korean community in Demarest, NJ, they came here to meet us. On Sunday, Jan. 11, the Right Reverend Yu Soo-il Francis Xavier, the bishop of Military Ordinariate in Korea, visited us and stayed with us until the next day. Fr. Francisco Lee, who came here on November 11, 2014 during his sabbatical year, returned to Korea on February 4. While he was here, he gave us our Annual Retreat for 2014 and influenced us with many good examples. On Sunday, March 8, Fr. Stephano Sang-Jin Kim, who work in China as a Benedictine missionary, and his brother Alex visited us and celebrated mass with us. They left after lunch. On March 11, there was a special event in our community. Two family members of Sewol ferry victims from Korea visited us and attended mass with us at 11:30am. Around 25 Koreans and 10 Americans also attended the mass. We consoled them and prayed for God’s merciful love and help. After the mass, we had lunch with guests in the retreat house dining room. In the Sewol ferry disaster, around 293 people mainly high school students, lost their lives; 9 people are still missing.

Our Brothers: As usual, we were invited by the Benedictine community of St. Walburga Convent to join their Vespers and dinner to celebrate the Feast of St. Scholastica on Feb. 10. Abbot Joel and Br. Luke attended the celebration and had a joyful time with the sisters and other monastic guests. The next day, Abbot Joel went to Germany to work on behalf of the Congregation at St. Ottilien at the request of the Abbot President. He returned home on March 7. We were also invited by Bishop Serratelli of Paterson Diocese to join him for Midday Prayer and a reception to celebrate World Day for Consecrated Life at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Clifton, NJ on Feb. 15. Br. Luke, Br. Matthias and Br. Barnabas joined the event.

As a prior of our community, I attended the American Abbots and Priors’ workshop at St. Bernardo Abbey in Cullman, AL from Feb. 2 to 9. On March 13, I went to the Korean community in Memphis, TN to give some lenten lectures and hear confessions until March 17. I was so impressed by their good faith and piety. Fr. Matthew also went to the Korean community in Cleveland, OH to celebrate Sunday mass and hear confessions from March 14 to 16.

Fr. Bede, who was the first confrere to take vows at Newton after the Korean brothers came here, was assigned to Waegwan Abbey in Korea on March 13. Now he serves ill brothers in the infirmary.

Dear friends of St. Paul’s Abbey, we really appreciate your prayer and help for our monastic life. We will keep trying to prosper and firmly plant the Benedictine monastic way of life in this ground.  We also humbly ask you to keep helping us with prayer and generosity. We will pray for your help and kindness so that Jesus Christ will repay your good deeds with abundant gifts and grace, especially Easter grace. May the Risen Lord’s peace and happiness always be with you.

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Fr. Samuel Kim, O.S.B., Prior
and the monks of St. Paul’s Abbey

수도원 편지 – 2015 부활절

2015 부활

Happy Easter !!!

알렐루야! 우리 구세주 예수 그리스도께서 죽음에서 참으로 부활하셨습니다!  부활의 이 벅찬 기쁨과 영광이 뉴튼 수도원을 아껴주시는 모든 분들께 충만하시길 바라며 기도합니다.

2015년 양의 해를 맞이한 우리 형제들은 올 한해 주님의 말씀과 사랑을 충실히 따르고 증거하는 착하고 믿음직한 양들로써 살아가기를 다짐하며 새해를 시작하였습니다.

피정집 공사: 지난해 11월 초부터 시작된 피정집 공사와 수도원 건물 소방 안전 설치는 거의 끝나고 마무리 단계에 있습니다. 그래서 4월 2일부터 시작되는 성삼일 전례피정부터 피정집을 사용하기 시작하였습니다. 그러나 보일러와 유리창 교체는 아직 준비 중에 있으며 얼었던 땅과 눈이 녹으면 작업에 들어가리라 예상하고 있습니다.

손님: 우리 성 베네딕도회 오틸리엔 연합회 창립자인 안드레아 암라인 신부님이 함께 창립한 툿징 포교 베네딕도회 Lumen Gloria, 최 카리타드 그리고 데마레스트 수녀원의 김 필립바 수녀님들이 1월 10일에 수도원을 방문하여 점심식사를 함께 하며 환담을 나누고 돌아갔습니다. Lumen Gloria 수녀님과 최 카리타드 수녀님은 연합회 참사회원들로써 미국에 있는 수녀원들 시찰 왔다가 방문하였던 것입니다. 1월 11일에는 군종 주교이신 유 수일 프란치스코 하비에르 주교님이 수도원을 방문하여 하루를 함께 지내고 돌아가셨는데, 주교님은 2011년에 이어 두 번째로 방문해 주셨습니다. 작년 11월 11일에 뉴튼에 와서 함께 지내던 요셉 수도원의 이 수철 프란치스코 신부님이 2월 4일에 한국으로 돌아갔습니다. 이곳에 지내면서 우리 형제들에게 좋은 말씀과 수도생활의 모범을 보여 주었을 뿐 아니라 인근 한인 신자들에게도 도움을 주신 신부님께 다시 한번 감사드립니다. 중국에서 선교활동 하시는 김 상진 스테파노 신부님이 3월 8일에 수도원을 방문하였는데, 일흔이 넘은 연세에도 불구하고 선교에 대한 왕성한 열정을 엿 볼 수 있어서 이곳에 선교사로 온 우리들의 삶을 되돌아 볼 수 있게 하였습니다.  3월 11일에는 우리 공동체에 특별한 행사가 있었습니다. 지난해 4월 16일에 일어났던 세월호 참사 유가족들 중에 단원고 학생 2명의 어머니들이 수도원을 방문하였습니다. 그분들과 함께 약 25명의 한인들과 미국인 10여명이 우리 형제들과 함께 미사에 참석하고 점심을 나누었습니다. 주님께서 그들의 아픔을 어루만져 주시고 눈물을 닦아 주시어 하루빨리 그들의 고통이 치유되고 또한 주님의 사랑과 정의 평화가 드러나기를 바라며 기도하였습니다.

수도원 형제들: 2월 15일 페터슨 교구 세라틀리 아더 주교님이 주관하는 봉헌생활의 날 행사에 루가 수사와 마티아 수사 그리고 지난 9월에 이곳으로 온 송 바르나바 수사가 참석하였습니다. 저는 2월 2일부터 9일까지 알라바마주 버밍헴에 있는 성 베르나르도 수도원에서 있었던 미국 베네딕도회 장상 모임에 참석하였는데, 이번에는 수녀회에서도 참석하여 약 100여명의 남녀 베네딕도회 장상들이 함께 하는 시간을 가졌습니다. 3월 13일부터 17일까지는 테네시 주 멤피스 한인 공동체에 가서 사순 특강을 하였는데, 비록 작은 공동체였지만 가족 같은 분위기와 주님께 대한 신자들의 큰 열정과 사랑을 볼 수 있었습니다. 김 마태오 신부 역시 3월 14일부터 16일까지 오하이오 주 클리브랜드 한인 성당에 가서 수고해 주었습니다.

왜관에서 우리 한인 형제들이 와서 생활한 이래 처음으로 이곳에서 수도서원을 하고 서품을 받았던 나 연수 베다 신부가 왜관 수도원으로 소임을 받아 3월 17일에 뉴튼을 떠나 왜관으로 갔습니다. 베다 신부는 현재 수도원 병실에서 연로하고 아픈 형제들을 돌보고 있습니다.

친애하는 형제 자매 여러분, 우리 공동체는 우리의 수도생활을 위해 기도와 도움을 아끼지 않으시는 여러분께 진심으로 감사드립니다. 그런데 피정집 공사가 마무리 단계에 접어든 이 시점에 도움을 줄 것으로 믿었던 연합회에서 가난한 나라에 있는 수도원들을 위해 모은 헌금으로 미국에 있는 수도원은 도울 수 없다는 결정을 보내왔습니다. 조금만 도움을 받으면 곧 우리도 가난한 나라에 도움을 줄 수 있을 거라 희망하였는데, 이제 이 문제를 어떻게 해결해 나가야 할지 모르겠습니다. 경제가 어려운 이 시점에 여러분들께 도움을 청하고 싶지 않았는데 이런 사정을 말씀 드리게 되어 대단히 죄송합니다. 그러나 죽음마저 물리치고 부활하신 주님이 계시기에 희망을 가지고 충실히 생활할 것입니다. 다시 한번 우리 공동체를 아껴 주시는 여러분 모두에게 주님 부활의 은총과 사랑이 가득 넘치길 바라며 기도하겠습니다. 감사합니다.


Fr. Samuel Kim, O.S.B., Prior
and the monks of St. Paul’s Abbey

Happy Easter!

2015 Easter