By John Oryem – In the mid-90s when we were occupied with philosophical studies while others delved deeply in their theological trainings, there was this story among us seminarians, “the Bishop of Malakal is a very simple person”. In Church’s language, “simplicity” embodies humility, love of others, forgiveness, respect and accepting everyone in one’s life. Such attributes are qualities that fast-tracks beatification or canonization. Bishop Vincent Mojwok lived his saintly life among his people till the Lord called him from among us when we needed him most. He chose to live and die among his people. A true apostle and Bishop.

Bishop Vincent Mojwok valued education, as a shepherd he sent many students far and wide. He built schools for his flock and invited missionaries from far afield. As a teenager, I first met my cousins from Upper Nile in El-Obeid, Kordofan in 1989. They were sent to study there by Bishop Vincent Mojwok. In search of knowledge during war time, he always assigned a priest to cater for the needs of his seminarians studying in Comboni El-Obeid under St. Kizito Minor Seminary. Our colleagues from Malakal related closely to their Bishop and fondly praised him in our conversations. At St. Paul’s, our Rector, theologian and South Sudan’s missionary historian, Fr. Dellagiacoma Vittorino used to narrate to us during lectures, the lives of all generations of Catholic clergy beginning from those who went to Lacor, Uganda, Tore, Busere, Juba-Munuki and Khartoum. Young Vincent Mojowk’s life shone brightly in the eye of his formators.

Bishop Vincent shared the hardships of his people. When war of liberation engulfed the then, southern Sudan, Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) used to be conducted outside Sudan. This was to allow the Bishops in the liberated areas to attend plenaries together with their colleagues under government controlled areas. Bishop Vincent Mojwok at times had to wait for visas in Khartoum for several months before leaving for Kenya, Uganda or Rome. He defied threats against his life and followed his flock that inhabited his large diocesan territory. Just like all the Catholic Bishops of our generation, Bishop Vincent succeeded Bishop Pio Yukwan Deng in 1979 at a very tough time when our people were still resettling following Anyanya war.

When peace came to the Sudan in 2005, Bishop Vincent opened up his diocese to allow missionaries to actively participate in pastoral activities. Catechesis was taught, development begun with construction of parish churches, schools built, books in local languages were printed for catechism, a radio station established and vocations grew in Malakal Diocese.

In June 2008 Bishop Vincent Mojwok led a SCBC delegation to Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern, AMECEA, meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. Back home, his fellow Bishops were converging in Yambio for the Episcopal ordination of Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala. At AMECEA assembly the people of South Sudan, whose referendum for self-determination was a topical issue among AMECEA Bishops, the conference needed a voice. They wanted solidarity with the people of South Sudan and wanted the world to know about the imminent secession of South Sudan. Many AMECEA Bishops, lay church leaders and even international press officials interacted with him during our week-long stay in Zambia. When they wished him and his colleagues in Sudan more successful hard work ahead, he surprised them with a remark; “I have already submitted my resignation to His Holiness!” Almost all those who asked him, responded, “Why Bishop?” Bishop Vincent Mojwok tried to convince his admirers, that at certain age in the Catholic Church, Bishops are to retire, to pave ways for other energetic clerics to lead the people of God. There was always great strength in serving others for Bishop Vincent Mojwok. Death is cruel to us, the remains of Bishop Vincent Mojwok is being received back to South Sudan on 9th January, 2018, the day that gave South Sudan legality to succeed. Bishop Vincent Mojwok led his people with dignity and simplicity that will always be missed.

John Oryem, PhD, Juba, South Sudan

Image: Radio Bakhita (Juba)