Messenger and Builder of Peace, Fr Fernando Gonzales Galarza, mccj
By Fr Fernando Gonzales Galarza, mccj
I thank the South Sudan Province for welcoming me back. I felt at home the first time I was in the Province (1996-2005). This time I also felt again at home (2014-2019), with my family. I enjoyed all the time I was in South Sudan. I like the spirit of brotherhood in our Provincial activities: Provincial Assembly, annual retreat, workshop, etc. It has been a real joy being part of the Province. So far, I have been only in two provinces during my 29 years of priesthood: my province of origin, Mexico and the South Sudan Province.
The witness of many confreres had helped me to grow in my missionary vocation, missionary service and spirituality. It has been for me a great blessing and joy being part of this great province. The 14 years in the Province have left on me a permanent mark. The province of South Sudan will be always in my heart and my prayers. I hope and wish is that one day I will come back home: the Province of South Sudan.
I also thank very much the province for giving me the opportunity to live and minister among the Nuer, in the Saint Joseph the Worker Parish, Diocese of Malakal. I was blessed by God that both times I was in the same parish, with the same people. I enjoyed every moment of life among the Nuer in spite of the situations we had to experience due to the war. But gave me a great lesson: “Life is beautiful in spite of the evils and horrors of war if it is live with a great faith in Jesus”.
People understood very well my presence and mission among them. The names they gave me speak about that: GATKUOTH: It means “Son of God”, they said they called me like that because I came from God to teach them the Word of God and a new way of life with Jesus and the Catholic faith. MAL: It means “peace”. They said that through my ministry and prayer I have always worked for peace in South Sudan as a whole and in particular in our parish. PIITH ŊATHÄ: It means “sower and grower of faith”. They said I have always worked to help people to grow in faith, faith in God alone. Other names: GAT PAYINJIAR: “Son of Payinjiar”; GAT ADOK: “Son of Adok”; GAT PILLINY: “Son of Pilliny”; GAT KOCH: “Son of Koch”; GAT MAYIANDIIT: “Son of Mayiandiit”; GAT BUT: “Son of But”; GAT GANYLIEL: “Son of Ganyliel”; GAT PARISHDAN: “Son of our Parish”; GAT GUATHNIDIAAL: “Son of all the places”. I have really felt at home in any place of the parish. I experienced what Jesus said: “Those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for my Name´s sake they will receive a hundred per cent more and eternal life” (Mt 19, 29-30).
When I visited Leer County in December 2018 and January 2019 the people of Leer wrote me a beautiful letter that expresses the way many Catholics of our parish understand my presence and mission among them. Below I write the text of that letter:
Messenger and builder of peace
It is with great pleasure that we write you this message of appreciation on behalf of the greater Leer community. We want to acknowledge your unwavering support to our community in hard (difficult) times but also in good times.
It is with your support Father that this community has endured the worse situations that we have experienced during the past few years of war. Your presence in Leer has always meant peace. Let me take you back to 1996 when South Sudan was in war; your coming among us brought us peace. Now history has repeated itself in 2018. Your visit to Tuochrial brought us again a message of peace that has given to this community a lot of hope. Your presence among us has meant again peace.
You shall always be remembered among us as a man whose presence has meant always peace for us. Your contribution to human development: economically, socially and spiritually shall always remain with us, the people of Leer, long after generations in the history of the Catholic Church and mission in Leer County.
We wish you long life to serve as you have been throughout your life.
We wish you a safe journey as you travel back to Payinjiar and may the good Lord unite us again, one day.
Touchriak, Leer County, 02/01/2019