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July 25, 2011 | Volume 86, Number 20

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PROFILE

photo: A view of the church and spacious front lawn as seen by passersby on Mecklenburg Avenue, three miles north of downtown South Hill.Good Shepherd, South Hill: New outreach project to build church in Uganda

When parishioners of Good Shepherd Catholic Church in South Hill gathered for the Feast of Corpus Christi on June 26, they heard plans outlined for a new twinning arrangement with a poor rural parish in Uganda.

The parish pastoral council unanimously supported the idea of the effort when it was proposed by Father John Kazibwe, pastor of Good Shepherd who is originally from Uganda. Parishioners also felt it was time to be involved in an outreach project since the parish had paid off the mortgage of its large church and social hall which had been dedicated less than five years earlier in September 2006.

photo: A view of the interior of the church facing the altar.A gathering similar to a town meeting was held following the regular 8:30 Sunday Mass. The entire congregation remained in the church and first heard from Mary Alice Walters, who chairs the twinning committee. They heard a plea from Father John, as he is best known, and a power point presentation of how the project would proceed.

Father John presented a bleak picture of life in that part of Uganda where much of the land is used for agriculture. He admitted that he wept when he read a letter from the priest at St. Joseph Busibo in the Diocese of Masaka.

The priest told him that he and his parishioners were making a pilgrimage on foot for a distance of 140 miles to the site where the Ugandan martyrs were killed. They were to walk 20 miles a day.

photo: map of south hill area“If somebody is walking 140 miles to ask God for the money to help build a new church, we must help them,” Father John pleaded. “The existing church has cracked walls and a leaky roof. They have done what they could.”

Father John pointed out that when he was a youth back in Uganda preparing for Confirmation, he had to walk nine miles or 18 miles round trip to his religious education classes.

Construction on the church, whose estimated cost is $100,000, has started and is proceeding “as funds become available, one brick at a time,” Father John said.

Good Shepherd parishioners are being asked to contribute to a special collection each month.

Laura Bailey, who chairs the South Hill parish’s finance council, said the parish is in a good position to help others because there is no debt on the building.

photo: Holding contributions to the food pantry are Susan Castro and Patrick Okeke, church secretary originally from Nigeria.“We have Bingo every Tuesday night and I’m the game manager,” Mrs. Bailey said, adding that she has been a member of Good Shepherd for 15 years. “Considering how the economy is, we do pretty well.

“On Bingo night we average between 100 and 130 each week, but at the end of the month we see only around 100 because their money runs out.”

With the new church which seats 300 dedicated by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo on Sept. 15, 2006, “we paid the debt on the church in about three and a half years,” she said.

The mortgage for construction was $317,000 and was paid largely through Bingo receipts.

Father John is assisted in pastoral ministry by Deacon John Sadowski who normally comes to the South Hill parish on the first and third Sunday. They also have pastoral duties in St. Catherine of Siena, Clarksville, and St. Paschal Baylon, South Boston.

There are 98 registered households at Good Shepherd which has two liturgies each weekend. The bi-lingual (in Spanish and English) Mass is celebrated Saturday night at 7:15. The larger Mass in English is celebrated Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

photo: The entire congregation of Good Shepherd Church in South Hill participated in a procession to mark the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) June 26 at the conclusion of Mass. The group was led by Father John Kazibwe, pastor, holding the monstrance, and members of the Knights of Columbus who were followed by the church choir. As they circled the church and fellowship hall, the choir and parishioners continually sang “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”The Hispanic presence is a comfortable fit with “Anglo” parishioners. There is an effort, however, to become “one church” Mrs. Bailey said.

“We’re really working on that goal,” she said.

As a sign of the rising Hispanic presence, eight of the 12 children who made their first Communion on May 15 are Hispanic. Of the eight teens who were confirmed at St. Joseph’s in Petersburg after Easter, one was a Nigerian, one was a Filipino and the other six were Hispanic.

The entire Catholic community came together on June 26 at 5 p.m. at a potluck supper to say goodbye to Father Nixon Negparanon who had been parochial vicar the past two years. He has since become pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Norfolk.

The Saturday night bi-lingual Mass draws usually between 60 and 85 people, most of whom are younger with small children. Many Hispanics who worship at South Hill have manufacturing jobs and live as far away as 20 or 30 miles in North Carolina. Worshippers use a bi-lingual missalette with readings in both English and Spanish.

“We all have to have a home and this church is my home,” said Erick Resendiz, 24 and newly married. A resident of the United States for 12 years, he graduated from Park View High School in South Hill and travels more than an hour each day for a manufacturing job in Prince George. He reads the priest’s homily in Spanish after the priest delivers it in English.

“Father John or Father Nixon send me the homily by email on Saturday morning and I translate it into Spanish to read Saturday night,” Mr. Resindiz explained.

photo: Father John Kazibwe, pastor of Good Shepherd, stands with some of the children who are enrolled in the parish religious education program. Rhodora Bautista, second row at far right, is volunteer director of the program. Children with them are, front row, from left, Matthew Condecido, Miguel Ballesteros, Siyonna Okeke, Ariana Mannino and Gabrielle Condecido, and back row, from left, Dominic Bautista, Kailey Hazleton, Maleyah Marshall and Bridgette Warmouth.Religious education of children plays an important role at Good Shepherd. Rhodora Bautista, who came to South Hill in 2006 from the Philippines to take a job as a special education teacher at Park View Middle School, is the leader of the CCD/Sunday School program in which 35 children are enrolled from kindergarten to high school. She previously taught at a Catholic school in Laoag City for 13 years.

Classes are held on Sunday mornings after the 8:30 Mass in what is referred to as “the old church.”

A new Respect Life group which had its first meeting May 7, is led by Susan Castro, who moved recently to Good Shepherd from St. Bede Parish in Williamsburg.

“Our goal is to educate people about what Respect Life is,” Mrs. Castro explained. “It encompasses not only the unborn and babies, but the disabled and elderly. We need to protect everyone.”

photo: Laura Bailey, stands with a three generation family originally from El Salvador. They are grandmother Maria Martinez, mother and Melva Martinez and her daughter, Genesis, who is an altar server each week at the bi-lingual Saturday vigil Mass.Mrs. Castro, who is originally from Falmouth, Mass., is involved in the parish food pantry which is open to needy families each Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The pantry is stocked with donations from parishioners.

“We’re only open to the general public on Tuesday, but if somebody calls and is in desperate need for food, we will help them,” Mrs. Bailey said. “We don’t turn people away.”

Another outreach is prison ministry for which Deacon Sadowski is seeking volunteers to accompany him in his visits to three correctional facilities. The visits are to Mecklenburg Corrections Center in Boydton on Thursdays, and Lunenburg and Baskerville Corrections Centers on Sunday afternoons.

Good Shepherd Parish is served by Knights of Columbus Blessed Trinity Council No. 11741 which has members from that parish as well as the parishes in South Boston and Clarksville. Bayne Steele is Grand Knight of the council which has 62 members.

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