Kyengeza, Uganda August 1, 2008
Every year during the month of August, like a huge, magnificent, cosmic clockwork, our night skies are riddled with an extraordinary abundance of "shooting stars" - meteors leaving their burning trails across the heavens as they enter into our earth's atmosphere. Astronomers tell us that there is an abundance of asteroids - perhaps remnants of what had once been a planet - floating out there in space, right smack dab in our earth's orbit. As we continually circle the sun, we come right through that "debris" time and time again, right at this time of year, and are treated to that spectacular display - count on it! Speaking of heavenly luminaries, did y'all notice that plethora of Carmelite Saints and Blesseds we just "came through" in July? In that stretch, we celebrated ten Carmelite feastdays over the course of twenty days - whew! That's quite a Carmelite roll, eh?
Among our many wonderful benefactors who support our mission here in Uganda, one of the most remarkable is Steve Tomkovicz. It was his "dream child" to start up and develop what has come to be called the "Wine to Water" project in the Napa Valley - clever title, that! Every year he heads up this event. He contacts vintners throughout the wine-rich Napa Valley who very generously donate cases and cases of wonderful wine to be auctioned off or given away as gifts at a selected venue in or around Napa. There is a grand meal and auction on a Sunday evening, followed by a golf tournament the following day. Part of the proceeds are then donated to our mission here in Africa, especially earmarked for providing good, clean water for drinking. Thousands of dollars are donated every year to support this tremendous cause.
Well, Steve wanted to visit the Mission and actually see how this project actually works - in person, mind you. So, by golly, he hopped on a plane along with his daughter Allison and their good friend Wayne (another benefactor who hails from Houston) and just paid us a nice visit. It was great having them, and they all seemed to be dutifully impressed and moved by what they saw and experienced over the course of their week spent here. Believe it or not, Steve's brother, Jim Tomkovicz, was the salutatorian of the Crespi High School class of '69 -a classmate of mine! - three years ahead of Steve. Small world department!!!
Keeping track of our young men in formation is a mini class in African geography. Fr. Godfrey (he was already an ordained priest when he joined us as a postulant in '07) is about to finish his novitiate in Nigeria (the site of the Anglo-Irish mission) and return to us here in Uganda to make his First Profession of Vows. Three of our guys are brother candidates and have just left to make their novitiate in Malawi. Three others will be studying Philosophy at our Carmelite stronghold in Nairobi, Kenya (the foundation of the Eastern/Washington Province). Finally, four of our postulants will be beginning their Philosophy studies, continuing to live in Jinja, Uganda (about 70 miles east of us here in Kyengeza), the source of the Nile, the longest daggone river in the whole world. Our new House of Studies is being built (and taking shape quite nicely, thank you) right next door to the PCJ (the Philosophy Center of Jinja) where these young men will be studying. So haul out your map of Africa and track these guys! While you're at it, please keep them, and all of us, in your prayers, as we keep you in ours.
Fr. Paul Koenig, OCD