Dear Maz and Bernard, Maggie and Bernard, and Everyone at the Soup Lunch,
For a start many thanks for the £300 that you sent me for the non-soup lunch of August, very much appreciated. I hope that if it was your holiday month that you had a restful and happy time with lots of good weather.
Here we keep going one way and another. I’m still saddled with this shingles which seems in no hurry to move on but the pain is not quite as acute as it was for the most part and I got a nudge I believe from the Lord that I had to try to do something by way of getting back to my normal duties and I began the week before last by going to the student nurses for the Mass I normally offer on a Thursday evening; going from there to visiting the patients in the wards to offering the Sunday hospital Mass and on Sunday I was at the prison for Mass. It’s helpful to see patients who are worse off than me not complaining.
I’m starting today to return to the two weekly Masses I usually offer at St Monica’s girls’ boarding school. Apart from Sunday this is the one day in the week when all the 500 or so girls come for the Mass, be they Jew or gentile, and the Mass is offered very devoutly, the prayers said very slowly. Also on Friday I have been asked to give a talk to the members of St Vincent de Paul gathered together from various parishes for two days of prayer, reflection and sharing as the feast of St Vincent de Paul is on the 27th.
There at the prison we always try to get the women into the all-purpose building that we use for Mass. If there is a warder able to accompany them they come and fortunately for this Mass they did come. In comparison with the 700 or so male prisoners their 34 seemed a bit meagre but still they made a good contribution to the always high class singing and they were also given the task of readers, a task which they did very well.
As usual when we are there we visit the very basic sick bay cell where there are about 20 men, many of them HIV positive. We try when possible to take them food to enable them to cope with the ARVS as the prison fare is not adequate for that. We also go to the women’s section to listen to their needs, soap, a change of clothes if possible, especially for those who have babies or very small children with them and a few toiletries. We found that two of the men had been officially discharged, one of them a month ago, but they are still there because they didn’t have money to pay for the bus fare home. At the prison too we always get requests for rosaries and bibles and the inmates like to wear the rosary round their necks. We also have a quite numerous catechumenate amongst the men for whom a catechist from the nearest parish goes every Saturday. We found too that some of the women want to be instructed for baptism and reception into the Church and I will have to make an application to the prison powers of be here in Chipata for one of the Sisters who come with me to the prison to be given a slot during the week.
And of course here around us we have the usual requests for help, especially for money to get home for those discharged from the hospital or taken by ambulance to the main hospital in the capital Lusaka but without money to get back home once discharged, crutches too as also food for the carers of the sick and for others around in great need. As too the planting season is near there are many of the subsistence farmers asking for help to buy fertilizer. Then too there are students faced with expulsion if they don’t pay their fees and many more. One unusual request last week was for a patient who needed 10 plaster of Paris bandages that the hospital could not supply. We do what we can with the money good people like you send us.
Continue to pray for us all here as I do for you.
Fr Patrick Fitzgerald WF - Fr Fitz - was a regular visitor to St Margaret’s since the 1960s as his mother was a parishioner here.