Oblate Voices is a JPIC blog that follows stories of hope and is about how Oblates and associates live and experience mission work in the spirit of the Oblate founder, St Eugene De Mazenod of responding to the needs of poor and most abandoned around the world.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hope Springs Eternal

I spent most of the winter away from DC this year, and I'm happy to report that I returned renewed and refreshed. Almost a dozen times over the last two months, I got the flight safety spiel, you know: "put on your oxygen mask first, before assisting others in need." 

Gail Taylor manages 3 Part Harmony
Farm in Washington, DC
It goes against our instincts to help ourselves first before the child next to us. That's a great revelation about humanity- in the end we do all want to help others even if only instinctually. It's an instructive piece of advice though: if we don't take care of ourselves, we can't take care of others and then no one on the plane will survive.

Perhaps because I spend every day of every week either at a vegetable farm or at a yoga studio, the importance of self-care is always at the front of my mind.

Whether it's taking the time to make nutritious meals for myself, carving out time to focus on mindful breathing and meditation, putting my hands in the soil, or fiercely guarding my 30 min. morning coffee/ newspaper ritual, I want to focus this year on making sure that my tank is always full before stepping outside to face each day.

I hope you'll do the same, and realize that it's necessary not selfish.

Eating well and engaging with plants every day is a great way to stay on track with a self care routine. Three Part Harmony Farm offers a few ways to bring these kinds of opportunities into your life. Planting a garden is a great way! I recently was at a local female owned hardware store - Annie's Ace Hardware in Brookland, NE Washington, DC. 

I answered seed starting questions and brought all of my seed catalogues and offered everyone a chance to VOTE for the tomato varieties we'll grow this season.

I encourage you to grow your own garden! Immense joy comes from caring for plants whether on your balcony, in your backyard, or at your community garden plant. Three Part Harmony Farm is proud to partner with Annie's Ace Hardware (in Petworth and Brookland, Washington, DC) to sell healthy starts that are specifically chosen for their ability to thrive in this region. We expect to have spring seedlings available as early as mid-march: stay tuned! 

I wish everyone a happy, healthy 2017,
For you local to Washington, DC, we're taking sign ups for our 2017 CSA now, online. The full season members pay for 23 weeks during a 33 week period (that goes from April - November) so you skip any 10 weeks you like without missing out! In addition to being flexible, the share is a multi-farm offering that includes non-produce items such as seedlings, flowers, eggs, mushrooms and medicinal herbsSign up here.

Gail Taylor is the owner/ operator of Three Part Harmony Farm, a vegetable operation located on the grounds of the Oblate residence, Washington, DC.  A longtime resident of the District, Taylor has worked in the Latin America Solidarity community, with affordable housing organizations, and now with the food sovereignty movement. A farmer, yogi and social justice activist, Taylor lives in an intentional community in Petworth, NE Washington, DC.

Monday, January 23, 2017

U.S. Oblate Sees Evolution of a Delegation and a Nation Over 16 Years

Republished from OMIUSA.org
Interview with Fr. Jim Brobst, OMI  by Will Shaw; photos by Fr. Jim Brobst, OMI
L-R) Fr. JIm Brobst, OMI, Fr. Freeborn Kibombwe, OMI, Fr. Antonio Ponce, OMI, Bishop Clement Mulenga, S.D.B., Bishop of Kabwe

Two U.S. Oblates spent the better part of last November with the Oblate Delegation in Zambia to participate in the consultation for new leadership.

The Oblate Delegation in Zambia was founded by U.S. Oblates in 1984. Starting from almost scratch, the delegation now has nearly 40 native-born priests and brothers, two Oblate Bishops, and dozens more in formation with missions all over western Zambia.

As a delegation, the Zambian missions are still governed and largely funded by the U.S. Province. Fr. Jim Brobst, OMI along with Fr. Antonio Ponce, OMI, Director of the U.S. Province JPIC Office, were the designated representatives of the U.S. Province during the consultation with members of the delegation for the election of new leadership. (See story on new Zambian leadership here)

Fr. Brobst described the consultation process like this:  “We do two things: we have a straw ballot and we also have a conversation with folks. Since they’re a delegation, they are still part of our province, so their leadership is governed by the U.S. Province.”In our conversations, there were three basic questions: What are the greatest needs of the delegation at this time? What are the talents needed to lead? Who are the people who can bring those talents to the table?”  In order to consult with as many of the members as possible, Fathers Brobst and Ponce held meetings in three different areas of the country and spoke with others by phone or Skype in order to get the participation of nearly the entire delegation.

The various elements of the discernment, the meetings, straw votes, and receiving and discussing recommendations took nearly three weeks and resulted in new leadership just announced in early January of 2017.
A new addition to Fr. Chishimba’s flock
Fathers Brobst and Ponce also visited the self-sustainability projects designed to help the Zambian delegation to become financially self-sustaining. “There are two levels of self-sustainability, one is to produce large incomes to support the whole delegation, and then there are smaller income projects to support specific localities,” said Fr. Brobst.

Some examples of smaller projects are those begun by Fr. Chishimba Chibesa, OMI, pastor of St. Michael’s Parish in Kalabo. One is raising chickens, another is raising and selling quail, and another is raising goats. The eggs, meat and milk from the livestock, as well as the animals themselves are sold to raise funds for the mission. The livestock also provide food for the Oblates.

Another project of Fr. Chibesa’s is the cultivation of rice on property donated by a parishioner. Again, the harvests will be sold to raise funds to support the parish and its missions.

Fr. Chishimba (on right) with the young people from his parish who will soon be cultivating rice in this field.

Back at the Oblate headquarters in Lusaka, larger projects designed to support the entire delegation are in process. Fr. Brobst described some of them: “The biggest one that’s most obvious is a large office building they’ve constructed which is a high-quality new building. It is meant to be rented which will produce income to support the entire delegation. I’ve heard they have a lot of people wanting to rent space and it isn’t even done yet.” 

The nearly completed office building in Lusaka

He went on to describe others: an auto shop on the Oblate grounds which not only services Oblate vehicles, but produces income by repairing cars and trucks for outside customers as well; a former dormitory for Oblate scholastics that is now rented to the nursing school of a local hospital for student housing; a library which is being rented to a local Catholic university for classroom use, and there’s even a commercial printing shop on the property which serves the needs of the Oblates and customers from the local business community.

Summarizing, Fr. Brobst said, “Some are more lucrative than others but these are just some of the things they are doing to try and create self-sustainability.” In addition to raising funds, Fr. Brobst says the Zambian Oblates are also looking for ways to bring ministry into these fund-raising projects: “They want to have things that produce income that are also related to their ministry. If you’re a missionary and you spend your time on a project, you want to see an impact on people’s lives that’s related to the faith.” 

Chatting with the new Oblate Bishop of Livingstone, (L-R) Fr. Antonio Ponce, OMI, Bishop Valentine Kalumba, OMI, Fr. Jim Brobst, OMI and unidentified parishioner

In addition to the consultation and self-sustainability projects, they visited with Oblates in the various missions in western Zambia. According to Fr. Brobst, “It’s always good for us from the United States to see what’s there and to meet the people there, because they’re really part of our province. Even if they become their own province in the future, they still have that history of foundation from us and maintaining that relationship is essential.” 

Fr. Jim Brobst has visited Zambia three times: first in 1990, again in 2006 and most recently in November, 2016. He’s witnessed remarkable progress with each visit. Paved roads have appeared where none existed. There are many more cars on the road now along with several U.S. – style shopping malls. Though he still expressed concern about the income inequality and wondered how many Zambians can actually afford to shop there: “Many of the people are still quite poor and maybe it’s only a small number of government workers and contractors from other countries who can afford to go there. Those are some of the social challenges you see.”

Finally, on a personal level, he was gratified to see many of the young men he had worked with in formation here in the states, who are now ordained priests involved in leadership and in ministry: “As an old Formator, to see your students doing well, see how they’ve progressed, what challenges they’ve faced, that’s a cool thing – that’s a very cool thing.”