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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Pastoral Dictum to the Ebola Crisis in Nigeria

By Fr. Ali C Nnaemeka, OMI
Nigeria – Oblates of Mary Immaculate

**We Continue to Pray for the Victims of Ebola Outbreak **

Ebola virus is devastating the nations of West Africa. Nigeria is one of the African countries where the dreadful Ebola Virus Disease broke out. As a matter of history, Ebola Virus Disease first broke out in the year 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 2014 Ebola outbreak is the worst in the history. 

This year saw Ebola moved to other new territories, therefore causing it to mutate into different forms. Even though it did not cause serious damage in Nigeria, its arrival created serious panic amongst the people. What frightened person most was the fact that Ebola was reported to have entered through Lagos, Nigeria’s economic and commercial capital and one of the fastest growing metropolitan cities in Africa.

Nigeria authorities reacted by closing schools and borders. Nigerians started to avoid public arenas. Churches embraced on health screening and precautions. The Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria rapidly issued a pastoral guideline, which was to be adapted by each diocese according to the vulnerability of their territory. The bishops called on Nigerian Catholics to be calm, observe common health hygiene routine, visit the hospital in case of sickness and pray against the spread of the contagious disease.  We, as Oblates in Nigeria adjusted our own pastoral activities and functions in line with Bishops guidelines and pastoral context in different dioceses.

Being in non-Ebola menaced territories, Oblates in Nigeria have responded to the situation by educating people about health personal hygiene and preventive measures. To the families we minister to in our Oblate parishes and institutions, we express solidarity and support. As Oblates, we are bringing a message of hope and witness that God is accompanying the people of West Africa in the midst of this suffering and fear.

The most difficult part of it is to diffuse the panic created by the frightful nature of Ebola virus disease. Even though the Ebola Virus Disease caused Nigeria much in human and economic resources, it has also created some positive effects. It made Nigeria review its health emergency scheme, train more primary health officers who could react to emergencies of the sort. Nigeria is also in the process to reorganize its medical partnership so that it is well prepared to respond to health disasters. Pastorally, it has made our Christians see the importance of the popular saying: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Planting Seeds: 30 Years Later,Oblate donation to a Refugee Aid Center in San Antonio, a Success.

This is what we are about: We plant seeds that one-day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.      
- Oscar Romero (1917-1980), Archbishop of San Salvador

Thirty years ago, the Missionary Oblates in San Antonio Texas (formerly Southern US Province) responded to the challenges of the time when refugees and asylum seekers from Central Americans arrived into Texas after fleeing the civil wars in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

The Missionary Oblates became founding members of the Refugee Aid Project, which began to assist Central American refugees and asylum seekers. The Refugee Aid Project provided food, clothing, language classes, housing, medical and legal referrals to these migrants. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate donated a building to the Refugee Aid project, which is now called RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services).

Today, RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) still located in San Antonio is doing remarkable work; assisting vulnerable members of the community especially refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied migrant children and women, and immigrants in detention. More information about services and programs of RAICES, visit www.raicestexas.org  

Commenting on the recent article published in Subpoena Magazine- the monthly magazine of the San Antonio Bar Association about RAICE - Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, Fr. Rufus Whitley OMI wrote, “It is nice to see something that started over 30 years ago is still flourishing and the Oblate part is still remembered.” 

Reflecting on the Oblate contribution to the migrant center, U.S Provincial Fr. Bill Antone OMI said, “Planting seeds comes to my mind and it is nice to see that we (Oblates) are remembered for our part in this.”