THE SPIRIT OF ANOTHER “HOLY GHOST” PARISH
written by Ms. Evelyn Phillips Mantz
The late seventies was an exciting time in Detroit, because it was in the throes of a major urban renewal, highlighted by the river-front Renaissance Center. The feeling seemed to be catching and various ethnic groups joined forces to keep it going. A newspaper feature in 1979 said: “Greektown could be Ecumenical Heights. Besides the much beloved St. Mary’s Church, the picturesque and bustling neighborhood boasts the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, the Second Baptist Church which is maintained by Detroit’s oldest black congregation and where in 1863 they gathered to celebrate Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and the new T’Chiyah Synagogue which conducts its services in St. Mary’s Catholic School.”
This was the year when five groups announced a plan to renovate Old St. Mary’s School for use as a community center. The sponsoring organizations were St. Mary’s Parish, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan, Project START, Congregation T’Chiyah, and the Team of Justice. An enthusiastic drive began to raise a minimum of $700,000 for restoration of the four-story 111-year-old building across St. Antoine from the church.
Meanwhile, in that same spirit of renewal and renaissance, the good parishioners of St. Mary’s “adopted” another Holy Ghost parish, located far from the bustling Ecumenical Heights.
Financial assistance is still provided on a regular basis to St. Michael’s in Kijungu, Tanzania East Africa, our adopted twin parish.
Following is a brief update by a Father recently returned from there.
St. Michael’s Mission is usually called Kijungu Mission because it is situated near the village of Kijungu, about 220 miles south of Arusha, Tanzania. That is also the distance the missionaries must travel to buy supplies.
The house was built about thirty years ago out of mud and became the residence for its first two priest in the late fifties.
The missionaries first approached the chief, Parkepu, to ask for a place to build their house. They were not known and therefore not trusted. Parkepu put the mission on the worst possible location. The ground was a barren section on the side of a hill. There was no water near and not even one tree growing in the area.
For the first fifteen years the main work of the mission was running boarding schools for the Maasai people. These schools were spread over the 1600 square miles of the area entrusted to the missionaries there.
During this many Maasai children went through school. Next year two of them will be ordained. By the time the government nationalized the schools the mission was well known and a trusted force in the area. Villages began taking instructions. Parkepu and his whole village were baptized. The word got around that Christianity was a good thing.
Today the same dirt house is still there. The water supply still comes from the rains. There is a big cistern in the ground to collect enough water during the rains to last through the dry season. It is still the worst spot in the area for a garden but with what water collected during the rains there is enough now for a few tomato plants and a few greens.
The church building is seldom used by the Maasai simply because of the distance they would have to travel to come to the center. The missionaries go out to the people for mass and teachings regularly. Just last year Kijungu Mission got its first Maasai priest.