By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — The mission of the church is to give life to others. “Without heart — the body dies. Without the Trinity — the church has no life,” said Bishop Severine Niwermugizi of the Rulenge Diocese in Tanzania, East Africa.
The bishop spoke at all Masses at Sacred Heart Cathedral June 6-7 while on a two-week visit to the United States.
He told how tough it is to minister to people who are hungry, starving, thirsty, suffering from AIDS, or lacking a good education. “It’s tough to pray for people in these conditions,” Bishop Niwermugizi said.
Being a priest in the East Africa nation is not easy for other reasons as well, he pointed out. Within the Rulenge Diocese there are more than 350,000 refugees from Burundi, Rwanda and other countries. The diocese has no subsidy from the government, no salaries for its priests and only last year began to offer health insurance for its priests.
The money collected at parish and mission/outstation parishes helps provide services to the faithful. With limited incomes, people do what they can to support their priests and diocese.
Last year the Rulenge Diocese offered health insurance for the first time. “I can’t dream to get this money from my faithful. But where do I go for this for my priests?” he asked.
The bishop also wants to help the orphans left behind by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The cost to educate these children is $700 a year, which includes a uniform, education, housing and food. But more water wells are needed to provide for their daily needs.
“These are a few of our challenges. These are our cross to bear. We cannot do away with the cross of Christ,” Bishop Niwermugizi said. “For this reason, I have come to appeal for your support so that Christ may be known and glorified.”
The bishop thanked everyone at the cathedral from “my people back home.”
He invited every Catholic in the diocese to come visit him in the Rulenge Diocese. “I am serious. You are all welcome.”
Following Masses, receptions were held for the visiting bishop.
Bishop Niwermugizi was in the United States to visit seven of his priests. Three are in the Burlington, Vt., Diocese; two are studying at Boston College and two have been studying at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
Father Simon Taabu graduated last month from St. Ambrose with his master’s degree and is looking at universities in which to pursue his Ph.D. Father Juvenalis Ndaula graduated from St. Ambrose with his bachelor’s degree and is starting his master’s there this month.
Bishop Niwermugizi is also visiting other U.S. parishes. And he plans to visit a religious community in Buffalo, N.Y., that has two Sisters working in his diocese.
The Diocese of Rulenge has a population of about 785,000 people, of whom 200,000 are Catholic. The diocese has 55 priests, with 40 of them engaged in active ministry.
Contributions to support the works of the Diocese of Rulenge may be sent to Fr. Taabu or Fr. Ndaula at St. Vincent Center, 2706 N. Gaines St., Davenport, Iowa, 52804.