By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Three weeks of visits to schools, orphanages, hospitals, clinics, a minor seminary and more were part of a needs assessment missionary trip to Africa for Pat Cannaday and Maribeth Green of Holy Family Parish.
The two spoke to a group at the parish in late December about their trip earlier in the year to Tanzania, Africa. “Asante,” Cannaday told the group. “That is the Swahili word for thank you.”
Cannaday and Green founded Missions of Mercy with a theme of Hands, Hearts and Feet Serving God. Their nonprofit came about after several years of prayer and listening to the “signs” sent forth to them.
“Maribeth and I have known each other for many years,” Cannaday said. She told her friend that in her heart she wanted to go to Africa, but didn’t know what was keeping her from going. She assessed the five “ws” — who, what, when, where, why and the additional how, but still didn’t have an answer.
Then in 2006 she met Father Simon Taabu of the Diocese of Rulenge in Tanzania who was studying at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. She met two more Tanzanian priests — Father Juvenalis Ndaula and Father Fortunatus Rwehikiza, also studying at St. Ambrose. She felt that God put the three priests in her life as a sign. “I told Maribeth that we were to go to Tanzania. She had felt those signs, too.”
In 2016, Bishop Severine Niwermugizi of Tanzania visited the United States. During a stop to Davenport, the bishop invited the women to keep in touch with Fr. Taabu, who was at that point studying for his doctorate in Illinois. Fr. Taabu had started a nonprofit, which the two friends looked into. They decided that is not how God intended them to help in Tanzania.
Three more priests guided their discernment. The late Msgr. Michael Morrissey helped develop the program to bring priests from Tanzania to St. Ambrose University. Father Jerry Logan, a priest in Rock Island, Ill., and Msgr. Marvin Mottet were good friends. All three died in 2016.
The influence of the three African and three American priests inspired Cannaday and Green to go to Africa for a needs assessment mission.
They also thanked Father Thomas Stratman, a retired priest of the Davenport Diocese, who has visited Tanzania, and Father Denis Hatungimana, a Tanzanian priest currently studying at St. Ambrose, for their thoughts and stories.
On May 23 the women boarded a plane for a three-week trip to explore what might be done. Bishop Severine told about the great joy of the people. He said they might not be able to understand the women, but a great smile would help them communicate.
The women took $3,000 with them to purchase school supplies. But that plan changed as they traveled around Tanzania. They gave the money to the bishop and let him decide where it would be best spent. The duo also brought toys, athletic equipment such as sports balls, candy, bubbles and other items. They toured various facilities – school, dispensary, orphanage and hospital – to learn what was being done there. They met students and doctors. They saw buildings damaged by earthquakes, unfinished buildings, some buildings in good shape and others that were falling apart. At trade schools, students were learning to dye fabric, make soap and do masonry work and more with limited resources.
The hospitals have limited equipment and patients share beds because there are not enough. Patients also must bring their own food and clothing to the hospital. Malnutrition is a common cause of death.
At St. Alfred’s secondary school, the water tank needed repair. “It was rusted and cracked,” Green said. The water tank has since been fixed. “There are lots of wants and need,” Cannaday said.
Travel to sites was not easy or short, Green said. The limited roads often had large potholes. Trips that would have been completed in an hour in the U.S. took three because of the road conditions. Both women would like to return to Tanzania. They assured those in attendance that money sent to Tanzania goes directly to the bishop’s account. Bishop Severine works with his finance director to account for all of the funds.
Since their return home in June, the women received a list explaining the distribution of the $3,000 given to the bishop. Several letters, emails and photos have been sent to the two thanking them for the money and explaining how it was specifically used.