After years of parish work in Italy, Fr Sandro had felt called to serve as a missionary.
In February, he spent one evening talking at OLOL and the next sharing his experiences in Ethiopia at Cambourne. The Maranto family opened up their home to us and he talked us through the life, culture, and daily life of his community in Abol in Ethiopia.
The village is not far from war-torn Sudan and the large community of misplaced people in the region causes tribal tension and fear in a land with limited resources. Now known as ‘Abba’ Sandro he has decorated the church with murals that preach the gospel with joy and inclusiveness. The mural of the last Supper shows people from the different ethnic groups around the table.
Abba Sandro’s compound is a place of sanctuary as well as a vital source of water for those who would otherwise have to pay for it or walk many kilometres carrying very heavy containers. Digging a new well is a true sign of living water in many ways in a place where a glass of clean water is greatly prized.
There is a school within the compound made up of every faith and ethnic group, but teaching the Christian faith to all. Learning to work and play together with those who may be regarded as your ‘enemy’ is a real and ongoing challenge and crucial in such a fragile and troubled community.
There are three local dialects and few able to speak English or Italian, but Fr Sandro’s cheerfulness and joy in the gospel shines through. He admits to frustration at times and the 40 degrees heat makes physical tasks a struggle, but he is leading by example, trying to grow crops and buying sheep to try and encourage greater sense of diversification and opportunity to people who do not even have a future tense in their language. Getting through the day sharing what you have is seen as sufficient when life is so hard.
Our parish has helped to support some of the teaching staff. The school also offers first aid and helping to fund antibiotic creams, plasters etc is important. Sometimes of course, they have to send people to the health centre, but that has to be paid for which is beyond the means of many.
Many people come to hear the ‘’catechesis’ at the compound and the Catholic community there is beginning to flourish as more choose to get baptised – a dangerous choice for many. As with many of our own children at times the draw of a biscuit at the end of teaching is attractive.
If you wish to support Abba Sandro’s mission please contact our parish priest, Fr John Minh. A little goes a very long way-A teacher’s salary is just 100 euros a month, an assistant teacher earns 70 euros a month and the cleaner 50. The first aid costs about 200 euros a month.
One of our community paid the salary of one of the three teachers for a year. This is such practical and positive evangelism and our young people were delighted to see an ‘old’ friend and truly impressed by the simplicity and dedication of Fr Sandro and his co-workers. His aim is to help the compound become self-sufficient over the next few years and to serve as an example of stewardship, love, joy and hope.
Pictured above is Fr Sandro Barbieri meeting and talking to parishioners at Cambourne.