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JRS Online Retreat: Day 22 – The Bread of Life
Monday, November 22, 2010

“We [Jesuits] ... take this word to the very ends of the earth, seeking to share its riches with people everywhere.”

As you begin your prayer today, remember that you are in God’s holy presence. Become aware of how God gazes on you all the time, how tenderly and powerfully God regards you. Ask God for what you want in prayer:

Ask the Father to draw you into a deep experience of the Risen Jesus who will call you to a life of deeper compassion.  

Reflections for Prayer

Fr. Richard O’Dwyer, S.J.
JRS Lobone team member
South Sudan

Lobone, 22 November 2010 – On May 23, 2009, I travelled for the first time to a remote Acholi village named Lomarati in the mountains of South Sudan to celebrate the Eucharist. That Sunday morning I set out at 8:00 am in our 4-wheel drive jeep with Lillian, our office secretary, who had family living in Lomarati. On the way we were joined by the head catechist of the parish, Christopher. Despite difficult roads, we were able to make steady progress up the mountain and arrived on time in Lomarati.

Upon our arrival, we received an amazingly warm welcome from the people who had gathered for mass. I was told that no priest had celebrated mass in Lomarati since 1995.  Here I was among people who had returned to their land after 15 years of exile! The village is nestled in a stunningly beautiful mountain valley, as green as my Ireland. Before we began mass, some members of the congregation insisted on showing me down to the river that flowed through the valley. I soon found myself standing beside a fast-flowing river with crystal clear, cool water. It reminded me of rivers back home in the mountains a few miles south of my native Dublin. I felt strangely at home in Lomarati and I began mass with a gratitude and empathy I had not expected.

During the Eucharist, we baptised 40 children and adults. The longing in the people for the sacraments of baptism and the Body of Christ, long denied to them, was palpable. I could not help but contrast the enthusiastic attitude of the Acholi people in this remote corner of South Sudan with the often jaded attitude to sacraments I had encountered during my years as a pastor back in Dublin. There was a vibrant sense of excitement as we began our Eucharist which we celebrated under a huge mango tree--truly a natural cathedral fashioned by the hand of God. I felt it was very good, very good to be there! Throughout the baptismal ceremony everyone stood in a large circle under the green ceiling of our mango tree chapel! When we finished, there was an explosion and outpouring of happiness! Everyone was singing, dancing and clapping. Even babes in arms were swaying to the rhythm of their dancing mothers.

The Acholis, who are great musicians, singers and dancers, made every moment of our celebration joyful. Often during the mass women spontaneously broke into overwhelming ululating. Such unbridled joy and rejoicing made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.  Throughout the celebration I felt humbled and blessed by the people around me.

The offertory procession bore this out: I doubt if any member of the congregation had any money in their pockets, not even loose change. But, one after another, they brought generous donations of corn, tomatoes, beans and cassava to the altar. As I stood there I knew what it cost these people to give of the fruits of their fields. Every ounce of fresh produce presented to me that day had to be grown and hewn from the earth by hand held hoes. 

On that unforgettable day, it was the truly the Acholi people who gave me Eucharist!

Address God as a friend speaks to a friend. 

Talk to God about your response, your own needs and your deepest desires.

End your prayer with the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us.

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Acts 2: 44-47

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. 


"We [Jesuits] minister sacramentally at the heart of the Church, celebrating the Eucharist and the other sacraments and preaching the Word of God faithfully. We take this word to the very ends of the earth, seeking to share its riches with people everywhere." ~ General Congregation 35