Missioners leaving South Sudan place ‘worries and concerns in God’s hands’

Priests, nuns and lay volunteers from around the world spent years trying to help South Sudan building itself into a country, but now some find themselves caught by ongoing violence.

Theresa Kiblinger, Salesian Lay Missioner, nurse and blogger.  (CNS photo/Adam Rudin, Salesian Lay Missioners)

Theresa Kiblinger, Salesian Lay Missioner, nurse and blogger.
(CNS photo/Adam Rudin, Salesian Lay Missioners)

Some foreign missionaries have chosen to stay. Others, like Theresa Kiblinger, a Salesian Lay Missioner working in Maridi, South Sudan, left for a short Christmas break and are unable to return.

In a Jan. 7 blogpost, Kiblinger, a nurse, spoke of the joy of preparing for Christmas, then her distress at being unable to return after leaving with another missioner for a short break in Uganda.

“It is hard to think about the sweet kids we left behind,” she wrote. “So many questions and feelings start to flood my mind. What will happen to them? When can I go back and see them? Will the fighting spread to them? Feelings of guilt because I can leave, but they have nowhere to go. The only thing I can do now is place all these worries and concerns in God’s hands knowing that he alone can provide, and trusting that he will wrap all my little nuggets in his comforting and protective arms. “

Kiblinger and several other Salesian Lay Missioners are being evacuated to a Salesian community in Nairobi, Kenya.

A hitchhiker’s guide to the popemobile

VATICAN CITY — With eagle eyesight, Pope Francis spotted him in a crowd of 50,000 people. Or maybe he first recognized the voice — one of dozens screaming “Santo Padre!” “Holy Father!”

Today at his first Wednesday general audience of the new year, Pope Francis plucked a fellow Argentine out of the throng and gave him the ride of his life.

Fr. Fabian Baez

Screen grab of Argentine Father Fabian Baez from Buenos Aires hitching a ride on the popemobile during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 8.

Father Fabian Baez is a parish priest at the Our Lady of the Pillar church in the pope’s former Archdiocese of Buenos Aires.

He told La Nacion that he shouted “Santo Padre” to get the pope’s attention.

The pope saw the priest, made his driver stop the popemobile and gestured to him to come see him. They waited until the priest could make it past the people in front of him, the large wooden barricade and security.

As you can see in the video, the two hugged warmly, the pope asked if he were by himself and when he said, “Yes,” told him, “Come! Get on!” and take a seat next to the papal assistant.

As the priest clambers on, the pope rightly tells him:  “The picture will go around the world.”

After we asked the Vatican press hall to find out who the then-mystery hitchhiker was, they got back to us not just his name, but that the pope also told his aides that the priest is “a great confessor.”

Father Baez got to ride the whole long way around the square with the pope and then was given special seating at the start of the audience. The two even got to chat briefly at the end of the audience before the pope returned to his residence.

The priest summed up the day best on his Twitter feed:

“I’m going to change my biography. ‘The poor priest who got on the popemobile today with #PopeFrancis’”

If you know Spanish, check out his Twitter feed @paterfabian and his tumblr account paterfabian.tumblr.com

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