My trip to Liberia Fr. Mike Moran
by Fr. Michael Moran, SMA
Well, I have just returned from Liberia. It was a quick trip.
Leaving on the 26th of April from Newark I passed through Brussels and arrived in Monrovia on the 27th around 6 pm. I was met at the airport by Fr. Abu cole and we made our way to St. Mulumba’s. We reached there around 9 pm and met Fr. Gustavo there waiting. After arriving I began to upack all the mail and sort out the things that were sent to our missionaries there. Gustavo was excited about getting the portable mass kit and Abu like the vestments there were donated to the parish. Some of the other missionaries got a chalice and some other received vestments, a few spiritual reading books and even the catechist was thrilled to get a book with all the readings and liturgies for the entire year.
After some small talk we got to bed around 11 pm. It was hot and humid and there was no running water or electricity. The next day we left around 6 am for the city of Cape Palmas, where the ordination was going to take place. We got to Gbarnga (about 120 miles into the trip-arriving around 11 am) and our brake line broke. Fortunately we were able to get someone to repair it and left Gbarnga for Zwedru. We arrived in Zwedru (about 250 miles from Monrovia) around 8 pm. As we were able to call ahead we were welcomed to a hot meal. That was a real treat, we had been “picnicking” on peanut butter sandwiches and water. Worn out from the trip most of us turned in around 9:30 pm. At 8 am the next day we were back on the road. I guess Fr. Gustavo like being in the driver’s seat and that is why he did most the driving. The last time I was on that road was in 2005 and it took 12 hours to get to Zwedru from Monrovia and another 12 to get to Cape Palmas from Zwedru. The road was bumpy and tough to drive. When it rained the laterite dirt became very slippery and we did encounter a lot of rain on the second day of our trip. Fortunately the road was being worked on which had it in pretty good shape. So the final 150 miles only took 8 hours to complete. We arrived in Cape Palmas on Friday around 4pm. 400 miles in two days, quicker than some and not as quick as others. I guess we were one of the lucky ones, though. Our brake line cut on the way but we were not too far from Gbarnga and so were able to get it fixed there. A number of other cars broke down on the road. 2 went back to Monrovia, another priest slept in his car on the road, the Nuncio and some of the bishops coming for the occasion were stranded on the wrong side of a fuel truck. Although only 3 hours from Cape Palmas it took them 7 hours to cover that area.
So it was good to get to Cape and we counted ourselves fortunate. There were a lot of changes there since my last time there. In 2005 I remember the Cape to be a desolate and abandoned place. There were very few shops and almost no cars. It was good to see that things had picked up there. There was a sizeable population and a lot more shops had opened up. There was still work being done in repairing the buildings. It was good to see that St. Theresa’s Cathedral was repaired.
On Saturday the Cathedral was packed with people for the ordination and installation of the new bishop. There was a large crowd that turned out and it was truly a festive day. The Diocese hosted all those who attend to a meal in the City Hall which had recently been renovated. It was a long day with the celebrations finishing up at the Bishop’s house for a light evening meal.
On Sunday we left Cape Palmas for a trip to Barkleyville. We passed through Barriken where Fr. Hayden works and he seems to be doing well. Nicely groomed and kept it is the original church built in the 60’s by our lay associate Mr. Tony Riggio. Fr. Ted seems happy there but he is looking forward to a break this month. He should be back in the States towards the end of May. He is first visiting some family in Germany and then to Manchester to visit the SMA house there.
Barkleyville was the place were Fr. Gustavo worked from 1998-2003. We left Cape around 8:30 and arrived in time do have mass at 10:30. The church was packed and all were very happy to have Fr. Gustavo with them again. We were greeted after wards by the congregation and we had the traditional welcoming. However it seems that the cola nut is not available in Barkleyville and so we shared a shot of local cane juice.
From Barkleyville we made our way to Grand Cess. Sr. Raphael Ann worked there up until 1988 and was very very happy to be back there and see the place again. We walked around there for a few house remember some of the members who had moved on and the houses there were still there. It was a good visit and trip and we were all happy to have had to opportunity to get there. We returned to Harper around 4pm and drove around the city.
Our departure from Cape Palmas on Monday was scheduled for around 9:30 am and we headed to Zwedru again. We did reach in good time (around 6 pm) and spent the night there. The next day we headed off to Monrovia and arrived around 6 pm. After the long trip we treated ourselves to diner at a Pakistani restaurant.
I got 2 days in Monrovia to rest and see a number of people that I knew while I lived there. And by Friday evening on was back on the plane to the US arriving on Saturday around noon.