BRISBANE’S newest African priest is relieved to know his new Catholic home won’t be fleeing from any deadly conflict in the near future.
South Sudanese priest Fr Stephen Kumyangi was among a group of 2000 Catholics from the Maridi parish who were forced to run from tribal communities targeting community leaders last year.
“Right before I started to come here, just a month before I left home, the parish where I was, there was actually tension and we had to run,” Fr Kumyangi said.
“We had to run to the bush and we were sleeping on dry leaves of bananas for three days, and eating only raw cassava (a root vegetable).”
Conflict in South Sudan has led to mass killings, and one of the reasons Fr Kumyangi fled with his parishioners.
While the parishioners have eventually resettled into their homes, Fr Kumyangi is counting his blessings in a new country.
“I say it is just like a flower blossoming, that’s how I look at myself here in Australia because most of those tensions I was going through has now been released and relieved,” he said.
“Actually the whole environment is peaceful because I come from the extreme to another extreme.”
By the end of the month he will be named associate pastor of Upper Mt Gravatt parish and chaplain to the St Bakhita Sudanese community in Brisbane.
He said seeing his own people in Brisbane helped him to feel at home.
“I feel good because it’s like transferring home to Australia,” he said.
While the joyful priest is enjoying the company of his African roots, he is also working towards inspiring young people to return to the Church.
“One of the things the Archbishop was telling me is that (in South Sudan) we have a good number of young people going to Church and here it’s not the kind of thing,” Fr Kumyangi said.
“That’s actually what I’m going to work towards, to meet young people and explain there is a need for them to go to church.”
He said young people also needed to be better versed in Scripture because “other denominations always accuse the Catholics that we don’t know the Bible very well”.
“There are many also other spiritual programs that’s good for young people, like Bible sharing and the Charismatic groups,” he said.
“We need to do this with the young people so they also know how to read the Bible.”
By Emilie Ng