Parishioners of St. Patrick Church aid those in need in Tanzania

Deacon Mark Rougeux spoke to students at Edmund Rice Sinon Secondary School in Arusha, Tanzania, during an assembly to announce the completion of the installation of a water purification system at the school in May. The school serves 1,500 students, approximately 900 of whom live on the campus. (Photo Special to The Record)
Deacon Mark Rougeux spoke to students at Edmund Rice Sinon Secondary School in Arusha, Tanzania, during an assembly to announce the completion of the installation of a water purification system at the school in May. The school serves 1,500 students, approximately 900 of whom live on the campus. (Photo Special to The Record)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Far away in the East African country of Tanzania, an abused woman has a safe home to call her own; a young woman is achieving her dream of becoming a teacher; and students at a high school have access to clean drinking water — all because of the mercy shown by parishioners at St. Patrick Church.

Last fall as the parish in Eastwood was preparing for the Holy Year of Mercy, Deacon Mark Rougeux said he shared with parishioners the trials his African friends were facing.

The outpouring of support for their brothers and sisters half way across the globe was “amazing,” said Deacon Rougeux in an interview last week.

This outreach gives parishioners the opportunity to complete four of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy – give drink to the thirsty, comfort the sorrowful, instruct the ignorant and shelter the homeless.

Deacon Rougeux first travelled to Tanzania in 2004 with Father John Judie; founder of Father John Judie Ministries, which sponsors seminarians and supports priests in East

Africa, and pastor of Christ the King and Immaculate Heart of Mary churches. Since then Deacon Rougeux said he has traveled to Tanzania frequently. He said he developed such close relationships that many there call him “dad,” “brother” and “uncle.”

It was during a summer trip last year that Schola Massey, who calls him “dad,” came to him crying, said Deacon Rougeux.
Massey, who’d been married for 10 years, had experienced three failed pregnancies. “Not being able to bear a child is a huge deal there,” said Deacon Rougeux, who also serves as the new director of Mass of the Air. As a result her husband “abused and disowned her and kicked her out.”

Massey, being a woman who doesn’t give up easily, was determined to survive, Deacon Rougeux said. She found employment as a night watchman and took out a loan for the purchase of a little plot of land in the northern Tanzania town of Shinyanga. Yet, “she had no way to build a house,” said Deacon Rougeux.

A year later with the support of parishioners at St. Patrick, Massey’s house — a two bedroom bungalow made of cinder blocks with a blue metal roof — is 90 percent completed and furnished. Massey, who Deacon Rougeux describes as “hard working” and “creative,” acted as the general contractor and supervised the building of the home. She’s now waiting for the indoor plumbing to be completed, said Deacon Rougeux.

Deacon Mark Rougeux delivered a laptop computer to Irene Kessy, who is studying to be a teacher. The computer was purchased with donations from a St. Patrick Church parishioner. (Photo Special to The Record)
Deacon Mark Rougeux delivered a laptop computer to Irene Kessy, who is studying to be a teacher. The computer was purchased with donations from a St. Patrick Church parishioner. (Photo Special to The Record)

Irene Kessy, a 30-year old who lives in Kilema, a town south of Mt. Kilimanjaro, had a roof over her head, but a dream of becoming a teacher that seemed destined to die. Her two brothers are studying to become priests and her elderly parents had no means of helping her finance her education.

Kessy wanted to go to school not only for herself, but also as a means of securing a career that will enable her to care for her aging parents, noted Deacon Rougeux.

She turned to Deacon Rougeux, and the St. Patrick community was moved by her story. Not only did the parish collect enough money to pay for all her studies and boarding fees, but a parishioner wrote a check for a laptop computer as well. She is now finishing her first year of training to become a teacher.

“She is very bright,” said Deacon Rougeux. “It would be sad if that gift didn’t get to be cultivated and used.”

While many students at Edmund Rice Sinon Secondary School were taking advantage of education at “one of the finest schools in Tanzania,” said Deacon Rougeux, their health was failing from drinking contaminated well water.

Deacon Rougeux had spent a lot of time in Arusha — a city in northern Tanzania, not far from Kilema — where the school is located and knew the school’s principal well.

Thanks to the generosity of St. Patrick parish, Deacon Rougeux said the school was able to install a water purification system in order for the 1,500 students — 900 of whom board at the school — to have safe drinking water.

“It’s a wonderful thing the Holy Father is doing. Calling for a , really brings it (the need for mercy) to our attention in a new and powerful way,” said Deacon Rougeux. “It renews our commitment to those fundamental acts that are a part of our faith.”

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