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Members of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Springfield filled 52 shoeboxes as part of Operation Christmas Child. Volunteers donated and wrapped gifts for children. They were sent to North Carolina in November as part of a parish project.. They are among similar shipments from all over the United States, co-ordinated by Samaritan’s Purse annual project, Operation Christmas Child.

A sample of the goodies in each shoe box!

 These local shoeboxes were filled  by CCD classes and participating  parish families. Flights will deliver them to the Operation Christmas Child destinations for 2011: Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and South Africa.

The boxes were blessed at a Nov. 6th Mass at the parish and the children formed a procession with the shoeboxes.

CCD Administrator Christine DiVenuto and her daughter, Brigid, look at the many donations.



These pro life poems were written and submitted by Henry K. Zephir

A Message from the Little One


Please do not say, that I am not,

As I nestle infintesimally small in my mother’s womb.

For to do so would deny that an amoeba does not exist,

Or that a spec of dust in an eye just cannot be.

But certainly we know that these incredibles are,

As both can be seen when microscopically viewed.

So for anyone to deny that as small as I am,

That already I, can never be, is certainly an error.

For if I am not, then you too must not be,

As I am following life’s process, and today you are.

So as you read or pnder this, you must certainly admit,

That it is undeniably true, that since I am exactly as you once were,

That surely I AM.


Dear Mommie,

As I nestle in the warmtha nd darkness of your womb, I am not afraid.

For whild I abide here without swaddling clothes, a blanket, or light, I am warm and secure knowing that always you protect me.

Constantly I am comforted by the lullaby of your beating heart and the nourishment form your person.

While you may not realize it, I already know you so ver well.

I expereince the sweet fragrance of your body and the gentleness of your touch as you caress my tener carriage.

I am comforted by your voice as you talk and sing to me and sense your supernatural love that gives me strength to undergo my continuous growth.

While I feel safe and secure in your loving body, I know that onde day I  will finsih my hjourney here and will see you face to face.

Then your tender arms will cuddle me and I will see the sunshine of your smile and feel the gentleness of your person.

I know it will be difficult for you and me to wait for that wonderful day but we both know that our God is watching over and protecting us during this time.

Until my birthing comes, I will enjoy my peaceful slumber here in your womb assured that you will love and protect me always and therefore I am not afraid.

Love you Mommie.

Your little one.

Kigali Skyline

Rwandans try to move beyond images of genocide

By Father Bill Pomerleau

Pastor, Our Lady of Sacred Heart Parish in Springfield

Editor’s note: Fr. Bill Pomerleau was recently on a “working vacation” in East Africa, where he is reporting on places and people with ties to the Diocese of Springfield.

KIGALI, Rwanda —  Friday, July 1

The Belgians, who ruled Rwanda from 1922 to 1962, called this small nation “La Petite Suisse” because its steep hills reminded them of Switzerland.

And compared to their larger, more turbulent colony of Congo, it may have seemed a peaceful place.

But the peace would not last.

When German colonizers arrived in this then-remote region of central Africa in 1887, they “discovered” two highly organized, hierarchical kingdoms called Rwanda and Burundi. A minority group, called Tutsis, tended to own more cattle and have more influence, while the less influential who worked the land were called Hutus.

Historians today agree that the social divisions here were based on social class, rather than ethnic divisions, since residents of both nations always spoke the same language, and shared the same culture.

La petite Suisse

But the colonizers found it difficult to believe that these pagan Africans could develop societies that resembled medieval Europe. They falsely theorized that the ruling class were descendants of “Hamatic” Ethiopians who had lost their Christianity as they intermarried with inferior Bantu people.

At first, those who owned more than ten head of cattle were classified as Tutsis. But soon, the Germans and Belgians were obsessed with distinguishing the two “peoples” by supposed physical characteristics. Colonial officials measured the foreheads and noses of residents to classify them as either Tutsi or Hutu.

The Belgians, themselves divided by conflicts between their own French-speaking Walloon and Dutch-speaking Flemish social groups, issued Rwandan identity cards bearing the Tutsi or Hutu classifications in 1932.

The seeds of conflict were planted.

Rwanda identity cards

Rwandans point out that the western idea of a centuries-old “ethnic” rivalry here is a myth, or at least an over-simplification of a complicated social situation. Inter-marriage between Tutsis and Hutus was common.

But no one here denies what happened here in 1994, when a Hutu militia and its supporters instigated a mass killing of Tutsis and sympathetic moderate Hutus. 

While there is some debate about the exact number of deaths, the displays at the Kigali Genocide Memorial and most independent observers believe that over one million people, out of a population of 8 million, died in the genocide known to most Americans through the film “Hotel Rwanda.”

The Hotel Mille Collines has re-opened under a new Rwandan owner.  Its former manager, Paul Rusesabagina, is a controversial figure here, with critics claiming that he used his best-selling book and Hollywood to exaggerate his heroism during the genocide.

President Kagame

Rusesabagina, who recently moved to Texas after living in Belgium since 1994, is an outspoken critic of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, a former Tutsi militia leader. International human rights organizations say that Kagame has begun to suppress the political opposition here, while some Hutus fear that the old divisions that lead to the genocide may return.

But thanks to the help of the international community, there have been dramatic efforts to move beyond Rwanda’s recent history.

It took 40 years for Berlin to complete is Holocaust Memorial; its counterpart in Kigali opened on the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.

The memorial grounds include mass graves where over 250,000 genocide victims from across Rwanda have been interred.  New remains are added as they are found in shallow graves, latrines, and other locations.

Inside the building housing a museum and research center, one stark room contains several hundred photos of victims.  Another contains display cases with human skulls and bones. 

During our two-hour visit, we saw African and non-African visitors cry as they moved through the exhibits.

But today’s Rwanda has more than memorials.

By African standards, its capital city of Kigali is very modern.  There is new construction everywhere, and advertising is now more likely to be in English, rather than French.  English which is now talk along with Kirwanda in the schools, is linking Rwanda to its eastern neighbors in the developing East Africa Community, while French seems more linked to the its Belgian past and its troubled neighbor Congo to the west.

The few Rwandans we met who did not speak either European tongue could understand Kiswahili, the language of trade across eastern Africa.

Mass graves in Rwanda