Sending letters of love from Zambia
Wexford’s Fr Fritz O’Kelly tells of life on the African Missions in a collection of letters now published in book form
Dear friends, A word of encouragement from Helmut Kathower prompts me to attempt to write a newsletter to my friends this Christmas.
He was a young German volunteer, whom I knew in Luanshya between 1969 and 1972.
He married a young Irish teacher working in Zambia. As also did another five German volunteers at the time. Quite amazing…don’t you think! Six Irish/German weddings.
He traced my whereabouts after 30 years and wrote a very nice letter. Someone had sent him a collection of my old newsletters that I had written over 14 years until 1992 while I was in Mwinilunga.
He would like to have them published. He seems to think that they are worth that sort of appreciation.
He is welcome to do so and I am indeed edified by his comments.
They deal with the remote area of primary evangelisation in which I was working in the NW Province of Zambia. Enthusiasm, frustrations, successes, failures, disappointments and satisfaction were clearly expressed. In spite of that there was always a tendency to see the funny side of all these events.
(Pictured: Fr Fritz in Zambia with Martin Giangopi, engineer and mechanic, and Martin’s young apprentice son.)
They included also the feelings and adventures of my fellow missionaries who shared the burden of missionary life in that area.
Almost 200 were dispatched regularly to all my friends and relations all over the world.
I was able to keep in touch with all those folk I love so much. This was not an easy task in those days.
I worked with an ancient typewriter and an old Gestetner machine that specialised in malfunctioning! It was exasperating at times!
The machine would eat up volumnes of good paper at times and often I would end up looking like the people I was serving, covered with black printer’s ink! But it is good to know that my efforts were appreciated and contact was kept.
At Christmas time one reflects, one thinks of God’s blessings received. His blessings came to me in the form of all the beautiful people I came across in the course of my long life as a missioner and even long before that.
So many faces come to mind when I think back to my early days at home in Limerick and Cork, and the close friends at school and later my companions who shared my experiences and company until I became a Franciscan over 50 years ago.
It was a sad parting to leave my family but it opened up a much larger family to my horizon.