It is my last day in South Africa.  The Conroy-Boehrer clan is staying until next Monday and might be checking in using this blog.  Today, we are having an authentic Indian lunch with a friend of Mpume.  It is a reminder of the tremendous influence Indians and Indian culture have exerted in the history of South Africa for the past 150 years.  Although it too often remains hidden, Durban is a city of Mahatma Gandhi where he lived for 21 years as a lawyer and an advocate for his people.  The program of Gandhi that led to independence in India, then was adopted by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 960s, finds its ideological roots in this polyethnic city.

For my last report from Durban, I share some small vignettes and little thoughts that I know will stay with me.

Jogging:  I have been eating like a pig.  Actually, I have been eating a lot of pig.  The breakfast at the Guest House is tremendous.  When we go out, we are treated with wonderfully local dishes of all kinds.  But what Zulus really love is meat.  It is everywhere and prepared in every way.  Just another way I am a Zulu at heart.  So I have consistently jogged throughout the trip in order to avoid paying for two airplane seats on the way back.  However, it has been strenuous for two reasons.  One, there is no flat place in all of Durban.  Believe me.  I  have looked.  Secondly, with cars driving on the left side of the road, I have no idea which direction from whence they will be turning.  When I come to intersections, I look once, close my eyes and run as fast as I can.

The Blessing of Backpacks:   Thanks to the generosity of so many, we distributed nearly 125 backpacks.  There will be pictures that capture better than words the joy of those receiving these gifts from their friends whom they have never met.  But to be in their presence as they were given their backpacks and to feel the joy shimmer through their body was a great delight and privilege.  When they were distributed in KwaNdebeqheke, the teacher at the daycare started by Mama Zondi wrote and told us the “children held onto their backpacks as if for dear life.”  As is our tradition at Our Lady of Fatima and Saint Helen’s, we bless the backpacks and include a prayer card that reminds the carrier that “This backpack is blessed.  God is always with me.”   So last Thursday, we all rubbed our hands together to get the Holy Spirit warmed up and blessed the backpacks together.  What struck me most deeply is that children who had received the backpack the day before rushed up to get the prayer card.  Also, I brought with me rosaries from St. Helen’s school made by our children.  The mission of the Rosary Club is to share them throughout the world.  Every kid clamored for one.  I gave them out to the children’s solidarity of Mary who were all dressed in white and make devotion to the blessed mother a part of every day.  The hope of South Africa is their children.  And their hope is in God.

The Body of Christ:  I have been to mass in different languages before, but I can usually catch a word here and there of Spanish for instance.  But Zulu is hardly a romance language, and except for the occasional Baba (Father) and Jesu, I could follow very little.  But that did not prevent us from feeling very much a part of the community.  And sure enough, in this small African village we were indeed saying the same prayers and hearing the same readings as were being said and heard in Albany.  We often can be frustrated by the slowness and bigness of the Catholic Church.  But its universality is a great gift, making us one community of prayer.  The earth is covered by these prayers every Sunday.  As I distributed communion, with the repetitious “Body of Christ” which always brings peace to my heart, I was overwhelmed by our oneness.  I truly believe we are never separated.  We must only seek to see how we are already one.

My new name?:  So as I said just above, the name for Father is Baba.  That means in Zulu I am known as Baba Bob.  I would not be heartbroken if that caught on back home.


Thanks to everyone who has taken this electronic journey with me.  I can’t wait to see you!