Category Archives: News

Secrets in Stone



Hagar and Forever Free – two of Edmonia’s works

Edmonia Lewis – a black, Catholic, American sculptor – cut an unusual figure in nineteenth century Rome. Joanna Moorhead seeks to unravel the mystery of this remarkable woman. Article taken from The Tablet 4th July 2020.

Not far from The Tablet’s office in west London, in a Catholic cemetery containing the remains of distinguished figures including Cardinals Wiseman and Manning, writer Max Pemberton and entertainer Danny La Rue, is a grave that until recently was unmarked and known only as plot C350.

Today it has a shiny headstone, and the legacy of the individual whose remains lie beneath is attracting belated but much-deserved accolades from the art world. A distinguished sculptor, who rose from modest roots in New York to become a celebrated figure in Rome, what’s most remarkable of all is that this artist was also female, and black.

Her name was Edmonia Lewis, and as the headstone, erected in 2017 in St Mary’s Cemetery, Kensal Green, reveals, she was born in 1844 and died in 1907. The truth is that even if she was a contemporary artist, the story of her struggle, her indomitable spirit and her success would be extraordinary – because to this day, as the Black Lives Matter protests have made abundantly clear, the world is ranged against people like her.

“Women artists, artists of colour, face the same obstacles today that Edmonia faced,” says her biographer, Albert Henderson, on the phone from Connecticut. “But her talent was her capital. She was an incredibly skilled artist, and she was also determined, single-minded, and unstoppable.” The fact that one of her focuses as an artist was the abolition of slavery only underlines her relevance and resonance in the present moment.

Lewis’ attributes meant she found recognition in her lifetime, especially in Rome where she worked out of a studio off the Piazza Barberini She must have cut an unlikely figure in the city, at a time when it was dominated by white artists. In fact, says Henderson, it was the patronage of several white British Catholics, who encountered her in Rome, that helped launch her success. “I think they related because of their recusant history. They knew what it was like to be a second-class citizen,” he says. Their influence was presumably behind a short news report, which appeared in The Tablet of 10 March 1866, that noted: “Miss Edmonia Lewis, a lady of colour, has taken a studio in Rome, and works as a sculptress.”

Much of Lewis’ story is sadly lost in time – and much of her work, even more unfortunately, is physically lost. The current focus on Black Lives Matter, though, is helping to turn the tide, and Lewis is one of many unsung inspirational figures profiled in the Black History and Culture strand on the Google Arts & Culture platform.

She was born to a mother who was of Chippewa Indian heritage and an African American father, but both her parents died when she was a young child and she went to live with her mother’s family in their tribe. Those years were formative for her art, and perhaps she was also propelled by the Indian name by which she was now known, “Wildfire”. When she was 12, her brother, Sunrise, went to California to become a gold miner, and sent back money to pay for her education in Ohio.

Schooling was to be the making of Lewis, but it also very nearly unseated her: in a move that was almost certainly racially motivated, she was accused of trying to poison her white roommates. She was eventually acquitted, but not before she had been beaten by white vigilantes.

She moved to Boston to study sculpture, and among her first works were busts of abolitionists; it was the sale of one of these, of Robert Gould Shaw, that gave her the funds to buy a one-way ticket on a ship to Europe. She travelled around for a while before settling in Rome, as reported in The Table, having gained the support of established sculptors such as Hiram Powers. Rome was a fashionable place to be a sculptor at the time; as well as its history of sculpting in antiquity, fine white marble was available there, and the skills of Italian stone-cutters.

Being away from the US didn’t diminish Lewis’ interest in her African American and Native American heritage; if anything, it seems to have given her the space to focus on it more. One of her best-known works, now in the Howard University Gallery of Art in Washington, is Forever Free, depicting a man and woman emerging from slavery, shackles held aloft. Another piece, Old Arrow Maker, shows a Native American father instructing his young daughter.

Her relationship with Catholicism, like much in her life, is shrouded in mystery. According to Henderson, she used to say that “the black robes taught us to say our prayers”, which he believes is a reference to the Jesuit missionaries who worked in New York State when she was growing up there. She seems to have been baptised as an adult, although precisely when and where is unclear. “We’ve been to the Vatican archives to see if it happened in Rome, but there’s no record of it there”, says Henderson. More tangible evidence of her faith perhaps is evinced in her biblical works: one of her masterpieces is a statue of Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant from the Book of Genesis who became the world’s first surrogate mother when she gave birth to Abraham’s first son, Ishmael. Hagar was later cast out after Sarah gave birth to her own son, Isaac; in the sculpture, she is a symbol of the courage of an oppressed female. She also created a Moses, copied after Michelangelo, and now lost Adoration of the Magi.

Most of Lewis’ adult life was lived out in Rome, but she made regular journeys back to the US, taking examples of her sculpture with her and encouraging galleries to show them. In 1872 she was in California for an exhibition of her work at the San Francisco Art Association; four years later came important recognition when she was included in the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition. Her piece, The Death of Cleopatra, was an unsentimental portrayal of the Egyptian queen in her final moment. One reviewer called it “the most remarkable piece of sculpture in the American section” of the show. The fact that it was then lost for a century, and discovered in 1988 hidden in a Chicago storage room, stands testament to how deeply art history, a discipline dominated by white men, has ignored the contribution of women, and women of colour in particular. The Death of Cleopatra now stands in the Smithsonian in Washington.

The later years of Lewis’ life are as intriguing as her early times. Exactly when she moved to London, or why, is unknown, but by the census of 1901 she was living in Bloomsbury. She seems to have moved again, to a house on Blythe Road in Hammersmith, and appears to have been a regular parishioner at Our Lady of Victories in Kensington. If she produced any work for that church, though, it was almost certainly lost when the premises were bombed during the Second World War. Today, the only places in Britain where you can see her work are the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, and at Mount Stuart in Scotland, whose owner, the third Marquess of Bute, was one of those long-time British supporters of her work. Lewis died in the Hammersmith infirmary and, says Henderson, she asked for her death notice to be published in The Tablet. “A spinster and sculptor” was how she wanted to be remembered; more than 100 years on, that ambition seems finally to be being realised.

The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis by Harry Henderson and Albert Henderson is available for download on Kindle. For further information, see

Comfort and Joy

Cate Ryan, Clonmel, Tipperary. wrote this letter to The Irish Times 27.12.19

A chara. – By night he sleeps in doorways and by day he comes here to the train station to play the piano. With his hood up, he sits hunched into himself, but his fingers spill like light across the keys.

And the rush of passersby is startled to a stand still, because he plays the familiar tunes as though his heart beats in his hands.

He’s not here today and the piano is silent. I sit down to it and my fingers stumble through the low and quiet notes of that old carol: “God rest ye merry gentlemen”. But when his hands reach down from behind and rest either side of mine, for a few brief moments we’re joined in the playing of it.

And there it is again, at last – that breathless surge of fresh remembrance that what is felt as holy are simply those acts shared between unguarded hearts.

I leave him then, join the crowd on our journeys home, to music played by a man whithout one. Yet he plays the piano with as fierce a wish as children’s eyes search the sky on Christmas Eve.

He plays as some will clasp their hands in prayer, “Good tidings of comfort and joy”. – Is mise

The editor writes: Reader I am aware this is a Christmas story but we are in a difficult time and in need of Comfort and Joy. May this talented man be blessed and also Cate Ryan for taking the trouble to write in.

Botswana’s Bishop Nubuasah SVD mourns George Floyd, a friend.

Botswana’s Diocese of Gaborone Bishop, Frank Nubuasah, SVD, has written an emotional farewell letter to George Perry Floyd Jr., whom he met in the 1990s. George was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

Bishop Frank Nubuasah met and became friends with George Floyd and his family when the Bishop was in the United States in the 1990s. The Ghanaian-born Bishop says he remembers and cherishes George’s “infectious smile. “

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City

The gentle giant (14 October 1973 – 25 May 2020)

George Floyd, whom friends called, Perry, was an unarmed African American man whose death has ignited protests across the United States and beyond. Demonstrators have denounced systematic racism in the United States and want white policemen to stop killing black people -especially black men.

George Floyd was killed during an arrest. Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on George’s neck for close to nine minutes while George begged for his life: “I can’t breathe,” George pleaded. By then, he had already been handcuffed and was face down on the street. At the same time, two other police officers restrained George. A fourth officer prevented members of the public from intervening.

We got chatting and became friends says Bishop Nubuasah

Gaborone Diocese’s Bishop Frank Nubuasah, SVD, says he met George Floyd at a baseball game in Three Rivers Stadium of Pittsburgh in the United States. “We got to chatting and become friends,” says Bishop Nabuasah in the letter addressed directly to George Floyd. The then Father Nubuasah, says George was barely 20 when they met.

Below is Bishop Frank Nubuasah’s letter

Dear Mr. George Floyd,

Good day to you.

I have no idea what time it is in your part of God’s kingdom. But I do remember vividly our first meeting. It was at a baseball game. You came wearing blue jeans, T-shirt, a cap on, holding a huge paper cup filled with Coke in one hand and a bag of popcorn in the other. We were seated; you then joined us. That was in Pittsburgh many years ago. You were still a youngster, barely 20, on a trip. We got to chatting and become friends.

Under the circumstances this will be my last communication with you in this “land of the living” that rejected your right to live. How can I forget you George? Your distinctive features are a large nose and thick lips; very African traits. I know, you always reminded me that you are not African but African-American. Both backgrounds were important for you and you did not want to lose any. You were standing solidly with both feet in two traditions. Between these feet of yours was a lot of water called the Atlantic Ocean. You never got to cross it!

One of the things I cherish most about you was your very infectious smile. It was as if the coronavirus learnt from you how to infect people. Your heart was very big and accommodated people. It was always, okay with you to reach out to one more person. Yes, you would run a mile for anyone. Run you did for me on a number of occasions, but that is a story I will tell some other time.

My heart is heavy as I sit in my prayer corner to write you this missive knowing well that others will read it but you will not. We humans through a representative of ours made sure that your eyes were closed and would not open again. That is however not true, your eyes will remain forever seeing the fire you started at death. The revolution that your sacrificial death inspired and the new movements and alliances against racism, classism and discrimination are growing. You lit a fire that is burning for peace and change. So, my friend, when you hear the chant, “yes, we can” know that we are doing it in your name and for you. Gone, but very much here! On the mother continent we would call you, the living dead.

I recall the vacation I spent with you and your folks. Quincy was a baby boy at the time. It was a good escape from my books. What great BBQ’s we enjoyed in the summer evenings. I thought we in Southern Africa eat a lot of meat, but boy, you love your rare stake with blood on it.

You will remember that my preference was well done. You took me to watch a real football game not the American version but real football, the gentle game. Oh, yes, you were bored to the bone. You wanted your version of the game. I remember trying to educate you that the world governing body is called FIFA and not FISA when you refer to football as soccer. All that is water that has gone down under bridge near the three rivers stadium where we first met.

At my invitation, you were planning to visit the motherland and touch base with your roots. I had suggested that you attend the Pan African cultural festival known as PANAFEST in Ghana and then come over to beautiful Botswana to visit with me. I was going to take you see wildlife in their natural habitat, not a zoo. You were to visit a cattle post and a Masimo (ploughing field) and enjoy our coveted delicacy of pounded meat, Seswaa. I guess you are not coming in the flesh, so my plans would have to be put on ice.

With global warming, maybe the ice would melt and I can revisit the plans. Who knows Quincy might make it to see the stunning beauty of a lady that puts me on her laps day and night to feed and nourish me. She caresses me and supports me. This beautiful lady Botswana is home to great men and women. How can you miss this visit we had planned so long ago? My heart is aching badly. My writing you this letter is a therapeutic coping mechanism I learnt years ago when we met in Pittsburgh. Your life was cut shot, my friend.

You set another record by dying in the public view not in an accident. The event was captured on tape for posterity. Do you realize that you are a great man? Oh, how I love cell phones! No one can escape a crime with impunity because documentary evidence will circulate on social media. The criminal justice system might fail you but the popular opinion will know the truth.

The latest poll says two thirds of your country people are supporting the revolution you started at death. Now that you have seen the “janitors of Shadowland’ (Job 38; 17) you have answered your call even if prematurely. I guess the folks in heaven were expecting you. Farewell my younger brother from another mother in America. We shall meet again.

Right now, I am angry because I am human and never thought humans can stoop so low. A huge welcome awaits you in the Father’s house and I hope Coke and popcorn will be there too. You just have one more task to perform. It is to prepare to welcome the notorious four who killed you into heaven when their time does come and show ‘em round the jolly place we call heaven. She said “when they go low, we go high.” (Michelle Obama) I will miss you George. You can now breathe eternally the breath of love. Rest in Peace!

Bishop Frank Nubuasah SVD

Gaborone Botswana

04 June, 2020

Dominican friar returns to medical frontline

Staff reporter in The Irish Catholic, May 7, 2020

While many priests and religious are in the frontline comforting and consoling those suffering from coronavirus and their loved ones, an Irish Dominican friar who is a trained doctor is back treating patients with Covid-19.

Brother Chris Gault OP, who has been studying for the priesthood with the Dominicans, has returned to his native Belfast and donned surgican scrubs to be part of the fight against the virus in the Mater Hospital where he was once a junior doctor.

Having graduated from Queen’s University in 2013, and then completed foundation training, the 30-year-old had left this life behind when he decided to answer a call to enter the priesthood.

“I talked to my superiors and they were happy and encouraging,” he said.

“I just volunteered. The trust and the health service is undergoing a lot of change. They are adapting to a lot of change in these current circumstances.

“I never wavered and once the backing came, I was happy to go for it,” he said.


by Jade Wilson in The Irish Times Monday 4th May 2020

Oscar Little (21) lost his job as a courier last month, but as a volunteer he is now on his bike six days a week making deliveries for the Capuchin Day Centre to families who are in need.

On a typical Saturday afternoon, he packed his cargo bike full of food parcels and take-a-way dinners to deliver to several hostels for the homeless in Dublin city centre before heading to Tallaght to deliver more meals to families isolating in their homes.

Despite losing his job, the music student with the British and Irish Modern Music Institute has refused any payment from the centre.

“They asked me to invoice them but I don’t want to. The centre is a charity. If I take their money, am I taking food out of someone’s mouth? They don’t have unlimited money and they’re doing twice the amount of work they normally do. There’s a lot more presssure on the centre now,” he said.

At the start of the outbreak, the charity was handing out about 650 dinner packages a day, but in recent weeks that number has grown to 870, with lots of people who had never used the service before now getting in touch, according to manager Alan Bailey.

“We have a lot of new people who’ve lost their jobs and don’t know what to do or where to go. These are people who were totally self-sufficient and, all of a sudden, the rope has been pulled from under them,” Mr Bailey said.

“It’s a huge pressure on the centre because we’ve split the staff in two to work opposite days. Half work the first three days and the other half work the latter half of the week, because we’re afraid of staff getting sick with the virus.”

Describing Mr Little as “a vital part of our service”, Mr Bailey added: “He’s a quiet, unassuming chap and very good to the people he’s dealing with. People have told me they’s have no money for cigarettes and he’s buying cigarettes for them. Gestures like that mean so much to people.”

Really happy

Mr Little said: “It’s really fulfilling work. Everyone is friendly and very appreciative.” He recalled delivering Easter eggs to a Roma family in Tallaght last month. “The kids got really excited…over something as small as an Easter egg. One of the parents let the kids out front to get them from me and they ran back into the houses jumping around, really happy.”

The deliveries are “really helping” and making things “much easier” for families who are isolating in their rooms, according to the receptionist at Maple Hotel on Gardiner Street, who takes the meals from Mr Little and leaves them outside the bedrooms of residents who are sick and unable to leave to cook or shop.

Mr Little’s mother, Angy, is a doctor at the Capuchin Day Centre – “she kind of roped me into doing this” – while his father, George, works in a hospital A&E department.

“If I can help out in any way when this is over, I will stay involved with the centre,” the student added. “When I finish my music degree, I want to do medicine at some point. I like helping people and being able to do things for people that they can’t do for themselves. Maybe it runs in the family.”

Well done Oscar and well done Jade and well done all those working in the Capuchin Centre

Indonesia – Good News

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has turned into “a promising oasis of religious and priestly vocations,” Father Luigi Galvani, pioneer of the Camillian mission of Flores told Agenzia Fides. “In fact, the continuous opening of new religious communities and seminaries is the clear testimony of this favourable moment.”

“In Maumere, on the island of Flores, one is impressed to see the largest philosophical and theological Seminary of the Catholic Church in the world, led by Divine Word Missionaries, with more than a thousand seminarians,” Fr. Luigi marveled.

“If in the past decades Indonesia had been a destination country of evangelization, now it is giving back this gift to the nations with the sending of its missionaries” – the Camillian further specified. “In fact, several dozen Indonesian missionaries from various religious institutes, with the Verbites (Divine Word Missionaries are also known as Verbites in different parts of the world) in the front row, reach other countries of the world each year to carry out pastoral and missionary service.”

Centre far left Fr P Erik is missioned to Ireland. All are missioned.

We are very proud of the diversity of our missionaries and the wonderful service our Indonesian priests, brothers and sisters perform in the more than 80 countries where we are present!

Chief Imam celebrates 100 years in church

The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu with Father Campbel after the service

General News of Tuesday, 23 April 2019


Chief Imam celebrates 100 years in church

The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu with Father Campbel after the service

The National Chief Imam Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu last Sunday made a rare and spectacular appearance at the Christ The King Catholic Church, Accra as part of his 100th birthday.

Accompanied by a large entourage of top clerics and leading figures in the Islamic community, the visit went viral within minutes as the images were being posted particularly on social media.

DAILY GUIDE has learnt that President Akufo-Addo was also excited about the gesture which observers say is worthy of emulation in countries where cross-faith harmony is not a feature.

For a man whose peace overtures have earned for him a cross-faith reverence, the visit to Christ The King on an Easter Sunday augmented an already existing deference which found space on BBC’s African programme – Focus On Africa – with Audrey Brown who described it as a ‘light in the dark.’

The Chief Imam was received on arrival by the Parish Priest, Rev. Father Andrew Campbell, SVD, who led the congregation to sing a happy birthday song to his guest.


A narration of the arrival by a member of the church, a certain Maya Musi Jata said it all about the excitement which greeted the cleric, as he set foot on the threshold of the church before the appointed time of 8am.

The congregation, as if the arrival had been rehearsed, commenced a ‘Happy Birthday’ song, as a supporting organ in the background provided the sweet notes in an appropriate pitch.

“He was supposed to arrive by 8am according to the programme, but he was there before 8am. I was excited about that. He was welcomed to the church by Rev Fr Campbell who told us that the Chief Imam was turning 100 and wanted to come celebrate with us,” Musi Jata told Audrey Brown.

The lady expressed happiness with the cleric’s position that God does not say that “we should fight those who do not belong to our faiths. There was a lot of encouragement for the cleric as he spoke. We are the same people and so should co-exist harmoniously. Let others outside Ghana emulate this gesture.”

Her admonition comes on the heels of an attack on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka in which scores of Christians lost their lives on Sunday.

How It Started

Cecil Garbrah, an official of the church, said “it all started with a call on Wednesday by a member of the Chief Imam’s team that the cleric wants to meet the Reverends and the congregation to mark his 100 years which is on Tuesday (today). I contacted the elders of the church and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Accra. We were excited that the Chief Imam was visiting us. If there is a red carpet let us lay it for him. We donated a pair of footwear, the kind worn by Muslims and he made a cash donation to the church.”

Mr. Garbrah spoke about a reciprocal visit to the mosque and how football matches, among other social activities, can enhance inter-faith harmony.

The Chief Imam, he told BBC, bemoaned the developments which have taken place across the world in which people have lost their lives.

Many social media users who spotted the Chief Imam at the church said the move inures to the harmonious co-existence among members of the two great faiths in Ghana…/National-Chief-Imam-attends-Catholic-…

When I was a stranger…

“Casa Betania Sta. Martha”, the welcome house for migrants in Salto de Agua, Chiapas, Mexico, is located about 100 Km from the border between Guatemala. The house is located on the route where the migrants go through. Here the cargo trains pass through this small town wherein many migrants boarded elsewhere to proceed with their journey. They jump off from these cargo trains at Salto de Agua and stop by Casa Betania Sta. Marta. The Casa, run by SVD Mexico Province has already hosted around 8000 migrants since its establishment in March 2018.

When I visited Casa Sta, Marta in November 2018, around 15 to 20 migrants were arriving in the house every day. However, I was told that this is not a significant number for them. The maximum number of migrants the Casa hosted in a day was 250.

In my conversation with a few of the migrants, I realized that each of them has his/her reason to leave their hometown. Some migrants are forced to leave their homes because of conflicts, persecution, disaster, and land grabbing. Some migrants are seeking a better life to improve their economic situation, for better job opportunities, education and medical treatment. Some migrants move because of family ties. Many times, for these migrants, the reason is not just one, but there are still many other complex reasons. Unfortunately, some people use these migrants for their political advantages. Also, there are experiences where people who have malicious interests use the migrants. Moreover, many people are indifferent and do not want to see such migrants.

Fr. Martín Islas, SVD, four FMM sisters and a few lay staff work at Casa Sta. Marta. There are also some volunteers from the SVD parish and other groups. They help like preparing beds and meals, providing clothes and medicine, offer places to shower and a counseling service. I saw that the migrants arriving at the Casa are often tired and some of them injured. They worry about their journey and their family. I heard that during the trip there are people that died by accident, killed, raped, cheated, and trafficked. Some children were also abducted.

As religious missionaries, social commitment is often a fulfilling work, because we can see the development and growth of individuals and communities. However, in the Casa the migrants merely come and go. They pass through the house temporarily. There is no way the staff of the Casa will ever know what will happen to these migrants or what is the future that awaits them. Indeed, this must be very tough work.

I saw Fr. Martín is sitting beside a migrant and listening to him as he shared his story in front of the kitchen. And on the wall of the kitchen, I saw the gospel message “for I was hungry, and you gave me food.” I became convinced that the accompaniment the staff of Casa is a real witness of the Gospel. It is the work that Jesus wanted to do for the poor people. It is also the work Jesus wants us to do as SVDs.

May God continue to bless this work and accompany this journey of the migrants and the staff of the Casa.

Daisuke Narui, SVD

Generalate JPIC Coordinator

Amazing Grace

Grace (if you haven’t met her) is the theological term for

the Holy Spirit

She is the Breath of everything that exists

She is the Divine Energy fuelling all of Creation

She is invisible Love being visible

She is the ‘deep within’ of every human being

She is our Inner Life Companion

She longs to live our lives with us

(Latin: gratia/Greek: kharis/grace, favour, gift of God)

Taken from OUR HOLY GROUND by Christa Murphy

Sister Gini George and Sister Ewa Pliszczak

Sister Gini George is on home leave at present and then she will go to Rome to join the Communications Team in the Congregation.

Sister Ewa Pliszczak left Bristol on 3rd December to go to a new mission.  She will join those who are part of the new mission to Greece in Athens.

(As you can see these sisters are creative, not fair-weather missionaries and work hard wherever they are.)

We wish both of them God’s bless and protection.