Comboni Missionaries in South Sudan: Contribution to Nation Building, Challenges

Comboni Missionaries in South Sudan during their weeklong Annual Assembly in Juba at the Good Shepherd Peace Centr, Kit

Since the founder of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and the Comboni Missionary Sisters (Verona Fathers and Sisters), Italian-born St. Daniel Comboni launched his plan “save Africa through Africa” and was consecrated Bishop as Vicar Apostolic of Central Africa in the second half of the nineteenth century, his institute has had an outstanding legacy in Sudan and South Sudan through the activities of its members.

In an interview with ACI Africa correspondent in South Sudan, the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Fathers and Brothers in the world’s youngest country, Fr. Louis Tony Okot recounted the contribution of his confreres in the evangelization ministry in the nation, highlighting education, health, and the administration of Sacraments. He also recounted the challenges the missionaries face.  

“In education, there are many people who have passed through our schools, starting from nursery to primary, going through secondary schools,” Fr. Okot told ACI Africa correspondent Saturday, January 18 at the conclusion of the weeklong meeting of the Comboni Missionary Fathers and Brothers ministering in South Sudan.

According to the Comboni Provincial Superior in South Sudan, “in some of the missions, our schools are the only schools,” something he said has challenged the missionaries to do more to empower people by offering them an opportunity to go to school.

“If you go to Old Fangak, the only primary eight in the whole county is the one in our mission and you don’t get any other class eight,” the South Sudanese cleric revealed during the interview at the Good Shepherd Peace Centre, Kit, in the outskirts of Juba.


Besides education, Comboni missionaries in South Sudan are also engaged in the health apostolate, such as Mapuordit hospital, which was set up by the congregation upon the request of the Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese.

Explaining how the hospital has grown over the years, the cleric told ACI Africa that the health facility started out as a clinic offering only outpatient services, and has today grown to a fully-fledged hospital offering a variety of medical services.

“From a small clinic, it has become a big hospital that is having one hundred and something (beds). It is no longer an outpatient hospital, but already a hospital where patients can be admitted, and be operated on,” Fr. Okot recounted.

The missionary congregation also runs medical centres in Tali and Wau, and at the same time trains health workers.

Comboni missionaries are also involved in direct evangelization work, the South Sudanese native testified.

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Even if “one might not see the result of the proclamation of the Word of God,” Fr. Okot said, “we have seen the result that the Word of God we preach has transformed the lives of many people.”

“It is interesting to hear somebody say that, now I am capable of forgiving,” Fr. Okot told ACI Africa.

Among the challenges that the missionaries encounter in their efforts to serve the people of South Sudan include insecurity, which, according to Fr. Okot, interrupts the provision of Church services in the affected areas such as Leer in the nation’s Upper Nile region and Kajo-Keji on the border with Uganda.

“Most of our missions are in the rural areas, and most of them were affected by the current situation of the country,” he said and added, “We have the community of Kajo-Keji. Since February 2017, they have been displaced and are all now in the refugee camp.” 

Recounting the challenges of missionary apostolate in the central part of the country within the diocese of Rumbek, he said, “The community of Mapuordit in Yirol is insecure too especially when they are going to Rumbek. It is a challenge, which does not allow us to move freely to different communities and preach the word of God. Sometimes we fear.”


The insecurity affecting some of the regions has led to instability in families, as they are separated, the South Sudanese cleric lamented and explained, “You get some children in one of the displaced camps and members of the family in another village. You find that there is no united family due to such instability.”

He added, “Sometimes people go without finishing the training or teaching (catechism classes) and leave before baptism or confirmation.”

“Another challenge is the culture itself. We are from 16 nationalities, and only 7 out of 44 individuals are South Sudanese; those from different countries do not know our culture,” the Provincial Superior revealed during the Saturday interview.

Amid the challenges, Fr. Okot expressed optimism saying, “One of the opportunities in pursuing our mission is the huge population of young people we have in our nation.”

“We have the possibility of making impact in the life of these young people who at the end will become the transformers of the society,” Comboni Fr. Okot said and concluded, “The young people are a resource that can be used for transforming the society.”

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