“South Sudan is the world’s newest country, having declared independence in 2011,” explains Laura “Anna Kate” Moore, ’19, who currently serves as a Salesian Lay Missionary in Wau, South Sudan. “In the few years that have passed since then, the country has seen the outbreak of multiple civil wars, and is still trying to establish anything more than a temporary government. Most of the population suffers from extreme poverty.”
For the past two months, Anna Kate has been working with three other missionaries from the United States and Poland, alongside the four Salesian sisters who run a clinic and two schools for the people of Wau (pop. 150,000), South Sudan. Her main role is to teach English to the children at St. Joseph’s Primary School, the larger of the two schools, which has an enrollment of over 1,000 students. “For the first several weeks,” she says, “I taught songs and dances to the children in preparation for their annual school festival. But I have now transitioned into my official role as English teacher.”
“I teach seventeen classes each week, working with all of the students first grade and up. While all of the teachers know some English, I am the only native English speaker at the school. Resources are very limited, but the teachers do all they can to make the school a good place for the children, and through various charitable organizations we are able to provide the students with one meal each day.”
Last spring, the National Catholic Register published an extensive article on the tense political situation in South Sudan, and the attempt by Church leaders—including Pope Francis—to bring peace and stability to the country. In a dramatic gesture, the Holy Father kissed the feet of the two rival leaders of South Sudan during a highly-publicized peace meeting at the Vatican.
“As the November 12 deadline approaches for the establishment of a new government, I ask everyone to pray that this period of peace continue, and that those suffering are able to get the help they need.” —Anna Kate Moore, ’19
As the November 12 deadline to form a new unity government fast approaches, there is hope, mingled with fear and anxiety, for the ability of the two leaders of the predominantly Christian country, President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar, to establish a peaceful and unified South Sudan. Kiir is Catholic and a member of the Dinka tribe, and Machar is Presbyterian and a member of the Nuer tribe. The ethnic and tribal divisions have been a source of violence and dislocation for decades, but the missionary efforts of the Salesians and others have provided refuge and stability to those caught in the crossfire, particularly the young children of the region.
Anna Kate asks that the Thomas More College community and others pray for the situation in South Sudan: “I ask everyone to pray that this period of peace continue, and that those suffering are able to get the help they need.”
Anna Kate’s infectious cheerfulness and humility have no doubt been a consolation and inspiration, a witness to Christ’s love, for the children she encounters daily at St. Joseph’s Primary School. In her Senior Thesis on “Obedience in the Life of St. Thomas More,” which she defended last spring under the direction of President William Fahey, Anna Kate wrote: “The cultivation of virtue is essential, not for those times in which it is easy to act well, but rather for those in which it is most difficult. It is in our most trying times that we most clearly reveal our character.” The College community joins Anna Kate in her prayer for peace and stability in the region, and prays for the continued success and safety of her work with the Salesian Sisters there.