Story by Becky May
On October 9, employees of the Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate in Belleville, Illinois enjoyed a special visit and presentation by a Zambian missionary. It was one stop on a U.S. tour by Fr. Barnabas Simatende, OMI, to report on the progress of several projects in Zambia supported by donors to Oblate missions. In addition to Belleville, Fr. Barnabas spent time in Washington, DC and San Antonio, Texas. At each stop he described the projects and the progress.
The first project is a girl’s dormitory in Zambia. Barnabas explained how the dormitory was essential for several reasons, “Before having this shelter, the girls would have to pay to stay in unsafe huts with a poor studying environment.” The dormitory is located near the school which also eliminates a three day travel for the girls. The dormitory can fit an estimated fifty people.
Another project in the works is a farm in Livingston. In this area fresh vegetables are grown. Also they raise poultry for sale. The produce and poultry are sold and profits go to the Zambia Delegation Council for other projects.
In a suburb of Lusaka lies Makeni, where the construction of the pre-novitiate has just been completed.
The Zambia Delegation is also fundraising for a speed boat large enough to transport food, supplies and gas to remote missions isolated by flooding several months of the year. Barnabas says they will continue to raise funds until they reach $30,000.
Although he is very active within the Zambian Delegation, Barnabas was ordained just four years ago. He recalls it as one of his most important moments in his life.
“My mother was crying, but it was a very big deal. I didn’t realize how much people would look up to you once you make that transition from a student to a priest,” said Barnabas.
Coming from a family of eight, Barnabas said he realizes the importance of his family. Although his pastoral duties keep him busy he manages to keep a strong relationship with them, “I’m two hours away from my family, but we make time.”
Barnabas started his journey to priesthood in his hometown of Lusaka, Zambia in 1998. He also had an internship in Zambia. Barnabas studied theology in San Antonio , Texas in 2004.
The first time he came to the United States he says it was different. “You’re exposed to a lot of different people and experiences. It’s always interesting to hear how people who aren’t from Zambia view and talk about it.”
During his four years of priesthood, Barnabas has served as an Assistant Parish Priest at Mary Immaculate Parish and as formator at the Pre-Novitiate Formation House, located in Lusaka. Aside from his pastoral duties he also has taken on many administrative responsibilities. Barnabas is a councilor of the Zambia Delegation. “There is a lot of planning involved.” But Barnabas says the benefits of the work outweigh the costs of it.
“The people are very receptive. I find it life giving. I work well with the people. I feel like I’m doing good for the people.”
Barnabas explains his most recent encounter with helping his community on a more personal level.
“A couple approached me, and asked for my help. They had been having trouble trying to conceive. They asked me to ask for God’s intervention. We prayed together and two months later they called me and we’re happy to share the news that they would be having a baby. The best part is that they asked me to Baptize their baby girl. The fact that they have that connection with me makes me feel special.”
At the moment he is working towards his Masters in child adolescent psychology at the University of Zambia, and is on track to graduate in May of 2013.