The SMA team in Tanzania will open a new mission on the island of Ukara on Lake Victoria in November 2016. Travel to the island requires two ferry crossings, with a combined sailing time of six hours from Mwanza on the mainland, via the island of Ukerewe.
Ukara Island has an estimated population of 18,000 people. It is part of the diocese of Bunda and will be the SMA’s first engagement with the diocese.
Ukara has a church and parochial house at the centre of the island, built in 1939 by the White Fathers. However, after a number of years they left. The island has had no residential priest for more than 20 years. From time to time a priest will travel from the mainland to celebrate Mass.
The new mission team will be led by Fr. T T Simon SMA, an Indian SMA priest ordained in 1998. The SMA American Province are supplying him with a 4-wheel vehicle while Fr Janusz Machota, SMA Regional Superior, has helped install a small solar system as the island has no electricity to provide for basic needs – lighting in the church and mission house. The diocese of Bunda will assist with repairing the priest’s house.
A major challenge will be supplying the parish with water. Ukara parish is three kilometres from Lake Victoria, making it prohibitive to build a pipe connection. Similarly, a bore-well would require heavy machinery which is not available on the island. An 80,000 litre water tank, therefore, will be built by a local tank-builder at a cost of US$12,000 to collect water during the rainy season which usually begins in October. It is hoped to begin this project in July and to have it completed by September. St Joseph’s SMA parish in Blackrock Road, Cork and the Irish Province Development Office are funding this project.
St Joseph’s SMA parish, Blackrock Road, Cork have a monthly PAFA [Parish aid for Africa] collection and some of this is going towards the water project. Gerry Forde in the SMA Development Office has applied for funds from some aid agencies and whatever they provide will also go into paying for the completion of this project as quickly as possible so that Fr TT and the other SMA priest who will be appointed there can begin their mission on time.
Fr TT has agreed with the local bishop that the SMA’s will officially take over responsibility for the parish on 1 November 2016. Both the diocese and the parishioners of Ukara are overjoyed that new life will soon return to their island church.