Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 31, 2009
Shared faith links Gambian, Barrhead parishes
Taking skills overseas produces an unexpected bond and friendship
PHOTO | BETTY GARVEY
Dan Garvey shows the Gambian banner to parishioners as Father Thekkaneth admires the artistry.
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
BARRHEAD - Sharing Skills, Changing Lives is the motto of CUSO-VSO, a voluntary overseas organization. In many ways the volunteering is a satisfying experience, but oftentimes it is the experiences that happen during the volunteer placement when the most satisfaction occurs.
Dan Garvey says this happened to him. While completing his assignment in West Africa, Dan was able to link his home parish of St. Anne's in Barrhead with the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Gambia.
One of the simple blessings of Dan's time in Gambia was a welcoming Catholic church close to his compound. Dan immediately felt at home in The Church of the Blessed Sacrament, which became his regular place of worship.
Parishioners greeted each other personally before Mass and included Dan in this show of friendship.
In one of his first visits to Blessed Sacrament, parish priest Father Peter Lopez expressed the need for a building to house meeting rooms and Sunday school classrooms. The outside thatched-roof meeting space also needed replacing.
Blessed Sacrament's weekly offerings, however, averaged about $84(Cdn) to cover all parish operations. Parishioners were asked to give whatever they could for this project.
After Mass, Dan caught up with Father Peter and offered to solicit assistance from St. Anne's Parish in Barrhead.
Dan contacted his wife, Betty, and Father Paul Thekkaneth about the church's need.
ST. ANNE'S GIFT
To help out, St. Anne's Parish, along with Dan's family members, raised about $1,600. This was enough to complete the bare shell slated for the meeting space and Sunday school facilities.
To Dan, the completion and consecration of the new building on June 14 was one of the high points of his sojourn in Gambia.
On July 5 before heading home, Dan was thanked on behalf of the Barrhead parishioners and presented with gifts to bring home for our parish.
A painted banner and a photo collage express a bond of sisterhood between St. Anne's and the good people at Blessed Sacrament in Gambia. One woman even made a bright and beautiful robe for Father Paul, our priest from India.
Dan also brought a drum for Father Paul, which he broke in while joining music ministry for the recessional after Dan's presentation of the gifts.
As a retired teacher, administrator and ATA staff officer, Dan brought current skills and expertise to his posting as advisor for the Ministry of Education's standards and quality assurance directorate.
One recurring theme in his work with the ministry was the necessity of using a leadership rather than a management paradigm. Having been a teacher on his staff, I recognize leadership as one of his administrative trademarks and strengths. He would have much to offer in this and other areas.
From his compound in Kanifing, part of the Kombo region near the river's mouth, Dan learned the art of living the Gambian way.
In his role as educational advisor, Dan met many challenges. In his daily life, Dan also met challenges. Simple activities like shopping and going to work encompassed major planning, but often became major adventures.
Riding public transport included guesswork and could definitely be considered a contact sport. An athletic background served him well. In spite of hurdles, Dan considers his van ride to Brikama one of his best-loved adventures.
Dan was often caught off guard by the friendliness and openness of Gambians. Meeting people on the streets, shopkeepers at the market, or fellow passengers in a van, one always exchanged inquiries of each other's well being.
Common greetings are, "Hello, my friend." "Did you sleep well?" "Please let me help you." "Are you at peace?" or "How does your work go?"
Making friends, visiting with fellow travellers, and accepting invitations to join people at their food bowls, Dan shared life with Gambians.
In doing so, he, no doubt, changed lives. In the process, he could not help but be changed himself. For the sacrifice of leaving his family and the comforts of home, there are rewards, but Dan says he wouldn't do this again without having his wife along.
To read more of Dan's episodes, go to < hrefv="http://www.garvingambia.wordpress.com">garvingambia.wordpress.com.