Congolese priest impressed by C-U

URBANA — Father Zephyrin Nsimba came here from the Congo and likes what he sees.

A mission worker for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kinshasa, Nsimba came here to meet with and celebrate Mass with Congolese residents — he said there are many here — and help organize a massive clothing drive for his troubled nation.

The drive, organized by St. Mary and St. Patrick Catholic churches in Champaign-Urbana, had major help not only from Catholics, but also members of the Jewish and Presbyterians faiths, among others, said Tyra Quinones, the St. Patrick secretary.

She credits Father Joseph Hogan, organizer Ken Enright and Nsimba with spearheading the drive, which sent 137 boxes of used clothing and seven boxes of new tools from Urbana to Kinshasa via New York.

Posted last week, they have not yet arrived, she said.

The French-speaking priest said he was impressed by the good will of the people here.

"We met good, nice people within the community, who collected clothing for people who are far away," he said. "It is a sure sign of love, to help people you don't know."

He said the Republic of Congo, formerly a colony exploited by Belgium, has faced political and natural crises in recent years

"There have been some uprisings from the election situation. People want to know the truth about the results. If the government does show the results, they will lose trust," he said.

Also, because the country is in the Great Rift Valley, volcanic eruptions have caused mass movements of people, with many not able to pack their clothing first.

Most recently, the Nyamuragira volcano erupted in 2010 and again on Nov. 8.

"People lost houses; even part of the airport is under volcanic lava," Nsimba said.

"A lot of people need articles of clothing. We hope to have more help for them. There are good people like Ken Enright who accepted to really work for the Congolese people."

The father leaves Urbana on Thursday, Dec. 15. He has also visited Cincinnati and Colorado.

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DEB wrote on December 10, 2011 at 9:12 am

The article doesn't mention what an asset Father Zephyrin Nsimba has been to our community himself. We have a wonderful Congolese community here in CU that quietly contributes a lot, almost unnoticed by many, to the quality of life here. Fr. Zephyrin not only served them while here, but helped them integrate into CU more and encouraged them to serve the larger population of our larger community. They offer their skills generously and work tirelessly. We have hired several of them over the last few years to do cabinet work, make beautiful blankets, tapestries, and even some clothing, and always found the Congolese of CU to be amazingly warm, welcoming, generous and genuine.

In troubled times for the Catholic Church it is easy to forget all the wonderful work they continue to do. Sure, it sometimes is controversial when they insist that their hospitals or schools follow their beliefs on, say, abortion or gay marriage. And the pedophilia scandals are horrendous. But those are done by individuals. Bad priests, bishops, and popes don't take away from the good they do.

Thank Zephyrin you for all you've done for CU. I wish you safe travel, and for the Congo I wish peace and prosperity for all it's citizens and inhabitants.