By Leadership Reporter
Brother Erich Fischnaller is a Comboni Missionary working in Moyo. Before his community moved to Moyo because of insurgence; he was working in South Sudan. Br. Erich was born in Northern Italy in the town of Muhlbach in 1949. He is the seventh of ten children. When he was nine years, he made up his mind to be a religious brother with the Comboni Missionaries, so that he could help people.This all begun when a comboni Missionary priest from South Africa would visit his village and play slide shows on missionary work. Brother Erich says those were special moments for the children who did not have televisions, so, they would look forward to those slides. After the shows, the priest would then talk about the Comboni missionaries and what they do. The talks became interesting for the little boy who wanted to become a brother; he enjoyed every bit of the talk.
Every time there was a slide show in the village, Brother Erich’s mother would give him some money to drop in a small box placed somewhere on the table. He had never heard about religious brothers as all he knew were the priests. He had never shown interest in becoming a priest but when the priest told them about brothers, he immediately picked interest and wanted to know more about the brothers. He became so curious that the priest had to clarify the main purpose of a brother.
The priest told them that, with their skills, the life of a brother was to give life to people. The priest added that a brother does exactly what Jesus did. While the priests do the evangelizing, a brother will also evangelize, and also help people just like Jesus did. This brought so much joy in Brother Erich’s life because at 9 years, he already knew that he wanted to become a brother. He told his parents that he wanted to become a missionary brother and work in Africa. He said his family was very supportive. Brother Erich said whenever the teacher asked children at school what they would be when they grow up, he would reply and say he wanted to be a brother.
At the age of 16, he joined the Comboni missionaries’ formation house close to his village. His dream was to work in Africa as a missionary so he started working on it. After his formation, he trained in carpentry and at the age of 17, he joined the Comboni novitiate.
After novitiate, Brother Erich asked his superiors to allow him work in Africa, but his superiors thought that he would be useful in Europe, something, he refused because his dream was to work in Africa. He was eventually sent to South Africa where he worked for thirty years. He says that coming to Africa was everything for him and he feels like he fulfilled his vocation. In 2004, he received information from Rome asking him to work in Lomin South Sudan. He accepted his new post but asked what he was going to do in South Sudan.
He went to South Sudan to experiment and see if he could work and eventually, he found his footing there. Lomin was his first station after thirty years in South Africa. He added that when he arrived in Lomin, he found a school being built so he had to make himself useful. With his carpentry skills, he joined the work, he became a welder at the site too, he would also bake and got involved in baking to keeping the mission going.
One thing Brother Erich loves about working in Africa is the very exciting and new experiences he receives on a daily basis. “Africa is a very exciting place, every day you experience something new and you will learn new things every day,” he said. He also loves that people make him needed here; he says he feels needed here and he loves it so much. One thing he has failed to cope up with in Africa are the so many languages. He noted that he failed to learn a single language even when he spent thirty years in South Africa.
In Lomin, he says he is too old to learn a new language, he added that he always communicates to people in English and gets everything he wants and gets things done. He added that he will only leave Africa when he becomes a burden to the people but as long as he can still work, he is going nowhere because he is here to serve the people, and they need him. “It’s a very positive experience; you feel you are needed so much. If am old and a burden to the people, then I can go back to Europe, but as long as I can do something to be helpful; I will stay,” commented Brother Erich.
He has never regretted his choice of doing missionary work in Africa and says he would do it again and again if he could become younger. He is very happy with his community members and speaks only good things about them; he says he is so lucky that Bro Fafa Ayih was taken to Lomin. He feels satisfied that he has someone who will take over from him one day when he is unable to do anything. Brother Erich added that Bro Fafa is so handy and always helps him when it comes to moving around the offices, which Bro Erich does not like.
Their relocation from Lomin has taken them a step backward; they have started rebuilding everything from scratch. They have had to build a new community house in Moyo. Brother Erich said they chose to build the mission house in Palorinya so that they can be close to the refugee camps. He also added that it’s their people living in the refugee camp and they want to be able to help them every time they can.
He added that, the refuges need them around and they have hired some of them so that they can get an extra income to help them. He added that the community is happy to build a house in Moyo and when the time to go back to Sudan comes, they will go back glad to have shared their skills with other people; leaving the house for the people of moyo.
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