Though our organization is no longer affiliated with St. Joseph’s parish, the following article in the Mining Journal from 2010 explains well how this all began:
After several years of intermittent contact and sporadic financial support, St. Joseph Parish in Ishpeming has now named St. John Hospital in East Africa an official parish mission. The parish is taking on a mission project to assure progress continues toward completion of the much-needed hospital and to allow parishioners the opportunity to see the positive impact of reaching out to others.
Parishioners in Ishpeming are hopeful that their prayers and financial contributions will aid in the completion of a much-needed hospital in the remote village of Matamba, Tanzania. Efforts to support the construction project began in 2007 when Father Albert Mligo – a former seminarian of St. Joseph’s pastor Father Jim Challancin – first came to the Diocese of Marquette to educate parishioners about the need for a hospital.
Father Mligo said he began construction of St. John Hospital mostly in response to the need to care for expectant mothers and infants. According to the IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: “Tanzania’s public health service suffers from a chronic lack of resources leading to low quality healthcare. Many poor and vulnerable families often lack access to health services. Child mortality/morbidity is high with one in seven children dying before the age of five; two-thirds of deaths occur within the first two years of life.”
In response to Father Mligo’s plea for help, individuals have donated more than $23,000 toward work on the hospital facility. About half of that money and other supplies were hand delivered to Father Mligo by St. Joseph parishioners Bob and Cheryl Marietti, who took it upon themselves to visit St. John Hospital in Matamba in October 2009. The Mariettis had hosted Father Mligo while he was in our country. Upon hearing of their impending trip, many parishioners gave cash and other donations to be delivered to Father Mligo. In addition to more than $12,000, Bob and Cheryl also brought a microscope valued at about $850 donated by Dr. “Fritz” Hoenke of Marquette, and three suitcases containing 160 pounds of medicines gathered by the former Mission Honduras group.
Moved by the primitive conditions they saw and documented on their trip, the Mariettis persuaded the St. Joseph Parish Council to officially take on St. John Hospital in Matamba as its parish mission.
The people of Matamba have made all of the bricks for the building by hand. But the hospital is in need of basic supplies including a sterilizer, stretchers, baby scale, drip stands for IVs, a movable light and also an ultrasound machine. In addition to these basic needs, patients currently seeking treatment at St. John Hospital need to supply their own bedding, including a mattress. There are no cooking facilities for use by the hospital and so a patient’s family is required to supply food for the duration of a hospital stay. The only dental care that is provided at St. John’s is the pulling of teeth, without the use of anesthetics. The hospital is also in need of refrigeration to keep medicines cold and a generator for backup electricity.
“People here can’t even imagine what life is like over there,” Bob Marietti said. He added that he hopes this mission project will allow the people of Matamba to share even a small portion of the advanced medical services that we in our country already have.
St. Joseph’s parish council will be encouraging the people of the parish, both individually and its committees, organizations and other groups, to regularly and generously give financial support to Father Mligo’s hospital efforts through the parish fund set up for this purpose. In addition to these contributions, a matching grant was offered from an anonymous donor to add a dollar for every two dollars collected up to $7,000.
In Memory of Father James P. Challancin
Sept. 16, 1941 – Feb. 3, 2013
Pastor of St. Joseph Church, 2001-2013
He wished to be called “Father Jim.” He was also the “Circus Priest” for his lifelong love of the circus. So much so that he often spent his vacation time as a chaplain and roustabout with the circus. His involvement with youth was such that he instituted the Youth Program for the St. Joseph/St. John parishes in Ishpeming. The Ishpeming School system recognized Fr. Jim one year with an award as their No. 1 Sports Fan.
This was a wise, well-educated, yet very humble individual. His religious ministry was almost entirely in the area of education, mostly at seminaries. His only pastoral assignment was at St. Joseph Church. It was his love of teaching that brought him to Peramiho, Tanzania, East Africa, as a seminary instructor in 1991-92. One of his young seminarians was Fr. Albert Mligo. It was this connection that would eventually lead to Fr. Jim’s bringing our parish family into the support of St. John’s Healthcare Center in Matamba, Tanzania.
Unfortunately, we are no longer the St. Joseph Matamba Mission but we will continue the work that Fr. Jim has set us on. We keep him in our thoughts and prayers and know that he is watching over our efforts to bring good health and prosperity to the Matamba area.