LIFE Runners witness to Life in Tanzania
September 27, 2021
“Remember the Unborn.”
LIFE Runners don bright blue shirts printed with this slogan “to encourage, embolden and educate people … to defend life from conception to eternity,” said Pat Castle, founder of the worldwide pro-life movement and member of St. Matthew Parish in Bellevue and St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion.
The jersey invites conversation, Castle said, and as a result, creates an opportunity to prevent abortion and help men and women heal from abortion.
According to Castle, there’s a play on the word “remember.”
“We’re remembering the unborn in terms of memorializing them, but we’re also remembering the unborn, so they’re not dismembered,” he said, referring to the reality of abortion.
In July, LIFE Runners sponsored a trip to Tanzania at the invitation of Archbishop Paul R. Ruzoka of Tabora, a city in the north central part of the east African country.
On the first part of the trip, which lasted a week, a group of six LIFE Runners visited the archbishop, two convents with orphanages, a seminary run by the Spiritan Fathers, the Ifucha Divine Mercy Shrine and the Serengeti wildlife region. Four LIFE Runners then spent another week climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, located near the northeast border of the country with Kenya.
While in Tanzania, Castle encountered another population threatened by dismemberment: albino children.
According to the United Nations, one in 1,500 children in Tanzania are born with albinism, a condition marked by lack of skin pigmentation, frequent blindness and vulnerability to skin cancer.
Castle said these children are endangered even further by a local superstition that albino body parts contain magical properties.
“Witch doctors think that by including a piece of an albino kid’s body in food or drink, it will bring good fortune,” he said. Castle explained that children have been dismembered and even killed for their fingers, toes and limbs, prompting the Tanzanian government to sponsor “safe havens” for their protection.
Joined by his wife, Angi, his daughter, Paige, and three other LIFE Runners, Castle visited one such haven: the Matumaini Children Home run by the Providence Sisters for Abandoned Children.
Although the facility is often called an orphanage, only nine of the 32 residents are actual orphans. In most cases, Castle said, parents surrender their children voluntarily to the sisters’ care with an opportunity to bring them home for a visit once a year.
The LIFE Runners were captivated by the residents’ joyful spirit as they sang and gave visitors smiles and high-fives, despite the armed guards outside, a reminder of their precarious situation.
The children “were just lights,” Angi Castle said. “It was a really special place where life is being protected every day.”
SIMPLE, HAPPY LIFE
The landscape of Tanzania reminded the Americans of what life must have been like in biblical times. They marveled at people tending their gardens, selling fruits and vegetables, shepherding animals and bathing in roadside streams.
Paige Castle, a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, noticed the contrast between the average Tanzanian’s approach to life and a typical American’s desire to accumulate material goods as a means of finding happiness.
“I think (the Tanzanians) had life figured out,” she said. “They have so little and yet they were so rich in faith and joy.”
Bernadette Costello, a member of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston, agreed.
“We’ve been conditioned so differently, but I feel like they live as intended,” Costello said. “I was so close to Christ when I was there.”
Costello also enjoyed the Tanzanian cuisine.
“They eat simply, but they know how to spice things up so everything tastes delicious,” she said. “You don’t have to add ketchup or ranch, which they don’t have.”
At first glance it may seem unusual for Pat Castle and his fellow LIFE Runners to share their pro-life message in a country where abortion remains illegal, except to save the life of the mother.
However, “there is money flowing into Africa to change culture,” he explained, referring to Marie Stopes International, a non-governmental organization providing abortion and contraception in dozens of countries around the world.
Father Desiderius “Dezzy” Katabaro, national chaplain for LIFE Runners in Tanzania, confirmed the “influence of secularism” in his country.
“Here in Tanzania, we cannot deny the so-called western values that are propelled under the guise of development and technology that most of the time don’t respect the principles of natural law and divine law,” Father Dezzy wrote in an email. “The message of pro-life here in Tanzania is timely and highly needed to bring especially the youth back to the divine meaning of the gift of life.”
Castle recalled a similar conversation with Archbishop Ruzoka as they discussed the growing LIFE Runners chapter in the Archdiocese of Tabora.
“He told me, ‘You bet we promote (the pro-life message) and talk about it, but we love the creativity where the kids can wear their witness,’” Castle said.
In fact, Castle noted that nearly a third of the 17,000 LIFE Runners worldwide are under the age of 22.
“If we get a child in a shirt that says, ‘Remember the Unborn,’ the chances of them walking into an abortion facility are really low,” he said. “The chances of them encouraging a roommate or peer to choose life are high.”
As the LIFE Runners team reflected on their trip, they were overwhelmed with gratitude, especially for the hospitality and experience of the universal nature of the Church.
Even after travelling for years with the United States Air Force, Castle called the trip to Tanzania “one of the most universal ‘catholic’ experiences of my life.”
Accompanied by Bishop Joseph L. Coffey of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, the group attended Mass each day, even on the Serengeti – a protected region in northern Tanzania for wild game such as elephants, giraffes and lions.
Castle said their gratitude for the Eucharist increased when they learned that Father Dezzy pastored 28 Catholic “outposts” in the Archdiocese of Tabora and could only visit each one monthly to celebrate Mass.
After returning to the United States, the group continues to remember their Tanzanian hosts. They’re raising money for two specific needs in the Archdiocese of Tabora: an altar for the new Ifucha Divine Mercy Shrine and a water storage container for the Matumaini Children Home.
Castle explained that Tanzanians often walk miles daily to transport water that is collected during the rainy season and rationed for the remainder of the year. During their visit, the LIFE Runners personally experienced the lack of water as they used a bucket for bathing and washing clothes.
“Often times in (American) culture, we don’t feel the reality of ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’” Castle said. In Tanzania “we really got to appreciate God’s gift of life and his provisions with a spiritual dependence on him.”
Castle encouraged all people of faith to consider joining the LIFE Runners’ team.
“We know that 78% of post-abortive mothers have said that if one person had encouraged them or they saw an encouraging sign, they wouldn’t have aborted their child,” Castle said. “That’s why we wear (the jerseys) out into the world.”
“Everyone is qualified,” he said. “Running is optional.”
To learn more about LIFE Runners, visit www.liferunners.org. To contribute to the altar or water storage projects, email email@example.com.
Read the story below about the LIFE Runners taking on Mt. Kilimanjaro….
LIFE RUNNERS take on Mount Kilimanjaro
In the mountaineering world, climbers often leave stickers in designated spots along well-traveled routes.
“The culture is very secular in mountain climbing, so they might put a marijuana leaf,” said Pat Castle, founder of LIFE Runners, a worldwide organization that promotes the sanctity of human life.
When a small group of LIFE Runners recently summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in northeast Tanzania, however, they left “Remember the Unborn” stickers for other travelers to see.
“Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, even atheists are vulnerable to the Holy Spirit at 15,000 feet,” Castle said, in reference to the fear and uncertainty climbers face at such high altitudes. “There’s an opportunity for tilling, watering and planting (spiritual seeds) getting ready to summit a 19,000-foot mountain.”
Castle and his companions viewed the climb as an extension of their mission trip to the Archdiocese of Tabora in Tanzania the week before.
“We evangelized the porters, the guides, anybody we crossed with our gear,” Castle said, referring to the pro-life slogan printed across the LIFE Runners’ winter coats.
On a walk to the camp bathroom, LIFE Runner Dolores Meehan of San Francisco, California, responded to a derogatory comment from a European hiker who took issue with her jacket.
“She educated him, loved him and gave him new insights,” Castle said.
On the flip side, Castle rose early one morning and met an African ranger reading Scripture at basecamp. The LIFE Runners invited him to join them for the Liturgy of the Hours, and he became a LIFE Runner on the spot.
The idea for the climb began with an invitation from Bishop Joseph L. Coffey of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, who had attempted Mt. Kilimanjaro twice before – reaching the summit only once. According to Castle, the successful summit rate is 40%.
Bishop Coffey proposed the adventure as a “spiritual pilgrimage” in addition to a physical challenge.
Bernadette Costello was intrigued by the opportunity, even though she had never even taken a hike in the Rocky Mountains.
“I don’t like my faith to be stagnant,” Costello said. But “I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
Castle, who had run up Pikes Peak in Colorado and completed multiple marathons, hesitantly agreed to join.
The six-day journey is always a challenging one, said Castle. However, as the group neared the mountain’s summit on July 12, the endeavor took a dangerous turn when a blizzard brought life-threatening temperatures and next-to-nil visibility.
“My body got to the point where I didn’t know if I could take another step, and we still had two hours to go,” Castle said.
Costello said she offered the physical suffering of exhaustion, extreme cold and heaviness due to low oxygen as a prayer for a friend in need.
One of the times she fell on the ice became a particularly spiritual experience, she said.
“As I fell, it was as if Jesus was with me falling, and his cross was over me,” she said. “In that moment, it was like he let me know (my friend) is going to be OK.”
With the help of guides from the local Chagga tribe, the group did reach the summit, and they held the LIFE Runners banner at the top.
Castle feebly offered the LIFE Runners’ cheer, “All in Christ,” and barely heard his teammates return in labored voices, “For pro-life.”
“It wasn’t super loud, but God can amplify it,” he said.