Remembering a legend: the legacy of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Sunday, 24 July 2011 09:20
Written by Maker Mayek, The New Sudan Vision (NSV),
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(Canberra, Australia)  - It couldn’t have come at a much critical moment. Last Saturday marked the sudden passing of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari, the former Bishop of Diocese of Rumbek. Sources say he passed during a morning mass in front of his congregation in Rumbek. This was a spectacular ending for a man who dedicated his entire life span to the service of South Sudanese people.

Late Bishop Mazzolari

I have numerous reasons to remember the dear Bishop but above all, he made me, my brothers, and an array of my colleagues from Lakes State and other places in Southern Sudan, who we are today. My first encounter with the Bishop was in 1993 when he opened the Diocese of Rumbek based in Mapuordit in Western Yirol. This was so because Rumbek was still under the Sudan Armed Forces at the time. Alongside the late Raphael Riel Chol, Fr. Michael D. Barton (an ardent administrator) and Fr. Joseph Pellerino, the Bishop facilitated the establishment of Comboni Mission in Mapuordit. The mission was made up of a school with only three teachers, teaching English, maths and Dinka. There was a church under a tree and a dispensary run by Sister Moira Lynch and Eli Mading Panther (an unsung hero). Sister Mary Batchelor among others later came into fold.

It is the school that is the focus of my article because I was among the first few students to enrol there in 1993. Starting with two streams of class one and a class two for the students who have had some prior education, the school started from a very humble beginning. Built with locally made material – grass, bamboo bars among other local materials, the school functioned on bare minimums. No one knew in a few years time, the school population would burgeon to account for an enrolment of over 1500 students. The school could not cope with this population due to lack of teachers, classes and learning materials. It was the persistent efforts of the Bishop and his dedicated missionaries that Mapuordit became a renowned school in Southern Sudan.

Today, Lakes State boasts the highest number of educated young people; most of whom are serving in the State public service and other professional organisations across Southern Sudan. Abroad, from University of British Columbia to Australian National University to Makerere University to University of Nairobi, the former students of Mapuordit have entered into these esteemed institutions and graduated as economists, lawyers, doctors, engineers and so on. Without Bishop Caesar Mazzolari, heaven knows what would have been of most us in the present day Southern Sudan. I remember in 1997 when Dr. John Garang toured the Greater Bhar-el-Ghazal region after SPLA’s triumphant victories against SAF in Yirol, Rumbek and other areas in the region, he stopped over in Mapuordit. A statement was prepared and given to one of my colleagues to read it out. Dr. John was nearly reduced to tears remarking that he couldn’t have been much relieved to know that someone had taken the responsibility to fight the education front. That someone was Bishop Caesar Mazzolari and his henchmen.

Bishop Mazzolari’s role did not stop there. He forged close friendships with top SPLM leaders including President Kiir himself. Every time he visited the Mission, he would tell people that he was always in communication with the leaders and he was urging them to give peace a chance. He worked in concert with the rest of the ecumenical community to fight diseases, illiteracy and all sorts of problems that our people faced. Bishop’s contribution to our statehood is immeasurable. His passing is analogous to the cliché, ‘mission accomplished.’ His passing in front of the congregation that he had always served and in the service he was committed to, leaves a lot to understand in the long run. For the person he made me to be and made us to be, his legacy shall forever reign.

*Maker Mayek Riak is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts, and a Bachelor of Laws and resides in Canberra, Australia. He can be reached on  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.