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Home: Who We Are

Who We Are

What began as the friendship between two priests has grown to unite two parish communities oceans apart. 

In 2011-2012 Fr. Wilfred Bwezani Phiri met Fr. Jerry Gunderson while completing studies in Pastoral Theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Upon his return to Zambia, Fr. Wilfred accepted the challenge of establishing a new parish in the Luangwa River Valley. The new Chikwa Parish encompasses a vast rural area in the Muchinga Province of Zambia. 

After visiting Zambia, Fr. Jerry returned to Mary Seat of Wisdom Parish, Park Ridge, Illinois. Under his leadership the parish focused its annual Lenten Almsgiving on developing financial support for projects the new pastor and his parishioners were undertaking.

In consecutive years Fr. Wilfred visited Mary, Seat of Wisdom connecting the two parishes as partners in evangelization.

"Friends of Chikwa Parish NFP" has developed from these roots as generous supporters of Fr. Wilfred and his mission, proud of what has been accomplished and inspired to do even more. 

Wilfred meets with MSW Parishioners 2020
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Where is Chikwa Parish ?

The new Chikwa Parish is in the Luangwa River Valley of the Diocese of Chipata in Chama District of Muchinga Province of Zambia. It is an isolated rural area due to a lack of paved roads and lack of electricity. The area is characterized by brutal temperatures, insufficient clean water, chronic hunger, extreme poverty and insufficient social services. Local residents have been inspired by Fr. Wilfred Bwezani Phiri, their pastor, to form a parish.

Where We Help
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Projects Funded

Since 2017 Mary Seat of Wisdom Parish, Park Ridge, Illinois entered into partnership with the newly created Chikwa Parish in Zambia, an area prioritized for its need and potential for evangelization. 

What We Do
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Mercy in Motion

In 2017 through "Mercy in Motion" one hundred new and sturdy bikes were delivered to the headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of Chipata. In developed countries a bicycle is used for exercise and leisure. In Eastern Zambia where most roads are dirt roads, most folks walk long distances to where essentials are provided. A bicycle is the main transportation tool because it is inexpensive to maintain and use compared to other modes of transportation that are beyond the means of the poor. A bicycle carries patients to health facilities, worshippers to church, students to school, families to market, and citizens to community  development meetings.  The successful delivery of the sturdy buffalo bikes to Eastern Zambia  began the effort to work together with Fr. Wilfred and his diocese. "Mercy in Motion" also found a used Toyota Hilux truck that was able to be overhauled.  It enabled a young priest to visit parishioners in outlying villages in the bush.

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"Can You Hear Me Now?

The Chikwa area is isolated due to a lack of paved roads, electricity, and other means of social connection.  When Fr. Wilfred took up temporary housing at one of four "outstations" that make up the parish, there was no electricity, phone connection, or internet. To use a cell phone he had to find an elevated area risking a negative encounter with animals. So funds from Lenten Almsgiving at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish enabled him to install solar panels, batteries, and a satellite dish.  The internet connection soon brought requests by local villagers and wildlife managers in the area to send and receive messages. Sadly, during a period of drought, food security had to be prioritized over the cost of the internet connection.


Raise the Roof

Having achieved the goal of molding 300,000 bricks, members of the Chikwa Parish laid the foundation for the new church. The roof is the most expensive part of construction.  It requires the transport of the metal over long distances, a crane, and technical expertise.  Fr. Wilfred kept the villagers motivated by promising funds for the roof and other costs to complete the project. Similar construction projects funded by Mary Seat of Wisdom donors provided a new school for the Kaundya village, the outstation of Chikwa Parish that demonstrates the greatest need. A generous donor has directed their gift to the construction of a rectory for the two priests that serve Chikwa Parish.


Feeding the Hungry

In 2019 Mary, Seat of Wisdom Church created a fund to enable Fr. Wilfred and the Chikwa Parish to address basic human needs.  These basic human needs included Food Security, Clean Drinking Water, Health Care, Education Transportation and Human/Animal Conflicts. Folks in Chikwa live side by side with animals in a game management area and pay a heavy cost for the protection of animals.


Clean Drinking Water

Lack of clean water is a serious problem in the Chikwa Area. Women wake up as early as 4 AM to go and fetch water.  They also walk long distances with buckets full of water on their heads.  School girls report late for classes because they must first secure this commodity. As of September of last year 20 out of 200 patients seen at the local clinic suffered from water-born diseases. When initial drilling attempts resulted in dry wells, Fr. Wilfred carried back from the US an advanced water detection device and funds to drill five wells in the neediest areas.  This situation is dire but his efforts to secure clean water are undaunted.

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Can You Hear Me Now?
Raise the Roof
Clean Drinking Water
Feeding the Hungry

"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."

Fr. Wilfred Bwezani Phiri

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More About Us

Bylaws of Friends of Chikwa Parish

"Labor of Love" Full Length Documentary Film

IRS Form 990 for public view

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Contact Friends of Chikwa Parish

5100 N. Marine Dr. Apt.21M,  Chicago, IL 60640

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Photos used courtesy of Kinga Luczkiewicz, Fr. Wilfred Bwezani Phiri


Road 28 Productions, Kuba and Kinga Luczkiewicz

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