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30 September: 150 Years of the Missionaries of Africa

Celebration at Mphangwe of 150 Years of the Foundation of the Missionaries of Africa

Fr Dave Cullen Dave Cullen - Chipata Hospital 2014 06 copie M.Afr. shared this account of the  celebration

at Mphangwe in Zambia of the 150th anniversary of the Missionaries of Africa, known as the White Fathers.

Bishop George Lungu of Chipata Diocese, graciously offered to commemorate the foundation of the Missionaries of Africa 150 years ago with two Masses in the diocese, one at Chasera where the missionaries first arrived, but for a very brief period, and the second at the first parish established by the Society in 1913 at Mphangwe. It was at there that we celebrated Mass on the Feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th.

It was Katete Deanery that both prepared the celebration and, together with some help from other deaneries, funded the expenses involved. The Montfort Fathers, who are in charge of Mphangwe Prayer Centre, had put a great deal of effort to ensuring that the event was fittingly celebrated. Tarpaulins had been put up to enable almost everyone present to be shielded from the sun. Radio Maria was present to record the Mass and ensure that the loudspeaker system was in good order. A considerable number of the diocesan clergy concelebrated the Mass, together with a Comboni Missionary and several other priests, one coming from as far away as the United States on visit in Katete. Likewise, there were representatives from the various Religious Congregations, Sisters and Brothers. Parishioners from Mphangwe itself had also come in large numbers.

ZAMBIE 2The Mass was presided by the auxiliary bishop of Chipata Diocese, Benjamin Phiri. Before the Mass began, the bishop invited our Provincial, Fr Felix Phiri, to give a brief history of the work of the Missionaries of Africa in Chipata Diocese. It was, in fact, the Missionaries of Africa who founded the Church in the Eastern Province. In 1937 the Prefecture of Fort Jameson was established with Fr Fernand Martin as the priest in charge. At that time there were 3 missions in the care of ten Missionaries of Africa, strangely enough, precisely the number still doing apostolic work in the diocese today. However, those original ten eventually increased to fifty-five.

It was Fr Firmin Courtemanche who succeeded Fr Martin in 1947. He was ordained bishop and named Prefect Apostolic of Fort Jameson in 1953. The first diocesan priest in the Prefecture was Fr Zakaria Kapingira, ordained in 1939. The number of White Fathers, as they were then known, having been given that name in North Africa where they were distinguished by the white habit they wore, increased in the diocese during the Second World War that began in 1939, and many new mission stations were opened up by them. After the war, the number of diocesan priests gradually began to increase, foremost among them being Fr Medardo Mazombwe, ordained bishop in 1971 of what had now come to be named Chipata Diocese. He would later be transferred to Lusaka Archdiocese and be made a Cardinal.

As the number of parishes increased Bishop Mazombwe sought the help of other Missionary Societies, the Comboni Missionaries, Missionaries of St Patrick, known as the Kiltegan Fathers, Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, the Montfort Fathers and the Carmelites. Not only did the number of diocesan clergy begin to increase, but also Religious Congregations of Sisters, some from other countries, others from locally founded Congregations, caring for the sick in hospitals, teaching in schools and sharing in the apostolic tasks in a number of parishes.

Felix Phiri 03Fr Felix Phiri finished his presentation by giving thanks for those who had gone to the Lord as also by asking blessings on the Priests, Brothers and Sisters still offering themselves for the spread of the Kingdom of God in Chipata Diocese today.

After this introduction, before beginning Mass, Bishop Benjamin introduced to the congregation the Missionaries of Africa present, four of whom he described as our ‘Senior Citizens’, first of all Fr Henk van Kessel who, the previous day, had celebrated his 92nd birthday and is still very active as the diocesan archivist, Fr Joe McMenamin, Fr Toon van Kessel and Fr Dave Cullen, all of whom had given many years of service in the diocese. He then began the Mass which was offered prayerfully with the well-rehearsed contribution of the choir and Stellas.

After communion gifts were offered to the Missionaries of Africa, first by Bishop Benjamin, then by many of the clergy and Religious present, as also by many of the laity. As something of a finale, a group of Missionary of Africa students who were present at the Mass, together with a Missionary of Africa priest from Zambia itself, swaying rhythmically to the singing of the choir, brought a gift to the bishop. Coming from various countries in Africa they, together with the ‘Senior Citizens’ and the several other Missionaries of Africa present, witnessed to the international and multiracial character of the Missionaries of Africa.

After Mass all present were invited to a meal that had been prepared for us by our hosts and shared in the dining halls that the Montfort Fathers have had constructed for such events as that of today. From there we all departed in thankfulness and peace to our communities and homes.

ZAMBIE 1

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19 May: Saint Dunstan, Bishop and Blacksmith. Relics XI

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It’s comforting to learn that a bishop has a hinterland, that he has not been born and bred in a purple cassock. Eric Treacy of Wakefield with his steam trains or the poet Archbishop Rowan Williams in more modern times, Peter the fisherman  and Paul the tentmaker at the beginning. But halfway between them we find Dunstan of Canterbury, bishop, blacksmith, harpist and illuminator of manuscripts. Who mentioned Dark Ages?

Back in September, Janet and I visited Canterbury Cathedral for their annual Open House day. There was a stall for the archaeologists, who had a dish of slag, the product of smelting iron from rock, just like that to be found around the tips of Merthyr Tydfil. In another dish alongside it were magnetic black chippings, typically 3mm long: these were shards of iron thrown off when a piece of hot iron was hammered on the anvil. ‘Is this from Saint Dunstan’s workshop?’ I joked. ‘Perhaps’, they said, ‘it’s certainly Saxon.’

It seems that Saxon Canterbury was a centre for fine ironwork. As that fact sank in, suddenly the portly monk was there beside us, just a few steps from his grave, wearing his leather apron, hammer in hand. Of course that was my fond imagination, though I had seen the self-portait of Dunstan kneeling before Christ when it was exhibited here and so knew what he looked like.

But those relics of manual work – maybe of Dunstan’s labour, but probably other monks’ really – said more to me than any bone in gold and crystal reliquary.

MMB.

Public Domain, Wikipedia.

 

 

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22 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Bishop Stuart and Bishop Michaud.

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A story for Christian Unity Week from Uganda.

During the 1930s the Canadian Edouard Michaud was the Catholic Bishop (or Vicar Apostolic) of Uganda. When Cyril Stuart was appointed as the Anglican Bishop of Uganda in 1932, Michaud called on him at the earliest opportunity. And they promised to work together and communicate with each other whenever events seemed likely to cause division.

All through the time both worked in Uganda there were on-going discussions between the churches and the British Protectorate Government about education. Most schools were provided by one or other church, so it was important for distrust and suspicion to be replaced by friendly rivalry. That took time. Health services too were run by the churches: try looking up Dr Albert Cook and Mother Kevin Kearney to learn about an Anglican and a Catholic pioneer.

Bishop Stuart’s account of their meeting does not go into details, but he says that when Michaud gave him his blessing, he was delighted.

Although Stuart in his turn greeted every in-coming Catholic bishop, including the first African bishop from South of the Sahara, Joseph Kiwanuka, he never plucked up courage to offer them his blessing.

A shame.

So let’s smile gratefully at this image of Pope Francis receiving the blessing of Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and thank God that we are nudging closer – or being nudged closer – to each other.

Ut unum sint: may they all be one!

MMB

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December 6th: Daily Pilgrimage, Saint Nicholas

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We can travel, indeed we have travelled, to places of pilgrimage within the United Kingdom and beyond. I won’t say East, West, home’s best. I would return to Aberdaron, St Maurice, Rome, and many places that I love, yet we have our Cathedral which has many corners that sometimes catch the eye. And just a few minutes’ walk from home.

This Cross is on the altar in the dark Saint Nicholas’ Chapel – his feast is today, December 6th.

Patron of children, the original and best Father Christmas; he makes his annual procession through Canterbury each Advent, allowing frazzled shoppers the chance to make their day a pilgrimage.

Let’s celebrate his generous and imaginative care of his flock, but remember that he drew his inspiration from the one whose Cross is represented here.

Saint Nicholas, pray for children.

Saint Nicholas. pray for parents and grandparents, who have to improvise all the time. May we share your wise approach to child care!

And Let’s pray for a former priest at St Thomas’ Canterbury, Bishop Nicholas Hudson, auxiliary in Westminster.

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October 9: Jesus was a servant for others

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A Missionary of Africa Ordained in Ghana

by Patrick Kadima, stagiaire from South Africa. (A stagiare is a student gaining experience of missionary life before completing his academic studues for ordination.)

I include this story here with L’Arche postings because Bishop Matthew in Ghana uses the same Gospel story of the washing of feet as James of L’Arche Kent did on 29 August. L’Arche is a life of joyful service, so is the priesthood; L’Arche is a life in an international community, so is life as a Missionary of Africa.

footwash

The priestly ordination of Paul Donnibe took place at St. Mary Help of Christians Parish, Sunyani on Saturday 22nd July 2017, by His Lordship, Most Rev Matthew Gyamfi, Bishop of Sunyani Diocese. People were arriving from different parts of the country and across the border with Burkina Faso to witness the event.

The Bishop welcomed the whole assembly. He emphasised the importance of the day and the reason of the gathering. While congratulating our Brother Paul, the Bishop mentioned that the whole parish and the diocese of Sunyani were proud of him. Paul is the first fruit of the Missionaries of Africa in the diocese. In a manner of advising Paul, the Bishop pinpointed in his homily the good examples Jesus sets for us. He reminded Paul that Jesus was a servant for others illustrated by the washing of his disciples’ feet. The priesthood is a journey of service for others just like our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The bishop emphasised that a good priest finds joy in his duties. Since God loves a cheerful giver, if our brother Paul, as a priest, gives himself to God’s service by doing what a priest is supposed to do, indeed he will be a joyful servant of God in his priesthood. The bishop ended his homily by reminding our brother that he was also sent as a missionary to be an ambassador of the diocese of Sunyani wherever he will be.

After Mass we were invited for some refreshment at the parish house. We had supper together with Paul’s family and some parishioners. On Sunday, Paul said his first thanksgiving Mass at 7h00. After it, we took the road to go back home. It was good to be part of Paul’s ordination and very interesting to see how people celebrate life.

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8 July: The Scandal of Disunity

justin-welby_blesses_francis2

There are signs of hope. Here is Francis, Bishop of Rome, receiving a blessing from Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury. No charade, surely? The Pope would not bring about scandal by seeking a blessing from a heretic schismatic. When Bishop Nicholas Hudson joined Bishop Trevor Willmott in blessing the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral, what were we to make of the implied recognition of value in Anglican orders?

The scandal is not that these isolated events happen, but that we lack the courage of our convictions, so they remain isolated. Forty years ago I was assured that, juridically, Anglican orders were all valid since Old Catholic bishops had taken part in enough ordinations to ensure recognition of Anglican Apostolic Succession.

In another church, a good distance from Canterbury, a Catholic bishop was ordained recently, with his friend, co-worker and Anglican bishop, robed on the sanctuary. It was good to see him there, but he was not invited to join the Catholic bishops by laying hands on the ordinand.

And the announcement that day deterring non-Catholics from receiving the Eucharist? If a bishop being ordained is not one of those special occasions when Eucharistic hospitality is to be encouraged, I’m not clear when it may be grudgingly permitted. Put out into the deep!

WT.

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22 January: An African Missionary to Europe, Saint Vincent of Digne.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame du Bourg in Digne is built over a Christian church from Roman times.

Saint Vincent  was from North Africa, a Christian citizen of the Empire, free to travel anywhere, who was sent to the walled town of Digne in the mountains north of Nice.

Pope Saint Miltiades gathered a council in 313. The persecutions which saw the death of another Saint Vincent, the Deacon of Valencia, were over, after Constantine had allowed freedom of worship to Christians. The problem now lay within the church, especially in North Africa: what to do about people who had handed over books and church property to the Imperial authorities. The  Donatist party  felt strongly that they had lost their right to belong to the church, but the Pope and Council decreed that there should be every opportunity for reconciliation.

Vincent travelled with Marcellinus and Domninus  to the council with the African bishops, and impressed Pope Militades, who sent them as missionaries to Provence. Marcellinus became the first bishop of Embrun, Domninus bishop of Digne. Vincent would be his successor.

MMB

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28 August: Algeria I: Reflection on Augustine as Pastor

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Saint Augustine of Hippo will keep on appearing in these pages! Today would be his feast if it were not Sunday, so we are spending the week with the Church in Algeria, his home country. Algeria is, of course, a Muslim country, with a small Christian population, largely in the towns and cities, and for the most part its members are expatriates.

During the French occupation there were many more Christians, and important churches were built, including the Basilica of Saint Augustine at Hippo which was restored recently, with help from the Algerian government and supporters around the world.

Algeria takes pride in this son of the land, witness this postage stamp! Follow the link below to read about the reopening of the basilica.

The_Saint_Augustin_Church (1)

Here is some of what Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, had to say about Augustine as pastor rather than theologian or philosopher:

 ‘Living together as believers, being confronted with the same problems and difficulties… this spontaneity of relations is at the bottom of all dialogue and interreligious dialogue is always founded on friendship: we must always strive to know one another, to love one another, to move forward together.

[The Algerian people] has taken responsibility for its history”. It has “recognized that Augustine was Algerian … and what an Algerian he was! A genius who bridged the gulf of the two Mediterranean coasts. Saint Augustine wrote some of the most beautiful pages of theology while the city of Hippo was under siege. At the same time, he showered his care on refugees of war. He was a pastor who followed the daily life of his flock.”

For the cardinal, the basilica of St. Augustine “is a powerful sign, especially in a Muslim country where prayer plays such an important role.” It reminds everyone that “Christians too, evident in the majesty of this church, praise the Lord, the one God, and that they are faithful to their responsibilities.” It also reminds us that “there is no future unless there is a shared future.”

He insisted that churches “must always remain open so that they may welcome those who are looking for the quiet to think and reflect, to pray, and to remind all citizens that man does not live on bread alone”.

St Augustine’s basilica, Hippo, Algeria

Photo of St Augustine’s basilica by Abcir

MMB.

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July 4; Relics II: Folkestone and its relics

Folkestone

Saint Eanswythe supports the Folkestone arms, along with local man William Harvey, XVII Century medical researcher who described the circulation of blood.

In 1939 the church of Our Lady Help of Christians and Saint Aloysius was free of debt, so Fr Walters arranged for the consecration of the building on Saint Aloysius’ Day, 21 June.[1] During a four-hour long ceremony, Archbishop Amigo sealed relics of Saints Jucundina and Verecunda into the altar table. The service closed with the singing of the Magnificat. Interestingly, the parish historians could find no details of these saints; a point we will return to later in the week.

Father Walters welcomed Archbishop Amigo and other priests, civic dignitaries, and parishioners to luncheon at the Royal Pavilion Hotel. That evening a solemn Te Deum was sung in the first Catholic Church to be consecrated in Folkestone since the Reformation.

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In 2106, the Parish Priest Father Bould had this to say about St Eanswythe, a Saxon princess-abbess and ‘Folkestone’s own patroness, virtually the founder of the town’. Her body still lies in the ancient church that bears her name, on the hilltop over the harbour.

‘To Catholics Eanswythe is ONE OF US: to other Christians she is an example and good person from the past, and to secular people she is an historical figure of greater or lesser importance. Eanswythe is part of our worshipping and praying life (and if she’s not for you, she should be!) and what happens to and around her relics concerns us.’ MMB.

Our Lady Help of Christians:     pray for us.

Saint Eanswythe:                       pray for us.

Saint Aloysius:                          pray for us.

Folkestone Catholic parish website

icon and life of Saint Eanswythe

[1] A 19th Century church of St Aloysius was demolished after the present Catholic Church was built.

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July 3; Relics I: Relics and the Altar

chaplain'sMass

Not long ago, a relic of Saint Thomas Becket was brought back briefly to Canterbury from Hungary, where it had helped the Church resist persecution by the Communist regime. There were many Hungarian martyrs whose names will never be known to the rest of the world. The link that Thomas’s relic represents to the European and world-wide Church, through the past  840 years, was greatly appreciated there. (Another relic was sent to El Salvador following the martyrdom of Saint Oscar Romero.)

This event set me thinking about relics, and I turned first to Monsignor Ronald Knox and his little book The Mass in Slow Motion, published by Sheed & Ward in 1948. We read from pages 14-15.

[The altar] stone has been consecrated long ago, by a bishop; and the bishop in consecrating it fills up some holes in it with – what do you think? Tiny bits of relics of the saints. People used to use relics of that kind rather freely in the Middle Ages; they used to put them into bridges, for instance, so as to be sure that the bridges held up… Even a military chaplain carries round with him an altar stone, with relics let into it, and he must never say Mass without having that stone on the soap-box or whatever it is he is using for an altar.

mercylogoNow, just as he is going to begin the Mass proper, the priest rushes up to the altar, kisses it, and says, “We beseech thee, 0 Lord, by the merits of those saints whose relics are here, and of all the saints, to be indulgent towards my sins “. The saints whose relics are here – why is that so important? Why, because in the very early days, when the Christians at Rome were being persecuted, they used to meet for worship in the catacombs … There the Christians used to bury the poor mangled remains of their friends who had been killed in the persecution; and on the tombstones raised over these bodies of the martyrs the Roman bishop used to say Mass. And when the priest, saying those words, kisses the tiny relics tucked away in the altar-stone, he reminds himself, if he has any sense of history, that by that action he is putting himself in touch, so to speak, with the Universal Church that is in Communion with Rome.

  • Saints of the ancient Church of Rome: pray for us.
  • All saints of this place where I find myself: pray for us.

Here is a story about a long-lost altar stone which tells about the present day policy towards relics as well as the tradition of the last few centuries. Toronto Altar Stone.

Parts of this weeks’ reflections have appeared in the Independent Catholic News website. http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=30282

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