Tag Archives: Missionaries of Africa

11 June: Corpus Christi, Eucharistic Fasting.

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Mrs Turnstone and I grabbed a cup of tea and a quick bite after getting up late one Sunday morning, then off to Mass. I could not help but remember a passage from Father Gerard Rathe’s Mud and Mosaics, an account of his ‘missionary journey’ through Africa in 1960. Here he has just arrived in what is now Mali.

We drove through the city gate  [of Mopti] and round to the river. On the steps of what looked like a large warehouse we saw Monsignor Landru, the Prefect Apostolic,+ a lively, clean shaven little man, who took us into the house where we enjoyed a glass of cold water before saying Mass.

I wonder if the Holy Father ever thought of the tremendous refreshment he would be giving priests like ourselves, when he said: “Water does not break the Eucharistic Fast”.*

You have to go to the tropics, anyway, to appreciate cold water. Leo, our photographer, preferred beer, and we left him perspiring and content in a deck chair as we went to the church. We were on a tiny Christian island in a sea of Islam and I offered my Mass for this handful of missionaries and for the conversion of the Dogon people on whom they pin their hopes.

We are blessed to live in less rule-bound times, when we can more easily respond to the Lord’s invitation to take and eat.

+ A priest who leads  the church in a territory that is not yet big enough to be a diocese.                         * Pius XII had relaxed the rules on fasting to allow Catholics to take liquids up to an hour before receiving Communion, though solid food was still prohibited from midnight

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Remembering The Algerian Martyrs.

Bishop Claude Rault M Afr was bishop of the Sahara before retiring. He knew most of the Algerian Martyrs whom we have reflected on before. Their feast day was May 8th, and Bishop Claude preached this homily in Paris. What do you think makes someone a saint?

Here are Vincent Somboro’s reflections on Christian Mission in Algeria today. And here the reflections of Blessed Pierre Claverie, one of the martyrs.

beatification

A banner of the blessed martyrs at the beatification ceremony in Algeria.

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5 April, Palm Sunday

Today we’d put out the flags, as Caernarfon did to welcome us (and thousands more tourists) a few years ago. 2,000 years ago it was palms and cloaks that were actively waved – not just left out in all weathers – as Jesus came to town. But by the following Friday nobody would have wanted the Romans to see the national flags and emblems on their buildings. Jesus had become dangerous to know.

The Plantagenet Kings whose castle commands this view would have looked askance at the scene, and their spies would have filled the castle governor’s ear with more or less factual accounts of the latest prince to arise to rally the Welsh. Pilate would have heard about Jesus before Palm Sunday but the parade of the King of the Jews did not lead to his immediate arrest. Pilate thought he could contain this uprising before it got very far.

By Friday festival fever was worrying a hypersensitive elite who valued the shaky Pax Romana as it applied in Judea, offering them status and privilege and allowing the Temple worship to continue according to the Law. Verses from the Psalms and the Prophets that challenged the idea of sacrifice were dismissed in their turn by the priests of the Temple.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Ps 51: 16-17

 

Jesus’s heart was broken, his body too, though not his spirit. His death completed his lifelong passion. It is all of a piece, as the Pieta tells us – the baby we saw Mary cuddling at Christmas is the One she cradles briefly before his burial. But today, knowing he is riding into difficult times, he is the King the crowd were waiting for.

Image from Missionaries of Africa
Strasbourg Cathedral

So let’s put out the flags in our hearts, and wave our palms for our King! And let’s hope we can distribute palms from the backs of our churches should we be banned from gathering to celebrate Holy Week and Easter.

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22 February: Cardinal Lavigerie’s Campaign against Slavery, 1.

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From the 1860s onwards, as missionaries arrived in the interior of Africa south of the Sahara, it became clear that the work of William Wilberforce and the abolitionists earlier in the 19th century was far from complete. Although the slave trade across the Atlantic had been ended in 1807, and slavery itself abolished in the British Empire in 1833, the missionaries found that people were still being kidnapped and sold to Arab slavers across the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The European powers, while busily carving up Africa between them, had agreed in Berlin in 1885 to work for the suppression of slavery in Africa. It was time to take them at their word.

Saint Daniel Comboni, founder of the Verona Fathers had died in 1881. His life’s work had been in Sudan, where an ancient slave trade was still being savagely practised by the Arab colonisers. He saw that ‘In Central Africa, slavery remains as flourishing as ever, but the cries of the victims are never heard far away in Europe. The desolation continues and will continue for a long time.’ It was reports like his, as well as those sent to Cardinal Lavigerie by pioneer Missionaries of Africa like Fr Simeon Lourdel and Brother Amans, that made sure their cries were heard, and inspired Pope Leo XIII and Lavigerie to initiate a new campaign.

Despite the many difficulties they faced in establishing their mission in Uganda, Lourdel and Amans immediately set about ransoming slaves and providing safe houses for them. Lavigerie had alread been doing the same thing further north. Buying slaves would never be a long-term solution though, since the slaver had his profit without the trouble of transporting his captives to the coast, and could still pick up a few more unfortunates once out of the missionaries’ sight.

Fr Lourdel became influential at the royal court of Buganda, the main kingdom of what would shortly become the British protectorate of Uganda. He and the other missionaries, including the Protestant Alexander Mackay, would successfully lobby King Mwanga to have the abolition of slavery and freedom of religion enshrined in the treaty he signed with Great Britain in 1890.

MMB

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30 December: St Thomas of Canterbury Church a Diocesan Shrine; Relics XX.

becketcarvingBurgate

The Feast of Saint Thomas of Canterbury falls on 29 December, which this year falls on a Sunday, so is transferred to today. This post is taken from the Newsletter of St Thomas’ Canterbury Parish, 17th November 2019. Canon Anthony Charlton writes:

This week I received from Archbishop John Wilson the Decree designating and approving St Thomas of Canterbury Church as a Diocesan Shrine. I thought it would be important for you all to see and read the Decree:

“St Thomas’ Canterbury, opened on 13 April 1875, holds the relic of St Thomas Becket. The relic consisting of a fragment of his vestment and two pieces of bone acquired from Gubbio in Umbria, Italy. Another relic was presented to the parish during a pilgrimage in 1953. Father Thomas Becquet made the presentation of the relic: a piece of the finger bone of St Thomas of Becket. The relic originated in the Cistercian monastery of Pontigny, where St Thomas stayed during his years of exile, and reached Chevotogne via the Bishop of Tournai.


(source: Michael Goodstadt)

Consequently, St Thomas of Canterbury Church has been a pilgrimage Church, as well as a parish Church from its early beginnings. As early as 1889, The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom was organizing pilgrimages to Canterbury from London, which began with early Mass at St Ethelreda’s, Ely Place and then journeyed (with Devotions on the way) by special train on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. These pilgrimages have continued with the Knights of St Columba organizing the “Penitential Mile” from St Dunstan’s to St Thomas and the Guild of Ransom organizing its pilgrimage on a day in July, among several individual and small group pilgrimages.

WHEREFORE, having carefully considered the law and the facts and having carefully studied the Statues of St Thomas of Canterbury Church, I hereby approve, by means of this Decree, its Statutes in accordance with the norms of Canon 1231 §§1,2.

FURTHERMORE, for the good of souls, I, the undersigned Archbishop of Southwark, do hereby, by means of this Decree, designate and approve St Thomas of Canterbury Church as an Archdiocesan Shrine, in accordance with canon 1230. At this Shrine, the means of salvation are to be supplied more abundantly to the faithful by the diligent proclamation of the word of God, the suitable promotion of liturgical life especially through the celebration of the Eucharist and of penance, and the cultivation of approved forms of popular piety.”

+ John Wilson Archbishop of Southwark

Given on this sixteenth day November 2019 On the Feast of Saint Edmund of Abingdon, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Image of Saint Thomas from exterior of Saint Thomas’ Church, MMB; 1959 Procession, with Missionary of Africa Novices: http://thepelicans.org.uk/gallery/115photo.htm.

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October 24, Month of Mission: walking and working together.

Nurse

Lawrence Tukamushaba, M.Afr writes from  Kasama, Zambia, about youth work in Saint Anne’s parish. To read his post click here. After describing some of the successes of this ministry in a large parish with many communities, he touches on some challenges.

Family breakdown

A good number of our young people are raised by single parents; others have been orphaned at a young age and were brought up by their grandparents. Some have never met their fathers. Dealing with such young people needs spending time to listen to them and counselling them. Peer counselling is a skill that is needed.

The widening gap between Urban and Rural Youth

There is a growing gap between young people coming from urban and rural setups. In some areas, children have to walk 10 km on foot to reach the nearest primary school. In the rainy season, roads get really bad and some bridges are washed away. Added to that, the grass grows tall so that it becomes risky to walk in the bush and on top of all that some villages are widely scattered. In such areas it is difficult to find someone who has finished secondary school. This poses a challenge of leadership in the Church. It also increases a vicious circle of poverty.

Youth In the year 2017, I baptized 17 adults among whom were 8 school girls aged between 14 and 18 years of age who had dropped out of school. Later I discussed with their parents and church council how to ensure they go back to school. We must be interested in the formal education of our Christians if our ministry is to be transformative.

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22 October, Month of Mission : better together.

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In my reading about Archbishop Arthur Hughes there was a story from 1938 about his boss worrying. This priest was a great worrier, as it happened, but he was regional superior for Uganda, and the Superior General insisted he stay in the job.

On this occasion, Arthur Hughes was at the annual scout camp as an assistant county commissioner, not as chaplain, although there was daily Mass.

Father Superior had expected to see a separate Catholic Scout Movement such as still exist in France. It was not like that in Uganda.

Arthur Hughes and other fathers were dining with the leaders, and Father Hughes was wearing not his habit but full scout uniform including his shorts, or ‘petite culotte bombo’, apparently with the local Bishop’s approval. Hughes was ‘Mess President, General Secretary, Man of all work, and chief raconteur’, according to an unidentified newspaper report. No doubt he was enjoying himself, but why were the fathers taking orders from Protestant laymen?

Well, we might ask, why not?

Mr Lameka Sekaboga was appointed Assistant County Commissioner during the camp; even as Father Superior fretted, the organisation was being put into competent lay, Ugandan hands. It was surely better for Catholics to work with others to make this happen, Arthur Hughes could see that, his Superior could not, but concentrated on the differences that appeared to define Catholics, and within the church, to define clergy against lay people.

We now see many ministries working ecumenically: Street Pastors, food banks, refugee care, the list is long. What we can share, we should share. And salute those who made the first steps towards Churches working together.

Arthur Hughes (front, centre) and confreres about to leave for Africa.
Missionaries of Africa Archives.

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12 October, Month of Mission: A worthless servant in Algeria.

taize algeria

Another visit to Algeria and a taste of a prophetic mission.

My name is Vincent Somboro. I am a Malian, a dogon from the Diocese of Mopti, right in the centre of West Africa, and I am preparing to be a Missionary of Africa. After studying Philosophy for 3 years in Burkina Faso, then completing my novitiate year in Zambia, I was appointed to a community of Missionaries of Africa in Ghardaia, Algeria, for a two year lived-experience of Mission. I have been here for one year now. Algeria is a Muslim country and religion is absolutely central to its daily life. I count myself very lucky to be working amongst a people for whom God and religion are still so important. As Christians here, our life is one of discreet dialogue. It can happen that I talk with certain people about religion, but this would only be with people who want to convert me to Islam. I build my life as a Christian on Our Lord’s words, “whatever you do to one of these little ones, you do to me!” and still I remain “a worthless servant who is only doing his duty.”

I live this life in different places. In a library; in a centre for handicapped children; in meeting migrants and anyone else the Lord puts in my path. In the library: as well as being the librarian in charge of books, I give extra help to both children and adults who are learning English or French. It is really the only place where I can meet Algerians: coming into contact with Algerian society in a more informal way.

Once a week I play sports with the children in a centre for the handicapped. This simple interaction, being with the children, with no agenda other than being there with them, brings me great pleasure.

Being a Malian, an African, is also a great advantage when it comes to contact with migrants. Meeting migrants affords me a marvellous opportunity to serve my African brothers and sisters. This is a challenge which preoccupies me greatly, and it is doubly useful: in the context of Algeria, I am able to be both a missionary and a prophet.

I am a missionary because the migrants really feel at home when they come to our house. A confrere and I, between us, speak Moore, Hausa and Bambara. This covers most of West Africa. As fellow Africans, we are living the same reality in Algeria as they are.

I am a prophet because, as an African, I yearn for our home countries to come up with structures to help our young people, helping them struggle against famine and war, and against the desire driving our youth to get to Europe no matter the cost. I feel troubled and challenged when I see young people crossing deserts to get to Algeria, hoping to cross the seas to Italy and Spain. I see the religious and cultural divides, the injustice and the racism that they encounter. I thank God for my experience here.

Vincent Somboro.

From the White Fathers Magazine, February 2017.

Taizé celebration in Tlemcen

https://www.missionariesofafrica.org.uk/

 

 

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10 October, Month of Mission, humbly at their service.

door st Maurice

The Month of Mission gives us another chance to reflect on the Martyrs of Algeria, beatified on December 8 last year. The Martyrs’ Door at the Abbey of Saint Maurice, Switzerland, unites the names of Bishop Pierre Claverie and Mohamed Bouchikhi, his driver and friend, who died with him in a bomb attack. We should remember that many Muslims, including imams, were also killed by the fundamentalist rebels.

We share part of a reflection by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, Missionary of Africa, taken from the February 2019 White Fathers magazine.

I knew them all … The four Missionaries of Africa who were martyred at the town of Tizi-Ouzou were all very different: Alain Dieulangard, involved in the charismatic movement; Charles Deckers, practical, adapting well to local conditions; Jean Chevillard, a born leader; Christian Chessel, the young intellectual.

They were nevertheless united, for they had all drunk from the same source: the instructions that Cardinal Lavigèrie had given to the Missionaries of Africa: love those to whom one has been sent, make an effort to learn their language and speak it well, get to know and appreciate their traditions and customs, show respect for their religious beliefs, put oneself humbly at their service in all sorts of ways – all of these aspects of the spirit of Lavigèrie could be found in these four men, each one in his own way. The testimonies of both Christians and Muslims confirm this.

It can be added to this that all four were deeply spiritual persons, men of prayer, who wanted to serve the Lord and not their own interests. This is why they felt very much at ease within the project of the Church of Algeria which Bishop Claverie described in the following way: “We are, and we want to be, missionaries of God’s love, that love which we have discovered in Jesus Christ. This love, infinitely respectful of human beings, does not impose itself, does not impose anything in fact, bringing no force to bear on consciences or hearts. With gentleness, and by its very presence, it frees whatever is bound in chains, it reconciles that which is torn apart, it raises up that which is crushed, brings new life where there was no hope and no strength”.

In a reflection written one month before his death Christian Chessel tried to provide a synthesis of this approach in what he called “Mission in weakness”. “To recognize, welcome, and accept one’s own weakness would seem to be a necessary, inevitable, preliminary step,” he wrote, “especially for a missionary”. This allows one to forge with those men and women to whom one has been sent relations characterized by an absence of power, or, according to another favourite expression of Christian, “by the language of discreta caritas”.

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October 7: Extraordinary Month of Mission: True Religion.

Laying foundations for an orphanage building in Rwanda.

This post is adapted from the Missionaries of Africa site in the USA, but it is not about them; no it tells of brave Rwandan women seeing a need and working to fill it. Fr Denis P. Pringle introduces them.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress . . . .”

James 1: 27


These days, a lot of people seem to be discussing what it means to be “religious” — to have a belief in God that is demonstrated through words and actions. Even those of us who consider ourselves “spiritual, but not religious” search for ways to express our relationship with that which is sacred. Two thousand years ago, things weren’t much different among the first Christians. One of the first followers of Jesus, St. James, wrote a letter in which he offers guidance on what “true religion” is. He felt that few things are more important than caring for those who are less fortunate than ourselves — particularly widows and orphans. That is still the case today.

In societies where there are no government support services for the poor — widows and orphans are among those most urgently in need. Many live without basic necessities such as food, water, medical care and adequate housing.

Recently, one of our missionaries, Fr. Simplice Traore, wrote to ask if there is some way we can help the widows and orphans in Kigali, Rwanda, where he lives and works.

“During the Rwandan genocide in 1994,” Fr. Simplice writes, “a young woman began reaching out to women whose husbands had been killed and little children whose parents had been murdered during that tragic time. This young woman became like a mother to the orphans that she gathered. As time went by, the number of orphans increased tremendously — especially since she was taking good care of them. Unfortunately, though, she did not have the resources needed to continue her work. She was all alone. That was 25 years ago.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Since then, more than 100 other women have joined her and they are now officially a congregation of religious Sisters dedicated to serving poor widows and orphans. What a gift these Sisters are!”

“As I write this letter to you, the Sisters are working hard to construct a building where orphan children can live. The need for housing for orphans is critical in this community.

Unfortunately, the Sisters — themselves having little income — do not have the funds to pay any construction costs. They have been able to acquire a piece of land where a building will be constructed and local people are even willing to help with the labour — but still no one has money to pay for the building.

To learn more about the Missionaries of Africa, here are a couple of addresses:

In the UK: https://www.missionariesofafrica.org.uk/

In the US: http://www.missionariesofafrica.org/support-africa/how-to-help/

We are hoping that you can help us. Whatever you can give will give all of us hope for a better future for these children.

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