The final stages of becoming a Missionary of Africa priest, or White Father, are to take the Missionary Oath and Diaconate . This happened just before Christmas in Merrivale, South Africa for 18 young men from many African countries and from India. Follow the link to read an account of the two ceremonies, but here is an extract from Deacon Jean–Baptiste Todjro’s account, appropriate for today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents and Sunday’s of the Holy Family:
One word was echoed strongly throughout the celebration of our Missionary Oath and Diaconate Ordination: FAMILY. Prior to the celebration of the oath, Didier Sawadogo, representing the Superior General, presented to us the message of the General Council by giving to each of us the positive affirmation of our Society which states: ‘Filled with the joy of the Gospel and guided by the Spirit, we are an intercultural missionary society with a family spirit. Sent out to the African world and wherever our charism is needed, for a prophetic mission of encounter and of witness to the love of God’ (Capitular Acts 2016:17). It is with this sense of belonging and willingness that we responded YES to the call of God and the desire of making God’s love known and flourish in the African world. The word FAMILY was at the heart of the homily of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier who in addressing us insisted that we have to participate in the mission of the Church and identify the challenges that families are facing as our primary mission in collaboration with the universal Church. As such one can boldly say we are ordained to be APOSTLES TO FAMILIES, NOTHING BUT APOSTLES TO FAMILIES.
Let’s pray that God will give them all the graces to be just that, apostles to families; and that we, too, may recognise and live out this same vocation.
I guess your Christmas tree is now indoors and decorated? Perhaps the last place you’d expect to find a metal one would be Tanzania. This story comes from the Missionaries of Africa and is by Marien van den Eijnden, M.Afr.
When I visited for the first time the M.Afr. house in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, [now called Atiman House] in the 1960’s, I saw in the courtyard a sort of metal Christmas-tree and wondered what one would be using it for. The top was 1.5 m high or more, and it had some 50 upending branches. The amused confreres explained that one used it to drip-dry wine-bottles after having been cleansed and rinsed. But in those days they rarely used it anymore.
The house was the procure, or distribution centre for the missions, and imported the Mass-wine and table-wine for upcountry. In addition to individual bottles one used damjan [= dame-jeanne], bottles of + 20 litres in a wickerwork basket. Later on drums of 100 litres were used, which were bottled in the respective diocesan headquarters.
Marien van den Eijnden, M.Afr.
Father Marien’s story left me wondering at the effort that went into making sure there was enough wine for Mass so far from any vineyards, but grapes have been grown in Tanzania since soon after he arrived there. So maybe the Christmas tree is not needed at Atiman House.
We use a modern version of this once or twice a month at L’Arche Kent. Some readers may remember that it has among its activities a small brewery project. It is hoped to make this into a commercial micro brewery in God’s good time.
Unlike most UK brewers, we recycle bottles. They go through various washing and sterilising processes and are hung out to dry on this handsome red plastic Christmas tree. These are all jobs that core members of the community can do without constant, overpowering supervision, and which they take pride in.
One of our brewers, Paul, recently took some bottles to Japan on a visit to the community there.
Happy Christmas to all,
Maurice, Will and all the team.
Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo Diolasso from MAfr W Africa
Some readers will know that Maurice is researching the life and work of Archbishop Arthur Hughes, Missionary of Africa, Papal Diplomat, and, in this talk that he gave to Saint Joan’s Alliance in 1933, he appears as a Christian feminist. His sister Winifred, whom he greatly loved , was a teaching Sister of Mercy, Sister Edith. She worked for years among the poorest children in the East End of London; by their work and example, those sisters were feminists before the word was coined. Here the then Father Hughes talks of the ‘Longest Advent’: longest because we are not yet living the Christian revelation fully when women are not full and equal participants in the Church and wider society.
‘The Virgin, the Mother of the Redeemer, was venerated as a symbol of what womanhood could attain, but Christianity was not yet achieved, nor the emancipation of women and we are awaiting this time; we are waiting for the longest Advent to come to an end.
‘… education is a vital part of the longest Advent. The founding of a Girls’ Secondary School crowned the founding of other schools. (Most girls in England at this time would have left school at 14; in Africa Girls’ Secondaries were few and far between.)
‘Advent is associated with ideas of worthiness and readiness, and during ‘the longest Advent’ feminists should think things out and read and meditate so that they could speak with ever more conviction. Full equality, liberty and emancipation is the completion of the Christian ideal. Our Lord by allowing devotion to Our Lady to become an integral part of our Catholic Faith paved the way for feminism – when he came to earth practically everything had still to be done towards the emancipation of women, not only equality had to be achieved, but something more, therefore external marks of respect towards women should be maintained and expected. Your crusade is associated with the longest Advent. Pray and work with greater courage! ‘
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.
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.
It was my joke, when I was researching in Rome, that my constitutional walk was down the Via Aurelia, round the fountain and back to the HQ of the Missionaries of Africa, and the (thankfully dust-free) files in the archives. The fountain was a good goal to aim for: you could hardly miss it, unless you mistook it for the one on the opposite side of the piazza. And a thing of beauty it is with the water playing in the sunlight.
This summer it is not playing. When the old popes brought water from the hills to furnish these fountains and many others throughout Rome there were many fewer people drinking less water, using less for washing and all the many processes that need water. The spring rains have not come this year: the City of Rome may soon ration water, so the Vatican City has turned off the supply to many of its fountains in solidarity with the Roman people.
People come before ornamental fountains, though even in April I was glad of the drinking fountain in the wall of the Vatican. I hope that is still running in the heat: my friend Fr Dominique Arnauld told me that the water in the fountains of Rome is reliably fresh and drinkable; and cold. You could spend a small fortune buying bottled water!
Let us not take water for granted – nor the needs of our fellow human beings, brothers and sisters. Nor indeed all the creatures that depend on water from the hills and from springs and rivers and the clouds. I’m sure I could use a little less each day. And you?
Laudato Si’ !
The Assumption of Mary and the Flooding of the Nile: two feasts on the same day, can we connect them?
The Nile, of course, is life to Egypt, water and fertility. Here is Arthur Hughes, Missionary of Africa, just arrived in Cairo in 1942 after working in Ethiopia, then often called Abyssinia:
The heavy rains of Abyssinia run down from her mountains and hillsides in torrents and go to swell the River Nile as it flows out of Lake Tana. I thought how those Biblical years in the Old Testament – the seven years of thinness and famine in Egypt – were due of course to seven years of slight or no rains in Abyssinia. This year here at Cairo the River is very high: August the 17th is Feast of the Nile and has been for thousands of years, since for thousands of years the month of August brings down to the Nile Delta the torrential rains of Abyssinia and the Nile overflows its banks and waters the lands and forms that green belt of vegetation in the middle of the desert which is Egypt.
Mary provided an oasis of love where her son could grow into boyhood and manhood, for the first few years in Egypt, traditionally in the Cairo area. Imagine her in the market, buying food grown in the fertile soil of the delta, just as we do – though she would not have bought Egyptian potatoes or tomatoes, as we have done this Spring.
Let us be grateful for the food we receive from Egypt and around the world; let’s pray for true peace in Egypt and the Middle East; and let’s thank God for Mary’s loving care of her Son, and the true peace which he brings.
I do not know why we have two slightly different dates for the Nile Feast! MMB.
Leonard Chikasasa was a pioneer sculptor in Kungoni, Malawi. His 1973 ‘Prayer’ stands in the chapel of the Convent of the Poor Clares in Lilongwe, Malawi. In the video we see the statue at the heart of their worship.
Click on th link, and may your spirit dance on Saint Clare’s day!
Poor Clares, Lilongwe.
At this time of the end of Ramadan and Corpus Christi, and in view of the atrocities that have been committed recently in England and elsewhere, I offer this story from South Africa. Maurice.
Missionaries of Africa - SAP Province
By Christophe Boyer, M.Afr
End of April 2017, I was back from holidays in France where the islamo-christian dialogue has improved a lot since the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel during mass in a church. Of their own initiative Muslims have come to Church to show their opposition to violence and intolerance.
I was wondering what could be done here in South Africa. One day I received a phone call from Toni Rowland who is in charge of the family apostolate at the South African Catholic Bishops Conference. She asked me to advise her about a Muslim invitation since I am a contact person for islamo-christian relations at the SACBC. I was lifted up by this answer to my question.
We went together to meet Ayhan Cetin the CEO of the Turquoise Harmony Institute. He told us that this year the Institute invites people motivated to inter religious…
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As part of a short season of reflections on the Eucharist, here is a paragraph on the role of the priest at Mass from Monsignor Ronald Knox’s ‘The Mass in Slow Motion, Sheed & Ward, 1948, pp xv-xvi. Photo – Missionaries of Africa.
In case we were in danger of feeling self-important about the tremendous office we hold, the tremendous business we are transacting, we reflect that the man who stands here is only a priest of the universal Church; at the moment when he consecrates, he is the particular unit in whom her prayer is being manifested. He is the particular sentry who happens to be posted at this particular spot, under orders from his Bishop. He must think of himself as an inconsiderable unit of this great army whose whole cause now, all the multitudinous needs of the Church of God, he proceeds to recommend to God.
Let us pray for all priests of the Universal Church in all her Rites and Communions, that they may be ever faithful to the tremendous business entrusted to them.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.