Tag Archives: Missionaries of Africa

Mission continues, 150 years of the Missionaries of Africa, II.

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Jacob Maasang from Ghana is a Missionary of Africa student working in Zambia. He was at the celebration at Mphangwe Prayer Centre in Zambia described by Fr David Cullen on October under the theme: “serving God’s people in Africa”. He is in the picture above with Bishop Phiri.
According to Bishop Benjamin Phiri, it was not a thanksgiving Mass for the missionaries alone but also for the people of Zambia, especially the Diocese of Chipata. He gave acknowledgement to some elderly confreres, still present, who worked utterly in that diocese. For him, it was an opportunity for the people to appreciate the work of evangelisation done by the missionaries of Africa in that part of Zambia.

The celebration ended with a shared meal, something Jacob rightly sees as very important.

Done in a very simple manner, everybody had something to eat and drink. This, I felt, was part of our charism as our founder insisted on simple lifestyle and moderation in everything. I was very happy and privileged to be at this 150th anniversary celebration of our foundation as Missionaries of Africa, serving the people of Africa and the African world.

Mission continues.

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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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August 28: Cultural Centre bears witness to the “universality” of the Church

Here to mark the feast of Saint Augustine is a story from his native land of Algeria, where the Missionaries of Africa have been present for more than 100 years. Their society is 150 years old this year. 

Precious volumes and photographs testifying to the history of the Christian presence, but also courses in English and French and IT: all this is found at the Cultural Centre of the White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa) in Ouargla, a city in eastern Algeria,  at the service of the local, mainly Muslim, community, in this city of the desert.

The Cultural Centre is rooted in history. In 1875 the first White Father missionaries were sent here to find only a French military garrison and a handful of Berber hovels. Besides providing religious assistance for the soldiers, the White Fathers started to learn the local languages. At the same time they collected ancient books, scrolls and took photographs.

Over the years the missionaries catalogued the growing heritage which becomes a memory for the region and for the whole of Algeria. The photographs in particular bear witness to the different stages of a Christian presence which is ever more closely linked with the local population. “From the early years of colonisation down to our day – says Fr. Aldo Giannasi, a White Father missionary who lived and served in Ouargla – the Algerians viewed the Church as a continuation of the French political and cultural invasion. Today a change is taking place: the majority of priests and other church workers are from Black Africa, which clearly shows that the Church is not connected with France or with the West, or the powerful people of the world. She is Catholic, that is universal, and at the service of all”.

Ouargla too has changed. The military base is now an important Oil hub. The small village has become a city. The Cultural Centre still stands in the qasbah. As the years passed the structure deteriorated. The windows and doors were old and the desert sand was beginning to penetrate the rooms. Shelves, tables, chairs were old and needed to be replaced. The White Fathers thought of moving to the outskirts, but decided to stay in the original place and embark on its refurbishing.

Today the Centre hosts boys and girls, mostly Muslims, who study and use the library. Here they find a patrimony of books: history, geography, sociology, ethnology, religion and Christian spirituality. However the Centre has also become a focal point for the rest of the city because students find help with research and local people take courses in French, English, IT. “Our structure – concludes Fr Giannasi – bears witness to an active presence of Catholics at the service of Algeria, committed to a cultural mission which is a fruit-bearing seed of the Gospel” (Fides 4/4/2018).

The Algerian stamps show St Augustine and a Christian inscription from his time.

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7 August, Traherne V: the Darling of His bosom.

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Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

Love is deeper than at first it can be thought. It never ceaseth but in endless things. It ever multiplies. Its benefits and its designs are always infinite. Were you not Holy, Divine, and Blessed in enjoying the World, I should not care so much to bestow it. But now in this you accomplish the end of your creation, and serve God best, and please Him most: I rejoice in giving it. For to enable you to please GOD, is the highest service a man can do you. It is to make you pleasing to the King of Heaven, that you may be the Darling of His bosom.

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This is Meditation 11. To be read slowly and repeated. And the pictures of the Darling of Mary’s bosom seem to fit. They come from the Jesuit Chapel in Canterbury and from the Missionaries of Africa.

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July 14, What is Theology Saying? XIV: Eucharist 1, We are invited to be present.

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Eucharist is how Jesus summed-up his life and death; something not nearly catered for by going to Mass! Let‘s be clear about Jesus’ life. The interpretations of the Gospel say nothing about his own experience of living in Palestine, nor indeed about the impact he made on the ordinary folk of his time. Freedom is of the essence of his presence. Unlike political liberators he didn’t have a goal to achieve. Part of the old devotions of the Way of the Cross – the Second Station – referred to him receiving the cross as the means whereby he would save the world. He didn’t come with a goal in mind – he came to live his life freely, and therefore differently – a new way of being human.

This new way – non-resistance to violence, no finger-pointing, not needing to blame – proved wonder to the few, but irksome to the many, especially the powerful, whose disenchantment turned to hate, and the compulsion to be rid of him. He didn’t come to die – nor did the Father send him to die – he came to live life and death in a new way. We tend to interpret his going to Jerusalem as seeing death as his destiny. Why are you going there, it’s full of enmity for you…? His answer makes no reference to a predestined fate – Jerusalem is where the prophets died – Luke 13.34. Prophecy is not foretelling the future but living life as it was meant to be lived.

We are invited to be present in the Eucharist as Christ is present to us – a person to be met and experienced. A Mozart Concerto can be analysed and dissected to illustrate its melodic and harmonious structure, but to be present to it as it is allows it to become an experience, a unique experience, and see how it satisfies a hunger within us; to be soothed with its harmony, surprised by its ongoing creativity.

It is not grasping the experience, but being grasped. This is what mystery means – a work of art, a unique person. Eucharist is mystery.

AMcC

Picture from Missionaries of Africa

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29 June: Telling the Truth VII: the telling detail.

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With my work on Archbishop Arthur Hughes I’m finding how what is left out of a story can change the reader’s perception even without the narrator meaning to do so. I well remember how my daughters would complain if a paragraph was left out of a well-loved bedtime story!

There are details that give a more rounded picture of the human being but which are unlikely to appear in official obituaries. Arthur Hughes, as Papal Nuncio in Egypt, writing to his sister – a nun and a headmistress – about a forthcoming world heavyweight boxing match, or punning in French about his post in Egypt (before it was confirmed) ‘My position here is provisional, I am in effect near Cairo/precarious’.

Ma situation ici doit être provisoire; je suis, en effet, près Caire.’

We’ve met Fran Horner before: she works at the John Rylands library in Manchester on Dom Sylvester Houedard OSB, monk, artist and poet. Now she has turned up some odds and ends that bring him to life in ways that supplement words on a page. Read and reflect!

Dom Sylvester’s bus ticket

AWH is front row, centre; about to leave for Uganda in 1933.

MMB.

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June 2, Feast of the Uganda Martyrs: Too few priests?

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Bishop Henri Streicher

 

 

Tomorrow we celebrate Corpus Christi, the second feast of the Eucharist after Maundy Thursday. The feast of the Uganda Martyrs gets displaced, but we’ll go to Uganda anyway.

Bishop Henri Streicher was a pioneer bishop in Uganda in the early 20th Century. If we think we are short of priests in the West today, he and his missionaries were hard-stretched to serve the numbers of converts flocking to the Church, even when the load was shared with African sisters and priests who would eventually take charge.

There was no way that missionaries could organise the details of church life! I read recently that:

Mgr Streicher was a greater promoter of pious associations and devotions among the laity. Some of these were: 1st Friday of the month, Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in homes, Holy Hour, Fraternity of Mount Carmel (Cf. wearing of scapulars), Uganda Martyrs, frequent receiving of the Holy Communion, Communion of children, Adoration of 40 hours, Morning and Evening prayers, Rosary and attending daily Mass. Being an active member of these associations and regular practices of these devotions is the best means to fight and “conquer evil with good” which was the episcopal motto of Mgr. Streicher.

Many of these devotions could be organised day to day by parents in the home or by catechists at village level when the priests could not be present. Entrusting this ministry to the catechist was an effective way of building up the Christian community. Even though the catechists had barely the equivalent of a modern primary education, Bishop Streicher trusted them, and the people of the villages, to build up the Church.

It is my belief that when lay people in the west are allowed, encouraged, enabled and entrusted to be responsible for the life of their communities, the next step towards providing the Eucharist for God’s people will become clear.

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(The Uganda Martyrs canonised by the Catholic Church died in the late 19th Century. There have been many more of them since. Among their number are many Anglicans, both then and in modern times, including in 1977 Archbishop Janani Luwum, murdered by order of President Idi Amin. There have been Moslem martyrs too, over the years.)

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30 April, Mary Queen of Africa.

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Picture from Missionaries of Africa, West Africa.

This statue of Mary is at Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, a modern, West African expression of the crowned statue of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers. But our reflection is by Père Paul Marioge M.Afr., formerly rector of that Basilica, and it appeared in French at Voix d’Afrique, No 74.

Fr Marioge explains that he was surprised to ‘find himself the rector of a basilica visited by so many faithful Muslims, greatly disturbed by the evils of terrorism and feeling a spontaneous need to approach Heaven and implore Mary’s protection. I took things as they were: my mission was to help the people who came, creatures, every one, of the same God, our creator and merciful saviour.’

People come to Our Lady of Africa as they might go to Lourdes, with everything they are carrying in their heart: a great pain or suffering of body or mind; someone sick wants to be healed; or maybe it’s their child who was ill, or else they don’t have a child and they want one; or they only have boys but still want a little girl – or vice versa; a battered wife, maybe; or else a pilgrim comes who finds himself without work, without resources; or again he wants to pass an exam; and then there are the young people who love each other, who come to confide in Mary their heartbreak, their desire for a happy marriage.

Those who come are the human race of every age and from every land.

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Stations of the Cross from victims of human trafficking

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Our friends the Missionaries of Africa have shared these Stations of the Cross which set before us the lives of those caught up in human trafficking. They have been written by the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) with their colleagues, the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (White Sisters).

Please remember to pray for the victims of this modern slavery and those who strive to help them. Combatting slavery has been a focus of the work of these two societies since their foundation 150 years ago. And still the work must go on.

MMB.

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African Missionaries to Africa

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.

MMB

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