This is an extract from an article in Independent Catholic News about Bishop John Durkin MSC, an Irish missionary who served in South Africa for many years till his death in 1990. Read the full story here . We include it in Advent Light because we believe in celebrating Christmas, even if we do not know the actual day on which Jesus was born.
Read the last paragraph to learn why celebrations are good! We need to celebrate because we are human.
In Bishop Durkin’s Diocese of Tzaneen in 1982, there were 39 nuns, 12 of them local and 27 expatriates. Ten of the sisters were over 70 years of age. The Bishop wrote that there was no possibility of them being replaced. Obviously, he was alert to the emerging fall in vocations to the religious life in Ireland and in the West generally.
The contribution of the Missionaries to the diocese was enormous. In 1982, it had 21 priests, 20 of them MSCs and one a retired Benedictine. The four Catholic schools educated 946 students. By 1985, there were 10 mission clinics, treating 114,310 patients annually. Within five years, the remaining seven clinics treated 300,000 patients annually. That is a good example of how the missionaries provided education and health services when the state was unable to do so. They did that with the generous financial support of donors back in Ireland.
Bishop Durkin retired on 22 June 1984 due to ill health but continued to work as a missionary in the Phalaborwa district. In 1987, he celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination, first in Tzaneen and later at a group celebration of jubilees at the MSC House in Cork. He loved celebrations and jubilees. “They are good and fulfil a human need to affirm and be affirmed on the pilgrim way. They fulfil a spiritual need in making us climb the mountain, survey the countryside and look into the horizon and even strain our vision. It is good to be alive on such occasion,” he said.
Women in Abuja, Nigeria, wear face masks May 2, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS/Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)
The road to full vaccination in Africa looks like being long and difficult.This article from the National Catholic Reporter tells how Catholic parishes are encouraging vaccinations; yet even though nowhere near enough doses are available, there is much scepticism about their efficacy.
Olayide Osibogun, a public health physician at the University of Lagos, said: “The purpose of having a vaccine is to provide immunity to as many people as possible and break the chain of transmission. And when people refuse to take the vaccine, they make achieving herd immunity impossible.”
But vaccine hesitancy is still growing on the continent. Some Catholic communities are showing indifference towards taking vaccines. Mabola Thusi, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, South Africa, for example, spoke to NCR about her hesitancy to take a vaccine that was developed in a few years.
Reflections on the Legacy of Nelson Mandela by Rhine Phillip Tsobotsi Koloti, the Anglican Students Federation’s Gender, Education and Transformation officer in South Africa.
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”.
I leave this quote as unknown because the origin of this thought is highly contested, nonetheless it is often received positively as a general principle for alleviating poverty by facilitating self-sufficiency instead of instant dependency. However, I wish to add a line to this adage, a line that will best reflect the situation in South Africa post-1994: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime, but remember to remove the ‘No fishing’ signs!”
In Mandela’s country, my country, economic bondage and poverty are maintained by structural injustices which prevent the poor from achieving economic freedom. Apartheid ideology is indeed over but the legacy thereof remains in institutional racism and ‘no fishing’ signs. Thus we plead for prayers that will guide our leaders to see the need to remove those signs so that Mandela’s totality of freedom will be achieved.
Loving God, we give you thanks for the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. May we be inspired by his never-ending struggle for justice, peace and reconciliation in the face of unimaginable suffering; and may we continue in the quest to bring the hallmarks of heaven to earth. Amen.
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.
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.
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.
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…
I’ve been saving this post for months now, but it seemed most appropriate for Pentecost. Patrick Kalonji Kadima is a young Congolese man training to become a Missionary of Africa in Ghana, a long way from home. This post is taken from letters he wrote to his confreres.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings from Ghana, where I am appointed for pastoral experience. The aim of these two years is to train me and prepare me for missionary life. These are years when the apostolic and pastoral components (working with youth, community development, various visits to the local people, catechism classes, to mention but a few) are predominant. The main task is for the apostolate, as well as a time of discernment. It will be a time of test to see if I have the necessary qualities to live a missionary life.
My community is made of four members, two confrere-priests, John Amona (Ghana) and Gazena Haile (Ethiopia) and one who is in his second year of pastoral experience, Martial Kedem (Burkina-Faso). The four of us, from different parts of Africa, form a community of Missionaries of Africa in Nyankpala.
I will soon be in the village for the language. Your prayers for this, I will really appreciate. Dagbani, is my first African language that I will sit down and concentrate on learning as such. I wish to speak it like a native speaker. It is not a Bantu language, but I am willing to put much effort into it. May the almighty God, who blew on the Apostles the Holy Spirit to speak in various languages; may He blow in me as He did with them.
I ask for your prayers that I may constantly listen to God’s voice and continue trusting Him in my life. I too, will keep you in my prayers. Happy new month of September! May Christ’s peace be with you all.
Your Brother in Christ.
Patrick Kalonji Kadima.
Read more about how Africans are travelling across their continent to bring the Good News at this link:
And pray that the Spirit may blow through Patrick and all Missionaries; may they be on fire with his love – and may we too remember that we are Missionaries, sent to share the Joy of the Gospel with whomsoever we meet.
Nobody would accuse Friar Austin, this week’s writer, of being a boring preacher. Nor Friar Tom, nor Friar Stefan. All worth listening to, or sitting under, as the Scots used to say. Having said that, this piece by a Jesuit in South Africa, Russell Pollitt, is salutory reading for preachers and hearers. The link is to his article in Independent Catholic News. Do read it! What do you think?