AFRICA-MADAGASCARBOTSWANA: Growing vegetables in the desert
Father Norbert Pepenene speaks about a vegetable project in the Oblate Mission at Tshabong, in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana.
“The project is the initiative of the sodality of Ladies of St. Ann at Tshabong. Their objective is to help feed the poor people in the area, especially those who are infected/affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Just like everywhere else in southern Africa, HIV/AIDS is also a big problem here in Botswana. Besides antiretroviral treatment, HIV/AIDS patients also need good nutrition. The project is very helpful in this regard. Part of the produce is sold to the public for the self-maintenance of the project and for the subsistence of the mission.
“To develop the project and to give encouragement to the women involved, Father Vincent Mosenye and I started intensive fundraising activities. And a generous donor from England gave us an equivalent of P52,000.00 (US$ 7,700). The money enabled us to install the irrigation system and the net that protects the plants from direct sunlight, and also to put up the security fence to keep away the wandering animals.
“The regional Agric Officers are taking special interest in the project. They visit us regularly to monitor the progress and to offer advisory service free of charge. According to them, the project not only contributes to poverty reduction but it is also a shining example of how to reconcile rural populations with available resources in their areas.
“If vegetables can be grown successfully in the desert, how much more in the fertile gardens and fields of our Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho? This is an open challenge to everyone!” (Fr. Norbert Seabata Pepenene – Botswana in Maoblata May 2010).
When he passed the leadership of Saint Bernadette Parish in Nguéniène to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1977, Missionary of the Holy Spirit, Fr. Simonnet, in all simplicity and humility, made this statement to the Oblates: “During my pastoral service from 1960 until 1977, I made 7,000 bricks for the people of Nguéniène and Djilas. Now, it’s up to you to assemble them and to make a beautiful church which will sing the glory of God and give witness to the power of fraternal charity.” The number of “bricks” corresponded to the number of baptized Christians in 1977.
The parish is celebrating this year its 50th jubilee. And the Oblates who continue to serve the parish have indeed continued to make “bricks” for the greater honor and glory of God.
The church of Nguéniène grew quickly. By 1965, there were 3,000 Christians and 800 catechumens, spread out in 53 chapels, with 5 primary schools for 350 boys and 121 girls. Seventeen years later, when Fr. Simonnet turned it over to the Oblates on April 10, 1977, St. Bernadette parish had 62 chapels in a radius of 20 Km. from Nguéniène, with about 5,954 Christians, an army of 80 brave and zealous catechists who had been formed in the school of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, Frs. Simonnet and Bouteiller.
The pioneer Oblates came from Italy in 1976. Since that time, 34 years ago, the numbers have continued to increase: 11,634, including the 223 baptized last year. The presence of God was so strong that 19 members of the parish community have answered a special call of the Lord: 11 priests; 5 religious Brothers; 3 religious women; and 1 consecrated layman. There are 21 youth preparing to respond to the Lord’s call in formation programs at home and abroad.
The presbyteral ordination of four young Oblates on the very day of the jubilee celebration was another tangible sign of God’s love. Frs. Vincent Diouf of Fayil, Jean Maurice Sène of Ndiémane, Jean Marie Sène of Ngas Kop et Paul David Niah of Loul Sèssene, were ordained by the imposition of the hands of the Archbishop of Dakar, His Eminence, Cardinal Théodore Adrien Sarr.
St. Bernadette parish is now led by the sixth Oblate pastor, Fr. Joseph DAMBA, assisted by his confreres, Frs. Stanislas DIOUF, Léon Iwélé and Vincent Diouf. (Fr. Enzo Abbatinali at www.omisen.net)
During the Lenten Season, the Holy Childhood Missionaries, a children’s group from Mary Immaculate Parish in Lusaka, embarked on a challenging mission of visiting displaced children living with their families in Mazyopa compound of Lusaka. The aim of the visit was to play with and present gifts to their fellow children. This is in accordance with the Holy Childhood theme of “children helping children.”
The displaced children of Mazyopa compound have been living in makeshift tents with their families for close to four years. The families moved into tents as a result of the City Council’s destroying their houses which were illegally built too close to the railway line on private land.
A week before the Holy Childhood group visited Mazyopa compound, a team of animators went to survey the place. On their way to Mazyopa compound, the animators were shocked to discover that the roads leading to the compound and those within were impassable; even a Land Cruiser in good condition got stuck in the mud.
The Holy Childhood group was accompanied by Fr Barnabas Simatende, Sch. Bro Michael Tembo, animators and some parishioners. Most of the children from Lusaka had never been exposed to such levels of suffering. Some could not believe that fellow children live in tents which they call their home. The experience of seeing such poverty in the Capital City was an eye opener to most of the children who come from privileged homes. As a gesture of support for their fellow children, the Holy Childhood group donated the following items: books, clothes, cleaning materials, blankets, and financial support. After the donations were made, all the children present sang and prayed for each other’s well-being. Indeed the children of Mazyopa need other children to help them hope for a better tomorrow. (Sch. Bro. Michael Tembo in OMI Zambia, March/April 2010)