AFRICA-MADAGASCARCONGO: Facing future challenges
During their reflection
days after their annual retreat in January, the Oblates from the Province of
Congo looked at the challenges that the new provincial administration will need
to face after it is named by the Superior General in Council in 2011. The
provincial secretary, Fr. Jean-Claude KIANGA sent this report.
were 54 of us present on January 14. Fathers Alfons KEUTER, Constant
KIENGE-KIENGE and Edy MABILA had joined us the previous evening. Together, we
began our “reflection days” after the retreat.
his homily at the morning Mass, Fr. Jean-Baptiste MALENGE put the liturgical
texts of the day into our context: if the paralytic mentioned in the Gospel was
the Oblate Province of Congo, for whom should he ask the Lord’s healing? And
what if we were the four persons carrying the paralytic? Doesn’t the number
four represent the four corners or the four national languages of the
Democratic Republic of Congo, so that the Lord is inviting us to His service,
no matter what our origins?
this opening day of our “reflection days,” the Provincial Superior, Macaire
MANIMBA, had the task of putting things into context. He evaluated his second
term at the helm of the province since 2008.
noted that the times have been hard, referring in particular to the global
financial crisis. The challenge has been to know how to rely first of all on
oneself, on the work of each one and the sharing of goods, in accordance with
our religious identity.
specific goals and strategies adopted by the Council, the evaluation focused on
the primacy of spirituality and concern about the quality of life in our local
communities. The provincial also examined our commitments in the mission of the
Church and the evangelization of the poor.
greatest amount of attention was the area of economics and finances. The
province is still too dependent on outside sources. The situation requires a
change, through good management and improved productivity. Unfortunately,
difficulties have occurred, with the collapse of our supply centers in Kinshasa
and Kikwit. Fortunately, with the help of the General Administration, a new
financial system has been implemented.
also indicated the ways planned or completed by his administration to free
ourselves from economic and financial dependence. The decision taken in 2004
and implemented in 2006 has borne much fruit.
have also been started for the future. But until 2016, the province will have
debts to pay, before being able to realize a real, relative financial autonomy.
Filled with hope
and audacity, we will need to effect a real change of mentalities and behavior.
The provincial pointed out many unfinished tasks which are challenges for one
and all. At the root, there is our relationship to money and the common good.
The difficulties vis-à-vis our sharing and the common good also require us to
reflect upon the relationship between our vow of poverty and our way of
responding to the numerous requests from the poor and from our families.
Finally, it is a question of our vow of obedience which calls upon each of us
to be accountable in the way we manage material goods.CAMEROON: The barefoot missionary
particular example that can encourage you to strive for holiness of life is
that of Father Simon Mpeke, known as Baba Simon.” These are the words of Pope
Benedict XVI during his first pilgrimage to Africa in 2009; he spoke of the “barefoot
missionary” in the Basilica of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Yaoundé, in March of
of God, Baba Simon (1906-1975) was among the first eight Cameroonians to be
ordained priests; he was ordained on December 8, 1935 for the Vicariate of
Douala. He passed the first years of his priesthood ministering in the parishes
of Ngovayang and New Bell - Douala. At age 55, Baba Simon went to Northern
Cameroon, as a Fidei Donum priest
from the Diocese of Douala. He was received by the Oblate Bishop, Yves PLUMEY.
“I came here to the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate to work with them for the
conversion of my brothers from Northern Cameroon…,” Baba Simon wrote about his
mission. The northern part of Cameroon was considered a region firmly closed to
the Good News, due to the domination of Islam. Evangelization in the region is
one of the most beautiful pages of Oblate history. The Oblates arrived there in
In addition to his holy life, Baba Simon practiced an evangelization that was
Cameroonian. He approached the people and learned that they were “most holy.”
His biggest discovery was their belief in the One God. “I thought I was
dreaming. Everything is done with the same actions, the same words that are
recorded in the Bible in the Law of Moses. They worship the God of the
Patriarchs,” he wrote, referring to the religious practices of the montagnards.
He worked among the “Kirdi” people. The term “Kirdi” is used by the Muslim
invaders of Northern Cameroon to describe the local people who refuse to accept
Islam. Its sense is pejorative, meaning literally “infidel dog.” It was
originally assumed that the “Kirdi” practiced a primitive polytheism. It was
momentous for Baba Simon to discover their belief in the One God. “They just
need the message of Christ,” said the Servant of God.
Baba Simon founded the mission of Tokombere at “Kudumbar,” a word the means “battleground.”
Today, there is a mission (houses for the priests and religious women, a
hospital, a Catholic school, a library and a Catholic youth center) where there
was once fighting between warring inhabitants of the surrounding mountains.
Servant of God’s life is an example of love for God, expressed in ceaseless and
fervent prayer and love for the people. The life of this missionary in Cameroon
is an example of radical poverty.
process of beatification of Servant of God, Baba Simon, began at
the diocesan level in 2000
and closed with the submission to Rome of the dossier of about
800 pages in 2003. At the request of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,
in August 2010, an additional investigation began. The Episcopal Delegate for
this phase of the proceedings is an Oblate, Fr. Christophe ZIELENDA. (From www.oblaci.pl)LESOTHO: Preparing another missionary project
The Oblates of
Lesotho already have a mission in Botswana, which, so far, is operating in the
Diocese of Gaborone. Now, from the same country of Botswana, we have received a
request to send more Oblate missionaries, this time from the Catholic Vicariate
When describing the acute shortage of priests in his diocese, Bishop Frank
Nubuasah, SVD, states, “At present, I have two parishes without priests and am
forced to act as the parish priest of the two parishes which are three hundred
(300) kilometers apart. I would be grateful if you could come to my assistance”.
The Provincial Council is positive about the request of Bishop Nubuasah and we
are planning to send some Oblates to his diocese in a few months time. The
event marks the expansion of the Oblate Mission in Botswana; and our Generalate
welcomes the good news! (Maoblata,
January 2011)CAMEROON: Evangelizing the Pygmies
years ago, four Oblates from Poland arrived in Cameroon to open one of the most
beautiful chapters in the history of the evangelization of that country.
Initially, their activities focused on the northern section of Cameroon, but
over time, it reached the southeastern border of the country. Today, in the
diocese of Yokadouma (East Cameroon), the shepherd is Bishop Eugene JURETZKO,
also known as the “Bishop of the Pygmies.” His diocese is the size of Belgium
and there are twelve parishes, four of them in the hands of the Oblates.
In villages of this area, some of the houses scattered along the road resemble
a pile of hanging leaves; the better houses are made of clay. This road crosses
the second “green lung” of our planet – the tropical forest of Equatorial
Africa. But as the forest is beginning to disappear, so too is its real ruler,
the Pygmy. They call themselves “Baka” (sitting on a branch) because they are
like birds sitting on a branch, ready for flight at any moment. They lead a
nomadic lifestyle, living on what they can find and hunting in the woods. They
have few possessions.
Salapoumbe is a typical Pygmy village where the pastor is Fr. Grzegorz
JAGOWDZIK. Many of the parishioners have settled permanently in the village
because of the opportunity to earn some money. The forest is no longer theirs.
These virgin forests are being destroyed by logging activities, by the arrival
of palm oil plantations and national parks for safaris. The Baka cannot hunt
there as they did for centuries. Therefore, they are forced to find a new way
of life wherein they are deprived of their tradition. They are regarded by
neighboring tribes as subhuman and they become victims of a new type of racism.
They find work in factories and fields for little remuneration, sometimes just
a bottle of alcohol. Practices such as prostitution and polygamy, alien to
their culture, are beginning to spread. Increasing numbers of Pygmies are
infected by the diseases of alcoholism, HIV and AIDS.
Fortunately, the Baka are not left to fend for themselves. “For decades, the
Catholic Church has helped them,” states Fr. Janusz MILANOWSKI, a missionary
from Yokadouma. “The work is difficult because of the instability of the
Pygmies … They often disappear for a time as they go into the wilderness for a
few weeks to collect wild mango. For these people, the forest is still their
It is not surprising that few people want to work among the Pygmies. Sometimes
one sees well-equipped charitable centers and hospitals that are empty because
it is impossible to find people willing to work there. Life is difficult in the
middle of a tropical forest which is difficult to reach, where there is no
water, no electricity, no mobile phone network, no Internet.
In Salpoumbe, there is a hospital run by the Sisters of the Presentation of the
Virgin. Pygmies come there from the forests, not only in Cameroon but also the
Central African Republic and Gabon.
The Baka Pygmies believe in one God. What they need is the liberating message
of Christ the Savior who can free them from their sense of inferiority and the
threats of aggressive civilization. The Oblates, together with their
evangelical colleagues, care not only about the salvation of those who have not
known Christ, but also about their social equality, as our Constitution 8
reminds us: Awareness of our own
shortcomings humbles us, yet God’s power makes us confident as we strive to
bring all people – especially the poor – to full consciousness of their dignity
as human beings and as sons and daughters of God. (Jacek ZIOMEK in www.oblaci.pl)SENEGAL: “Today, we are making history….”
12, 2010, is a day to write with golden letters in the history of the diocese
of Ziguinchor. The founding of a shrine, the beginning of a diocesan
pilgrimage, and the welcoming of a precious and beautiful statue of the Virgin
Mary gave this day a truly historic character.
It all began with the burning and persuasive desire of the late Msgr. Maixent
Coly, bishop of the diocese, when, in 2000, the first diocesan shrine dedicated
to Our Lady of Peace at Temento became the shrine of the recently erected
diocese of Kolda. Ten years later, while carefully retaining the beautiful
experience of the interdiocesan pilgrimage to Temento on the third Sunday of
Lent, the diocese of Ziguinchor wanted to find a site to build its own shrine
and to begin its own diocesan pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, having been invited in
1999 by Bishop Coly to take care of the shrine and the mission of Temento,
arrived also at Elinkine in the diocese of Ziguinchor. They did not come alone;
a large statue of the Virgin Mary, the gift of a Presentation of Mary community
in France, came with them. From then on, all the ingredients were there for the
realization of the dream of Bishop Coly who unexpectedly died on August 24,
2010, carried off by illness.
This long introduction was necessary in order to understand what happened at
Elinkine this past December 12. With the support of Bishop François Jacolin,
the bishop of Mende, who was visiting the diocese, a large group of pilgrims
came together to welcome the Virgin Mary, in numbers far beyond the timid
expectations of the organizers. Local and regional administrative officials,
Muslim and Christian friends from other churches, priests and religious, the
faithful and the curious: they all came together for this gathering at the feet
When the bishop unveiled the statue, there was a spontaneous ovation that
greeted the Mother of God and sincere emotion poured forth from all those
present. The shrine which had just been founded was called Our Lady of the
Mission. Why Our Lady of the Mission?
The authenticity of the Church’s mission never ceases to be highlighted by Pope
Benedict XVI, and through our pastoral programs in which witness and mission
are keywords for discovering and living. The mission is not finished; rather,
it seems to be just beginning. The new evangelization is a specific need for
today, both in the countries with an ancient Christian tradition but where the
faith seems to be disappearing, as well as in our countries where one needs to
establish the Gospel better and to discover even more our own way of
incarnating it. With Mary, we want to breathe new life into our way of
evangelizing. She is the one who knows how to be both mother and model for
those who follow the Lord. A missionary Church which knows how to give witness
to its faith; which knows how to be open to dialogue without surrendering the
essence of the faith; a diocese which knows how to assume its mission of being,
in the midst of the people and of society, the artisan of a new world through
the strength of the Gospel. Mission, evangelization, with the courage and the
simplicity of Mary.
In his homily, the bishop explained why and how Mary is a missionary, by going
over the various phases of her life and her faith. Mary never ceases to show
herself as authentically missionary by participating in an extraordinary way in
the realization of the Father’s plan and the mission of her Son, Jesus. Father
Paul Abel Mamba, the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Ziguinchor,
exclaimed, during his comments that “today, we are making history in our
A dream realized; a presence, that of Mary, which materializes and becomes a
place of grace and blessing: that’s December 12, 2010, a day that will mark the
future of an entire people. (Bruno FAVERO)CAMEROON: A visit by bandits
Charles EKO tells of a visit by bandits at the new Oblate mission in Douala.
We are gradually regaining our confidence and especially our former energy
after the robbery of which we were the victims on the night of Friday, February
11, 2011. Indeed, that day, after celebrating the Eucharist, I went to join Fr.
Peter OSEKWUTE in the living room to share a meal and take a moment to chat. It
was 19:30 and the catechumens were in the Church for their lessons. At around
20:30, when I left Fr. Peter to do some work in my office, the robbers took
advantage of the departure of the catechumens to attack us in the rectory.
Armed with guns, they held us down and after tying us up, they went to ransack
our rooms, my office and the storeroom. They got away with our laptop
computers, the digital camera that allowed us to share with our confreres and
friends photos of the new Oblate mission, the sound equipment from the church,
a television, our watches, small suitcases and some money.
As brave Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, we kept our smiles and
especially our calm, something which surprised many of the people who came to
commiserate with us. It is good to point out that attacks on rectories are
commonplace in the archdiocese of Douala and any kind of security measure does
not help much in the face of these rascals who always come heavily armed and
ready to confront any resistance.
In fact, we are in a new mission where everything is yet to be done. They
rectory is a delayed construction site and open on all sides. But slowly the
faithful strive to complete the work; we live there and we give witness to a
lifestyle that attracts the admiration of all those who pass by.
After this “welcoming experience,” we continued our activities, but we must
admit that all of our efforts for progress have been wiped out; Fr. Peter and
the youth had organized a prayer chain in the families. This activity had
brought in a rather significant sum that allowed us to equip the parish with
the sound system which has been carried off by the robbers. Now we are
celebrating in a church with more than 300 people and without a sound system;
that’s not easy. Slowly, we are encouraging our faithful to continue the work
that has begun; they are more discouraged than we are. So goes the life of
pioneers! (Charles Eko)