AFRICA-MADAGASCARDay of the Martyrs: Bishop Yves Plumey
On Saturday and Sunday, March 26 and 27, 2011, the Archdiocese of Douala, under the patronage of Archbishop Samuel Kleda, celebrated the 1st Diocesan Day of Church Martyrs.
Indeed, the initiative for this day goes back to Pope John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of 2000 when he sought to “gather the precious memories of the witnesses of faith in the twentieth century.” These memories were brought to mind on May 7, 2000, with representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the suggestive setting of the Coliseum, symbol of the ancient persecutions.
On April 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated, at the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew, the Shrine of New Martyrs, desired by John Paul II and completed, thanks to the care of the Saint Egidio Community. The Basilica of Saint Bartholomew is the titular church of Cardinal Francis GEORGE.
Taking its cue from the initiatives of many dioceses in the world, the Union of Religious of the Archdiocese of Douala, with the support of Bishop Samuel Kleder, organized the 1st Diocesan Day of Martyrs of the Church. Alongside the Monks of Tibhirine, Sister Clementine Anwarite, Isidore Bakandja, Maximilian Kolbe, Gabriel Soho and Bishop Oscar Romero, the presentation on the life and work of Bishop Yves PLUMEY was the highlight of the day. The many people who came to Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral of Douala and the audience of the diocesan Radio Veritas, which followed the ceremony live, were quite edified by this man who, with companions of the first team, would be the new pioneers of faith in these wastelands of northern Cameroon and Mayo-Kebbi (Southern Chad).
They heard about Bishop Plumey, who has given so much to the Church of Cameroon and finally was assassinated on the night of September 2-3, 1991. Some of us say that the Oblates have to break through the anonymity of his sacrifice.
Fr. Alexander MOTANYANE, former General Councillor for the Region of Africa-Madagascar, died on 9 April 2011 at Loreto Parish in Lesotho. He was chosen by the Superior General, Fr. Fernand JETTÉ and his Council to serve as a replacement for Fr. Thomas MAYELI who had resigned his office. Fr. Motanyane was re-elected General Councillor at the Chapters of 1986 and 1992, thus serving during the entire mandate of Superior General, Fr. Marcello ZAGO.
Born in Lesotho in 1933, he made his first profession of vows as an Oblate in 1955. He did part of his scholasticate in Rome and part of it at St. Joseph’s Scholasticate in Ottawa. In 1963, he was ordained a priest in Lesotho.
Prior to his election as General Councillor, he served as Rector of the Major Seminary in Lesotho (1970-78) and as Secretary to the Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference (1979-85).
He returned to his homeland after his mandate on the General Administration. At the time of his death, he was serving at the Loreto Mission.
A significant moment in the life of the Oblate Kenya Mission took place at the Blessed Gerald Girard House in Meru. On March 15, the Oblate Community of Kionyo and Meru gathered to celebrate the reopening of the postulancy program and to receive four new candidates.
The Blessed Joseph Gerard House has been closed for the past year to facilitate the study leave for Fr. Fidele MUNKIELE. He is currently studying at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa. It became clear however that we must reopen this program in order to insure the continuance of our formation programs.
Fr. Alfred GROLEAU, the former Mission Superior moved to Meru to join Fr. Faustin LITANDA and Brother Joseph Magambo to begin again the postulancy program. This is a nine-month program that will prepare the candidates to advance to the Blessed Joseph Cebula pre-novitiate in Karen, Nairobi, where they will begin their philosophical studies.
In a simple but solemn ceremony in the context of the Eucharist I, as the Mission Superior, had the privilege of calling four young Kenyan men to begin their journey with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. After the homily each candidate was called to begin their formation with the Oblates. Each was presented with a cross and a rosary.
We are pleased and privileged to welcome into our community: Moses Owino Odhiambo, James Ibare Gatehi, Phelix Johya and Job Wangwee. It is significant that all these men come from the west side of Kenya where there are no Oblates.
Following the induction service, all gathered in the dining room for a simple but festive supper. Celebrating is something we are very good at and lately we have had many causes to rejoice and be glad. As has been previously reported, we recently gathered in our parish in Kionyo (35 kms south east of Meru) on the east side of Mount Kenya to witness the final profession of Scholastic Brother Gideon RIMBERIA and Brother Joseph MAGAMBO. These are the first Kenyans to become members of our community. It is significant that Brother Joseph was present to welcome these new candidates to begin the journey that he has just completed.
The year 2012 will mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Lesotho. The same year will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Mater Jesu Oblate Scholasticate at Roma. It is the Year of the Jubilee! Preparations for this grand occasion are underway, and the “ad hoc” committees of various kinds have been mobilized.
Father Michael Sekoati presents here a concise history behind this momentous occasion:
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were sent by their Superior General, Bishop DE MAZENOD, to South Africa to carry-out missionary activities. They arrived at the port of Durban on 15th March 1852. For 10 years they laboured in Natal without any notable success; and in October 1861, it was regretfully decided to abandon the mission there and to journey towards the North.
Along the way, the missionaries heard about a certain Chief, on the other side of the Drakensburg, who had succeeded in unifying a good number of run-away tribes to form one nation. He was open to new ideas that could be beneficial to the development of his people. That is how the Oblates came to establish contacts with King Moshoeshoe I, and finally came to Lesotho.
Bishop Jean-Francois ALLARD, Father Joseph GERARD and Brother Francois Bernard arrived at Thaba-bosiu on 11th October 1862. They were welcomed with open arms by King Moshoeshoe I, who allotted them a site in the Tloutle Valley to establish their mission. “I have chosen a site which may be suitable for your work… I want you to be near my residence so that I may be able to hear you and to know your doctrine…” he told them.
On 21st October, the Oblate missionaries left Thaba-Bosiu for Tloutle Valley to start the work. They pitched their tent at Ha Mafefoane and immediately they started the construction projects. Actually they did not wait for any converts before they began building the church. Bishop Allard noted that there were marvelous elements wherein grace could take root, and which only awaited the Gospel preaching to be transformed into Christian virtues.
As they were building, they were also learning Sesotho, which would soon become the medium of instruction. On Sundays, Father Gerard was preaching in Zulu; and the man called Qhobosheane Tau was his interpreter. Other missionary activities included regular visits to the surrounding villages, opening of the school, and the translation of the catechism. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux arrived in 1865 and took charge of the school and other works of charity.