518 - January 2012
December 7th, 2011 - January 9th, 2012



Constitutions & Rules translated into IsiZulu

Since their arrival in Kwazulu-Natal in 1852, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have tried to live up to the desire of their Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, to evangelize the Zulu people. The Bishop of Marseille often reminded the Apostolic Vicar, Bishop Jean-François ALLARD, of the task he had sent his missionaries to accomplish on African soil.

After many frustrating failures to convert the Zulus, eventually the Holy Spirit worked miracles of grace and many of these people became Catholic Christians. Over the years, many also became Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Recently, Fr. Phumlani Charles NDLOVU from the Oblate Province of Natal has succeeded in translating the Oblate Constitutions and Rules into the IsiZulu language. He himself was born in Pietermaritzburg where Oblate roots run deep. For more information, one may contact the translator at this e-mail address: frphumlanicharlesndlovu@gmail.com .

Canadian scholastic in regency

Deacon Marcin SERWIN from Assumption Province in Canada is serving his regency in Madagascar. In June 2011, he completed his studies at the International Roman Scholasticate.

I have commenced my fifth month in Madagascar and before I leave for the next part of my experience in the southern missions, I wanted to share with you how I am living this time.

As of September 2011, I have been mainly doing “tournées,” visiting Christian communities in the eastern bush. Since these Christian communities are very young, there is a lot of work in all areas of life and faith: catechesis, organization of basic Church structures, managing their efforts, as well as aiding, where possible, with healthcare and formation. (I have received probably as many “missionary doctor visits” by the people in the villages as sacraments conferred.) At the same time, I have many opportunities to exercise my deaconate, through everyday liturgy, both with the local priests and without them, when we divide ourselves into different sectors. Most of the adult members of the Christian communities are in catechumenal preparation for the sacraments so there are exams to admit them to different stages before their baptism. There are also many children’s baptisms, thanks to which to date I was blessed with the possibility of baptizing over 60 Christians, both young and old. In many of these villages, I will only be once or twice throughout this year, but the moments spent with these people are very meaningful and enriching.

Even though my capabilities of the Malagasy language (and the Betsamsaraka dialect) are still quite modest I have begun doing short catechesis in the villages I visit, of course first written then read. This helps me have direct contact with the preaching ministry in the deaconate and priestly ministry. Since the stages of the faith vary immensely, even among people of the village, as is the case in every Christian community, I mainly speak about God as Love and the consequences this truth has in our everyday lives as well as in our relationships with our neighbor.

When it comes to my health I am doing well. My body is steadily adapting to the tropical weather and to the diverse bacterial flora Madagascar has to offer. As many missionaries here, I did get the plasmodium type malaria, but with the needed prudence and medicine at hand, it is not dangerous for me. In a way I see it as a blessing because it lets me live out this time more fully, letting me experience the troubles these people have to live with, often without the needed care I have. For the remaining time of November until mid-January I shall be in the south-central part of the island in the two furthest missions the Oblates have here, Ambinanindrano and Marolambo. This is also the part of the Island that is least developed, thanks to which I will be able to have a new experience. I shall participate in two tournées around these missions, one among the rivers of Ambinandrano and the other, during Christmas, in the mountains of Marolambo. I ask for the needed prayer and graces for this time. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! (Assumption Province News and Views, November 2011)

The Church in North Africa

Fr. Mario LEÓN, as Apostolic Administrator in Western Sahara, was recently in Tunisia for the meeting of the CERNA (Episcopal Conference of the Bishops of North Africa). The meeting was held on November 12-17 in Tunis, the capital, in the house of diocesan bishop of that city.

There were four bishops from Algeria with their four vicars, one from Tunisia with his vicar, two from Libya and one vicar, two from Morocco with two vicars, the bishop of Mauritania, the secretary of CERNA who is a priest from Casablanca and Fr. Mario.

The bishops are all foreigners (which reflects the reality of the Churches since all the Christians are foreigners). One bishop is Jordanian; another is Palestinian; then there are French, Spanish, and Germans, all of whom have been in these countries for years. Many were even born in these countries and have a lot of experience. The Churches of North Africa are simple, humble and even poor in resources, although they conduct schools, cultural and aid centers (especially for immigrants), libraries, but with fewer and fewer members: men and women religious, priests. This is the great challenge and hardship they now face: the diminishment of vocations in the Churches of Europe from which, a short time ago, they received help. More and more priests and religious men and women are coming from Africa, Latin America or Asia.

It was very interesting to listen to the testimony of the bishops and see what is happening in their countries and how their respective Churches are experiencing different changes, especially in Libya, but also in Tunisia itself. There were even tanks in the streets, but the people seemed content.

One bishop would say: “How beautiful freedom is!” They also held a press conference at the end of the CERNA meeting, something unheard of in North Africa.

It is interesting to see how the Church in Algeria is doing: they have a problem with visas. For the past three years, Algeria has not given a single worker’s visa for religious men and women or for priests. We can go to visit, but not to work in a church. For this reason, they are slowly suffocating. All of the dioceses have 2-3 or more priests, religious men or women awaiting permission to enter and settle down, and the average age is ever increasing!

In Morocco, there’s not much going on; changes are happening, but very slowly.

It seems that things are finally calming down in Libya. The Christians, mostly foreigners, in the country for work, do not yet dare to go, but the country needs them because now is the time to rebuild. The bishops told of amazing experiences. They were assaulted more than seven times; their homes were robbed; people with guns followed them when they went out in their cars. It was the law of the jungle there. It seems that all families had guns in the house, but not so many priests. Of course, they were easy victims. More than once, neighbors, hearing their screams, came out to defend them. But it was not a religious issue – it was robbery. They stole their cars, televisions, computers, clothing, furniture – everything – incredible! They have given a simply amazing witness.

Fr. Mario acknowledges: “The truth is that, in all this, I have been a witness, simply watching. I speak very little in the meetings, but I really learn a lot.”

The plague of Casamance and cocaine trafficking

Tension is increasing in Casamance, the region of Senegal wedged between Gambia and Guinea Bissau, a “low intensity” theater of war since 1982 because of the presence of an independence movement. On December 13, an armed group attacked the village of Kabeum, causing a number of victims. The historical Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC), which has been fighting for years for the independence of the territory, is now divided into different armed groups, dedicated more to banditry than to the political guerrilla warfare.

“There are many armed groups operating in Casamance,” Fr. Giuseppe GIORDANO explains to Fides. He is a missionary who has been working in Senegal for many years [and is superior of the Oblate delegation there]. “The clashes in recent days took place near the border with Gambia, but there are also occurrences of banditry on the border with Guinea Bissau. In these cases we cannot exclude that we are talking about banditry originating in that country, where, among other things, poorly paid military are not new to such acts”. With regards to the possibility that the increasing flow of cocaine passing through West Africa from Latin America and towards Europe can play a role in increasing the instability of Casamance, the missionary says, “It cannot be excluded. Drugs certainly come from Latin America to Guinea Bissau, especially to the islands of the archipelago. From Guinea Bissau, however, it is not easy to transfer it directly to Europe, because the country is poorly connected to the rest of the world. For example, links with Europe are limited to two weekly flights to Portugal”.

Fr. Giordano continues: “So if you create an unstable border area between Senegal and Guinea Bissau, one can assume that this will facilitate the transfer of loads of cocaine to the airport through the territory of Senegal to the airport in Dakar which is rather well connected with the rest the world -- with the whole of Africa, with Europe and North America. Much of what goes on in Senegal has been spoken of many times, but it is really hard to know what the situation is really like”, warns Fr. Giuseppe in conclusion. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 15/12/2011)

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