AFRICA-MADAGASCARParish celebrates 30 years of Oblate presence
Each year, the parishioners of St. Luke’s Mission celebrate their patronal feast day around October 18. This year’s celebration was unique because they were celebrating the 30th anniversary of Oblate presence. The people assembled on October 19 to prepare themselves spiritually with a day of recollection, led by different priests who presented topics related to the Year of Faith and the charism of the Oblates.
Parishioners began streaming into the
Mission on Friday evening, 18th of October, in order to be fresh for
the recollection on the next day. It was the image of an emaciated, hungry
looking yet happy people, sun baked by the unremittingly scorching African sun,
stubborn and resiliently meeting with joy to share the marvels the Lord has
worked in their midst for the past 30 years, despite this year of famine due to
a serious drought and marked by economic uncertainty as an aftermath of the
recently held elections. They were happy to come to rejoice and especially express
their gratitude to the first Oblate Missionaries.
The whole Saturday was spent in recollection. Archbishop Alex Thomas, SVD, of Bulawayo graced the occasion and came to officially close the Year of Faith with his input that summed up the presentations of the day.
On Sunday, the Church was packed by early morning, so much so that extra benches had to be borrowed from the hospital to accommodate late parishioners. Present for the celebration were Archbishop Thomas who had been invited for the occasion for the conferral of the sacrament of Confirmation, together with Oblate Frs. Augustine MAKHOKOLO, Christopher RICHMOND (pioneers), Charles RENSBURG (parish priest emeritus), Charles NABWENJE (incoming Mission Superior), Sipho KUNENE (outgoing Mission Superior) and Jeffrey MADONDO (current parish priest). Also present were former Oblates with whom we share cordial relations and who attend our Oblate feasts.
During the Eucharist, a praise singer chanted praises of the pioneers as well as of the Oblates who have worked and are working in the parish. In his thanksgiving, Fr. Makhokolo, the first Oblate to work in the Mission, remarked at the growth of the parish since his time. He thanked the priests who came after him for taking up the Oblate legacy which the pioneers had instilled and for taking it a step further. He also thanked the people for their responsiveness to evangelization, which made the expansion of the parish easier. He recounted how difficult it was then to work in the Mission, given the post-independence disturbances in the area as well as a strong missionary thrust in the Church at that time which made it difficult for poor black Oblates to evangelize people who saw the Church as an NGO which came primarily to address people’s social needs. He ended on a positive note of the growth of the Church and encouraged parishioners to grow in faith and move towards being fully self-sustainable.
Archbishop Thomas congratulated the jubilarians and thanked them for the sterling work they had done. He also thanked the Oblates for their hard work in that part of the diocese and hoped that Insuza Mission will be a reality soon. Presently, the Southern part of the parish is poised to become another Mission called St. Kizito. Because of the growth of the parishioners, and prospects of opening new outstations further inland, the Archbishop has officially called for the establishment of the new Mission and construction of toilets has already been done. Plans of drilling a borehole as well as build a hall/church are already underway. The archbishop gave us a mandate to ensure that by next year, we celebrate our St. Luke’s Day at the new Mission. (Jeffrey F. Madondo)
In January 2012 the Oblate Mission Community in Kenya met to discuss and discern our future.
What’s next? While there were many suggestions and possibilities, the community overwhelmingly favoured taking on a second parish; preferably close to our formation house in Karen. Initial overtures were made to the Archdiocese of Nairobi. With no positive response we approached the Diocese of Ngong. We have been welcomed. The bishop is ecstatic. At Christmas last year, we visited one of the parishes that was being offered to us. It certainly met all our criteria but one: it is not close to the formation house. The bishop then suggested we look at another place that is much closer. We have said yes to Kisaju.
Ngong Diocese is probably the largest diocese in Kenya. It is also one of the poorest both in terms of finances and personnel. There are approximately 29 parishes in the Diocese most of which would have 20 – 30 outstations.
In the parish we visited last Christmas, it took us three and a half hours to get to the parish centre and then another two and a half hours to get to the furthest outstation. The people are economically poor, poor, poor. The Oblate mission is to be with the poor and those least touched by the Church. It is becoming very clear that if the Oblates belong anywhere in Kenya this is the place. I know our Founder would be very happy with this development.
At a meeting in Kitengelia on May 23 the bishop introduced us to the new parish committee and we were invited to begin ministry immediately even if the parish is not officially erected.
On the morning of Tuesday June 11, Fr. Mario AZRAK left for Kisaju. While his leaving was not marked by any significant fanfare it was nonetheless a very significant and historical moment in the life and ministry of the Oblate Kenya Mission. A proper commissioning later on will take place in the context of our retreat. We have expanded! We have begun a new undertaking in a new area of Kenya.
Kisaju is about an hour and forty minutes south east of Nairobi. It is about the same distance from the Tanzanian Boarder. There are no signs, no markers and no buildings to identify the location. This is the reality we start from “with nothing.” There is no water or electricity. Oh there are lots of people!
At the place being proposed as the parish centre there is not much: a very small chapel that was intended as a kindergarten and a tin shack they use for the kindergarten. That’s it!
It is semi-arid land. Like for Jesus, there is no place for the missionary to lay his head. There are six or seven outstations that are intended to be part of this parish but only one of them has a church.
Many of the people are Maasai, one of the tribes that is least touched by the Gospel. There is much first evangelization to do.
In a few weeks two other Oblates will join the undertaking: Father Gideon RIMBERIA and Scholastic Brother Dionisius ANANUA. Before any construction can begin, the first priority must be to build the Christian Community.
A house has been found in Kitengelia that we can rent. With a place to stay, the Oblates can come together as a community and begin the great work of making known the Good News. (Jim FIORI in www.omilacombe.ca)