542 - March 2014
January 28th, 2014 - February 25th, 2014



The Oblates send out other missionaries

The African Institute of Mission Sciences (IASMI), directed by the Oblates in the Kintambo quarter of Kinshasa, has been organizing since 1994 a program of formation for missionaries coming from different places to work in Congo. Since then, about a hundred have participated and always, the formation program concludes with a solemn missionary send-off. This year, the celebration took place on 18 January.

While primarily inspired by the Gospel, the send-off draws on symbols of African culture. The highlight of the whole celebration is the anointing with white kaolin, a lime-based clay, with which the celebrant traces the sign of the cross on the forehead, hands and feet of those “sent” on mission. Kaolin, used in initiation rites and other important moments of life in Congo and other African countries, here becomes a symbol of blessing and communion, purity and faithfulness in the fulfillment of the mission received.

Normally, those who are “sent,” whose number varies from semester to semester, are priests, religious men and women. This year there were three sisters: a Franciscan Missionary of Mary from Colombia, and two Indians of the Missionary Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The ceremony was held, as usual, in the adjoining chapel of the scholasticate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, in the presence of more than two hundred people, including students, professors and employees of the ISEM complex (Institut St Eugene de Mazenod), which includes the theology faculty, the missiology faculty, and an institute of missionary animation. Present was also a large group of lay people, mostly boys and girls who attend courses of specialization in computer science at the center created by Father Giovanni SANTOLINI, who now rests in a tomb on the grounds of scholasticate.

During the Mass, the number of the “sent” rose to four. Spontaneously joining the three sisters was the celebrant, Abbé Félicien Mwanama, a diocesan priest and professor of missiology at our institute, named a few weeks ago as bishop of Luisa, a large diocese in the interior of the country. During the homily, he pointed out that he, as a newly appointed bishop, felt like he was “going out” (according to the pope's invitation in Evangelii gaudium), and therefore fully a participant in the rite of sending.

Helping to create an atmosphere of intense participation were the beautiful and lilting harmonies of polyphonic chants from the rather vast Congolese repertoire. Whenever we celebrate this missionary send-off, it has the flavor of an event that rekindles in all the joy of the Gospel, the joy of the mission. (Fr. Domenico ARENA)

The Church’s response to AIDS

The South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) AIDS Office and St Joseph’s Theological institute launched a book called “Catholic Responses to AIDS in Southern Africa” during the plenary session of the bishops of the SACBC on 25 January 2014 in Manzini. The book was edited by Stuart BATE, OMI, and Alsison Munro, OP.

The book looks at the response of the Church over the past thirty years as discussed at a theological conference held at St Joseph’s Theological institute in Cedara, KwaZulu Natal in January 2013. Different papers examine the response in urban and rural dioceses, theology of sin in the context of AIDS, the tricky question for the Catholic Church regarding the use of condoms, HIV testing for candidates to seminaries and religious life, AIDS as a theme in spiritual direction, as well as AIDS and inter- religious dialogue.

Worldwide, Southern Africa has been the region most affected by HIV and AIDS. In 2011 it was estimated that about 10% of the population was HIV positive. But a much higher percentage of the population has been affected by the consequences of infection. Many have had to deal with the care and support of family and friends infected by HIV. Many others have been affected by the loss of parents or other significant others as a result of AIDS related deaths. This includes up to 2 million “AIDS orphans.”

The Catholic Church in Southern Africa has been one of the principal players in the response to this crisis. From a relatively slow beginning in the 1980s it had become a major provider of health care and information on HIV prevention by the early 21st century. This book examines both the pastoral outreach and the theological motivation for this involvement. Despite a pastoral response in health care and social outreach quite out of proportion to the size of the Church in this region, the Catholic Church is largely viewed by society as having a negative impact on the scourge. A simple Google search of “AIDS and Catholic Church” reveals (apart from Catholic Church sites) an almost entirely negative set of comments focusing on only one thing: Condoms. That such a single minded universal scapegoating dominates is a sad reflection on the manipulation of truth in the modern world. It shows how control of the means of production in information technology creates hegemony based on secularist philosophical approaches to libertarianism in sexual freedom. The reality is much wider and much more nuanced than this prejudice. This book hopes to play a small role in redressing the balance.

The challenges are enormous

In 2013, our delegation celebrated ten years of presence in Guinea-Bissau. That is certainly not much in terms of length, but our consideration should not be limited only to numbers. What we want to do today is to realize the quality of our presence and even more, we want to look again at the needs so as to better face the challenges confronting our missionary presence in Guinea.

In ten years we have had time to settle down, to adapt, to discover the realities of the country, to know the socio-political situation. We have shared the daily lives of the people and lived with them through some of the crises that have left consequences that are still remarkable today. Ten years is the time it took for us to build a solid foundation, a deep foundation for our mission project in Guinea as shown by our progress since we arrived in October 2003.

From Farim to Antula, we wanted to follow Christ, to let him live in us as we made him known and passed him on to others. This in response to the great expectations that this Church of Guinea had expressed to us upon our very arrival: “We do not expect that the new missionaries will work miracles, but that they be men of God.” Men of God we have been every time we brought his word to all those hearts who are seeking God. We've been that every time we bore witness to his love for humanity. We never cease to be that so long as there burns in us an unconditional love for Christ and his Church, in the image of our holy founder.

Today our missionary zeal in Guinea should no longer know moments of doubt and hesitation. The challenges are enormous: on the apostolic level, there is a lack of pastoral ministers; there are still parishes and missions unattended by a priest. There are still areas where parishes could be established; the size of some missions is so huge that they should be split, to name but a few! On the societal level, there is much to do when you consider that because of the political instability of the country, no government has really managed to address the social issue and make it a priority. How can we forget the Guinean youth? They have a great desire for education and schooling, but alas, they are plagued by school crises for which there are still no real solutions. The school system is paralyzed; only private schools experience normal operations, while these schools are not within the reach of the average Guinean.

In short, the needs and demands are many. We must all take them to heart and offer them to the Lord in our daily prayer, and in our work of evangelization, let us remember that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” Then we can accompany the people of Guinea that seeks to get up and walk towards God! (Fr. Simon Peter BADJI in Échos de la délégation du Sénégal - Guinée Bissau, January 2014)

“Foyer Joseph Gerard” in Dakar: a new home

In a person’s life, 25 is a significant age. You begin to firm up a path for your own life. Often for professional or romantic reasons, you leave your parents’ home to live in your own. The “Foyer Joseph Gerard” has walked the same path: at the age of 25, it has found its own home. It was born in the house next to the rectory of Mary Immaculate Parish in Assainies Parcelles, Dakar. Grown to childhood, it moved to Castor together with the pre-novitiate. On October 7, it opened its own house at the CSPA, behind the Police Station, Unit 22 of Assainies Parcelles, while maintaining close ties with its older brothers at the prenovitiate, all of this thanks to the help of its “parents,” the Senegal-Guinea Bissau delegation of the Oblates and Mr. Honoré Gbaguidi.

On 15 February 2014, we took advantage of the visit of Father General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, for the blessing of the new house.

The drums expressed beautifully our joy at having Fr. Lougen with us. There followed a meeting of the youth with Fr. General who invited us to an ever deeper self-knowledge and to be transparent and dependable persons. After welcoming the prenovices from Castor, the other Oblates of Dakar, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and some friends of the community, we proceeded to the blessing of the house. As he went around the house, Fr. Louis added his own blessings: at the pantry, “may it never lack something to eat;” on the stairs, “may no one fall down;” in the rooms of the formators, “wisdom, patience, good humor!” Finally, we shared a meal together.

The first class at the new “foyer” is made up of 14 youth and two Oblates. Our main occupation is the classes of the second and third year which we frequent at the Secondary School of Assainies Parcelles. But we live together with the desire to clarify our call to consecrated life in the OMI family and in the spirit of the Foyer.

In the French language, the “foyer” is a fireplace. The fire which warms and gathers the family: that is what we live in eating together, in sharing, in sports, and in the upkeep of the house.

The fire which gives light and glows: that is what we are trying to live in the pastoral activities at the parish or simply with the witness of our lives at school.

The fire which burns and purifies: that is what we live with our daily prayer in the liturgy of the hours and the Eucharist, in times of formation and spiritual direction. Lord, enkindle in us your Spirit, place in us the fire of your love….but let’s be careful not to burn down the house! (Claudio CARLEO)

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36th General Chapter 2016
36th General Chapter 2016
Oblate Triennium
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