AFRICA-MADAGASCARA holy hour with the poor
"A holy hour with the poor” That is the key expression that motivated and set the tone for the day of December 8, 2015, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and official launch of the third year of preparation for the bicentenary of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the Cameroon Province.
Indeed, in his letter of last September 8 to the Major Superiors of the Congregation concerning the feast of January 25, 2016, Father General encouraged all Oblates to "connect with the poor in a way that is significant and coherent with our lives.” Thus, touched by the words of the successor of Eugene de Mazenod, Fr. Edward DAGAVOUNANSOU, Provincial Superior of the Oblates in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria and the members of his council thought of launching the third preparatory year with a holy hour with the poor with their many faces, identified here with the prisoners in the Central Prison in the city of Garoua, northern Cameroon. On the program we had the Eucharistic celebration presided by the vicar provincial, assisted by the vicar general of the archdiocese (an Oblate), a provincial councillor, the provincial treasurer and the provincial secretary. Participating in the Mass were a group of Lay Oblate Associates, some faithful and the prisoners themselves. The animation of the Mass (songs and readings) was assured by the prisoners themselves. After the Lord's table, everyone went to the table of the Oblates who offered lunch to all the prisoners. Cooking and sharing meals were provided by the lay associates.
It was a real "come and live” experience… moments full of emotion... the Eucharist and the meal: two gestures that were well chosen by the provincial administration to repeat to the prisoners the words of our holy Founder to the poor of the Church of the Madeleine two centuries ago, "You are God’s favourites”. These very same words have actually been inscribed on a picture painted in remembrance of this third preparatory year.
After living this day, it is difficult to find words to express our gratitude: Thank you! Thank you to the Lord for allowing us to realize and experience this event in love, brotherhood and peace. But also thanks to our Father General, Louis LOUGEN, who has been the motivator of this event, through his words that have aroused us to take action. In fact, next year, 2016, the Oblate Cameroon Province turns 70; and yet, this was the first time that the Oblates as a province did something like this.
May Mary Immaculate, "Mother and Queen of Mercy”, obtain for each Oblate in our Province the grace to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful, so as to be open to other forms of poverty that surround us. For the greater glory of God, the salvation of souls and the good of the Church. Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate! (Fr. Yundula AZIZ, provincial secretary)
The question of officially launching MAMI has been in discussion for a while in the mission. On the 26th of September 2015, twenty two members gathered together at Mazenod House pre-novitiate to launch the MAMI program in the Zimbabwe Mission. The twenty-two members came from the three different parishes in the Archdiocese of Bulawayo were the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate are ministering. They came from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Divine Mercy Parish, and Body and Blood of Christ Parish. The group was well represented in both genders and in age groups. There are now efforts to celebrate the 8th of December 2015 together with this MAMI group for the first time. We are hoping that the MAMI in Zimbabwe will contribute to the work of evangelisation in the Mission as we hope that they will help us to reach out the poor and most abandoned.
The Missionary Associates of Mary Immaculate are part of the Oblate family. They share in our Oblate undertakings, and in our missions. Its members work, with the means at their disposal, to support the Oblate mission work and help in our missionary apostolate. Under the protection of Mary Immaculate, the Mother of Mercy, they become apostolic auxiliaries to the Missionary Oblates. They share in our missionary joys and sorrows. They share in our battles and struggles, rejoicing in our success, making our Congregation ever more known, winning new members for it, propagating its publications, and helping in recruiting vocations to the Oblate way of life. In return, we as Oblates grant them a share in our prayers and good works. We pray in a special way for them as members of our family. Through the Associates, we reach out to the poor and bring the Good News of the kingdom of God.
The day at the pre-novitiate began with adoration which was led by Deacon Lucky MANDAVA, who reminded all who participated at this adoration that the Associates and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate are one family. The Associates will share in our Oblate spiritual benefits.
Immediately, after adoration, the mission superior, Fr. Charles NABWENJE, then gave a very inspirational talk on the Founder of the Oblates, St. Eugene de Mazenod. The talk was so animated that it left the members thirsting to know more about the Oblates.
Fr. Themba CHIPEMBERE also facilitated a talk on the history of the Oblates in Zimbabwe. Fr. Pamidzai MUDZUDZA crowned the day with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. (Fr. Themba CHIPEMBERE in the Zimbabwe Mission Newsletter Sept.-Oct.)
On the 20th to the 22nd of November 2015, 23 oblate lay associates from all three South African oblate provinces met for the first ever retreat as one United body. The associates met at Parnassus Farm (Magalisburg) - the camp site of St. Benedict's oblate school in Johannesburg.
The retreat master Fr. Thabang NKADIMENG, Director of the Associates in the Northern Province, preached the retreat on the theme "The Interior Castle”. As we approach the amalgamation of provinces, many steps have to be taken just as the soul has to enter different chambers in the castle to reach the diamond who is God, as we find in the spiritual writings of St. Teresa of Avila.
St. Teresa of Avila teaches us how to trust in God and how to always be aware of the need to remain within the castle and not outside.
The retreat is a time of introspection: knowing myself and my calling as a Lay Oblate Associate. How can I as a lay person live the Oblate spirituality in my everyday life? What novelty, if any, do I bring to the Oblate world especially during this time of globalization?
As the new united province will most likely venture into new ministries or retake ministries that have since died, the associates feel a period of discernment is necessary and the involvement of the laity is paramount.
The 23 members representing the three provinces continue as "Proudly Catholic” and embark on going into the world preaching Christ and Him Crucified. It is God who has called us to this most noble vocation and will make sure the united province continues the good Oblate work begun by so many missionaries before. St. Eugene will exhort us once again to leave nothing undared for the Kingdom of God.
"God will never ask of us anything beyond what we can do.” (St. Eugene de Mazenod, September 27, 1842.) (Oblate Associates of South Africa)