AFRICA-MADAGASCARThe keys to the city for an Oblate
During an evening gala, in the context of the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the township of Parcelles Assainies, a big area of three hundred thousand inhabitants on the outskirts of Dakar, Father Flavio FACCHIN, parish priest there from 2003 until 2013, received the keys to the city from the Mayor, Mr. Moussa Sy. The Missionary Oblates have taken care of Mary Immaculate Parish there since 1982.
This highly symbolic distinction was established for the first time by the chief magistrate of the city as a sign of exemplary collaboration between the two institutions. The Mayor was able to briefly trace the highlights of this collaboration in his speech, presenting Father Flavio as someone who was able to work to bring the two institutions together by promoting the commitment of Christians in the political and administrative life of the city.
Indeed, throughout his service as pastor at Mary Immaculate, Father Flavio has always tried to urge Christians to become involved in the social and political life of their communities by encouraging the commitment of several of them to political life. Christians are a small minority in Senegal in general and especially in Parcelles Assainies, but today their presence and commitment are hailed as an example in the context of Muslim-Christian dialogue and in taking charge of the destiny of the town. It is a huge challenge because Parcelles Assainies is one of the major townships in the suburbs of Dakar, with its problems and its many challenges.
Addressing the three hundred guests at the gala dinner – authorities, local dignitaries, traditional leaders, imams, people from show business and culture, administrators -- the Mayor praised these relationships by tracing the steps, over the course of years, that have worked for the welfare of young people in particular. Today, all the civil and religious events which the City Hall and Mary Immaculate Parish organize are the result of intense collaboration and reflect the deep and lasting relations between the two institutions.
With this symbolic handing over of the keys of the city to Father Flavio, the entire effort of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who have worked in the area since 1982 is rewarded. In this year of the bicentennial of the founding of the Congregation and the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the Oblates in Senegal, this honor only provides further evidence, if it was need, of the involvement of the Oblates in their mission and of their concrete service to the promotion of dialogue and the growth of a conscious and responsible laity.
In 1852, shortly after the first Oblates of Mary Immaculate arrived in Africa, they established a chapel and residence in Pietermaritzburg. Some 164 years later, that city was the site of the bicentennial celebrations of the Foundation of the Congregation and the ministry of the Oblates in Southern Africa. On 6 August, the 2000 seats of the Royal Agricultural Hall were filled with people who came to rejoice with the Oblates who have been such an historic presence of the Catholic Church in that part of the world. Many bishops, both Oblates and non-Oblates, from dioceses in South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia and elsewhere graced the occasion. Hundreds of priests, Oblates, diocesan and other religious, concelebrated. The President of the Africa-Madagascar Region, Fr. Edouard DAGAVOUNANSOU, came from Cameroun to join the festivities.
The Provincial of Natal (the Mother Province of Africa), Fr. Vusi MAZIBUKO, on behalf of the Inter-Provincial Conference, welcomed everyone. He said it was only fitting for the Oblates and the faithful in Southern Africa to honour the initiative of St. Eugene De Mazenod who spared nothing to make sure that the Gospel reached this side of the world.
After the welcome address by the Provincial, the history of the Oblates in Southern Africa was read by Fr. Zaba MBANJWA. He noted that if it were not for the Will of God and the insistence of the Founder, because of the early setbacks (departures, illness, local resistance), there would be no history to celebrate today. He spoke of the beginnings of the Oblates in South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Kenya.
The Archbishop of Durban, Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, OFM, stated: "With such history, it is only fitting that I hand this over to the Oblates!" Then the Cardinal invited the Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, to be the main celebrant at the Mass.
Bishop Barry WOOD, Auxiliary Bishop of Durban, in his homily, stressed the virtue of hope: "I see life! I see the Church growing! I see faith all over the land!”, and the commitment of Oblates to their mission in the world. "We are known as specialists in difficult missions, and not specialists in making missions difficult! We are called to spare nothing, to dare, even if it means our giving our lives as Jesus did for our missions.” After the closing prayer at Mass, the Preface to the Oblate Constitutions was read in English, Zulu and Sotho.
On behalf of the many people who work with the Oblates, Dr. Ben Ngubane, a respected statesman, civil rights activist and former student of the Oblates expressed his joy at being part of the family. He thanked the Oblates for the education and formation given to him and many others. He exhorted the people to have profound love and respect for priests who are saddled with the difficult task of forming and guiding the people.
Several others spoke words of thanks on the occasion. First was the Chairperson of the Interprovincial Conference and Superior of the Delegation of Zambia, Fr. Freeborn KIBOMBWE.
Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, OFM, exhorted the Oblates never to relent in their collaborative ministry with the MAMI as this clearly gives a sense of belonging to the people. He called the Oblates to live a life of gratitude while looking at the past and to live the present with passion which begets hope for the future. He stated his happiness at having met the Oblates, journeying with them and working with them. His message to the Oblates was a message of hope and blessings.
The Superior General, in his final words of thanks,
expressed how emotional the whole celebration was for him: "An Oblate from this
part of the world told me that men here don't cry. While that is true, for me,
I could not help but shed tears of joy at that moment when I saw the statue of
the Founder being carried in amidst songs and cries of joy.” He said St. Eugene
De Mazenod spared nothing to make sure that this Mission succeeded! He constantly
prodded Bishop Jean-François ALLARD, first Superior of the Natal Mission, with
letters to make sure that the Oblates went to the indigenous people to
evangelize. Fr. General thanked everyone who contributed to make these
bicentennial celebrations a success. Finally, Fr. General blessed the assembly
with the cross of St. Eugene de Mazenod.
(Emmanuel YOUNGTEN TEMSWANG)
The journey towards the celebration of our 200 years of existence was indeed successful after a series of committee meetings to plan the event. The grace of the Lord indeed was upon us. The anniversary is not just a historical event that needs to be recalled, but rather the story of how God prepared Eugene De Mazenod and used him as an instrument to bring about the creation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate whose number is now at almost 4,000 worldwide.
The anniversary Mass took place at Mary Immaculate Parish with Archbishop Julio Murat, Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia and Malawi, as the Presider. The homilist was the Oblate Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN. He pointed out in his homily that the 200th anniversary celebration was an achievement of God’s grace. He said Oblates need to unite and support each other in order to continue their mission of serving the poor. "Together we will study God’s words and help each other to be holy. By being united, we will reach to the poor, such as the prisoners”.
He said celebrating the 200th anniversary during the Jubilee Year of Mercy was a great thing, because St. Eugene De Mazenod met mercy at the cross of Jesus, had passion for Him, the Church, and the poor. "When he was going to the prisons, he celebrated mass, had compassion for prisoners, and gave them Holy Communion. Many people did not like it at the time, because they believed that God was a God of vengeance and that for one to receive Holy Communion, they needed to confess several times”.
As Oblates, we are thankful to God for the 200 years of existence; we have not come here to blow our own trumpet about how we have served in difficult missions and many other wonderful things we have done for the Church. We could say many things about that, but we want to thank God. Let’s continue today to praise God for his amazing grace and for Eugene de Mazenod, the Missionary of Mercy. (By Nella Mukalenge)
On 1 – 6 August, in beautifully warm and humid Durban (Marianhill), young Oblates of Mary Immaculate of the African Anglophone region gathered. Among those in attendance at the Congress were Oblates from Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa (Central Province, Northern Province and Natal Province) -- more than 45 in total.
The young Oblates were welcomed by Fr. Wayne WELDSCHIT (Vicar Provincial, Natal Province). Various speakers addressed the young Oblates throughout the week: Fr. Stuart BATE (Researcher at St. Joseph's Theological Institute); Fr. Emmanuel MOSOEU (General Councillor for Africa-Madagascar); Fr. Nkululeko MEYIWA (Assistant Rector at the Ngome Marian Shrine); Fr. Ewen SWARTZ (Dean of St. Joseph's Theological Institute and Canon Lawyer) and Fr. Siyabonga DUBE (District Superior and parish priest in Cape Town). They contributed to the Congress theme according to their fields and spoke to the hearts and minds of the young Oblates. They remembered the roots of the Congregation; they celebrated successes and failures throughout the 200 years of the history of the Congregation; and they helped the young Oblates recommit themselves for the future.
Reports were then delivered by the different Provinces, Missions and Delegations. These reports revealed the wonderful news of joyful ministry and mission happening in various parts of Africa through the service of these Oblates. Young Oblates are involved in many spirit-filled ministries/missions: parish administration, province administration, media, chaplaincies, further studies, hospitals, academic ministries, youth ministries, to name but a few.
The Holy Eucharist, through the celebration of Holy Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, formed a unique part of each day. The homilies, the music, the sharing of peace and joy expressed hope for the future. The Holy Spirit was indeed present to these sons of St. Eugene de Mazenod!
Towards the end of the YOMI regional congress, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, Superior General, paid a visit. He brought with him a gift they will forever cherish: the Oblate cross of the Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod. Each Oblate had an opportunity to embrace the cross of the Founder. The cross went around slowly and reverently from one Oblate to the next, accompanied by a soft chant of the chorus composed using the last words of the Founder "Among yourselves, charity at all times.”
Indeed, the young sons of St. Eugene are blessed. Upon them rests now the immediate future of the Congregation -- in Africa and beyond. The YOMI assembly 2016 was a resounding success, all thanks to the Natal Province in partnership with the Zimbabwe Mission.
The next YOMI regional congress
will take place in Kenya in 2019, pending the approval of the regional
Inter-Provincial Council (IPC).
(Fr. Phumlani Charles NDLOVU)
From 10 July to 10 August 2016, 10 young Oblates who have been admitted for final vows in the francophone sub-Region of the Africa-Madagascar Region gathered in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo for a preparatory retreat for perpetual vows. Fr. Gabriel KINZE from the Province of Congo was the coordinator and guide for the program. It was a privileged moment not meant to substitute the formation they had already received, but to help the candidates to make an informed choice once again and to deeply nurture to maturity their decisions by looking closely at the themes that are particularly important to religious life and the Congregation.
The themes that were developed during these four weeks of preparation are as follow:
1: Consecrated Life: concrete problems and present challenges (Fr. Gabriel KINZE)
2: Spirituality and sense of belonging (Fr. Beaudouin MUBESALA)
3: Formation on group dynamic (Fr. Cyril MPUKI)
4: Mary Immaculate: concrete model of the Oblate Charism (Fr. Abel NSOLO)
5: Vows: Foundation of our religious consecration (Fr. Clement MAYULI)
The young Oblates came from
different Units of Africa. From the Province of Cameroon: Dieudonne TIZI,
Gerard VONDOU and Gerald DJABARDE; from the Delegation of Senegal: Joseph SADIO
and Joseph NDIAYE; from Congo: Dider INDIBI, Jérry KAMBINYAM, Bénjamin KIKWETE,
Serge MPIANA; and from the Province of Natal studying in Cameroon, Andile
(Emmanuel YOUNGTEN TEMSWANG)