THE MISSIONARIES OF AFRICA
OUR PRESENCE IN ETHIOPIA
In September 1967 three confreres arrived in Adigrat, Ethiopia. Their mandate was to build the Eparchy of Adigrat's major seminary. The Oriental Congregation provided the funds for that undertaking and the late Brother Max Gmur was technically responsible for the construction. Fr. Leo Volker, who was our Superior General at that time, gave us three apostolic priorities:
- To assist in the formation and education of the local seminarians of the Ethiopian rite.
- To promote ecumenical dialogue with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
- To cultivate amiable relations with Muslims.
On 11th October 1970 the construction of the major seminary was completed and our mandate, in that regard, was completed.
Dr. Dietmar Lenfers M.Afr., teacher of philosophy, in front of the Major Seminary of Adigrat.
As a matter of history it is significant to recall that it was not the Missionaries of Africa who originally sought an apostolic outreach in Adigrat, Ethiopia. The late Abune Hailemariam Kahsay, Eparch of Adigrat, invited us. Towards the end of the Second Vatican Council the Eparch had requested a private interview with Pope Paul VI. He told the Pope that he wanted a major seminary in Adigrat for the formation of his seminarians of the Ethiopian rite. Quite explicitly he asked for the Missionaries of Africa to assist , and together with some of his own priests to form a staff.
Such an explicit request had been rooted in the mind of Abune Hailemariam Kahsay for many years. About 1947/48 Fr Hailemariam Kahsay had gone to Jerusalem where his elder brother, a secular priest, lay dying. His brother had been exiled for life by the colonial forces when they occupied Ethiopia. While in Jerusalem Fr. Hailemariam wanted to assist at a celebration of Mass in the Oriental rite and somebody directed him to St. Anne's.
The seminarians at St. Anne's were Melchites, who followed the Byzantine rite celebrated in Arabic. Fr. Hailemariam was astonished and delighted to see a Dutch Missionary of Africa (probably Fr. Van der Velt ?) celebrating the Byzantine rite Mass in Arabic. There and then he decided that if ever there was to be a major seminary in Adigrat, he would try to obtain some Missionaries of Africa to be members of the staff. Seventeen or eighteen years later, as an Eparch attending the Second Vatican Council, he grasped the opportunity when discussing his proposal with Pope Paul VI. The Pope passed on the request to Fr. L. Volker, who, in due course, sent us to Adigrat.
From our residence in the major seminary it would have been counterproductive for us to have profited of our presence to recruit our own vocations.
In 1992, however, the centenary of Cardinal Lavigerie's death coincided with the twenty-fifth year of our presence in the major seminary. Around that time Abune Kidanemariam Teklehaimanot sent an invitation to Fr. Etienne Renaud, our Superior General. He invited the Missionaries of Africa to recruit Ethiopian vocations to our Society, as he wished us to be a spearhead of missionary outreach and activity. His invitation was duly accepted and so it was that only from 1992 did we begin to take our first steps in recruiting Ethiopian vocations. This led to the establishment of a promotion centre at Wukro, 75 km south of Adigrat.
Subsequently, since the turn of the century, our General Council decided that our seminarians should follow their 1st cycle lectures in the major seminary of Adigrat. Thanks to the steps taken by the present Eparch, Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin, land was obtained on the outskirts of the town. So, at the beginning of the present academic year the staff and our seminarians moved into the new residence.
On 8th December 2005, Abune Tesfaselassie, in the company of Fr. Gerard Charbanon, Superior General, formally blessed our St. Paul's House of Formation.
In the course of this brief narrative it is significant that the Missionaries of Africa have received and responded to two invitations from Ethiopian bishops: the first was an invitation to come to Adigrat; the second invited us to recruit our own missionary vocations.
Within the context of Ethiopia our missionary presence has, indeed, received its meaning in the local Church. Recently there have been other requests from Ethiopian bishops to conduct our missionary, apostolic outreach in their respective jurisdictions. At the present time, however, owing to the shortage of personnel we have been unable to accept. But to a large extent future possibilities depend on the missionary spirit of our candidates at present in their years of formation.
Fr. Kevin O'Mahoney
Actually there are 15 candidates from Ethiopia in formation. 6 are in the first phase at St Paul's House of Formation
The Missionaries of Africa actually in Ethiopia :
Fr. Bandres Urdaniz José - Esp - Adigrat - Superieur Délégé
Fr. Beebwa Aloysius - Ugd - Wukro - Voc Anim
Fr. Cazzola Gaetano - It. - Adigrat - Formation
Fr. Lenfers Dietmar - Deu.- Adigrat - Prof.GrSém
Fr. Mwelwa Evariste - Zb. - Addis Abeba- Lang.Studies.
Fr. Olaran Esnal Angel - Esp.- Wukro- Superior
Fr. O'Mahoney Kevin - Irl - Adigrat - B.Secret
Fr. Roth Jean-Pierre - .Sse- Adigrat - .Formation
see also the consecration of
the new church St Mary in Wukro
See the frescoes of the Church
agricultural Shool in Wukro