REMEMBERING THE FIRST CARAVAN
of the Missionaries of Africa
to EQUATORIAL AFRICA in 1878.
- 130 YEARS AGO -
BAGAMOYO - TABORA -
... AND BEYOND ...
Bagamoyo: 17 May - ...........- Mwanza: 15 August - ;;;;;;;;;;;- Tabora: 13 September
When the Bagamoyo Caravan reached Malya or Maria
On 14th July 2008, several confreres responded to the invitation of the Archbishop Anthony Mayala of Mwanza (Tanzania) to celebrate the 130 years since the celebration of the first mass on 24th December 1878 at Malya.
This was part of the first caravan of Missionaries of Africa to Equatorial Africa that had reached Bagamoyo, 67 Km north of Dar es Salaam along the coast of the Indian Ocean, on 17th June 1878. They were welcomed by the Spiritan Missionaries who had been there 10 years before them. From there, they later set out on for the 850 kms that separated them from Tabora. From there they continued to other parts of the Taganyika. One of these places was Malya in Sukuma land.
Malya offered the Missionaries a place to spend the night and from there they journeyed on to Kageye on the shores of Lake Victoria before taking the boat to Uganda. Five years later, due to the hostile circumstances in Uganda, they returned to Bukumbi. The 125 years of the arrival of the Missionaries of Africa in Bukumbi will be celebrated on 15th August 2008 as the climax of the celebrations of the "Safari za Upendo" - "the journeys of love".
The Archbishop of Mwanza, Anthony MAYALA, had already said in the invitation letters that had been sent out that the event did not concern just the Missionaries of Africa, but that it was a diocesan event. He really made it a diocesan event. Some priests had travelled the 130 km distance from Mwanza to Malya in order to be there for the event. So had some political and civil authorities. The Eucharist was joyfully celebrated in the open air with some joyful tunes that got everybody participating in the singing and praising. During the Eucharist, The Archbishop conferred the sacrament of confirmation to many youngsters and adults.
. . .
Before the end of the Eucharistic celebration, the Parish Priest and the Christians of Malya offered a statue of our Lady of Africa to the Missionaries of Africa. They recalled that when the first Missionaries arrived there and asked what the name of the place was, the people responded "Malya". However, the Missionaries, for one reason or the other heard "Maria". Was it because of their devotion to Mary, Mother of the Missionaries under whose protection Father Lavigerie had put his two Missionary Institutes, or was it because they were convinced that like some Bantu tribes, the Wasukuma interchanged "l" with "r" thus instead of "Maria" they would say "Malya"? Whatever the real reason, the parishioners joyfully recalled this initial linguistic misunderstanding and offered a beautiful statue of Our Lady with arms outstretched as though to welcome all to Usukuma land. Richard BAAWOBR, on behalf of the Society, thanked the parishioners and then Nicholas AAYIRE, the Sector Counsellor, expressed words of appreciation and challenged them to be missionaries in their turn today. The parable of the Sower (cf. Mt 13:1-23) offered a good opportunity to ask oneself what type of ground is offered to God's word that is sown in the heart.
. . .
The generosity of the people did not stop there. Upon the invitation of the Vicar General of the Archdiocese, each member of the assembly came forth and shook the hands of the Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa , Anne-Brigitte, and of the M. Afr. As they did so they offered us whatever they had and thanked us for having come and brought the Good News to Sukuma land. Although the sun was now at its hottest, we remained there and greeted everybody. Those who had foresight took out their caps to protect their heads. The rest of us just had to count on the good will of the occasional cloud that passed and covered the sun thus giving us some shade for some minutes.
At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, all those who had come from far were invited to a meal offered by the parish.
As we went back to Bukumbi, Mwanza and Nyakato, we were grateful to God, to the Archbishop of Mwanza and to the parishioners of Malya for this meaningful celebration. The next such commemorative celebrations were already announced for 17th July in Kayenze (Kageye) with the climax on 15th August 2008 in Bukumbi.
. . .
The people were saying in their own way: "how beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News" (Is 52:7; Rom 10:15). May this experience re-dynamise us to face the new challenges of the mission today and to associate others more and more in this mission we have received from God.
Photos & texts from Richard Baawobr . M.Afr 1st Assistant General
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See Also : 130 Years ago- Remembering the first Caravan of the Missionaries of Africa to Equatorial Africa in 1878 Bagamoyo
old map . Actual map