The story of the caravans continues
Françoise Nadeau, MSOLA
This time the event took place in Tabora. Previously, we had been advised to go with good walking shoes there were reasons for it as the pilgrimage would be on foot from Tabora to Kipalapala seminary.
On Friday, 12th September, Archbishop Paul Ruzoka led the solemn vespers to open the celebrations of thanksgiving for the 130 years of presence of the Missionaries of Africa in Tanzania, particularly in Tabora. Don Anderson recalled the arrival of the first caravan, reading an excerpt from the diary of the first missionaries. I was touched to hear again about the courage these first missionaries had in facing hardships of all kinds, the death of one of their confreres and being abandoned by all their porters before they even reached Tabora.
On Saturday, September 13th, at 9 a.m., many of us gathered in front of the cathedral ready to begin our pilgrimage to Kipalapala. Archbishop Paul Ruzoka set the atmosphere and purpose of the whole pilgrimage: it was a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to God for the faith received through the coming of the first missionaries. Father William Crombie, who had prepared the whole event together with his Students' Centre committee, offered us guidance to make this pilgrimage a time of prayer in joy and gratitude. We prayed for an increase of grace that we who received our faith from others may pass it on to others, to our families and young people, to those living near us and to those living afar, that many of our generation may receive the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Five stations were planned along the way, following the route the first missionaries had taken from Tabora to Kipalapala. At each station, a passage of the Word of God was read and prayers were said. The first station was at the Cathedral (Genesis 12.1-4: Yahweh called Abraham to leave his home and go to a new land that would be given to him.)
The Millennium Cross was first carried by Fr. Don, and then he passed it on to Fr. Adelarde Munishi who in turn carried it some distance and then handed it on to Archbishop Ruzoka who carried it for a distance further. It was then put on a base to be carried by all the pilgrims in turn throughout the full journey to Kipalapala. This was indeed a missionary symbol of transmission from one generation of missionaries to another, and onwards to the clergy, religious and families of Tabora.
Archbishop Ruzoka kept the lead and set the pace and there was keen enthusiasm among the hundreds of young people from schools and parishes to play their part carrying the big cross, four or five people at a time, all happy to join in the pilgrimage and singing all the way. Though the young people were the 'target group' of this pilgrimage and the majority, many Christians of different generations joined in as a way of saying "thank you to God' for the gift of faith they had received. So there was joy and enthusiasm throughout the way.
The second station (Exodus 3.1-6, 9-12: Yahweh's call to Moses to lead his people to salvation) was at Kitete Hospital where a monument stands, commemorating the first missionaries who had died in Tabora. The age at which these young missionaries died was striking, in their 20's and early 30's.
On that spot there had been a house where the first missionaries lived for some time. The challenge and encouragement of this station was that we may be ready to give our lives for others in today's world, as our first missionaries emulated the example of Jesus in the circumstances of their day.
The third station (1 Samuel 3.1-10: Yahweh called Samuel to lead his people further) was on the road between Tabora Boys' and Tabora Girls' Secondary Schools. There we prayed for the youth of today, that they too may have the heart to be generous enough to answer Jesus' call: to be sent to use their gifts and education for the good of the Church, the country and all humanity. May many respond to the call to serve as priests, brothers and sisters for justice, peace and love. From there a group of students accompanied us with their brass band for some time and many others continued singing and praying with us. While waiting for the people who had difficulty to keep the "speed and rhythm" of our walk, we paused and prayed for a few minutes at the local cemetery as we passed by.
The fourth station (Jeremiah 1.4-9: Yahweh called Jeremiah to preach the ways of God by word and action) was near the seat (Itetemia) of Mtemi Isike who had welcomed the first missionaries. There is a huge flat rock where Livingston had preached the Word of God when he passed there some years before our missionaries arrived. There we prayed that we may likewise witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ in our daily lives in word and example and be truly known as his disciples.
The fifth station (Acts of the Apostles 9.1-17: God called St. Paul, the Missionary to the Nations, to build his Church) was in front of the Mother House of the Daughters of Mary in Kipalapala. We recalled the 75 year history of the 'Mabinti wa Maria' serving the needs of so many people in the ways of Jesus. We prayed as a diocese for the spirit of love and mutual support to build the Church of Christ through our many vocations and generations.
We knew that 'the end of the route' was not far. Clouds of dust surrounded us as many Kipalapala youth joined us. It was past noon when we joyfully passed under the 'arch' of St. Paul's Major Seminary. We went directly to the memorial chapel built in the early years. After reading the Word of God on the memorial steps, Fr. Geoff Riddle gave us a short history of this chapel.
A time of rest followed. There were some bites available and Fr. Peter Smith showed a video and a power-point history of the caravans which he had prepared for Bagamoyo. At 2 p.m. we had a beautiful and meaningful celebration of the Eucharist in the chapel of the seminary that was filled to capacity, and overflowing with many people sitting on the verandas outside. At the end, Fr. Athanas Kiyenze, in the name of the Tabora clergy, offered a symbolic gift, a small drum, to Fr Don of the Missionaries of Africa, who immediately began drumming! Yes! We have to continue to play the drum, to call people to listen to the Word of God, to Christ's message of Salvation and the story of the caravans will continue
By four p.m. we were ready to return to Tabora, this time using the transport facilities that had been put at our disposal. It was with a grateful hearts that we concluded this day. Another page of history had been lived!
AND STILL MORE!... On the next day, we celebrated the Sunday liturgy with hundreds of Tabora's students, some of whom were confirmed by Archbishop Paul Ruzoka. The missionary vocational call was integral to the celebration, and the young people were clearly responsive.
In the afternoon, we had a vocations seminar in the Tabora Students' Centre, where William Crombie is the Director. Adelarde Munishi was the facilitator and the Archdiocesan Director of Vocations and several of our confreres and members of local sisters' congregations shared in the life-witnessing and wide-ranging discussions on all aspects of vocation, diocesan and missionary, men and women, priest, brother, sister and lay.
The grave of the Founder of the Students' Centre, Fr. Rudi Gerritsen M.Afr. +1974