The habitual smile on the face is a witness to it! It is not just the smile, but also the fulfilment that I feel as a priest, confirms just how happy I am. The joy of my priesthood is founded on three pillars, prayer, community and the apostolate.
Prayer: A community which prays
I was lucky to find myself in a praying community that was fraternal, welcoming, joyful, which celebrated life and which was outgoing. Prayer is the secret of my cheerful and fruitful missionary life. For me, everything begins with prayer because without the strength of the Lord who sends me and supports me, I can do nothing by myself.
Prayer gives a rhythm to my daily life. I begin the day, by placing myself in the hands of the Lord by personal prayer (meditation) followed by community prayer (Morning Prayer and the Eucharist). In the same way, I finish the day with Evening and Night Prayer before falling asleep thanking the Lord God for all that he did for me during the day.
Besides this regular daily prayer, I must add community recollections, once a quarter, without forgetting parish retreats during Advent to prepare for Christmas and during Lent to prepare the Pascal mysteries. There is also my annual retreat which is recommended for all priests and which affirms my prayer life and strengthens my Christian faith.
Jesus is the way to the Father and in his great ‘priestly’ prayer, he prays to the Father to consecrate-sanctify his disciples in the Truth, to unite them in HIM so that the world might believe in HIM and be sanctified by HIM. Being inspired by his prayer, my priestly life is just a continuation of this prayer of Jesus, “that he really consecrates me as his true friend and disciple.”
Ordained on the 19th July 2014 in Uganda, after my theological training, with particular emphasis on the Bible, in Jerusalem, I felt called to conform myself more closely to the love of God, his own gift for me and from which nothing can separate me from it (Rom 8). This means that for me, prayer is the conduit that connects me constantly with the Lord. Missionary life has so much joy, surprises and challenges that I feel the permanent need to keep in contact with HIM in whom I put all my trust and hope.
Community Life: Mutual support
Apostolic charity demands of us, “to become all things to all” (cf 1 Cor. 9, 22), that is to say that we develop a welcoming, open and supportive attitude to people. There should be simplicity in our relationships, which will involve perseverance in the study of their language and customs. It also helps to know something of their history culture and the current events in their country. “It means above all an active involvement in every effort to make the Gospel come alive in every culture” (C&L n°20). This is what we are invited to live as Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers).
At Tizi-Ouzou, Algeria, I live in a fraternal, welcoming, lively and praying community. My confreres come from Mali and Burkina Faso and we are a united community in touch with the Kabylia society that one is getting to know and appreciate. We are also in contact with a very varied student population. All three of us exercise our charism in this mission which has been entrusted to us. Our unity is our strength! An African proverb says, “If ants unite, they can lift an elephant.” Community life is part of our charism and mutual support towards one another helps us grow together.
Personally, the mutual support afforded by community life, pushes me to give a greater witness to the preferential love of the Father for the spread of evangelical values and for his greater glory. With a simple style of life, I have spent a good deal of time trying to learn Kabylia even if it not all that easy, but at least it is not impossible to learn. Inspired by Trinitarian love, we three try to weave links for the good of the mission entrusted to us. Happily the Holy Spirit has gone before us!
Apostolic Life: The Secret of missionary blossoming
“Be apostles and nothing but apostles.” This was the order given to the Missionaries of Africa by our Founder, Cardinal Lavigerie. Through the consecration of myself to God for the service of His Kingdom through the Society of Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), means that my deepest desire is to share my faith and my love for Christ with those to whom I am sent. As part of the faithful tradition of the White Fathers to Algeria since 1868 and responding to the plea of our Founder, I bring my own apostle’s stone to build the Kingdom of God through my participation in our apostolic life. In 1874, Cardinal Lavigerie wrote, “The lasting work will have to be accomplished by the Africans themselves who have become Christians and apostles.” For myself, having become a Missionary of Africa, following in the footsteps of my elders, the joy of sharing Gospel values animates my apostolic commitment during this period of profound change not only in Algeria but in the world as well.
The Church in Algeria has lived through a period of deep transformation for decades. It is in this Algerian society, which has experienced many changes and which has pushed the clergy to adapt to local realities, in which I live now. As a priest, I see myself as a simple witness to the universal love of God and to Gospel values. This witness is not confined to the Christian world (a minority) but to Muslims as well. However, it goes beyond that and touches all humanity through my daily experiences. This means that I need a solid faith, a spirit of sacrifice, courage, perseverance and patience, love but also a lot of hope. Pray for me that I can achieve all this everyday. As Pope Paul VI wrote to the Superior General at the time, Theo van Asten, in 1968, “let us suffice to point out, among the most beautiful fruits born of grain sown in the earth (by the White Fathers), the marvelous testimony of the Baganda Martyrs,” In fact there is a strong link between the Church in Algeria and than of my dear country (the Pearl of Africa) as a manuscript written in Luganda and French and dating from 1914 testifies. This document, found in the sacristy of the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, confides the Church in Uganda to the Virgin Mary.
With the apostolic zeal recommended by our Founder, with my confreres, we deepen our knowledge of Islam, the language and culture of Kabylia for the benefit of our apostolate. Spiritual accompaniment for Christians and counseling for non-Christians gives me a focus in life. The pastoral work among our Christians in the parish of Tizi-Ouzu in general and the chaplaincy, which is my responsibility, among the student population in particular give me great joy. Our Library offers text books for studies in Medicine, Pharmacy, Biology, English and Tamazight and, as such, provides not only a framework for studies for the student and professionals who frequent it, but for Encounter and Dialogue as well. I am responsible for a little magazine called “The Fig Tree” and it testifies to our commitment to being close to the people among whom we live. We give supplementary education courses in English and French each week and the joy of sharing my knowledge with others reveals the secret of my missionary fulfillment.
Vincent Kyererezi, M.Afr.