61st World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Today, on the 4th Sunday of Easter, the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The message that guides this day invites us to spread hope and build peace. Pope Francis invites us to let ourselves be fascinated by Jesus through the pages of the Gospel and to give him space in our hearts to find true happiness in Him and to respond to His call by giving ourselves completely to Him, if He asks us to. The Pope invites the Christian world to pray for the gift of vocations, so that everyone can discover God’s call in their hearts to be pilgrims of hope and builders of peace. Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for 61st World Day of Prayer for Vocations

As a missionary society, we give thanks to the Lord for missionary vocations. We pray for our 470 young people who are in formation in the different stages, for all our confrères vocation animators and all the young people who feel in their hearts the call to give their lives to the evangelisation of the African world.

This is an opportunity for us to give thanks to all those who support our candidates in formation through prayer and material support. May God bless you for your help in the formation of future missionaries.

Let us pray to the Lord of the harvest to inspire the hearts of young people to give their lives to the mission in the African world:

Lord of the harvest,

you entrusted our Society

with the marvellous mission

of proclaiming the Gospel

to the African world.

We praise you for your goodness.

Generations of missionaries

pledged to you their fidelity.

Today the harvest is abundant.

Blessed be your name!

Our fathers loved everything

about this Africa

to which we consecrate

our lives today.

We pray for Africa.

It craves peace, justice,

harmony and hope.

Grant it the apostles it needs.

In us, reawaken in youth,

give us the boldness to challenge

those you call

and the generosity to welcome

and listen to them.

Our Lady of Africa, pray for us!

Amen!

By : Pawel Hulecki M.Afr., Assistent Genera

Our Students in Formation

Spiritual Year, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

Spiritual Year, Kasama, Zambia

Fourth Phase, Merrivale, South Africa

Run for a Great Cause

London, Sunday, 7th April 2024

Before and after Mass I saw a charity run for the fight against cancer. People were running to raise funds for the advancement of cancer research. Obviously, the aim is to vanquish cancer. I saw different kinds of runners passing in front of me: young and old, men and women, from different origins. I was flabbergasted by the handicapped persons in their wheelchairs.

As I stood there watching, I had different thoughts. At first, I was a bit sceptical of public fundraising events. The power of manipulation of people is limitless. Secondly, I was wondering about the outcome and how the whole thing functions: running – money – research… However, I could not deny the cause: to overpower cancer.

 One thing was clear: people were running; they were moving for a cause. The cause is the end of something that is painful, something that gives death. There are two keywords here: movement and cause, movement for a cause. I keep on repeating to myself: run for a great cause, move for a great cause. The resurrection set the disciples in movement.

Cardinal Charles Lavigerie

I thought of our great man: Charles Lavigerie. He ran all over France to raise funds for the betterment of the life of Christians in the Middle East. He ran in Europe for the political end of the trade in human beings (Africans).

For which cause would Lavigerie run today? Lavigerie was a politician. Politics is about power, and power over people: to get power and to use it. Lavigerie got power and used it for a great cause: a religious cause (the evangelisation of Africans), a political cause (the Christians in the Middle East and the end of the trade in human beings).

How about us today?

The evils done to human beings are sophisticated. enslavement of (owning) human beings and the trade in (selling and buying) human beings continue in a very sophisticated manner. The pain is clear. The means are complex. The methods of fighting are refined. We sometimes feel powerless. There are thousands of groups, associations and institutions fighting human suffering. We network with them. We run with them.

 In the fight against human suffering, is it possible to be initiators today? Does prophetic mission imply innovation? Our prophetic mission means that we have a life-giving and life-changing “Word of God” to speak to the human person.

It seems to me that the only relevant contributions we could make in fighting evils are twofold: first, an original way or method of fighting evil from our missionary tradition and secondly, prevention. A lot is being done in terms of information, intervention, and care. Our mission inter-gentes which is essentially relational in nature, impels us to direct our minds, hearts, and hands towards prevention of evil treatment of human beings.

The driving thought of our fight against human suffering is the Word of God to Cain: sin (evil, disease, sexual abuse, enslavement) lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it (Genesis 4: 7). Maybe the best response to human suffering is to run because it is the sign of being fully alive. Please, run and run for a great cause!

By: Moussa Traore, M.Afr.

Stagiaires meeting from 15 to 17 march 2024

Niamey Sector, NIGER

WITH A GRATEFUL HEART

………………………………………………………………………………

Song translated from French (Que tes œuvres sont belles, Que tes œuvres sont grandes ! Seigneur, Seigneur, tu nous combles de joie! )

Great are your works, how beautiful they are!
Lord, Lord, you fill us with joy!

1. You are the God who made us, who kneaded us from the earth!
Every human being is a sacred story; every human being is made in the image of God!
Your love fashioned us from the womb of the earth!
Every human being is a sacred story; every human being is made in the image of God!
You put your Spirit within us: we stand on the earth!
Every human being is a sacred story; every human being is made in the image of God!

………………………………………………………………………………

This sacred song and prayer guided our three-day meeting as stagiaires from the Niamey-Niger Sector. Father Pascal Kapilimba, vice-Provincial of the PAO, facilitated the meeting.

Therefore, with an open heart, we begin by thanking Almighty God for his presence and blessings upon us. Glory be also to God for his presence among us as we continue to share and witness his love among the people of Niger. I also believe that this is the prayer of every one of us: whatever we say, whatever we think, whatever we accomplish and whatever we do, may it be for the greater glory of God, and that in everything we do and say, people see only Christ Jesus through us and in us.

We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Father Pascal, who set aside his busy schedule to be with us at this particular meeting. As we move forward, I want to highlight some of the important things we shared at our meeting.

“APOSTOLIC CHARITY”

The idea of apostolic charity is obvious and snow-white. “We are not tourists, in as much as our charism is that of apostolic charity… About apostolic charity: nothing else but as Christ’s disciples”. All to all. This requires us to be nothing other than all people. As stagiaires, we are always asked to learn the culture of the people, to eat their food, to feel and be with them in all their sufferings, and so on. This is not new to the missionary spirit. Therefore, we must recognise that it is a challenge to live this way, especially when we want to depend on our human power. A missionary should, therefore, be a man of prayer who seeks the Holy Spirit, God’s humility, to guide him and do all things through Christ, who calls him at every moment of his daily life.

We would also like to acknowledge the presence of Father Leo who joined us on the last day of our meeting. It was encouraging to learn that Father Leo and Father Pascal share the same idea of living ‘all things to all people’: “We need people who are not just priests, we need missionaries”, said Father Leo. This means that we’re not there simply to celebrate Mass or be among the many Christians, as might be the case in countries like Zambia or Uganda, just to name a few. In a country like Niger, we have to get used that there are just a few Christians, in for example the parish of Saint Joseph in Saga or of Saint Vincent de Paul in Birni N’Konni. But more than that, a missionary is there not only for a few Christians in that particular parish but for the whole population. That’s what it means to be a missionary. Living this helps to build a joyful community.

A JOYFUL COMMUNITY

A joyful community in the context of the M.Afr. is a group of people who are fully human, responsible, grateful, open-hearted, and who know how and when to communicate with each other. Being responsible also means having a sense of belonging to the community. Each of us must feel this, and it must help us live our interculturality by seeking unity despite our differences of nationality. Cardinal Lavigerie reminds us that ” we must love each member of the Society in the same way”. Father Pascal also reminded us that, as stagiaires, “we are sent by the Superior General who sends all the confreres to their respective communities. We must remember that although we are community members, we are also candidates in formation. Secondly, as community members, we must not wait to be welcomed to propose new ideas (we do not separate ourselves from the community), but rather do everything in our power for the good of the community to which we belong”.

It also means that every community member is invited to make an effort to building a joyful community. In this way, we can achieve a joyful community thanks to everyone’s efforts to work towards these important elements.

I can say that this meeting was a special moment that helped me to pause, reflect on my life and evaluate how I can pass this on as a candidate for the Missionaries of Africa to the people of Niger. Not only to the few Christians in the parishes I visit here in Niger but rather to the whole population, especially those I meet in my daily life. Apart from that, it was also a time for me to listen and be inspired by my colleagues’ experiences and to recognise God’s presence in my life story and the lives of others.

I am grateful for all that God still accomplishes through me as a stagiaire of the parish of Saint-Vincent de Paul in Birni N’Konni, Niger.

By: Kelly Mukosha, Stagiaire

 

Jesus Christ is Risen 2024

Mt 28:1-7, Ravenna, Sant’Apollinare nuovo (493-526)

“Mary came to the tomb. She came to the womb of the resurrection, she came to the birth of life, so that Christ might again be born to faith from the tomb, as he had been born from a womb of flesh […] The angel descended and rolled the stone… not to offer a passage to the Lord who was coming forth, but to show the world that the Lord had already risen. Let the angel descend and testify that Christ is risen also from our souls.” (Peter Chrysologus). 

BLESSED AND JOYFUL EASTER SEASON

Violence and insecurity : an obstacle to development, peace and prosperity

Crédit image: Generative AI, https://firefly.adobe.com/

Violence is a behaviour that hurts physically or damages someone or something. Violence refers to force used to subjugate someone against his will. Violence is an extreme form of aggression against a person or it is a quarrel that results in injury and death of a person. It is an abominable and horrible act, which can lead to the worst (injury-death of a person). Gandhi, theorist of non-violence, has said, “Violence should not be confused with force or conflict. There is violence only when force is in action”.

Mali is going through a deep crisis because of insecurity due to conflicts that are leading to violence such as inter- and intra-community tensions in the country. Acts of violence against the civilian population continue to increase in different regions of Mali and civilians continue to pay the heaviest price for conflicts, violence and attacks by armed groups that are causing great loss of lives and properties.

There are different types of violence in our society today

Gender-based violence: there are many forms of gender-based violence, which we experience in our communities today.

  • Physical violence: physical abuses like punching; spitting, pushing; slapping; biting and even using weapons etc.
  • Sexual violence: sexual violence takes place in many forms and it can take place under very different circumstances. It can include sexual slavery, sexual harassment, trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced pregnancy and forced marriage.
  • Violence against women: women are always the victims in our societies. Excision, early marriage and conjugal violence are forms of violence against women. All these cause a lot of physical and psychological health problems in a woman’s life. Many girls withdraw from school because of these and other types of violence against them. It is important to know that there are multiple forms of violence in our society that people face and that they have serious consequences on individuals, families and communities.
  • Inter- and intra-community violence: there is violence between farmers and breeders. This is a territorial conflict, causing the destruction of lives and properties in our communities today. There are also armed attacks against people, villages and public infrastructure, which continue to undermine the protection of civilians and cause numerous losses of human life. Violence in all its forms constitutes an obstacle to the sustainable development, peace and prosperity of a country. Territorial conflicts lead to destruction of lives and property. There is also verbal and moral violence which provokes hatred.

In Nioro of Sahel

Here, in our region, Nioro du Sahel, we experience violence between ethnic groups and also between different communities. Islam is a dominant religion in the region; many also follow African traditional religions. Or they may follow cultures and traditions that harm individuals and society as a whole. Such violence is at the origin of the destabilisation of the country and causes poverty and unemployment in the society. It seems that the society does not want or accept some of these cultures and this causes physical and psychological harm both to individuals and to society at large. Some religious leaders and parents still seem to support practices like excision and child marriage. That’s why these practices continue to exist though now reducing slowly. We get to know this, when we, as church, participate in different sessions organized by some NGOs and by the Government projects that promote and tackle the issues of violence and insecurity. In our towns and villages, violence such as female genital mutilation and underage marriages are causing a lot of physical and psychological health problems to young girls. These different types of violence can be the cause of destabilisation of the communities and the country at large. And that can cause economic insecurity, preventing a country from developing.

Attacks by armed groups

The humanitarian consequences of attacks in the villages, killings, kidnappings, burning of harvests in the fields and setting fire on barns and houses as well as livestock theft are many. In such a climate of insecurity, it is difficult to think about the economy and stability of one’s country.  In the region, from time to time few NGOs try to bring peace and raise the awareness of the communities about the consequences of violence. Inter- and intra-community violence and attacks by unknown armed-men against the population, villages and public infrastructure continue to undermine the protection of civilians and cause numerous losses of human lives. This is the situation in many villages and regions in Mali, and many of these displaced people are children and women. Faced with this situation, survivors of these attacks flee from their villages in large number to places seemed safer. This forced displacement makes them victims of famine. The government intervenes by following the law of the country. The increase in attacks in the villages subsequently causes forced displacements. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) is increasing day after day due to persistent insecurity in the country. The situation is complex for carrying out mediation activities, reconciling the different communities, strengthening social cohesion and encouraging the return of basic social service personnel. The fields, granaries and houses are set on fire by groups of armed men. From time to time, there are NGOs which provide humanitarian aid like providing cereals, agricultural materials and also moral help.

The region of Nioro du Sahel is mostly dry desert. It has a short rainy season. Because of that there is not enough harvest. This problem causes economic insecurity in the region. Unknown armed men attack and rob transport buses. That limits people from moving from one place to another. There are territorial conflicts that lead to violence such as peasants against breeders; violence between ethnic groups etc.

Violence is causing loss of life and properties. Child marriage and female genital mutilation have been a big challenge in the area. Many underage girls withdraw from school and lead a life they are not yet prepared for. These conflicts and violence are causing great economic insecurity in the region and are an obstacle for the development of the country. In a real sense, it is difficult for the people to live in peace while things are not working. It is evident, that many people are not at peace but they have no choice. Some of them are losing their family members, because of the way others are mistreating them.

By: Gidey Mekonnin Girmay, M.Afr.

Southern Africa Province (SAP) stagiaires’ meeting in Lusaka

‘No pain no gain’, ‘no sacrifice no opportunity’ and ‘no discipline no results’

On the 26th February 2024, the Stagiaires of the Southern Africa Province (SAP) convened at FENZA (Faith and Encounter Centre Zambia) in Lusaka, Zambia for a one-week meeting. It was a gathering of sharing stage experiences in their different communities and apostolates. During the opening Mass, the main celebrant invited the Stagiaires to reflect on their role in the apostolate. He insisted that his principle of no pain no gain, no sacrifice no opportunity, no discipline no results, has guided him throughout his years as a missionary. Fr. Martin Onyango energized the Stagiaires with his touching sermon.

Eight stagiaires were from the Malawi Sector, three from the Mozambique Sector and twelve from the Zambia Sector. The sharing, guided by Fr. Martin Onyango M.Afr. and Fr. Marcellin Mubalama M.Afr., was enriching. The meeting began with welcoming remarks from Fr. Benjamin Itungabose M.Afr., the Sector Delegate of Zambia. He encouraged the Stagiaires to be creative and innovative to meet the demands of the apostolate.  Groups according to sectors were formed for sharing. Later, the entire group met to listen to a report from each group.

The Stagiaires shared the common joy of apostolic zeal. They all witnessed to have received a warm welcome from the people in their places of apostolate. “The Christians are so good; they are supportive and encouraging. Despite the language challenges, they understand and welcome us with joy”, they remarked. Many of the Stagiaires reported how they ride hundreds of kilometers to reach various outstations crossing rivers, forests, valleys and hills. This has added to their zeal towards becoming Missionaries of Africa.

However, there was a general complaint about conflicts in their host communities. Stagiaires continue to be victims of unstable communities with conflicts, which are having a bad impact on them. “We notice conflicts brought about by the fact that confreres come from different countries with their own stereotypes and prejudices”, they said. “Therefore, all should be aware of this and steps should be taken to combat such ‘viruses’ eating up our communities”, they added.

Your vocation must be rooted in Jesus Christ, the one we serve

The Provincial of SAP shared with the Stagiaires about the current financial situation of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa. He commended the efforts they make in their various communities to contribute towards the running of their communities and cutting down costs. He agreed with sadness that in almost all the Provinces of the Society, there have been some scandals involving money. The Provincial and Sector leaders are setting up ways to end these problems. The Provincial concluded with words of hope. “We are setting up different projects in order to ensure self-sustainability of our Province. We currently have assets amounting to lots of money that has been invested, but we have less cash. We do all we can to ensure transparency and accountability of what we own as a Province”. He advised the Stagiaires that their determination to pursue their vocation must not depend on the financial situation of the Society, but rather be rooted in Jesus Christ, the one they serve.

The Stagiaires had an outing and visited the new provincial house in IBEX. On the closing day there was an open forum, which included the suggestions Stagiaires themselves raised to improve the apostolic experience period. For example, they proposed that the members of the receiving communities should consider a self-introduction once the Stagiaire has been welcomed. They also requested the leaders of the Province and Sectors to write letters of appointment and clarify the communication channels with the Stagiaires while still in the spiritual year.

They ended this meeting by extending thanks to the Provincial for allowing the meeting to take place. “Despite all the financial challenges the Society is facing, you extended your solidarity an extra mile and allowed us to meet. A meeting like this kills multiple birds with one stone. It strengthens our bonds, ensures that we learn from one another and adds morale to our vocation as missionaries”, their representative said. He added, “we thank you endlessly and wish you all God’s Blessings.”

By: Justus Wednesday, Stagiaire

Working Session on African Traditional Religions:  the Way Forward

Cinquième journée de la session de travail sur les religions traditionnelles africaines au Centre Kungoni, Malawi

From left to right : Mathew W. Banseh (Centre for Social Concern (CfSC)), Bernhard Udelhoven (Lumimba parish) Zambia, Ignatius Anipu (Institut de Formation Islamo-Chrétienne (IFIC)) Mali, Philip Meraba (Faith and Encounter Centre, Zambia (FENZA)) Zambia, Anselme K.A. Tarpaga (Assistant General) Rome, Prosper Harelimana, Rome, Brendan O’Shea (Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art, Malawi), Malawi, Bruno Ssennyondo (Centre de Recherche pour la Sauvegarde et la promotion de la Culture Senoufo (CRSPCS)) Mali

The Missionaries of Africa concluded their working session on African Traditional Religions (ATRs) at Kungoni, Malawi this Friday 22nd March 2024. It was a week of sharing of experiences, insights, ideals and perspectives for the future. There remains a question to be asked. What next? Intense reflection on ATRs has led to five areas of focus: (1) animating confreres, (2) initial formation, (3) creating a synergy between centres and parishes, (4) research and publications, and (5) visibility and communication.

The first area of focus will target the following: sessions and workshops, build up a repertoire of issues of concern through modern technology, and establish core groups (commissions) to enrich pastoral activities in line with ATRs. The second area will encourage candidates in formation to intentionally research and investigate contemporary issues of  ATRs. It will also nurture candidates’ talents, encourage the teaching of  African Philosophy and Theology. It intends to introduce sessions on ATRs into our formation system, review the Stage Vade mecum on ATRs to help stagiaires go deeper on specific topics, etc. The third area will ensure that modern technology is well used to store and share materials on ATRs. It shall subscribe to Jstor, Ebscom and other academic websites for quality research. It shall source expertise to enhance our centres. Furthermore, it shall aim at improving collaboration between centres such as Kungoni, FENZA, IFIC, etc., and parishes. It shall enhance professionalism in our centres, enlighten younger generations in the area of ATRs, and empower personnel through capacity building programmes. The fourth and fifth areas will promote academic publications on ATRs issues, create a  platform where publications of Missionaries of Africa on ATRs can easily be accessed. It will ensure that the websites of our various centres are linked with the main website of the  Society. It shall encourage sharing of events on ATRs that take place in our different areas of mission.

The above-mentioned activities entail creativity, dedication and team work. They also call for rigorous monitoring and evaluation. Looking back to appraise our performance and activities remains a fundamental exercise to be constantly carried out. It shall be done by ourselves, and if need be,  involve experts. All is being done to accomplish, respect and  promote what our founder Cardinal Charles Lavigerie urged us to do. He strongly advised us to cherish the language, culture and tradition of people. 

By: Prosper Harelimana, M.Afr.