Fr. Francis Bomansaan Bishop of Wa, Ghana

Official communication

As officially announced at noon today, the Holy Father
has appointed our confrere Father
Francis BOMANSAAN Bishop of the Diocese of Wa, Ghana.
On behalf of the Superior General, currently meeting in Assisi, the General
Council and all the confreres, our sincere congratulations to Francis and the
assurance of our prayers and of our fraternal support
in his new service of the Church.

Rome, 22 May 2024

P. André-Léon SIMONART,
General Secretary.

Experiencing the Ascension in Jerusalem

Placing the Ascension of the Lord Jesus on the summit of the Mount of Olives is not just a fulfillment of religious traditions, but a profound testament to the significance of this mountain. The history and geography of the Holy Land illuminate why the Mount of Olives is the custodian of the memory of this pivotal event in our salvation.

The Scriptures tell us of two places where our Lord ascended. After the Resurrection, the Risen Lord met his disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:16). The Acts of the Apostles situates the site of the Ascension at the summit of the Mount of Olives in the east of Jerusalem (Acts of the Apostles 1, 9-12).

The northern part of the Mount of Olives is known by several names: “The hunter’s vineyard” in Arabic, KARM ES SAYAD and “Little Galilee” in Greek tradition. The words VIRI GALILAEI (in Latin: men of Galilee) are an allusion to the words addressed to the apostles in Acts 1:11: “People of Galilee, why do you stand there looking up to heaven?

So why the Mount of Olives and not Mount Zion?

The choice of the Mount of Olives was no accident. Jesus appropriated the whole of human history to bring it to perfection. The Mount of Olives is the guardian of Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions.

The Mount of Olives was called HAR HAMISHKHA, ‘Mount of Unction’ during the Second Temple, possibly in memory of the anointing of Solomon, crowned king in an improvised ceremony held in a hurry near the spring of Gihôn in the city of David. The way this ceremony is recounted in the first book of Kings foreshadows Jesus’ solemn entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: “They (Zadok the Priest, Nathan the Prophet…) put Solomon on King David’s mule and went down to Gihon. Then Zadok, the priest, took the horn of oil from the Tent and anointed Solomon; the horn was blown, and all the people shouted: “Long live King Solomon! And the people played the flute and rejoiced with great joy and shouted as though the earth would burst” (1 Kings 1:38-40). The same thing will happen on Palm Sunday: Jesus will come from Bethphage, on the other side of the Mount of Olives, riding on a colt; descending the Mount, he will cross the Kidron valley to go up the Temple Mount and enter Jerusalem. Then the people accompanied him, shouting joyfully, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…”. (Mark 11, 9)

The “Mount of Unction” is named for the olive oil produced there. Olives from this mountain were used to make oil, which was used to anoint kings and prophets and for liturgical celebrations in the Temple. Jesus is God’s anointed par excellence. It is only natural that he should ascend to heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of God the Father on the Mount of Unction.

Many Jews wanted to be buried on the western side of the Mount of Olives. Believing that being buried opposite the Temple Mount meant resting on safe ground for the Last Judgement. Indeed, the prophet Zechariah foretold that on that day, history would be fulfilled: “The feet of the Lord will rest on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem to the east. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with him” (Zechariah 14:4-5). Zechariah’s prophecy speaks of “the feet of the Lord”. Today, in the Sanctuary of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, there is a stone bearing the footprints of Jesus as he ascended to heaven.

The importance of the Mount of Olives is also recognised in the Muslim tradition. In Sura 1, verse 6 mentions the straight path: “Lead us in the straight path”. The term “straight path” is called “sirat” and has two meanings, depending on the era. In ancient Islam, it meant the right path or the path to be followed. In medieval Islam, it was given added spatial significance: the right path was associated with the bridge that would link the Mount of Olives to the Mount of the Temple when the Messiah comes. Here, the Muslim tradition is similar to the Jewish tradition. Still, with a twist: at the Last Judgement, all the believers of ALLAH buried on the Mount of Olives will be resurrected and have to cross a bridge built over seven arches linking it to the Temple Mount. The “righteous” will cross the bridge without difficulty, while the “unrighteous” will fall into the Kidron. And so, there are Muslim graves in the Kidron Valley, in the shadow of the ramparts close to the esplanade of the Al Aqsa Mosque, around the Golden Gate, the gate through which, according to Jewish tradition, the Messiah must pass to enter the Temple and pronounce judgement.

Today, the Sanctuary of the Ascension is managed and guarded by Muslims. It is an exceptional site, as it is used as a mosque and, depending on the occasion, as a Christian church. Inside the mosque is the stone bearing the footprints of Jesus as he ascended to heaven, as mentioned above. This is how Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions unite on Mount Olives.

The Feast of the Ascension today

Jesus chose a mountain with olive trees, a mountain outside Jerusalem just a short distance from the holy city. He did not choose Mount Zion, which is in the city. He kept the symbol of the olive tree, a tree typical of the Mediterranean basin, a tree God gave to his people together with the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 6, 10-12). The olive tree is like the tree that “bears fruit in its season, and its leaves never die” (Psalm 1, 3). It is also the symbol of the righteous and peace since it is always green and bears fruit only after careful, patient nurturing, in other words, after a long period of peace. According to Jewish tradition, the olive branch brought to Noah’s Ark by the dove after the flood waters had receded came from the Mount of Unction.

Olive oil, the fruit of the olive tree and human labour, is food, perfume, medicine and essential for lighting lamps. This rich symbolism is abundantly repeated in the sacraments of the Church (CCC nos. 1293 and 695), which bring us into the realities beyond. Therein lies the spirituality of the Ascension. Once sanctified by the presence and, above all, the blessing of Christ, our earthly realities are lifted up to heaven: “He who was taken from you, the same Jesus, will come just as you saw him go up to heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe that the Messiah will return. In response to a question from a participant in the session, here at Saint Anne’s in Jerusalem, to a rabbi about the coming of the Messiah, the rabbi replied: “When the Messiah comes, we will ask him if this is the first time he has come into the world, or if it is the second time.

By: Grégoire Milombo, M.Afr.

Remembering the Blessed White Fathers of Tizi-Ouzou

How do people remember them today?

Founded in 1874, six years after the creation of the Society, the community of Tizi-Ouzou remains our oldest still active community. It was in this community that our four confreres, Alain, Charles, Jean and Christian, Missionaries of Africa, were murdered on 27 December 1994. They were courageous and zealous missionaries who devoted their lives to the end; they are now counted among the greatest martyrs of love. They were beatified on 8 December 2018 in Oran, Algeria, along with 15 other people. They were respected because of their dedication to the mission and love for Algeria and its people. We know the privileges and challenges of living in this same community.

A feeling of gratitude and recognition

It will be precisely 30 years, on 27 December 2024, since our confreres were murdered in their community home, but people still talk about them as if it were yesterday. We know that Blessed Alain, Charles, Jean and Christian were firmly committed to Algerian society when schools and training centres were still under non-national charge.

Charles Deckers, the most emblematic of the four, trained several students who passed through the vocational training centre he was in charge of. These students, now managers and senior officials in the Algerian government, never cease to remind us that Charles Deckers trained them; some are already retired. Some of these people are writers and have devoted dozens of pages to Charles Deckers in books published at some point in their careers. We are still in close contact with these people.

Charles Deckers left his mark on the town of Tizi-Ouzou through his service and generosity: the vocational training centre he ran produced hundreds of students who subsequently became leaders at all levels of the Algerian nation. The people, including those in the surrounding towns and villages, knew and appreciated Charles. He became a national of Algeria in 1972, with pride in his roots there.

Jean and Alain were engaged in pastoral visits to families, especially in the mountains of Kabylia. We still receive testimonies from some people recalling their family memories of the Blessed.

We don’t hear much about Christian, though. He was the youngest of the four; we know he was behind the library project, which, unfortunately, he did not see through to completion. Today, dozens of people have subscribed to the Library: Algerian professionals, students and researchers in medicine, linguistics and other subjects, although there has been a decline in subscriptions in recent years.

Annual celebration

We issue an invitation every 27 December to commemorate the anniversary of their assassination, and the feedback is always positive, with many people visiting the cemetery to commemorate them. Algeria is a country that celebrates its martyrs, and our confreres are among them.

Thanks to all the life testimonies we receive, we think their memory is still alive. People are thankful and have never forgotten the actions of our martyrs. Their gratitude is also expressed in the fact that they still maintain links with the present-day community of the White Fathers in Tizi-Ouzou.

The challenge of living in the footsteps of the Blessed

The missionary activity of Tizi-Ouzou dates from 1874 to the present day. It has been the work of several generations. Today, our presence is still worthy of appreciation, albeit from a different perspective than that adopted by our predecessors, adapted to the current socio-cultural context and the needs of those around us.

We often face the challenge of comparison. Some people compare how the Blessed lived with how we live today. This is an encouragement to do our best and imitate their footsteps, even though we know their opportunities were not the same as those we have today. On the other hand, comparing their lives with ours today forces us to live in the shadow of our predecessors.

Besides the above, today, there is the question of the origin of our confrères on the spot. Twenty years ago, people were still used to seeing only European confreres, whereas for the last ten years or so, we have been of African origin and younger than our predecessors. It sometimes brings misunderstandings and questions for some since they link the membership of the White Fathers to the question of colour. Some people even say that there are no more White Fathers here in Tizi-Ouzou. It’s a challenge we’re trying to meet through our dedication to the mission and heritage bequeathed to us by our elders.

We are responding to this challenge thanks to the encouraging testimonies of some former friends and pupils of the White Fathers. For example, a former pupil of the White Fathers gave a striking and encouraging testimonial after celebrating the 29th anniversary: “I saw Father Philippe dressed in a gandoura at the cemetery! It reminded me of the old days when the White Fathers dressed in the gandoura. They were all white. But when I saw Father Philippe dressed in white, even though he is not white, I understood why they are called the White Fathers: not because of the colour of their skin, but because of their white garb. I hope that all the White Fathers will wear their white gandoura at the next commemoration.” Here’s another testimony from an elderly man: “This is a place of pilgrimage! We have come to commemorate those who gave their lives for the good of all, and we are happy to meet the White Fathers who now live in this house; they remind us of the dedication of the four White Fathers.”

From commemorating the four White Fathers to remembering the former White Fathers

Some of those who attended the commemorations never knew any of the four White Fathers. They came to the commemorations of the four White Fathers to remember also those who preceded them. The names of Fathers Louis Garnier, Jean Robichon, and Georges Rogé are recurrent in the testimonies of all those present. The three are buried in the Tizi-Ouzou Christian cemetery, along with three of our four Blessed.  

By: Benoît Mwana Nyembo, M.Afr. & Philippe Dakono, M.Afr. 

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