As part of the Jubilee celebrations in St Anne’s we organised, on the 7th of March, a morning of lectures and presentations about the Society. We invited the staff and students of Ratisbonne, the Salesian theology university where our candidates go for their theological formation.
We started with a talk by Dave: “150 years old and still going strong!” – a presentation of some of the elements of our history which help us to understand who we are today.
This was followed by a talk given by Frans Bouwen who spoke about the presence of the “White Fathers” (as we were always known) in Jerusalem.
After a break Fr Gaëtan Tiendebéogo presented the film “Witnesses of the Greatest Love” which was about the “martyrs of Algeria” and which was made by the Chemin Neuf community. Finally three of the students shared something of their own personal experience of life with the Missionaries of Africa. Nelson Ekeh spoke of inter-culturality in the Society, Thierry Uyirwoth of his experience of community and Belito Joaquim of our commitment to JPIC. The morning finished with lunch shared by all the participants. The general agreement was that the morning had been both interesting and enjoyable.
Some of you have asked for the written text of this very interesting conference. In the meantime, I have adopted and edited the conference title used in the written version. I also received the Power-Point presentation that I have inserted after the sound file below. For the moment I only have the French versions of those two documents, but the English text of the conference should follow soon.
Gisela Schreyer, archivist of the MSOLA, tells us about the history, little known to the White Fathers, of Mother Marie Salome, considered to be the co-founder of the White Sisters with Cardinal Lavigerie.
Here is a text that comes from Uganda, where the Vocation animators from both institutes of the Lavigerie Family have organised together some vocational activities in the context of the celebrations of our 150th anniversary.
We are very grateful to the Lord for the gift of our two institutes founded by Cardinal Lavigerie. In this line, we acknowledge the different activities that have been taking place in collaboration in the field of Missionary Vocation Animation and awareness to the youth.
Here in Uganda, from 11th to 17th January 2919, the vocation teams of MSOLA and M.Afr. organized a “come and see” session in the context of the 150 years of our foundation.
Eight aspirants of the M.Afr. and eight aspirants of the MSOLA participated together with the MSOLA pre-postulants.
On Sunday 13th January we made a pilgrimage to some important sites linked to our historical background in Uganda. We visited the Rubaga Cathedral, the hospital and the cemetery where the pioneer MSOLA were buried. We also went to Nabulagala where the pioneer M.Afr. were buried and to the Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine where King Mwanga sentenced to death the then future Uganda Martyrs. At all these sites , we stopped and got some historical explanations and prayed with gratitude for all the 150 years .
On Tuesday 15th January 2019, we all met at the MSOLA house in Bunamwaya for a common session. Sr. Harriet, who came all the way from Rwanda, together with Sr. Theopista Mbabazi animated the session. In the morning, Br. Francis gave an input on Cardinal Lavigerie in the context of 150 years of our foundation. This was followed by some group work and sharing.
We also marked the day with Holy Mass, for which Fr. Otto Katto was the main celebrant. It was nice to see how the young people aspiring to be missionaries were joyful at Mass and during the session. One would imagine how Cardinal Lavigerie must have been happy seeing the future Missionaries working together.
In the afternoon, there was an input presented by Srs. Harriet Kabaije and Theopista Mbabazi concerning our activities today in the context of 150 years especially our struggle against human trafficking. This was also followed by some very enriching group reflection sharing about our present activities in the struggle about human trafficking and slavery.
It was also striking to see how the aspirants were able to identify the current situations where they feel called and how they were connected to our mission today. These were some of the outstanding points that motivated the aspirants in M.Afr. and MSOLA: the legacy of our ancestors in faith , the high influx of refugees, not being materialistic, helping the needy, a desire to promote Justice and Peace, love and unity, the diminishing number of Missionaries in Europe and the inner force to commit to prayer. Indeed God speaks to the hearts of his people. And the question remains: Whom shall I send?
We were grateful to the MSOLA who received us so well. The aspirants were very happy to have lived this beautiful experience of good collaboration between MSOLA and M.Afr. We are planning another common session in May in the context of the 150years.
During the audience, I was only allowed to take pictures from my seat. So I couldn’t take a picture of our group during the audience. Here are three official photos, for which we have purchased the publication rights:
Here is the picture of the thanking word from our Superior General Stan Lubungo.
The handshake of Pope Francis with our Superior General:
Shortly after the Pope had entered the Hall, our superior general, Stan Lubungo, addressed the Holy Father with a word of thanks in the name of the two congregations. Here is the text :
We, the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa feel very honoured to be with you today. This year we are commemorating one hundred and fifty years of our foundation by Cardinal Lavigerie in Algeria. We give thanks to God for all the graces received during these years. We are very grateful, Holy Father, that you spared some time to be with us despite your very busy agenda.
We praise God for our brothers and sisters who, over hundred and fifty years have brought the Catholic faith to many African countries. They helped establish the African clergy and formed many female African congregations in different countries. Today, we are together present in 41 countries, of which 22 are in Africa. We continue to collaborate with the local Church at whose service we are in parishes and in other ministries.
We inaugurated our Jubilee Year on the 8 th of December last year, on the Feast of Mary Immaculate Conception under whose protection our Founder placed our two Institutes. The inauguration took place in Tunisia where Cardinal Lavigerie was also prelate. The closing celebrations will be on 8 th December this year at Namugongo, the shrine of the Uganda Martyrs.
We give thanks to God. The inauguration of our Jubilee coincided with the beatification of the nineteen martyrs of Algeria, among which are four of our brothers who gave their lives to the service of our Muslim brothers and sisters in the country of our foundation.
Holy Father, on this significant Jubilee for our family, we ask for your paternal blessing on our two Institutes and its members where ever they are as we seek to keep alive the charism of our Founder.
We are happy to offer you a representation of the Manga hoe from Burkina Faso. This invention of one of our confreres in the 50s was designed for weeding and ploughing in shallow soil. It represents so well your task to plough and weed the shallow soils of our hearts sowing in them God’s Word.
Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa Missionaries of Africa
Most of us were very excited on Friday the 8th of February, as we were being invited by the successor of Peter at a private audience in the Vatican. The two General Councils, brothers and sisters from the two congregations, a few provincials already in the house for the forthcoming provincials’ encounter with the GC, some 80 persons all together were well in time to meet the Pope at 11am. The number of steps we had to climb was, to the least, very impressive, but finally there we were in the Clementine Hall, waiting for our Brother and Pastor Francis. A very official encounter, very comforting and meaningful to each one of us.
Here is the text of his address to us. The original was in Italian, we had a French translation. This English version is a translation from the French by your servant, with the help of the very good software deepl.com
Dear brothers and sisters,,
It is with great joy that I welcome you to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of Missionaries of Africa and the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. In thanking your Superiors General for the words they have addressed to me, I wish to express my cordial greetings and spiritual closeness, as well as through you, to all the members of your Institutes, present in Africa and in other parts of the world. Thank you for the service of the mission of the Church, lived with passion and generosity, in fidelity to the evangelical insights of your common founder, Cardinal Lavigerie.
Over the past three years, you have been preparing to celebrate this jubilee. As members of the great “Lavigerie family”, you have returned to your roots, you have looked back on your history with gratitude, to give you the means to live your present commitment with a renewed passion for the Gospel, and to be sowers of hope. With you, I give thanks to God, not only for the gifts he has given to his Church through your Institutes, but also and above all, for the fidelity of his love that you celebrate with this Jubilee. May this Jubilee Year strengthen in you the assurance that “God is faithful, he who has called you to live in communion with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:9). May your consecration, your ministry thus be able to manifest concretely, in your fraternal life and in your various commitments, the fidelity of God’s love and its closeness, to sow hope in the hearts of those who are wounded, tested, discouraged, and who feel abandoned so often.
Dear friends, you know that when Bishop Lavigerie, then Archbishop of Algiers, was led by the Spirit to found the Society of Missionaries of Africa, then the Congregation of Missionary Sisters, he had in his heart the passion for the Gospel and the desire that it be proclaimed to all, making himself “everything to all” (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). For this reason, your roots are marked by Mission ad extra; it is in your DNA. Thus, following in the footsteps of your founder, your primary concern, your holy concern, “is that so many of our brothers and sisters live without the strength, light and consolation of the friendship of Jesus Christ, without a community of faith that welcomes them, without a horizon of meaning and life” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 49). But, in the light of the journey made since your foundation, you know that the proclamation of the Gospel is not synonymous with proselytism; it is this dynamic that leads us to be close to others, to share with them the gift received, the encounter of love that has changed your life and that has led you to choose to consecrate your life to the Lord Jesus, Gospel for the life and salvation of the world. It is always with him, through him and in him that the mission is lived. So I encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, so that you never forget that the true missionary is first and foremost a disciple. Have at heart to cultivate this particular bond that unites you to the Lord, by listening to his Word, celebrating the Sacraments and serving the brother, so that your words and actions may manifest his presence, his merciful love, his compassion to those to whom the Spirit sends you and leads you. May the celebration of your jubilee thus help you to become “nomads for the Gospel”, men and women who are not afraid to go into the deserts of this world and seek together the means to lead their fellow human beings to this oasis that is the Lord, so that the living water of his love may quench all their thirst.
May this Jubilee Year also contribute to the development of fraternal bonds between you, because the proclamation of the Gospel can only be lived at the price of true missionary communion. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, be witnesses to this hope which does not disappoint (Cf. Rm 5:5), despite the difficulties. In fidelity to your roots, do not be afraid to venture out on the paths of mission, to witness that “God is always a newness, which urges us to leave without respite and move beyond what is known, towards the peripheries and borders” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, n. 135). May the Holy Spirit make you build bridges between people. Where the Lord has sent you, contribute to the growth of a culture of encounter; continue to be the servants of a dialogue that, while respecting differences, knows how to be enriched by the difference of others. And I thank you in particular for the work you have already done in the service of dialogue with Islam, with our Muslim sisters and brothers. Through the style and simplicity of your lifestyle, you also demonstrate the need to take care of our common home, the land. Finally, in the wake of Cardinal Lavigerie, be sowers of hope, fighting against all current forms of slavery. Always seek to be close to the small and the poor, to those who expect, at the periphery of our societies, to be recognized in their dignity, to be welcomed, protected, raised, accompanied, promoted and integrated.
With this hope, by entrusting you to the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, I give you and all the members of your communities the Apostolic Blessing and I call upon God’s blessings on those whose lives you share, where the Lord has sent you. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you.
Most provinces and sectors celebrated the opening of the Jubilee Year on December 8, 2018. But in Rome, we could not celebrate that day because the bishops of Algeria had decided to beatify the 19 martyrs of Algeria on that December 8. The superiors general of our two missionary institutes in Africa, White Fathers and White Sisters, had to be present in Oran (Algeria) that day, especially since four of our confreres were among the 19 blessed ones. The following week, it was the official opening of the Jubilee Year at the international level in Tunis, an opening wonderfully prepared by the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa present in the Maghreb. There, once again, our superiors had to be present. We obviously could not celebrate in Rome without them. Thus the date of Saturday 26 January 2019 was set as the official opening date of the Jubilee Year. As a reminder, this Jubilee Year will end at the end of the year with an international celebration in Namugongo, Uganda.
It was therefore last Saturday, January 26, 2019, that we celebrated with the Church of Rome, but also with the many representatives of the male and female missionary institutes present in Rome. We wanted to celebrate the event in the Church of St. Louis of the French, which is located in the historic centre of Rome, a stone’s throw from the famous Piazza Navona. As its name suggests, this church is the place of worship of the French residing in Rome, but also of all the French who pass through Rome, on pilgrimage or simply as tourists. Besides, this church is also famous because it houses some paintings, and not the least, of Caravaggio, the famous 16th century Italian painter. But that is not the reason for our choice. In fact, our founder, Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie, was ordained bishop in this church on March 22, 1863. The celebration of 150 years of existence was therefore the perfect opportunity to honour this place with our presence and leave a mark. Thus was born the idea of asking the rector of the church, Monsignor François Bousquet, for permission to place a souvenir plaque somewhere on the estate. Our request was accepted by the French Embassy, since this territory is, de facto, French territory, and a marble plaque was blessed on Saturday, which will be placed on one of the walls near the sacristy.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, accepted our invitation to be the main celebrant of our celebration. In his high-level homily, in Italian (!!!), he gave a very detailed account of the work of Cardinal Lavigerie and the institutes he founded, for the development of the Church in Africa, but also for the dignity of African peoples, and then invited us to give thanks to God for the foundation of all these churches in Africa, as well as for the establishment of charitable and developmental works. He then commented on the “coincidence” of our anniversary with Pope Francis’ desire to renew the missionary impetus of the Church next October, on the occasion of the centenary of the promulgation of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter Maximum Illid; he concluded by giving three recommendations: fraternity as a new frontier of Christianity, evangelization as a concrete experience of the encounter of peoples in search of meaning in listening and respect, the Church carrying signs of God’s blessing for all men and women beyond established ecclesial structures.
The celebration began at 11 a.m. in a full church. We had widely invited the missionary congregations present in Rome, the educational institutions, the ambassadors of the African countries in which we are present, friends and acquaintances. The entrance procession, as you can see in the video clip below, was impressive. The white sisters in the lead were followed by the many concelebrant priests, more than eighty apparently. The Mass will be rather very Roman, even if the songs and dances of the choir and (especially) of our dear White Sisters will no doubt have invited some local Christians to discover another cultural facet of the universal Church.
As prayer intentions, we had planned to bring symbols in a dancing procession, presented and accompanied by prayers. This was probably one of the great moments of the celebration, apart from the sacramental encounter with Christ.
The Jubilee logo
“Give thanks to the Lord ... make known among the people’s his deeds.”
150 years ago, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Cardinal Lavigerie founded the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa in Algeria . Blessed are you, Lord, for the faith, love for Africa and zeal that animated our Founder, our first Superior General, Mother Mary Salome and ail our predecessors in this vocation . Send your blessing on our two missionary families and on all your children . Make us artisans of justice, peace and reconciliation.
“This is what pleas es me: unfasten the unjust chains, undo the bonds of the yoke, free all those who are oppressed and break ail slaveries .”
Cardinal Lavigerie fought slavery. Today, we are the witnesses of new forms of slavery, which imprisons our brothers and sisters: human trafficking, trafficking linked to immigration, unpaid work, all sorts of abuse . Let us pray for the victims, for their persecutors, that all may regain their human dignity and live as children of God. May the Spirit of Christ inspire us so that, wherever we are, we maybe a source of life to all.
“You are the light of the world and sait of the earth.”
150 years ago, our brothers and sisters, seized by the love of Christ, responded generously to the Lord’s call for the evangelization of Africa and the African world. Like this lighted candle, they agreed to melt away in order to light up, in one way or another, the faith, and life of their human brothers and sisters. Give us Lord today, the ability to discern the needs of our world and respond generously to them, bringing – like our elders – light, joy and hope to those who need it so much.
The Congregations’ tree
Cardinal Lavigerie told the first Missionaries “You are initiators; the lasting work will be done by the Africans themselves, who will, in turn, became apostles themselves”. These words have become a reality today. The sons and daughters of Africa proclaim the Good News more or less all over the world. This tree of African Congregations is a symbol of the support of our two Institutes, which accompanied them on their first steps. Lord, we thank you for your work in Africa and we ask you to pour out abundantly your graces on your Church in Africa so that she may be ever more faithful to you and continue to grow in your love.
“That al! may be one in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
With their many different colours, these flowers make a marvellous bouquet, in the image of our diversity in communities. It is a richness to be lived and shared in our multicultural societies, where differences can be a source of conflict and exclusion. Give us the grace, Lord, to witness ever more to your unconditional love for every human being.
A basket of fruit
“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit …”
God full of love and goodness, we thank you for the gifts of your creation: for our Earth, its beauty, and richness, for the rich heritage we enjoy. We entrust to you those who make decisions about the earth’s resources, so that we canuse your gifts responsibly and become true guardians of your creation.
Bread and Wine
“And I consecrate myself for them, so that they may also may be consecrated in truth.”
With this bread and wine, we bring you, Lord, all the young people in formation in the universal Church. The Church still needs missionaries. We pray for these young men and women who will continue your mission of evangelization. May they be driven by a love for you and for humanity in order to pass on the values of the Gospel and to make you known where you are not yet known.
The chalices of Cardinal Lavigerie, Bishop Livinhac and Father Voillard
As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of our two Institutes, we also want to give thanks for those who have continued the work of the founder. Three of the chalices we use today are those of Cardinal Lavigerie and of two of his successors who continued and strengthened bis missionary charism in Africa, Bishop Leon Livinhac and Father Paul Voillard. One of the altar cloth has been embroidered by Maghrebian women trained by our first sisters. They are used today for this thanksgiving.
The celebration then took place as planned by the liturgy. Eucharistic prayer number 3. Before the final blessing, Cardinal Filoni went down to the memorial plaque to bless it.
Dr. John Borelli is special assistant for Catholic identity and dialogue to President John J. DeGioia of Georgetown University. Borelli has been at Georgetown University since 2004, where he teaches, manages conferences and events, coordinates dialogue and mission for the Jesuit Conference, facilitates workshops, and promotes university relations with offices and institutes of the Holy See.
Dr. J. Borelli accepted to talk to us, in the framework of our Roman conferences, about Nostra Aetate, one of his areas of expertise.