Return to the source – Day One

Tunis, 12 December 2018. Missionaries of Africa, Fathers and Sisters, from all over the world, landed in Tunis where they gather in the name of all the others for a return to the source. For the occasion, and the place is particularly suitable, we will speak almost exclusively of White Fathers and White Sisters, names that very quickly became established, back in those days. On Sunday 16th, we will proclaim the official opening of the Jubilee Year, even though many celebrations have already taken place in Africa and elsewhere. 150 years ago, the first novitiate of the White Fathers was begun, and a year later, the first White Sisters were working in Algiers.

Some have taken up residence at the Diocesan House in Tunis, while others are staying at “La Marsa”, in the property that used to belong to the White Fathers until only a few years ago.

At 6:30 p.m., we gathered in the parish chapel to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time, presided over by one of the bishops of Algeria, Bishop John McWilliam, M.Afr. who was the provincial of the Maghreb when he was called to succeed Claude Raulx, M.Afr., almost two years ago, as Bishop of Laghouat-Ghardaïa. After Mass, the “pilgrims” met or reconnected with one another and shared a delicious meal.

We note the absence of Sister Carmen Sammut, Superior General of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, who was called urgently to the bedside of her very sick mother. We will keep her and her family in our prayers during our pilgrimage.

Below are some pictures of this first meeting.

Philippe Docq, M.Afr.

 
Google has deprecated the Picasa API. Please consider switching over to Google Photos

140 years of presence in Jerusalem

This is an article from the site of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, dated December 11. The original post is here. The text was translated quickly with online help. In case of doubt, please refer to the original French.

On December 8, 2018, the Missionaries of Africa invited, as they do every year, the faithful and friends to come and celebrate with them the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This year, in addition to the Marian celebration, there was also the launching of the festivities for the jubilee of the 150th anniversary of the congregation and the 140th anniversary of its presence in the Holy Land.

The Mass of December 8 is traditionally celebrated with fervour among the Missionaries of Africa – also known as the White Fathers – because the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is the patron saint’s feast of this Society of priests and also the women’s congregation, the Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. This is also the date of the annual consular mass [1] and on this occasion the Deputy Consul General, Mr. Rémy Bouallègue, joined the ceremony.

But this year, the mass of December 8 was also celebrated in union with the mass for the beatification of the 19 martyrs who died for their faith in Algeria, including four White Fathers murdered on December 27, 1994 in Tizi Ouzou. Finally, this Mass on December 8 celebrated two important jubilees: the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of the White Fathers and the 140th anniversary of the presence of the Missionaries in the Holy Land.

Fraternity beyond cultural differences

It is the date of the opening of the first novitiate, October 18, 1868, which was chosen as the date of foundation of the Society of the White Fathers. For the founder, Bishop Lavigerie, the Missionaries of Africa must be “all things to all people” and adapt to the way of life of those to whom they are sent to spread the Gospel. For this reason they ask them to wear the local habit, to eat the same food as the inhabitants and to speak the language that allows them to open themselves to the culture of the country. Founded in North Africa, the society has developed in a large part of Africa. Today, there are still 1200 White Fathers, most of whom are in Black Africa. At the service of parishes and dioceses, they are as close as possible to the needs of the population and actively participate in interreligious dialogue. Also present in Europe, they bring their missionary experience to the dioceses of rich countries, to help welcome migrants and broaden the Church’s vision of the world.

Missionaries of Africa in the Middle East?

To find a congregation that has been mainly oriented towards Africa in the heart of Jerusalem for 140 years may seem questioning at first sight, but it would then be to not know the history of the founder. Charles Lavigerie before being the Archbishop of Algiers and the founder of the Society of the White Fathers was the first ecclesiastical director of the Work of the Schools of the Orient (now the Work of the Orient) and it is in this context that he had known, like a revelation, the Eastern Churches. This memory will come back in a flash when France, which became the owner of the church of Sainte-Anne, sought a religious community to keep it. Arriving in 1878, the White Fathers set up a seminary there in 1882 to train the Greek Melkite Catholic clergy. This seminary operated for 85 years, until the June 1967 war forced its transfer to Lebanon. Since then the White Fathers have continued, in various ways, to work for the Churches of the East, their unity and mission, and the service of the Church of Jerusalem in the fields of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and action for justice and peace. Thanks to the biblical training sessions, organized in Sainte-Anne since 1976, the Church of Africa is now coming to Jerusalem to pray and recharge their batteries.

Cécile Klos

[1] Each year, the Consul General of France officially visits each of the national domains belonging to France and certain religious communities of French origin, by taking part in the celebration of a mass.

 
Google has deprecated the Picasa API. Please consider switching over to Google Photos

150 years… of which 140 in Jerusalem

On the 8th of December, at 10h, we celebrated the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the basilica of St-Anne in Jerusalem. Many invitations were sent out. It is a ‘Consular Mass’ at which the General Consul of France participates, with members of the Consulate. But as the Consul was absent, he was represented by Mr. Remy Bouallegue, his ‘Adjoint’. Though it was raining, a good crowd came for the celebration: lay-people, Sisters, staff and students of the Salesian Institute and many more and about 20 priests concelebrating. Josef Buholzer, the superior of the community, was the main-celebrant, assisted by Mgr Michael Fitzgerald and Benoît Bernard, the newly arrived Rector of the Basilica. Bosco Ufoyuru, our newly ordained deacon, proclaimed the gospel. Continue reading “150 years… of which 140 in Jerusalem”

Memory of Christian Chessel, a testimony

On 8. December 2018, 19 Algerian martyrs will be beatified. One of them, Christian Chessel, we met in Rome during our studies. A few days ago, I was asked to make a few memories for a website article. Here you are…

Memory of Christian Chessel, Africa Missionary (White Father), new blessed of Church

8. December 2018 will be a special day. It is the 150th birthday of the society. On the same day, there are nineteen martyrs in Algeria, including four Missionaries of Afrika who were shot by militant Islamists on 27th December 1994 in Tizi-Ouzou (Algeria): Jean Chevillard, Alain Dieulangard, Charles Deckers and Christian Chessel, Christian, who was only 36 years old, and thus the youngest of the nineteen martyrs, remains in vivid memory.

After having entered the so-called “White Fathers” he came to Rome for a few years, to the Generalate of his community, where some of my confreres and I lived before we got our own house.

The Superior of his community had sent Christian to the Pontifical Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies (Pisai) and he was busy learning Arabic. I can still remember how he regretted not being German speaking, because in German-speaking cases it is much easier to pronounce the gutt and reibelaute such as the “ch which is almost an impossible thing for a French. To stay in good condition and keep fit, we saw him in winter with a fancy beanie jogging. He was a nice guy and had a winning way. We were all happy to be with him and we were happy to have dinner and chat together, or when he came to us to the anbetungsstunde.

We were also there when he was ordained a deacon in the chapel of the Missionaries of Africa. The moment was particularly impressive the moment he took his missionary oath, the hand over an arab gospel that had taken the first white fathers to the mission to Africa: these first missionaries had all been killed and only some time later In the sand of the Sahara this gospel was recovered together with the remains of the bones of the missionaries and other things that belonged to them.

On June 28th, 1992, the day before the feast of Peter and Paul, Christian was ordained a priest in Nice. He came to Tizi-Ouzou (Algeria), a mission of the White Fathers. In 1993, he moved to the Palestinian state of Palestine for a three months session. Before he finally left to Algeria, he came back to us in Rome, and we asked him what was the purpose for him to go to Algeria, to a place where you can’t be “right” because the public announcement of the Gospel is forbidden.
Christian told us: “the important thing is that the Church is also there for the salvation of people and that we also pray there and celebrate the Eucharist.”

Christian was not able to celebrate the Eucharist in Algeria for a long time. He was making a new library for the young people of Tizi-Ouzou. Shortly after Christmas 1994, a group of terrorists raided the mission and Christian was killed together with his confreres. The Eucharistic victim of the body and blood of Christ that was so close to him was sealed by the devotion of his own body and blood.
His picture for his First Mass, on which a schmerzensmutter (Pietà) is seen in dark robe, I often face and sometimes I pray that I, like Christian, have the courage to add my whole life to Christ and to his people.

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who is himself Missionary of Africa said on November 24., 2018, during the oath and decaon’s ordination of three young Missionaries of Africa:
“The testimony that you are asked for can go to martyrdom (the word martyrdom means ” testimony “). Let’s think of our confreres in Algeria, who will be beatified as martyrs on December 8th and we think of all the confreres who have suffered a violent death and whose names are registered on the plaques in the crypt of the Generalate in Rome. The martyrdom is prepared by a given life, by constant acts of love and service.”

Andreas Hermann Fritsch
Priest of the Congregation of the Works

Happy Feastday of the Immaculate Conception

Today is a big day. For a start, it is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, our patronal feastday.

Happy feastday to all Missionaries of Africa and Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Africa.

But it is also the day of the beatification of our 4 confreres Missionaries of Africa who died in Algeria because of their unconditional dedication to their Mission.

Here is the video of the Mass of Beatification in Oran on this Saturday, feast of the Immaculate Conception, in Oran (Algeria). Enjoy it.

If you like to download it to show to a broader group, you may do so following this link.

Here in Rome, we celebrated the event together with the White Sisters (MSOLA). Father Guy Theunis, superior of the community of the Generalate, gave us an excellent homily, showing us how Mary and Jesus were very much alike at least following five traits of their personalities. You will find the text of this homily on the following post.

Berlin event for the 150th anniversary

Hundred and fifty years ago, Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, the then Archbishop of Algiers, founded the Missionaries of Africa, known in Germany as the White Fathers. In gratitude, we look back on a century and a half in the service of the Church and of the people of Africa.

We, the animators of the Africa Center in Berlin, would like to invite you to an event to commemorate the struggle of our founder, shared by the first missionaries, against the slave trade and the challenges of human trafficking today.

You are cordially invited on Thursday, 18th October 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the Cafeteria of the Catholic School Saint Francis, Hohenstaufenstr. 1-2, 10781 Berlin.

Program:

6:30 pm: Welcome and time for meeting each other

7:00 pm:

  • Father Gerard Chabanon, Provincial of the European Province, recalls the history of the slave trade in the 19th century and of the anti-slavery campaign of Lavigerie.
  • Sr. Margit Forster, SOLWODI (Solidarity with women in distress) Berlin, will talk about modern slavery and the fight against human trafficking in Germany today.
  • Greetings from Father Rudi Pint, German Provincial of the Missionaries of Africa and Father Frank Rossmann, Missionary of Africa.

Musical entertainment by groups from the Africa Center.

8:30 pm: African snack bar

We would be grateful if you could let us know by 12 October 2018 whether you will be attending the event.

Tel.: 030-216.9170
email: afrika-center.berlin@t-online.de

We are very pleased to welcome you.

Your Missionaries of Africa
and the Afrika Center Team in Berlin

Download here the original invitation flyer.