On the stole received by the priests who went to the beatification of the 19 martyrs from Algeria (and the 200,000 Algerian peacemakers!) it is noted: Allah mahabah = “God Love” May these words bring our year 2019 to light: there is so much to do to ensure each other’s happiness!
(taken from the New Year’s greetings of a priest friend on Facebook)
Here is an interview (in French) with Father Gilles Barette mafr, and Sister Elizabeth Villemure msola, in a program on Radio VM in Canada – IN DIALOGUE -, a program dedicated to ecumenical and inter-religious issues and hosted by Jean-Philippe Trottier.
On the occasion of the beatification of the martyrs of Algeria, Father Raphaël Deillon, White Father, diocesan delegate (Marseille) for relations with Muslims, testifies to the years spent in this country with his missionary brothers and sisters, the Christian community and tells us about the links forged with this people of Algeria.
A tribute to the martyrs of Algeria who will be beatified next Saturday and an encouragement to all our confreres – and to all the baptized – to live an active presence in the fracture zones.
A joint publication at the beginning of our Jubilee Year is a beautiful expression of our common mission in the service of the African world. Thus, we have taken up the challenge of our General Councils to gather a few articles that would talk about our Founders, Cardinal Lavigerie and Mother Marie-Salome, throwing new light on their personalities. The two of them get the biggest coverage in this special edition of the Petit Echo.
The three years of preparation have repeatedly raised the theme of collaboration among us, showing that what unites and binds us goes far beyond what has sometimes separated us. Here, we share two recent examples of reflection and collaboration in the field.
Collaboration – today we can’t do without it! The more we join forces, the more we can expect to harvest the fruits that remain: the compelling results of our services and the testimonies that lead people to do the same.
The Jubilee Year has only just begun, so grab your pens and share and nourish us with your rich and positive experiences!
Enjoy this special issue and we wish you all a Happy Jubilee Year!
Father Frank Nolan has reviewed the Society’s archives and comes with new insights about Cardinal Lavigerie, his vision, his personality.
Two of the participants at this Conference, which is part of a cycle of Roman Conferences in view of the Jubilee Celebrations, have given these testimonies at the end of the conference :
“Students need this vision! I have been giving the talks in the Novitiate about Lavigerie but this is a very good corrective to some of the stuff I was giving, putting the stress on the strong hand of Lavigerie, which of course is there, but you are showing that it is not the full picture.” (D. Sullivan, M.Afr.)
“I just want to thank you for this vision. I think it is confirmed by the relationship Lavigerie had with our Mother Salome because it is true that he considered his will to be the will of God and as much as she entered into this vision, at the same time, though pretty shy, Mother Salome could challenge Lavigerie… who took it well and listened to her.” (G. Schreyer, msola)
Here after, the conference of Frank Nolan (in English) and then the two photos he is speaking about at the beginning of the conference.
Vicky Chiharhula, msola, shares with us her experience as a pastoral agent for migrants in Sicily. Below, you will find the audio recording of his sharing (in french), as well as an article published by Bernard Ugeux on his blog (in french).
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Les « sœurs du monde » :
une équipe internationale de consacrées sur le terrain
Le pape François a demandé l’an dernier aux religieux de s’engager dans l’accueil des migrants. Les missionnaires d’Afrique en ont accueillis dans leur Maison Généralice à Rome. Les jésuites ont un important centre d’accueil au Vatican. A la demande de l’Union des Supérieurs Majeures, des congrégations féminines comme les Sœur Missionnaires de Notre-Dame d’Afrique (Sœurs Blanches) ont décidé de participer à une équipe inter-congrégationnelle et internationale en vue d’accueillir les migrants qui débarquant en Sicile. Ces migrants arrivent aussi de l’Afrique et, pour eux, être accueillis par une religieuse africaine qui peut mieux comprendre leur drame est un précieux soulagement.
Vicky Chiharhula SMNDA, Conglaise, partage les premiers pas de cette équipe.
Mission auprès des migrants en Sicile.
Nous sommes arrivées en Sicile le 14/12/2015, de cinq Congrégations de nationalités différentes : Argentine, Erythrée, Inde, Pologne et République Démocratique du Congo. Nous étions très bien accueillies de tous dans le diocèse d’Agrigento et au-delà. Dès le début, le cardinal Francesco Montenegro, archevêque d’Agrigento a voulu une communauté qui, par sa vie, puisse témoigner que c’est possible de vivre heureuses tout en étant différentes. « Le plus important n’est pas ce que vous ferez, mais le témoignage d’une vie commune heureuse » disait-il. En vivant unies malgré nos différences (cultures, charismes/spiritualités, races, langues), nous cherchons à bâtir des ponts entre la population sicilienne qui nous accueille et les migrants qui viennent des diverses cultures, races, religions, langues et nations. Plusieurs personnes nous appellent « les sœurs du monde »
Nous sommes encore à nos premiers pas dans l’effort de la connaissance mutuelle en communauté ainsi que celui de la connaissance de la culture sicilienne qui nous est totalement inconnue et différente des nôtres. Nous vivons dans notre chair ce que signifie « être migrant », comme le vivent ceux qui sont venus des différents coins du monde. L’unique et grande différence est que nous, nous l’avons librement choisi pour le Christ et sa mission.
Notre vie communautaire est en quelque sorte une mission en soi. Nous souhaitons bâtir une communauté qui reflète la beauté de la fraternité universelle dans la différence. Cela n’est va pas de soi…
Tous ceux qui viennent nous voient ou qui entendent parler de notre expérience disent que c’est un signe de l’Esprit pour l’avenir de la vie religieuse. Nous sentons un appel pressent d’obéir à l’Esprit de Dieu et de le laisser accomplir en nous l’œuvre du Père. Nous cherchons encore la meilleure manière de nous engager concrètement, pour bâtir des ponts solides entre nous et avec tant d’autres.
Pendant que nous découvrons le milieu et sa réalité, nous faisons de petites choses : présence au port à l’arrivée des migrants, formation pour l’écoute et stage dans les centres d’écoute du diocèse, visites des migrants hospitalisés et sur la rue, etc..
Même si dans notre groupe il y a plusieurs langues, l’Italien reste un grand défi. Nous devons bien le connaître pour pouvoir faciliter la communication entre les uns et les autres. Il nous faut fournir beaucoup d’effort à cet effet.
Nous sommes très reconnaissantes envers toutes les personnes qui nous soutiennent de diverses manières. Puisse le Seigneur nous accorder la grâce de mettre en commun la richesse de nos cultures et de nos charismes, pour être un signe visible de son règne d’amour, d’unité et de miséricorde sur cette terre sicilienne !
Here is an extract of Lucien Duchêne’s History of the White Fathers: Les Pères Blancs. 1868-1893. vol.2
The first novitiate at Maison Rostan
On 20th Sept 1868 the “L’Echo de N-Dame d’Afrique” announced: “Following the mind of the Holy Father, Monseigneur the Archbishop of Algiers is going to found a special seminary for missionaries. In imitation of the French missionaries to China, they will adopt the manner of life of the Arabs and of other African peoples. Thus they will gradually establish themselves in the desert which, south of Algeria, extends from Senegal in the west to the country of gold and the black people in the east. Being true pioneers of European civilisation, their apostolic stations, while establishing communication with each other, will link our two African colonies on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.”
What the article calls a seminary for missionaries was, as Mgr Lavigerie admitted, “a poor rented house situated on the hills of El Biar” dominating the south of Algiers. The Maison Rostan, a Moorish house, hidden behind groves of mastic trees, some minutes from the orphanage of Ben Aknoun, was the humble cradle of our Society. Previously, it had been inhabited by the Arab orphan girls under the direction of the Sisters of St Charles of Nancy. These now moved to Kouba and the novitiate began at Maison Rostan on 19th October 1868.
The Archbishop had invited the Jesuits to provide a novice master. They gave him Father Vincent who had previously been an assistant to Fr Ducat at the orphanage of Ben Aknoun. Mgr Lavigerie drew up a line of conduct which the novice master tells us about in a letter. “On 17th October I went to receive my orders from Monseigneur before coming here and to ask his blessing on the beginning of this Society. He said to me, ‘Go, Father, and may the blessing of God be with you. Train apostles following exactly the direction of the novitiate of your own Society. The only difference is that you will give more time to study. Saints, I want saints. Throw them into the mould of St Ignatius and let them be in your hands like a dead body which will let itself be carried anywhere in whatever way that is required. Let them be like a stick in the hands of an old man to serve him in whatever place and for whatever purpose he wishes.’ These words of the Rule he repeated to us, and insisted on them, when I went with the community on his feast day to present our congratulations.”
Towards the end of October Monseigneur gave Fr Vincent an assistant, Fr Gillet. He was a Sulpician priest who had come to Algeria hoping the African climate would restore his health. He was charged with the teaching of theology. There were seven novices. The three former seminarians of Kouba, Finateu, Pux and Barbier, then Fr Blanchard, a young priest from Douaouda, Fr Dubut the parish priest of Saoula and two young men from his parish, Tassy and Be’ne’jean. On the 20th of the same month another novice arrived at the novitiate, Victor Cordier. Later we shall speak of him at length. Also at the novitiate, but not a novice, was a young African called Luigi. Originally from the missions of Mgr Comboni in the Sudan, he had been raised at Verona in Italy where he had obtained a teaching diploma. He was given the task of teaching the novices Arabic and so helping them catechise the orphans of Ben Aknoun.
I must also mention the cook, Francois Boulac. This young man had an interesting history. He was born at Bab-el-Oued, a suburb of Algiers from where he had moved to Boufarik with his parents. When his father died, he remained there with his mother in the same village. Whenever he misbehaved, she threatened to send him to the Jesuits directing the orphanage of Camp d’Erlon. Eventually, the poor woman died in her turn. On returning from the burial, the parish priest of Boufarik was touched with compassion and took Boulac to his presbytery. “Wait for me here,” he said. “I am going to ask the superior of the orphanage to take you in.” At the mention of the word orphanage,the child was filled with fear for he believed it to be a kind of prison, and taking advantage of the absence of the parish priest, he fled. In the evening, he arrived at Blida and went into a Moorish cafe to spend the night. The kaouaji gave him a little food and lodging for the night without payment, but made him do the washing up. The next day, a rich Arab, seeing the young French boy there, offered to take him to his douar. Francois did not need coaxing and straightaway followed his new master. Henceforth he abandoned European clothing and dressed like an Arab. He received the name of Si Hassen until one day, he was pressed to marry a Muslim. He refused and left the Arab’s house. At the time of the famine, Boulac, now twenty-three years old, went to Lavigerie and offered his services. I am a Frenchman and a Christian, he told him. To the prelate’s reply, “I have not a lot of confidence in you,” he pleaded,” All the same, try me, Monseigneur, if I cannot satisfy you, you are always free to send me away.” Francois was accepted and there was every reason for Lavigerie to be pleased with him. He settled in well among the orphans of Ben Aknoun, getting them to sing and encouraging them as well as he could. He rendered services to them like shaving their heads to get rid of nits or curing the many who suffered from ringworm. When the novitiate opened at Maison Rostan, Lavigerie sent him there. He was very useful to the Bursar with his knowledge of both the Algerian dialect and local customs.
Lavigerie also attached four orphans to the service of the house. The novices were expected to speak Arabic with them during their recreation. In order to give even more opportunity for language study, the Archbishop sent away the Jesuits from Ben Aknoun, and confided the spiritual ministry of the orphanage to the young missionaries.
Radio Canada – Sunday 11:45 am – Interview (in French) of our confrere Gilles Barrette by Michel Désautels on the 150 years of presence in Africa.
“Founded in 1868 by the French Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, the Missionaries of Africa community, better known as the White Fathers, sent emissaries to Montreal and Quebec City in 1875 to seek funding. This is the beginning of a great adventure that will see more than 650 Canadian fathers and brothers dressed in white cassocks to carry the ideals of humanist Christianity to Africa. Michel Désautels receives the former provincial superior of the Missionaries of Africa, Father Gilles Barrette.”
7th reflection text taken from the documents of our two Societies.
“Fraternity and Fight Against Racism” (1985)
Missionaries by vocation, we married Africa and the East by taking our oath. Our own mission is to welcome, understand, respect and love Africans wherever they may be, and to share our convictions with others throughout our lives, “to the point of death,” our oath states. Apostolic action in international communities has already helped us to overcome narrow nationalism. Life in Africa has formed us in the esteem of what is foreign to our original culture. The entry of young Africans into our Missionary Society is in the same perspective. We must be consistent with our life-long commitment. We must go further, at least if we want to remain in the line drawn for us by our founder, Cardinal Lavigerie, who wrote from Algiers: “I am a bishop, that is to say a father, and although those for whom I plead here do not give me this title, I love them as my sons, and I seek to prove it to them, happy, if I cannot communicate my faith to them, at least to exercise charity towards these creatures of God. “We are his sons, responsible for his heritage, living witnesses of his fruitfulness. His action and his Instructions to the Missionaries show us the way forward.
Cardinal Lavigerie could not bear the injustice and suffering that so many Africans suffered in his time. After a period of charitable action (buying back slaves to free them), the Cardinal embarked on an international campaign that today could be described as a “struggle for human rights”. Among other things, he wrote to the Christians of Sicily: “In pleading the cause of so many unfortunate, I have in view only the salvation of their bodies and souls, that respect for justice, the laws of nature and the laws of God, according to which all men are equal, are free, are brothers, and must treat themselves as such, whatever their origin and colour. Have you, Catholics of Sicily, forgotten the rule of Christian solidarity? Do you no longer know that when one member suffers in the immense body of humanity, all the others owe it to him to sympathize?”
The Cardinal increased his interventions with the political authorities and pointed out to them that the measures they took “were insufficient because they reached only those who sold, and not those who bought”. He assures that he could give names and, comparing the sufferings of slaves to Christ’s passion, he continues: “There is nothing missing, neither Herod nor Pilates, nor Judas, nor the cruelty of floggings nor cowardly insults, nor the cross.” (…) Lavigerie has always had a great respect for African people, languages, cultures and traditions; his action was to restore their dignity to Africans. In this also he was the disciple of Christ who gave a place to the excluded of Jewish society of his time. Today, we are called to do the same, in another time and in the face of other tragedies. This is why: A missionary from Africa cannot be racist, whether in welcoming foreigners in community, in conversations or reactions in front of television, in the choice of newspapers or publications to which he subscribes or subscribes the community. A missionary from Africa must have a positive look at the men and women of the Third World, whether they are ‘there’ or ‘here’. He must be attentive to their sufferings, to their hunger for bread and friendship, to understand their aspirations to take control of their own destiny and the legitimate means they give themselves to achieve it.
(Letter from the Provincial Council of France to the French confreres, in Le Lien, May-June 1985)
Text prepared by Jean-Claude Ceillier
Published in the Mini-lien nr 475