General Council’s Fuori Roma in Castelfranco Veneto

The General Council met from 28th January to 3rd February for an intensive working session away from its usual Roman surroundings. This time, we were warmly welcomed by the Missionaries of Africa community in Castelfranco Veneto for our Fuori Roma (Outside Rome), and each day revolved around two working sessions, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

Wednesday 31st January saw a welcome break in our busy programme. Accompanied by our confrere Luigi Lazzarato and permanent deacon Mario, we travelled to Schio to pay homage to Saint Josephine Bakhita. Saint Bakhita, once a slave in Sudan, found her way to freedom and faith and became a nun in the Congregation of the Canossian Daughters of Charity in Italy. We started our pilgrimage with a time of personal prayer at the saint’s tomb. Angela Sartori, fdcc, a former missionary in the Congo, was kind enough to guide us through the chapel, the museum and the saint’s bedroom. It was much more than a simple visit. It was a precious opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the miraculous life of the saint. Sister Angela’s fervent words transformed the experience into authentic catechesis. We were moved by Bakhita’s stories and her unshakeable devotion to God despite her trials. Saint Bakhita said: ” I never despaired when I was a slave, even in the depths of discouragement and sadness, because I felt a mysterious force within me that sustained me. I didn’t die because the good Lord had destined me for “better things”. And I finally came to know the God I had always felt in my heart since I was a little girl, without knowing who he was”. Guided by faith and the desire to learn from her example, we offered prayers for our personal needs and our missionary Society as a whole. As a Society dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel and promoting justice and peace, we found in Saint Bakhita a model of strength, resilience and compassion. We brought relics of Saint Josephine Bakhita from Schio to the Generalate. These relics, imbued with her holiness and blessing, will constantly remind us of her presence.

Thursday, 1st February, was dedicated by the Missionaries of Africa community in Castelfranco Veneto for the celebration of the anniversaries of the priestly ordination of our dear confreres Fausto Guazzati, Luigi Lazzarato, Giancarlo Pirazzo and Alberto Rovelli as a special day of thanksgiving and gratitude to the Lord for their missionary life.

The evening of Friday, 2nd February, the last day of our Fuori Roma in Castelfranco Veneto, was marked by a celebration with local religious men and women to honour the day of prayer for consecrated life. This particular day, observed on the Solemnity of the Presentation of the Lord, was an opportunity to reflect on the gift of consecrated life to God and to renew our commitment. After Mass in the cathedral, we joined the religious men and women of Castelfranco Veneto for a fraternal meal. The sisters of the Disciples of the Gospel generously opened their doors to welcome us, thus creating a space for communion and sharing where we strengthened our bonds of fraternity. We shared a meal, smiles and prayers, creating precious memories that will stay with us long after we leave Castelfranco Veneto.

We are grateful to our confreres from Castelfranco Veneto for their warm welcome and generosity, and we pray that the fraternal bond we shared will continue to unite us in prayer and missionary service to God and our brothers and sisters.

By: Pawel Hulecki (M. Afr.) General Assistant

Is Systemic Transformation Feasible?

JPIC Mission: Systemic Transformation for the Common Good of all Creation

The title of my reflection embodies a question to be asked after a training session on systemic transformation. From 22-26 January 2024, the Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Rome (JPIC Roma), organized an online training for new JPIC Promotors. It was under the theme JPIC Mission: Systemic Transformation for the Common Good of all Creation. The mentioned online capacity-building workshop brought together religious men and women from all continents. Various topics such as “The need for systemic transformation in today’s world”; “A biblical foundation of social transformation: prophetic responses”; “Gender and social justice as strategies for systemic transformation”; “Integral Ecology and the urgency of an ecological conversion: environmental rights”; “Economic justice as a priority for the Global South”, “The United Nations and Human Rights systems, and participations of Religious”; etc., were discussed. Various contributors enlightened the participants.

The Missionaries of Africa were not left out. In addition to being part of the organizing committee, they also shared their knowledge and convictions with the participants. Guy Theunis brought in a Biblical Foundation of Social Transformation, Elvis Ng’andwe shared about the Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights and Prosper Harelimana talked about Gender issues and social justice. About 23 Missionaries of Africa, particularly involved in the ministry of Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation, Encounter and Dialogue (JPIC-ED) in Asia, America, Africa and Europe participated in the training. Their well-reasoned-out thoughts and contributions enriched both the speakers and the participants.

Is Systemic Transformation feasible? Working for systemic change while the rich nations maintain the monopoly of the global economy, political power and influence is difficult. Nonetheless, it is possible. First, by empowering the people at the grassroots level. People need quality education which will boost their confidence to use well the available local resources. Second, by urging political leaders “to walk the talk”. It is not enough to be vested with power and authority. Politics should be at the service of the common good. Third, as religious, missionaries and evangelizers, we should dare to challenge the “status quo”. The world we live in is no longer monopolar; it is multipolar. We need to understand the systems that govern it. Hence, our evangelizing mission needs to update itself by reading ‘the signs of the times’. In this way, we will be able “[…] to provide a response to new problems and to react with global mechanisms to the environmental, public health, cultural and social challenges, especially in order to consolidate respect for the most elementary human rights, social rights and the protection of our common home.” (Laudate Deum, 42).

What next? The last session of the JPIC Roma workshop focused on the way forward. Each participant was asked to identify one or two social problems and generate a plan to address them, based on the 7 Laudato Si’ Goals. The presentation of JPIC plans, inspired by the Congregation’s charism will be held on March 11 and 12, 2024.  

It is worth noting that the JPIC Roma Commission belongs to the Union of Superiors General (USG) and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). In the light of the Gospel, it aims at transforming the world. Furthermore, it promotes justice, peace and care for the integrity of creation.

The Missionaries of Africa do not claim expertise in the matters of justice, peace and integrity of creation. However, the history of our Society shows that our contribution towards systemic transformation is far from being underestimated. Most of us are doing tremendous missionary work at the grassroots: family, Christian community, parish and diocesan levels. The just-ended workshop adds value to our transformative ministry of Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation, Encounter and Dialogue (JPIC-ED). We are resolved to continue the good work that the Spirit of the Lord started in us. We wholeheartedly want to promote Lavigerie’s legacy of upholding human dignity.

By Prosper Harelimana (M.Afr.)

Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church

Why Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church, and why should we celebrate it?

Every 2nd of February the Catholic Church celebrates the presentation of Jesus in the temple, which is equally the celebration of the consecrated life. This celebration is often limited to men and women who have devoted their lives to serve God as religious. In a few dioceses this particular day for the religious is celebrated, though often with a minimal participation of the laity. One could ask: is the feast of the consecrated life ‘something’ only for the religious? How should the entire Church celebrate this feast and, in this way, feel part of this all-important celebration of the Church when it is generally seen as a feast for just a group of people?

Pope John Paul II on the Consecrated Life

Pope St. John-Paul II in his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, succinctly defined the consecrated life as “a life “deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord and a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By the profession of the evangelical counsels, the characteristic features of Jesus – the chaste, poor and obedient one – are made constantly “visible” in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realisation in heaven” (Vita Consecrata 1).

Pope John-Paul II, after having convened this synod, wrote this Apostolic Exhortation to remind all the faithful of what consecrated life means, not just for the religious considered as consecrated men and women, but also to make everyone understand profoundly that the consecrated life is a gift to the whole universal Church.

The Consecrated Life: a Gift to the Church

The consecrated life according to John Paul-II is first of all a gift. It is a gift because “its universal presence and the evangelical nature of its witness are clear evidence, if any were needed, that the consecrated life is not something isolated and marginal, but a reality which affects the whole Church.” The gift is special to the Church because it is a “life which has not only proved a help and support for the Church in the past, but is also a precious and necessary gift for the present and future of the People of God, since it is an intimate part of her life, her holiness and her mission.”

The religious life is a precious gift of inestimable value in the Church because of its uniqueness, indeed it is a treasure enriching the Church. Thus, by its various charisms and apostolates, the kingdom of God is made alive, visible and present in our world today. Just as Jesus was offered in the temple, the consecrated life is celebrated by the Church as the self-giving of all consecrated persons (in particular), but also of all the faithful by virtue of their baptism.

Today the Church celebrates the consecrated men and women who, over the years, have played immeasurable roles in the mission of the Church. John-Paul II stated that the faithful in the Church are reassured because they know that they can draw, from the contribution of these generous souls, powerful support for their journey towards the heavenly home.

Why do we Celebrate the Feast of Consecrated Life?

Though on the 2nd of February we celebrate especially the men and women who have said ‘Yes’ to the Lord in a unique form of life valued by the Church, it is, at the same time, a universal feast of the Church and therefore the whole Church is celebrating. This feast enables the Church to celebrate the gift of God to the Church through charisms, apostolates, and pastoral activities in education, health, orphanage homes,   Internally displaced people (IDPs), care for the marginalized and victims of trafficking etc., for the sake of the proclamation of God’s Kingdom. As a Missionary of Africa, we do not only celebrate our identity that day, we also celebrate our commitment to the Mission in Africa, promotion of justice and peace and the integrity of creation, appreciating the human values we share with our Muslim brothers and sisters as well as striving for Christian unity.

Who should Celebrate the Feast of the Consecrated Life?

The celebration of the 2nd of February should be an event for the whole community since the consecrated life is a gift to the Church. It should enable the faithful to understand deeply what this gift entails. Hence, it should be celebrated at different levels, diocesan, deanery, parishes, schools and community. This is a celebration that enables the people of God to be informed because we bring to their knowledge the various missionary activities of the consecrated men and women in the Church and how the Church is enriched by their presence. It is an opportunity for interaction with them, thereby creating an awareness of the need for more labourers in the vineyard. This celebration fosters proximity with the faithful and broadens their knowledge of the consecrated life, making them understand how they too can support and collaborate in the mission.

Just like the ministerial priesthood, celebrated on Holy Thursday, is a gift not just to priests only, but to the universal Church because it is a ministry of service enjoyed by the entire Church, so in like manner on the 2nd of February the entire Church celebrates the gift of men and women who have consecrated their lives for the sake of the kingdom. It is a universal celebration, because these men and women are committed to various kinds of missionary activities through the spread of the gospel of Christ.

By: Toby NDIUKWU (M.Afr.)

Missionaries of Africa celebrate the release of their confrere Ha-Jo

Celebration of the release of our confrere Ha-Jo as a missionary family

An evening of gratitude and joy reigned at the Generalate today, 18 January 2024, when the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa gathered for a Mass of thanksgiving. The reason for this special celebration was twofold: the release of our confrere Ha-Jo and the presence of Father Pier Luigi (Gigi) Maccalli SMA, himself held in captivity in Niger for more than two years before being released in October 2020.

The Superior General, Father Stanley Lubungo MAfr, presided over the Mass, accompanied by Ha-Jo and Father Luigi. Their presence was a witness to faith and resilience, symbolising the strength of the spirit and the power of prayer in the most sombre of times.

In his homily, the Superior General underlined Ha-Jo’s moving witness, highlighting the strength of his personal experience shared with the community of the Generalate a day earlier. In his witness, Ha-Jo transformed his difficult ordeal into an experience of grace, describing his kidnapping as a sabbatical time and a time of profound spiritual growth.

The Superior General spoke of the often neglected reality of suffering in missionary life. Citing biblical passages and recalling the life of Christ, he said: Can it be any different when Jesus the Master of the Mission himself suffered and did not promise an easy life to his apostles? In the same spirit, Father Stanley recalled that our founder, Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, had warned from the outset that the mission entailed risks and asked missionaries to be ready for anything, including martyrdom. Hence the need for courage, faith and self-sacrifice in the mission in Africa, which is still a risky undertaking.

This evening’s Eucharist was a celebration of new life and renewed faith, and a reminder that the apostolic mission is not without its challenges, but always accompanied by the grace of God, who is present even in the darkest moments. After the mass, an atmosphere of fraternity reigned as we shared a meal and a cake.

You will find below the Superior General’s homily on the occasion of this thanksgiving mass and some photos of this moving event.

Download the homily of Reverend Father Stanley Lubungo M.Afr. (Superior General)

Pawel Hulecki M.Afr. (Assistant General)

Ha-Jo, Dominic and Paul  17/1/24

Bearing witness to Christ whatever the cost!

Ha-Jo, Dominic and Paul

Témoigner du Christ

It was not God’s will that Joseph should be sold by his brothers, nor was it God’s will that the three confreres should be abducted, but God can use such events for his loving plan for the world. Who knows if I was not more useful in captivity than physically present!

This 17th January 2024 was an unprecedented day at the Generalate and for the whole Society of Missionaries of Africa with the testimonies of our stagiaire Dominic Merikiori Mahinini and our confreres Hans-Joachim Lohre (Ha-Jo) and Paul Sanogo. This took place during a conference of thanksgiving and testimony, both face-to-face and online. It was followed by members of our two institutes (Missionaries of Africa and Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa). On Zoom there were more than 215 connections, without taking into account those who were connected not as a single person but as a community. Meanwhile, the Chapter Hall was fully packed; Ha-Jo, who is visiting Rome, brought together the confreres and sisters who are present in Rome. Paul and Dominic gave their testimonies online from Mali and Tanzania respectively. The Superior General, Stanley Lubungo, who sat next to Ha-Jo, moderated the conference with great emotion. Dominic and Paul were kidnapped in Nigeria for 21 days from 2nd to 22nd August 2023. Ha-Jo was abducted in Mali from 20th November 2022 to 26th November 2023, a total of 371 days.

In their testimonies, Dominic and Paul spoke of the torture they endured, starting in their community house from which they were captured and continuing throughout their captivity in the forest. Prayer was their only support, and this strengthened their faith. During this conference, they reiterated their gratitude for the prayers that accompanied them from all over the world. They are grateful for the care and support they received after such an experience.

Ha-Jo joined his younger brothers by opening his testimony with thanksgiving. The word thank you would sum up his sharing. Thank you for the daily fervent prayers and spiritual support: “I have never felt abandoned, I have never been afraid and I know that I do not owe that to my little faith, but it is thanks to you, thanks to your prayers that the Lord has converted into consolation for me”.

Ha-Jo described his time in captivity, from the abduction to his release, in several stages, starting with a 5-week stay in the Sahel bush, a stay in the desert in the sands, then another stay in the stones, thorns and wadis. Throughout the period of his abduction, Ha-Jo was not tortured. However, he felt dependent and stripped of everything except his faith in Jesus Christ. So he gave a sense of spiritual retreat to his rapture in the desert. Ha-Jo affirms that the fact that he was released after a year is proof that prayers serve a purpose. He was abducted on Christ the King Sunday in 2022 and was released on Christ the King Sunday 2023, which coincided with the anniversary of Cardinal Lavigerie’s death, Founder’s Day.

Ha-Jo confessed that the story of Joseph, son of Jacob in the book of Genesis, accompanied him throughout his captivity. His explanation would also apply to Dominic and Paul: it was not God’s will that Joseph should be sold by his brothers, nor was it God’s will that the three confreres should be abducted, but God can use such events for his loving plan for the world. So Ha-Jo asks himself: who knows if I was not more useful for inter-religious dialogue in captivity than physically present in Bamako?

Each testimony ended with a round of applause. It was such a moving conference that the Superior General concluded by inviting everyone to observe a moment of silence to interiorise the missionary exhortations heard.

Serge Zihalirwa Boroto

The Holy Father appoints Reverend Father Emmanuel Ngona Ngotsi, as Bishop of the Diocese of Wamba (RDC)

Bulletin of 17 January 2023 at midday in Rome from the Vatican Press Office

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ngona Ngotsi, M.Afr.
Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ngona Ngotsi, M.Afr.

The Holy Father has appointed Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ngona Ngotsi, M.Afr., hitherto Provincial Superior of the Missionaries of Africa – Central Africa Province, as Bishop of the Diocese of Wamba (Democratic Republic of Congo).

Curriculum vitae

H.E. Mgr. Emmanuel Ngona Ngotsi was born on 1 January 1960 in Bambu-Mines, in the Diocese of Bunia (Democratic Republic of Congo). He studied Philosophy in Bambu-Mines, and, after an internship in Burkina Faso, Theology at the Institut Catholique de Toulouse. He joined the Missionaries of Africa in Bambu-Mines and was ordained a priest on 22 August 1990 in Fataki, Bunia.

He held the following positions and pursued further studies: Parish Vicar (1990-1994) and then Parish Priest (1994-1996) in Birni N’koni in Niger; Licentiate in Social Sciences at the Institut Catholique de Paris (1996-1999); Parish Priest in Zinder in Niger (1999-2004); Delegate to the General Chapter in Rome (2004); Assistant Provincial in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso (2005-2008); Rector of the White Fathers’ Philosophate in Ouagadougou (2008-2009); Provincial in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2009-2010); Member of the General Council of the Missionaries of Africa in Rome (2010-2016). Since 2017 he has been Provincial Superior of the Missionaries of Africa in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. He is a member at the same time of the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors of the Archdiocese of Bukavu.

The Liberation of Father Hans-Joachim Lohre

Official Communication

Father Hans-Joachim Lohre, Missionary of Africa, was released on Sunday, 26th November 2023, and is currently in Germany. We thank God for his release after one year and six days in captivity. We are very grateful to all those who, by their prayers, hastened this release and accompanied us with their friendship and affection. May God bless them all.

We wish our confrere Ha-Jo a good rest and look forward to communicating with him in person in the near future.

Rome, 30 November 2023

André-L. Simonart (M.Afr.), General Secretary