I saw the body of Benedict XVI

The word of the Lord remains forever

Reginald Cruz

“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Pet. 1:24-25

These words of Scripture resonated in me when I saw the body of Benedict XVI. The death of any Pope would offer faithful people a moment of retrospection, even if the greyness of his embalmed body gave the air a slightly darker touch.

A steady stream of people lined up before the late Pope Emeritus. Many seemed to be tourists lucky enough to be in Rome, content to commemorate the event with their mobile phones. Yet there were those visibly affected by the loss of this “painfully introverted” theologian but great erudite, once feared as God’s rottweiler.

Joseph Ratzinger was not – as many have wrongly claimed – overly eager to occupy the See of Peter. Aware of the limits of his administrative skills, he was constantly learning to become a Pope. This self-awareness is the basis of his most incredible legacy to the Church: the deep humility to recognize and accept what neither mind nor body can ever understand and the willingness to hand over the Papal See. So it is that Benedict XVI was a servant of Christ and a herald of the Word of the Father who lives forever.

 

Mass for Cardinal Richard BAAWOBR

Communication

A Mass for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Richard K. BAAWOBR will take place on Monday, 5 December 2022, at 11 a.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica. It will be presided by Cardinal Giovanni Battista RE.

The funeral will be held in his Diocese of Wa in Ghana.

Rome, 29th November 2022

André-L. Simonart,
Secretary General

Cardinal Richard Baawobr / Return to the Celestial Father

With sadness and pain we hereby inform you of the return to the heavenly Father of Cardinal Richard Baawobr which occurred today, Sunday, 27 November 2022. Our confrere was taken by ambulance from the Generalate to the Gemelli Hospital at 5.45pm and we received the sad news at 6.25pm. May Richard rest in the peace of his Lord whom he so generously served. On behalf of the bereaved Society. Our prayer and our thoughts go also to his family, to his diocese, his fellow bishops, to all his friends and acquaintances.

Rome, 27th November 2022

André-Léon Simonart,
Secretary General.

To express your condolences:
baawobr.condolences@mafr.org

Our confreres in the North of Ethiopia

Our confreres in the North of Ethiopia

As we all have heard or read, on the early morning of the 24th August 2022 the war in the northern part of Ethiopia started again, just six months after the official ceasefire. A message from the Section Superior dated 26th August informed the Council that the day before, on 23rd, the confreres in Ethiopia managed to have Brother Clayb flown out from Mikelle. Brother Clayb and Father Sabu had remained in Adigrat throughout the war and chose to remain out of solidarity with the people when the fighting ceased. Confreres have also arranged for Clayb to go home to the Philippines and rejoin his mother and the whole family who have all been very worried about him. Clayb will then have the time to mourn the death of his father who passed away in July 2021. In a message to the Superior General dated 1st September he explained briefly the situation of the orphans and of the employees at the home and wrote : “Famine is a reality. Most people can only afford to have a meal a day. I tried my best to provide the children with two regular meals per day… In spite of the various challenges, Ethiopia remains a wonderful place to be a missionary.” Two confreres are still in the North of the country, Father Sabu in Adigrat and Father Angel in Wukro. We remember them to the Lord, commend them to the care of our confreres and pray for peace in Ethiopia.

A.L. Simonart, Secretary General

Another confrere created Cardinal

Another confrere created Cardinal

“In absentia” for the imposition of the red biretta and the cardinal’s ring, our confrere Richard Kuuia Baawobr was created a cardinal by Pope Francis during the consistory for the creation of new cardinals which took place in the basilica of St. Peter in Rome on Saturday 27 August 2022. The last Missionary of Africa to be created a cardinal was our confrere Michael Fitzgerald.

In his sermon during the ceremony, the Pope focused on the double image of fire: fire as the powerful flame of the Spirit and the fire of embers like the campfire lit by Jesus on the banks of Lake Galilee. For him and for all the Cardinals, the Pope insisted, this double fire of Jesus, bright fire and gentle fire, “reminds us that a man of apostolic zeal is moved by the fire of the Spirit to take courageous care of things, great and small”. In conclusion, the Bishop of Rome invited the universal Church to pray for the Bishop of Wa, who could not physically participate in this celebration due to hospitalisation following a heart problem.

In the same spirit of prayer, the Holy Mass of Thanksgiving scheduled for Sunday 28 August 2022 was celebrated in the large chapel of our Generalate and animated by the Ghanaian community of Rome. Peter Cardinal Turkson presided at this Eucharistic celebration in place of Cardinal Baawobr who was hospitalised at the Ospedale Santo Spirito in Rome.

Many people, bishops, confreres, friends, and even a delegation from the Ghanaian government, had come to participate in this event. Thus, our chapel vibrated to Ghanaian melodies and shone with the colours of this beautiful country formerly called Gold Coast.

Corroborating the message of the Pope’s sermon, Cardinal Turkson focused his homily on the theme of humility and service. Humility understood as a relational virtue with God, with all humanity and with all of God’s creation. It is in this humility that we are called to serve one another.

Our Superior General, Father Stan Lubungo, who had welcomed everyone to the Eucharistic celebration, reminded us at the end of the Mass of the importance of not insisting on visiting Cardinal Baawobr in hospital because what he needed most was rest and prayer. The coordination established by the Society for this purpose should be followed.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, the agape was shared in the beautiful garden of our house in a spirit of brotherhood.

May Christ who chose Cardinal Baawobr be favourable to our prayers and give him good health for the greater glory of God.

Serge Boroto, M.Afr.

Jubilee 25 years of Oath in Rome

Jubilee of 25 years

All the Missionaries of Africa – Sisters, Fathers and Brothers – throughout the world were celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception of our Lady on Wednesday the 8th of December. However, in Rome, the celebration was grandiose, as three confreres (and not the least) were celebrating their 25-year jubilee of oaths and a White Sister her 25-year jubilee of vows. Fathers Stan Lubungo, Steven Ofonikot and Stéphane Joulain, for the confreres and Sister Maria-Carmen Ocón Moreno, who is in the General Council of the MSOLA. The mass was very well attended by all the confreres and the White Sisters present in Rome, as well as the elder sister of Sr Maria-Carmen and her family. Our confrere, Bishop Claude Rault, happened to be passing through Rome, and so the ceremony took another level of solemnity. During the celebration, each of the four jubilarians gave a testimony and confirmed their intention to carry on the Mission of Christ to the African World.

I am grateful for the last 25 years of my missionary life. During that time, I have been confronted to the suffering of people living in difficult situations, the Palestinian and Israeli populations, the migrants in France and the victims of sexual abuse, and even more in Canada and Rome. What I’ve received is the grace to see that even in the darkest places of human sufferings, there is always a little flame of God’s presence which is burning, ready to enflame each one of us.

Stéphane Joulain

I thank God for the gift of the past 25 years of staying focused and glued to the one who calls me. Seeing him in the people he sends me – the HIV victims in Bamako, the English-speaking prisoners, in San and Bamako, representing the beautiful women on the street, in the courts and police stations, teaching children to write and read the Bambara language… Like in this beautiful song Amazing Grace, I say: “This grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me on”.

Steve Ofonikot

My 25 years of missionary life have been characterised by encounter and fraternity first from within the Society, through the members of the different communities I have lived in but also with the different people the mission has allowed me to come in contact with. Living in and working among international and intercultural communities has been a very enriching experience. I pray and hope that the many people I have met wherever I have been will remember something of an apostle of Jesus in me.

Stanley Lubungo

My soul continues to glorifies You Lord 25 years later…

My soul proclaims today the greatness of God,
of the Living God.
My spirit rejoices in Jesus, the Emmanuel,
Your human face.

Because you have visited me in my emptiness,
penetrating my inner-self, gently,
like the rain falling into the earth.

Because you have always looked at me with tenderness,
lifting me up of my nothingness.
Anointing me with fragrances of
joy, simplicity and fulness of life.

Because with the strength of your transforming energy
You have done in me marvellous things;
by allowing me to give and share
of what I even did not think I had.
By receiving even from where apparently there was nothing.
By stretching my heart to the ends of your Creation.

Today, together with all those who have preceded me,
together with all those who have shared with me
these 25 years of my life as Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa,
I can proclaim Your fidelity, Your unconditional love
for each one of Your creatures.

Thank you for in Your Immensity
You chose to make Yourself
Into our human size.

Maria-Carmen Ocón Moreno

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon at the Generalate

On 25th May 2021 Fr. Stanley Lubungo, Superior General, hosted at the Generalate in Rome a meeting presided by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the Prime Minister’s Envoy for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict and Minister for Human Rights  who was accompanied by the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy. Were also present Sr. Sheila Kinsey, FCJM, Executive Co-Secretary JPIC Commission, John Dardis, SJ, and a few other people. Lord Ahmed gave an overview and update on the Declaration of Humanity by Leaders of Faiths and Leaders of Beliefs and the UK priorities in terms of the effort to end sexual violence in conflict. Our confrere Bernard Ugeux has been actively involved in the campaign Preventing sexual violence in conflict and contributed to the drafting of the above mentioned declaration.

Homily of the Superior General on the 8th December

Homily of the Superior General on the 8th December

“Under the protection of Mary Immaculate Queen of Africa”

As all the Missionaries of Africa, as well as theirs sisters, the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, were celebrating, throughout the world,  the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, official feast of our two institutes, the two communities of Rome were celebrating around the two Superiors General and their council. Here is the homily given on the day by Father Stan Lubungo.

The 8th of December we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in communion with the whole Church. It is also the Patron Feast of our Society and that of our Sisters, the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Africa because our Founder had, in the early years of our history, placed our two institutes under the protection of Mary Immaculate Queen of Africa. On this occasion, our community of the Generalate is in communion of prayer with all our confreres wherever they are in the world entrusting them to the intercession of our Lady whom we invoke as our protector. As disciples of Jesus, we welcome the Virgin Mary as our mother to whom Jesus presented us as her children (See John 19:26). Like all our good mothers, the Virgin Mary faithfully provides us with the maternal care she had for her son Jesus. As we celebrate our Patron Feast, we also contemplate our brotherhood with Jesus with whom we are, as his disciples, sons of Mary.

The Immaculate Conception of Mary is one of those teachings of the Church that we have difficulties to establish clearly from the Scriptures. Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38) invites more a reflection on the virginal conception of Jesus than it does on the Immaculate conception of his mother. However, it seems to me that the second reading (Ephesians), that doesn’t mention the Virgin Mary, provides us with a possible, significant and interesting ground to capture the meaning of today’s feast, not only for the Virgin Mary but for all of us but too. It would be useless for us to be celebrating the Virgin Mary for her own sake and today’s feast not having anything to do with us.

In the perspective offered by the Second Reading, Mary participates in the eternal will of God who “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love”. It comes out more strongly in French: “Il nous a choisis, dans le Christ, avant la fondation du monde, pour que nous soyons saints, immaculés devant lui, dans l’amour !”. Far from being anything exclusively reserved to the Virgin Mary, the call to be holy and blameless, the Immaculate Conception seems, from before the foundations of the world, to be intended for all.

Our experience is different, though. Ours is the experience of the first reading (Genesis 3:9-15. 20). It is an experience marked by sin, by disobedience to God’s will that can be traced down to our ancestors Adam and Eve. Fortunately, today’s feast is here to remind us that God did not abandon us in the sin, so to speak, we inherited with Eve, the mother of all who live (and with Adam the father of all who live). With Mary, the new Eve as Irene of Lyon referred to her, there is a somewhat new creation. This is quite striking. Studies in Mariology demonstrate enough how in the Virgin Mary, God establishes a new beginning. Renowned Theologians of Mary agree that the Gospel according to Luke describes the beginnings of the life of Jesus almost totally in Old Testament terms, in order to show from within, that the Jesus event is the accomplishment of what Israel was hoping for. Indeed the words with which the Angel greets Mary are closely related to those used by the prophet Zephaniah addressing the redeemed Jerusalem of the eschatological times (Zephaniah 3: 14 – Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion, shout O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart O daughter Jerusalem!) In the pericope of the Gospel proposed today, Luke equally takes up words of blessing which were used to greet famous women of Israel like Judith to whom Uzziah says: O Daughter, you are blessed by the Most high God above all other women; and blessed be the Lord God, who created heaven and earth (See Judges 5:24; Jdt 13:18).

The Virgin Mary is such portrayed as the Holy Rest of Israel, the real Zion to whom everyone looked up with hope amidst the miseries of their history. In the Gospel of Saint Luke begins the new Israel with Mary. She is the “daughter of Zion” in whom God establishes a new beginning. Mary comes across as the mother of all who are called to live in Jesus Christ.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary reveals the fulfilment of God’s project for humanity to be holy and blameless through Jesus Christ. Isn’t the Virgin Mary the perfect example of what each one of us is called to be? Unlike Eve, she is obedient to the will of God. Mary is not only for us to venerate, but a model of life. In modelling our lives on hers, we will fulfil our vocation as human beings, called to be holy by remaining attentive and obedient to the will of God and through our steadfastness in the faith.

Stanley Lubungo, M.Afr

Many confreres made their oath on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Happy feastday to all. Among those, our Superior General, Stan Lubungo, ans Stephen Ofonikot, who celebrated 24 years of Missionary Oath.

Cardinal’s Day 2020

Cardinal’s Day 2020

Ten days from the Feast of the Society, the anniversary of Cardinal Lavigerie’s death is always an occasion to give the first place to the one who had the vision for our Mission. Father André-Léon Simonart gave us the homily during the Solemn mass of Cardinal’s Day.

As Qohelet says: There is a time for everything under heaven. We have gone through a time of preparation for the jubilee of our missionary institutes. We have had some beautiful celebrations. Now the time has come for apostolic action. It is the time for the commitments that our missionary institutes are embarking upon, as a follow-up of our Jubilee celebrations, to be realised. Such commitments have two major characteristics. They are inspired and motivated by our charism and they are intended as a response to appeals and challenges coming especially from Africa.  

I single out three such commitments. The first one is at the level of “our common home” as Pope Francis likes to call our world. It is an ambitious project of the whole Church, spread over seven years and meant to foster an integral ecology. Here we work with many other congregations and local Churches, with people of good will, all taking part in the campaign “Laudato sí in action”. Andreas and the General Council shared about it.

The second is about to be realised as the first White Sisters and the first confreres have started to move. It is the project that our institutes chose to mark our jubilee in a meaningful apostolic way. It is a project of the two institutes together. It is about being on the margins, among refugees in the north of Uganda.

The third project, specific to each of our two institutes, concerns the further appropriation of the charism that Cardinal Lavigerie bequeathed to us.

During the Plenary Council, last November, in Kampala, Brother Reginald, a Xaverian brother, made a brilliant presentation on charism. At the end he left us with four questions. The first is about spirituality. What are the different spiritualities, he asked, behind Cardinal Lavigerie’s spiritual intuitions? The second refers to personal dispositions. Reginald put it this way: According to Cardinal Lavigerie, what should the dispositions be of those who want to follow Christ as Missionaries of Africa? The third is about our identity, about who we are in front of Jesus, our one and only love. And the last one is about the practical consequences of the two previous questions: how does a M.Afr. organise his daily life, what is his lifestyle?

As we celebrate Cardinal’s Day, let us recollect ourselves before one or the other of these questions. It is true that our mission is a bit special. We are here either to study and likely to prepare ourselves for a new task, or we are here for helping with the general administration of our institutes. All the same, all of us we are engaged in mission.

Let us recall what our founder wanted our identity to be as missionaries and apostles. The question is not the one Jesus put to Peter when he asked him “who am I for you”, but “who am I for Jesus? Who am I in front of Jesus?” Starting out from there, we may then like to see with which inner dispositions, in which spirit, we are to assume the tasks and responsibilities which are ours today.

The Gospel of this celebration helps us to recall who we are for Christ and the first reading reminds us of the apostolic ideal of Saint Paul, an ideal our Founder Cardinal Lavigerie reminded us of so often and which he himself lived by so generously. Let us ask him to obtain this grace for us. 

Amen.