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.
Today we celebrated Cardinal’s Day, remembering the day when our Founder died. Father Ian Buckmaster gave a very interesting homily during mass, which I asked him to reproduce here.
Today, at about one o’clock in the morning 1892, Charles Martial Allemand Cardinal Lavigerie, Archbishop of Carthage and Algiers, Apostolic Prefect of Ghardaia and Primate of Africa, died. He had been ill for some time during 1892. But on the 24th November, his health suddenly grew worse. he became paralysed, the following day he received the sacrament of the sick and, as they say, began his final agony. Those present included the Coadjutor Archbishop of Algiers Prosper Dusserre, Bishop Livinhac, Mother Salome, Frs Delattre and Michel. His sister to whom he was very attached arrived in time for the funeral with two nephews. His last letter, written on the 23rd November, was to do with liberation of slaves and their care after being released. We commend the great apostle to the mercy of God, and we give thanks for his great missionary endeavour in proclaiming the Gospel to the african nations.
In 1992, the Irish Province organised a seminar on Racism: a growing challenge to Christians, in the context of Maynooth Mission Day. There were a number of quite radical contributions. However I would like to draw attention to the opening address by Cardinal Cahal Daly, who was the Archbishop of Armagh at the time. He knew the White Fathers because we had a house for mission and vocation work in his Diocese. He also allowed four of his priests to come to Chipata Diocese in 1981 and it was there he met the White Fathers on the ground, so to speak. When the province decided to organise and host this seminar, it was natural that we should think of him to deliver the opening address. He inviuted me to give him some information on the man himself, which I was happy to do. When he asked me if we were going to start a canonisation process, I more or less told him “not in your life”. This was 1992. Nobody at the time thought of Lavigerie as a great spiritual master until Dominique Nothomb wrote a book called “Cardinal Lavigerie: a spiritual master” in 1998. Here are a few extracts from Cardinal Daly and you can see what he thoughts of my comments.
I am glad to have this opportunity to pay tribute to Cardinal Lavigerie and his work for God‘s Kingdom and to the White Fathers and White Sisters. Cardinal Lavigerie died one hundred years ago this year. While his spiritual sons and daughters, the Missionaries of Africa, modestly admit that he was no candidate for canonization, no saint, nevertheless, I am not convinced that candidates for canonization or sainthood have to be perfectly faultless or even sinless. that they must be totally devoid of human frailty or psychological defect. I suggest that the list of saints would be reduced to vanishing point if that were the case. I think or I hope that the heroic virtue demanded by the canonization process is not perfection, but rather the struggle against imperfection. It is not sinlessness but rather repentance from sin and a daily struggle for conversion. And it seems to me that, while de facto Lavigerie may not be put forward for canonization, nothing in his life or character, even warts and all, would in principle exclude canonization. He certainly was a man of God and a formidable human being, un homme formidable, in every sense of the term.
But I place the plan of God first, for it was his desire to give his whole self to God that motivated him to mobilise his immense energies and talents, to master his pride, his temper, his mood swings, even what has been called his ruthlessness and dedicate himself entirely to the glory of God and his kingdom. And if, as St Irenaeus said, the glory of God is man and woman fully alive, then Lavigerie was in his person as well as in his lifework a manifestation of God‘s glory. He lived his life to the full.
Lavigerie was to become a missionary giant. Something of his character is revealed in words which he wrote at the time to his fellow bishops in France: “It would no doubt be easier to live in Lyon but it would be easier to die in Algiers, even and especially if there is much to be suffered, as I suppose there is.”
Lavigerie may or may not have been a saint, but he certainlu put sainthood before his missionary family as their primary aim and task: as the centre of their formation and life. He would have agreed with John Paul that the true missionary is the saint. Redemptoris Missio declared: “The renewed impulse towards the mission ad gentes demands holy missionaries. It is not enough to update pastoral techniques, to organise and coordinate ecclesial resources and to delve more deeply even into biblical and theological foundations. What is needed is encouragement of a new order for holiness among missionaries and the christian community, especially those who work more closely with them”.
I found the White Fathers and Sisters I met in Zambia to be men and women of prayer. I found them also to be men and women of joy. With the White Fathers and Sisters today in this commemoration of Cardinal Lavigerie, we gather in hope and prayer for the dawning of a new missionary age. We do so symbolically in the upper room together with Mary the Mother of Jesus in order, in Pope John Paul’s words, to pray for the spirit and to gain strength and courage to carry out the missionary mandate. Lavigerie’s work must go on. The Kingdom of God has overtaken us. We must not let it pass us by.
(Cardinal Cahal Daly, Opening address of Maynooth Seminar on Racism, in Racism: a growing challenge to Christians, edited by Chris O’Doherty M.Afr. 1992)
From 29 October to 9 November, the delegates for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults were invited to a training workshop. Some had already participated in the first workshop last year and therefore only participated in the second week. But the “new ones” had to be upgraded first during the first week to be able to follow the deepening session with the others. Below you will see a picture of the first group and a short report from Jean Lamonde, delegate for our community in Rome. And below, the group photo of almost all the delegates. Indeed, Joseph Makoka, suffering from mild malaria, had become the centre of attraction for the apprentice doctors of a university hospital in Rome.
Seven confreres participated in the session on Integrity of the Ministry and Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons in Rome. During the week, several topics were discussed. The first few days were devoted to the different concepts and definitions of sexual abuse, minors and vulnerable persons. Attention was then turned to the victims, their suffering and the perpetrators of sexual abuse. The reflection also focused on the attitude to follow in order to accompany, listen to and support victims. The company’s policy and the role of the Child Protection Officer have been well described and explained. Finally, the different procedures to be followed in the event of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable person were presented.
This is a brief description of the first initiation given to the new delegates for the protection of minors. This initiation will certainly be most useful and as it is also intended to provide participants with a minimum of material to continue their own training once they return to their different positions.
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.
The article is entitled “Meeting Muslims. The singular contribution of the Society of Missionaries of Africa” (pp. 67-80). You will find the figures of Henri Marchal, Jacques Lanfry and Etienne Renaud.
I look forward to reading your comments and hearing from you.
PS/ For those of you who know him, Paolo, who is also a great friend of the Society, celebrated his third birthday yesterday.
Rémi resides in Kenya where his wife is an Italian government diplomat to the Kenyan government.
On October 18th, 1868, the first novitiate opened with seven candidates at the «Maison Rostan» in Ben-Aknoun on the heights of El Biar in Algeria. This day marks the birth of our Society, which we will commemorate on December 8, the Feast of the Society, which will also open the Jubilee Year of our two missionary Institutes.
At the Generalate, we are mostly scheduling everything around the programmes of our “confreres students”. And as most of them resumed or started their studies today or last Monday, the past weekend had been selected to have some activities together. We started on Friday evening with a nice BBQ gathering not only the 45 members of the community but also the 14 senior missionaries from our Society and from the MSOLA, who had come for the “senior-session”, plus their two animators, Father Bernard Ugeux and Sister Helga Franke. Some visitors were present as well to make of that evening a grand evening!
The next day and a half were dedicated to living out together a formation session, entrusted to our JPIC-ED coordinator Andreas Göpfert and our studying confrere Prosper Harelimana. On Saturday morning, we started with some ice-breaking games meant to … well, break the ice, but also to highlight in a ludic way the frequent misinterpretations that can occur in a large community composed of members with so many different backgrounds.
Throughout the weekend, we were divided into small groups of discussion, carefully composed according to the topics discussed. As the big community of the Generalate is divided into three sub-communities, which we call teams, we were invited to assess in teams the quality of our communication among ourselves and to bring creative proposals to improve it, and then to do the same at the level of the greater community. The next day we were also divided into intercultural and intergenerational groups to share the success and the challenges of communication among us and the possible ways of improving it.
Most of us took advantage of that session, which ended with an “apero” after the final mass presided over by Martin Grenier, the assistant playing the role of the provincial in the community of the Generalate.
Last May, a workshop on “Communication” brought together in Rome representatives of our ten provinces / sections. It was the first workshop of its kind in a long time. In the second part of this workshop week, we had the privilege to meet three communication specialists, all collaborators of the CREC-International association (Centre de Recherche et d’Éducation à la Communication). In the introduction to each of their workshops, all three confirmed what we had already perceived during our reflection on the establishment of a strategic plan for better communication: How do we present ourselves? Are we Missionaries of Africa, are we White Fathers? What is our logo? Can we be recognized in different websites, blogs and other social networks by identifying custom colors and styles? What are the specific values and priorities to which we adhere and how do we get them across in our communication? And are our e-mail addresses identifiable at first glance?… We have therefore decided to embark on a series of reflections and actions to establish a “corporate brand” and thus improve our “communication“.
Last year already, we were reflecting with the provincial superiors on the lack of coherence of our e-mail addresses. To show just one province, my home province, here is an example of inconsistency:
Do you see the lack of coherence, as well on the left as on the right of the “at sign” (@)? To the left of the “at sign”, a logical structure would allow to write an official address without having to consult a directory. To the right of the “at sign”, the “domain” should allow everyone to identify who we are without too many problems. While the Belgian sector is on the right track, its membership of a broader structure is not obvious.
At the beginning of this year, in agreement with the Superior General and the Bursar General, we acquired the domain name mafr.org which identifies us as the “Organization (Society) of the Missionaries of Africa”. Then, during our communication workshop, and mandated by the provincials, we finalized the semantics of our future official e-mail addresses.
Having acquired the domain name mafr.org, all our official addresses will soon be hosted at the Generalate in Rome and will be of the type …@mafr.org. As for the first part of the address, it will be structured according to the province, the sector, and the name of the service to which the e-mail will be addressed. For the provinces, the three official letters will be used, for the sectors, three letters also, approved by the delegates present at the May workshop. As for the function, nothing is perfect, but it was important to choose abbreviations that would be clear in both languages of the Society.
For example, to take the case of Europe, here are some examples of addresses :
The addresses will be created before September 1st and operational before October 1st. Do not use these new addresses before October 1st. Clear and precise instructions will be sent to the users of these e-mail addresses so that they can set up their new e-mail address. For a while, emails sent to the old addresses will be redirected to the new addresses.
On the other hand, each confrere will be able, in due time and if he wishes, to obtain a structured e-mail address, for example for me email@example.com. This will be done from next January, through your province’s communications delegate.
It is now official and about to be launched ! The Missionaries of Africa will be soon starting two new pastoral projects in Brooklyn (New York City in the United States) and in Liverpool (North of England).
Both areas where we will take up a parish are very multi-cultural, with a large population of Africans ( and Afro-americans in Brooklyn) and a large Muslin Community. In both areas, there is a real pastoral need that we could adequately respond to as Missionaries of Africa.
Those new ventures reflect what the Chapter of 2016 stated so clearly about intercultural and fraternal life being a witness to our world today. They also reflect our desire to take up new initiatives regarding being sent wherever our charism is needed to encounter those who thirst for God, to be close to the needy, the young and, in a special way, to the Muslims.
Our presence, in those two dioceses, we hope, will be a viable witness to all, that is truly missionary.
Brooklyn, borough of Queens, New York City
Confreres appointed :
A Tanzanian national, Bartholomew Mrosso, almost 52 years, was ordained in 2002. He was first appointed in Uganda, then was involved with formation in Nigeria and eventually was appointed the Provincial Delegate in Tanzania.
Gazena Haile was born in Ethiopia in July 1981. He was ordained in 2012 and worked in Ghana ever since.
Julien Cormier is a 77 year old Canadian. As a missionary, he worked in Burundi, in Niger and in Canada. Once apon a time, he was the redactor of the Petit Echo in Rome. Lately, he belonged to the Community in Washington.
Liverpool, North of England
Confreres appointed :
Born in 1950 in Great Britain, Terence Madden spent his missionary life working in Burkina Faso, Great Britain and the Philippines. He was ordained in 1981.
Ferdinand van Campen was born in the Netherlands in 1959. He was ordained in 1993 and started off his missionary life learning Portuguese in view of working in Mozambique, which he did for a while before being called to the ministry of “formation”. He’s been a formator in Brazil, Ghana and Tanzania.
From Kenya, Charles Obanya has just turned 50 at the beginning of June. He was ordained in 1997 and worked as a missionary in Zambia and in Kenya. His just served two terms of three years as the Provincial of EAP.
Michael Fitzgerald was born near Birmingham in 1937. He had an academic carreer in Rome until his ordination as Bishop in Rome and his elevation to the rank of Archbishop and appointment as Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt. He belonged lately to the Community of Jerusalem, while continuing to accept missions from the Holy See.