Shortly after the Pope had entered the Hall, our superior general, Stan Lubungo, addressed the Holy Father with a word of thanks in the name of the two congregations. Here is the text :
We, the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa feel very honoured to be with you today. This year we are commemorating one hundred and fifty years of our foundation by Cardinal Lavigerie in Algeria. We give thanks to God for all the graces received during these years. We are very grateful, Holy Father, that you spared some time to be with us despite your very busy agenda.
We praise God for our brothers and sisters who, over hundred and fifty years have brought the Catholic faith to many African countries. They helped establish the African clergy and formed many female African congregations in different countries. Today, we are together present in 41 countries, of which 22 are in Africa. We continue to collaborate with the local Church at whose service we are in parishes and in other ministries.
We inaugurated our Jubilee Year on the 8 th of December last year, on the Feast of Mary Immaculate Conception under whose protection our Founder placed our two Institutes. The inauguration took place in Tunisia where Cardinal Lavigerie was also prelate. The closing celebrations will be on 8 th December this year at Namugongo, the shrine of the Uganda Martyrs.
We give thanks to God. The inauguration of our Jubilee coincided with the beatification of the nineteen martyrs of Algeria, among which are four of our brothers who gave their lives to the service of our Muslim brothers and sisters in the country of our foundation.
Holy Father, on this significant Jubilee for our family, we ask for your paternal blessing on our two Institutes and its members where ever they are as we seek to keep alive the charism of our Founder.
We are happy to offer you a representation of the Manga hoe from Burkina Faso. This invention of one of our confreres in the 50s was designed for weeding and ploughing in shallow soil. It represents so well your task to plough and weed the shallow soils of our hearts sowing in them God’s Word.
Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa Missionaries of Africa
Most of us were very excited on Friday the 8th of February, as we were being invited by the successor of Peter at a private audience in the Vatican. The two General Councils, brothers and sisters from the two congregations, a few provincials already in the house for the forthcoming provincials’ encounter with the GC, some 80 persons all together were well in time to meet the Pope at 11am. The number of steps we had to climb was, to the least, very impressive, but finally there we were in the Clementine Hall, waiting for our Brother and Pastor Francis. A very official encounter, very comforting and meaningful to each one of us.
Here is the text of his address to us. The original was in Italian, we had a French translation. This English version is a translation from the French by your servant, with the help of the very good software deepl.com
Dear brothers and sisters,,
It is with great joy that I welcome you to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of Missionaries of Africa and the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. In thanking your Superiors General for the words they have addressed to me, I wish to express my cordial greetings and spiritual closeness, as well as through you, to all the members of your Institutes, present in Africa and in other parts of the world. Thank you for the service of the mission of the Church, lived with passion and generosity, in fidelity to the evangelical insights of your common founder, Cardinal Lavigerie.
Over the past three years, you have been preparing to celebrate this jubilee. As members of the great “Lavigerie family”, you have returned to your roots, you have looked back on your history with gratitude, to give you the means to live your present commitment with a renewed passion for the Gospel, and to be sowers of hope. With you, I give thanks to God, not only for the gifts he has given to his Church through your Institutes, but also and above all, for the fidelity of his love that you celebrate with this Jubilee. May this Jubilee Year strengthen in you the assurance that “God is faithful, he who has called you to live in communion with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:9). May your consecration, your ministry thus be able to manifest concretely, in your fraternal life and in your various commitments, the fidelity of God’s love and its closeness, to sow hope in the hearts of those who are wounded, tested, discouraged, and who feel abandoned so often.
Dear friends, you know that when Bishop Lavigerie, then Archbishop of Algiers, was led by the Spirit to found the Society of Missionaries of Africa, then the Congregation of Missionary Sisters, he had in his heart the passion for the Gospel and the desire that it be proclaimed to all, making himself “everything to all” (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). For this reason, your roots are marked by Mission ad extra; it is in your DNA. Thus, following in the footsteps of your founder, your primary concern, your holy concern, “is that so many of our brothers and sisters live without the strength, light and consolation of the friendship of Jesus Christ, without a community of faith that welcomes them, without a horizon of meaning and life” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 49). But, in the light of the journey made since your foundation, you know that the proclamation of the Gospel is not synonymous with proselytism; it is this dynamic that leads us to be close to others, to share with them the gift received, the encounter of love that has changed your life and that has led you to choose to consecrate your life to the Lord Jesus, Gospel for the life and salvation of the world. It is always with him, through him and in him that the mission is lived. So I encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, so that you never forget that the true missionary is first and foremost a disciple. Have at heart to cultivate this particular bond that unites you to the Lord, by listening to his Word, celebrating the Sacraments and serving the brother, so that your words and actions may manifest his presence, his merciful love, his compassion to those to whom the Spirit sends you and leads you. May the celebration of your jubilee thus help you to become “nomads for the Gospel”, men and women who are not afraid to go into the deserts of this world and seek together the means to lead their fellow human beings to this oasis that is the Lord, so that the living water of his love may quench all their thirst.
May this Jubilee Year also contribute to the development of fraternal bonds between you, because the proclamation of the Gospel can only be lived at the price of true missionary communion. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, be witnesses to this hope which does not disappoint (Cf. Rm 5:5), despite the difficulties. In fidelity to your roots, do not be afraid to venture out on the paths of mission, to witness that “God is always a newness, which urges us to leave without respite and move beyond what is known, towards the peripheries and borders” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, n. 135). May the Holy Spirit make you build bridges between people. Where the Lord has sent you, contribute to the growth of a culture of encounter; continue to be the servants of a dialogue that, while respecting differences, knows how to be enriched by the difference of others. And I thank you in particular for the work you have already done in the service of dialogue with Islam, with our Muslim sisters and brothers. Through the style and simplicity of your lifestyle, you also demonstrate the need to take care of our common home, the land. Finally, in the wake of Cardinal Lavigerie, be sowers of hope, fighting against all current forms of slavery. Always seek to be close to the small and the poor, to those who expect, at the periphery of our societies, to be recognized in their dignity, to be welcomed, protected, raised, accompanied, promoted and integrated.
With this hope, by entrusting you to the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, I give you and all the members of your communities the Apostolic Blessing and I call upon God’s blessings on those whose lives you share, where the Lord has sent you. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you.
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.