Ghardaïa in Algeria: a different parish or a parish like any other? (PE nr. 1084)

I get angry when confreres seem to insinuate that parish life in predominantly non-Christian countries would be truncated, diminished, or even non-existent. In Ghardaïa, Algeria, we live as the very first parishes of the Acts of the Apostles, or as the “seven ordinary parishes” of the Book of Revelation. Our parish resembles those of the missionaries of Africa of the Maghreb Province and some parishes in Mali and Niger. But why should not the parish of Ghardaïa look like all the other parishes held by communities of missionaries of Africa? Even if there are some differences…

A parish experiences the mystery of Christ in its holy assemblies, especially those of Sundays, in its religious and spiritual life, in the formation and accompaniment of the laity for the mission of the gradual transformation of our world into the Kingdom of Heaven; in short, from the perspective of «Justice and Peace», dialogue and listening to the world in search of the absolute. Formerly we were taught that there is a «holy assembly» since Abel, the righteous: «Ecclesia ab Abele». This means that where there is “wounded innocence” (oppression, slavery, injustice, etc.), the «Church» is already there: the assembly of those who follow the Lamb. A parish like ours has only to join the many «Abels in tears, blood and sweat» to become more and more «Church», with the guests of the public squares and crossroads.

Many of the faithful in our parish live their sacramental and spiritual life within their own religious and missionary community. In our parish, it is the communities of missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (White Fathers and White Sisters). The Bishop, usually a White Father since Cardinal Lavigerie, joins our Eucharistic communities and participates in community offices. On Friday, holiday in Algeria, we celebrate the Eucharist partially in Arabic. Several Christian migrants, who are free on that day, attend the celebration. Sometimes, we have to find another time of the day to organize a linguistically and sacramentally adapted office for those who come late.

On the one hand, the parish is comprised of a diversity of Christians living in a territory of a dozen square kilometers around the cathedral. These include the Bishop, the white fathers with the stagiaires, sometimes African students of the Algerian universities, the White Sisters and the laity who are often engaged by the French Delegation of Catholic Cooperation and African Christian migrants from the surroundings.

On the other hand, the parish is also constituted of the moving diaspora of Noumérate (25 km), Metlili (35 km), Mansoura (70 km), Zelfana km), Oued Nichou (25 km), Berriane (45 km), Wadi Sudan (55 km), Djelfa (300 km) where we wish to establish the chaplaincy and a place of worship for Christian students; finally, Laghouat (195 km), where there is a pied-à-terre of the diocese and where nothing prevents the holding of Christian offices monthly, cautiously taking into account the clandestinity of African migrants.

The parish is not only a community around a holy water font. It is a community of communities, animated by the desire to slowly but surely transform the life of the non-Christian world around it in a world ruled by the Beatitudes in view of the Kingdom of Heaven, the reign of justice and peace.

The parish of Ghardaïa is taken care of by a number of collaborators of the administration of the diocese (including the Bishop), who invests in all parishes and religious and missionary communities of the great diocese of Southern Algeria, Laghouat-Ghardaïa, often without ordained ministers. One could think that the administrative staff of the diocesan offices are not directly or tangibly concerned with the great mission of the Church to transform this world into the Kingdom of heaven; but what would I do myself in the pastoral work for Christian migrants, the work of raising awareness and empowerment of African migrants without the discrete and unnoticed work of all those collaborators who are close to the Bishop? In fact, they carry the heat and the weight of the day. They are also actively involved in the cultural work, one of the diocesan’s priority options within the framework of the CCDS (Cultural and Documentary Center of Sahara), in school tutoring and even, as part of the coordination of initiatives, to actions in favor of African migrants.

The Ghardaïa parish includes Christian African migrants, individuals and small groups. The number of people who live far from worship places fluctuates. My great regret is that our structures of traditional missionary work prevent us from being fully in the sacramental and spiritual service of these lay missionaries (African migrants on the ground, missionaries in spite of themselves) who are the first evangelizers of the world of migrants and of the workers in the greater part of southern Algeria. The strength of White Father parishes has always been the transformation of the laity into dynamic evangelizing communities: communities that make a difference, wherever they are, and recruit by their attraction.

Johan Miltenburg, M.Afr.

To watch also :

Installation of Mgr John MacWilliam in Ghardaïa

A few days after his episcopal ordination in the Abbey Church of Worth in England, John was officially installed Bishop of Laghouat-Ghardaïa in the small chapel of Ghardaïa. There will be a third celebration, a Mass of thanksgiving, presided over by John to Our Lady of Algiers on June 2nd.

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Episcopal ordination of John MacWilliam

On Saturday 20th of May 2017, our confrere, John MacWilliam, was ordained bishop by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, MAfr, at Worth Abbey in England, where John had completed high school.

John was indeed appointed Bishop of Laghouat-Ghardaïa, succeeding Claude Rault, M.Afr., who had resigned several months ago, having reaching the limit age of activity as bishop. John preferred to receive episcopal ordination in England rather than in Algeria where visas take a long time to be granted.

See also the website of Worth Abbey School and the website of Ghardaïa.

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British soldier turned priest… – The Tablet

A British soldier turned priest who risked his life to rebuild the Church’s presence in Algeria following a spate of attacks against Christians has been appointed by Pope Francis as a bishop in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. Fr John MacWilliam, a 68-year-old “White Father” missionary – technically a Missionary of Africa – was on Thursday named the next leader of the diocese of Laghouat-Ghardaïa, a recognition of the courageous peace building work he has carried out in the region. At the height of violence against Christians by armed Islamic groups in the mid-1990s, on 27 December 1994, four of his confreres running the White Father mission in Tizi-Ouzou were assassinated in their own home, …

Read the full article by following this link :

Concert at Our Lady of Africa in Algiers

Our confreres of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers invite us, once again, to taste the beauties they enjoy every now and then in their splendid Basilica. This time, it is a concert of Lyric Songs by the Musical Ensemble IRINI, which interprets “Songs of the Marial Cult of Mediterranea”, this songs are really popular and know by everyone, many people even sing it using professional karaoke systems that can be purchased online.

The remaining explanations are in French.

Continue reading “Concert at Our Lady of Africa in Algiers”