The consequences of Covid 19 - Some reflections by Bernard Ugeux
Bernard Ugeux is a Missionary of Africa based in Bukavu (DRC). A theologian, very close to small Christian communities and very committed to people living in the periphery, Bernard gives his reflections on the meaning and consequences of the Coronavirus. The French version was published some two weeks ago. It was translated into English by the translation department in the Generalate.
YOUTH PILGRIMAGE FOR PEACE AND PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE
PEACEFUL TO THE SANCTUARIES OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA IN
NAMUGONGO AND A SHARING YOUTH CENTRE - KAMPALA UGANDA, FROM 06- 13 MAY, 2019
Inspired by the theme that marks our 150th anniversary, “With Christ, Ever Faithful to Africa”, the Youth Chaplains Fathers – Lowrent Kamwaza, M.Afr. of Notre Dame d’Afrique Katoyi-Goma Parish (DRC), John SSekweyama, M.Afr. of the Parish of the Holy Trinity Buholo-Bukavu (DRC), Kingsley Njimogu of St. Augustine Parish (Burundi) and Edison Akatuhurira of St. Pierre Cyahafi Kimisagara-Kigali Parish (Rwanda) – took the young people of these 4 “Great Lakes Countries” on a 150th anniversary pilgrimage of Twinning for Peace and Coexistence at Uganda Martyrs Sanctuary in Namugongo, Kampala, 6-13 May 2019.
The second edition of this initiative in favour of the Youth of the Missionaries of Africa parishes of the Province of Central Africa (PAC) has proved to be a fruitful experience of encounter for our young people. It will leave deep traces in the hearts of these young pilgrims by stimulating in them the desire to seek Christ to the end, as witnessed by the young martyrs of Uganda – St Kizito, Charles Lwanga and others.
This pilgrimage began on May 6, 2019 when our young pilgrims from Burundi, Bukavu and Goma (DRC) were warmly welcomed into Christian families at Kimisagara Parish in Kigali. Exchanges, laughter, songs of praise and fraternal sharing marked this very important first step of the journey in the lives of our young pilgrims. The generosity of these host families and Rwandan confreres, the friendships forged during the meetings are all seeds of peace and love that will now sprout in the hearts of these young people.
The next day, May 7, the trip of more than 500 kilometres from Kigali to Kampala was very interesting. Two buses had been rented to transport these young people, most of whom were making such a long trip for the very first time in their lives. They were amazed by the beautiful landscapes and good roads of neighbouring countries, a world quite different from Congo or Burundi.
The highlight of this pilgrimage was a day of prayer and visits to the shrines of Namugongo and Manyonyo and to the parish of Nabulagala. For the first time, our young people saw their dreams come true when they set foot on the holy ground where our Martyrs of Uganda rest. Prayer, meditation, visiting these sacred places and celebrating the sacrament of penance and the Eucharist in the Basilica of Namugongo are experiences they will never forget. Our thanks to our brothers Vincent Lubega, Bernard Chowa and the trainees of Nabulagala who devoted their time to speak and give our young pilgrims the necessary explanations about the martyrs.
May we express our sincere thanks to our colleagues from Sharing Youth Centre Hillaire Guinko and Joseph Bakuri and their administration who fraternally welcomed and housed our young people during our stay in Uganda. These confreres have provided us with the best equipment and personnel to ensure the success of this pilgrimage. Their generosity impressed everyone and their welcome is a sign of true missionary charity. Many thanks to our colleagues at Lourdel House – Otto Kato, Elias Mwebembezi and Brother Francis – for their generous welcome.
May the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles and Our Lady of Africa intercede for all of us and for this youth in search of peace!
Viva the 150th anniversary of the Missionaries of Africa!
This text by Bernard Ugeux appeared in the last Info-PAC.
This jubilee time is for us an opportunity to take a renewed Christian look at our brothers and sisters, at the Church, Africa, the World…
Jesus has a unique way of looking at the people he meets, especially the most vulnerable, of recognizing the signs of the times in the expectations of crowds without a shepherd and the oppositions of religious authorities. He has renewed the hope of his people.
As for Cardinal Lavigerie, he too, throughout his life, took a very profound and demanding look at the realities of the world and the Church.
A look inhabited by the Spirit who benevolently discerns the new calls addressed to the Church by the societies of his time, in France, in the East, then in Africa.
An apostle’s look at all those who ignore the God of tenderness and forgiveness proclaimed by Jesus Christ.
A visionary and passionate look, he who is ready to give his life for the salvation of the infidels of Africa as a whole, “as if he saw the invisible”.
A look of reconciliation when he meets the prelates of the East invited to return to full communion with Rome.
A look that calls, confirms and sends apostles – men and women – for Africa, inviting them to consider martyrdom without fear.
A look that courageously and serenely confronts the opposition of those who refuse the Church’s openness to the people of North Africa.
A look of deep compassion that invites us to begin the proclamation of the Gospel by caring for the bodies while waiting for the awakening of souls.
A tender look at orphans boys and girls, abandoned people and victims of massacres or epidemics, whether in Lebanon or Syria, in Kabylia or the Sahara, or in the depths of the African continent.
A wrathful and provocative look in his tour of European capitals to stop the slave trade in Africa, appealing to humanity as much as to the faith of his listeners.
A sometimes dominating and overpowering look at his collaborators, which then leads him to humbly ask forgiveness from those he has hurt by the overwhelming nature or demands he has placed on them.
A look of contemplation and adoration placed with confidence for hours each day on Christ, the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Sacrament, and which is implored at the feet of Mary, Joseph and the great martyrs of North Africa. …
Today, what view does Lavigerie invite us to take of the human spaces that Pope Francis calls the peripheries?
What look of renewed indignation and compassion at the countless contemporary slaves and human trafficking that primarily affect children and young people; at migration, the looting of raw materials from poor countries and all forms of human exploitation?
What discernment about contemporary developments in globalization and its victims?
What invitation to dialogue between the currents within the Church and with other Christian confessions and religions?
What openness to differences in language, culture, religion, faith, gender, generation, recognizing that otherness is not a threat but a gift, when it does not impose itself with fanaticism?
In short, today, the Cardinal invites us to know him better (1) in his complexity and richness and to convert our viewpoint so that he may come closer to that of Christ, in his benevolence and his demands, beginning with ourselves.
Bernard Ugeux, M.Afr.
(1) In May 2019, Bernard Ugeux’s book will be published,Prier quinze jours avec le Cardinal Lavigerie, Nouvelles cités
This excerpt from the letter of Emmanuel Ngona, provincial of the PAC, written from Rome during the meeting of the provincials, and published in the last Info-PAC, gives us a small idea of the debates that took place during the week of the meeting between the provincials and the General Council.
Hello to each of you from Rome, Eternal City! And may the Peace of Christ dwell in your hearts in this Jubilee Year! I hope that each of you is well where the Lord has planted him to blossom.
I am writing to you today to share some of the elements that struck me during our meeting between the provincials and the General Council from February 10 to 16, 2019.
1) During a private audience on February 8 between Pope Francis and the Mafr and MSOLA on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of our Foundation, the Pope recalled our mission today where we are:
“The mission ad extra is in your DNA… 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 and that the proclamation of the Gospel can only be lived at the cost of a true missionary communion. May the 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 our Muslim brothers and sisters. Through the style and simplicity of your lifestyle, you also demonstrate the need to take care of our common home. Finally, in the wake of Cardinal Lavigerie, be sowers of Hope, fighting against current forms of slavery. Always seek to be close to the small and the poor, to those who wait at the periphery of our societies, to be recognized in their dignity, to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated…”.
2) In the context of our Jubilee and the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict 15’s “Maximum” Apostolic Letter (a letter that served to awaken missionary awareness, give new impetus to the mission ad gentes and recall the raison d’être of the Mission), which will be celebrated in October 2019, we want to give a new impetus to our Mission at the personal, community, sectoral or provincial level in line with Cardinal Filoni’s challenge to us: “What does the centenary (150th anniversary, ndlr) of a religious family mean, if not to reflect fundamentally and understand why it was created and what role it still has today?”
3) Great attention must be paid to all our Institutions where we work with children and vulnerable adults so that these places become safe and evangelical spaces for them.
4) Everywhere the opening of our Jubilee went well. But let us not only focus on external manifestations, we want to take advantage of this opportunity and this time of grace for a new missionary impulse to make a difference thanks to our charism and the Holy Spirit who leads us on the roads of the world.
Let us continue to pray in community that this Jubilee Year will be a time of grace for our Society and the local Churches with whom we collaborate fraternally and that the next Plenary Council to be held in Kampala from mid-November 2019 will renew our enthusiasm and missionary strength that no power can take from us.
Our confrere Peter Ekutt, Delegate for Child Protection in Congo, offered training for 82 consecrated persons from the Diocese of Mahagi, he tells us about this training.
For three days, 82 consecrated persons from the Diocese of Mahagi came to live a formation experience in the cathedral parish around the bishop on the occasion of the celebration of the Day of Consecrated Persons. The Bishop himself gave the first conference on some of the measures to be taken as a religious in the diocese. Then, I was able to lead a day of conferences and sharing on “the integrity of the ministry and sexual abuse as a risk factor”.
Report on the proceedings
First, I presented the integrity of the Ministry and the issue of sexual abuse as one of the factors that threatens that integrity today. I began by showing the participants why sexual abuse is on the front page today in Pope Francis’ pontificate. Then I developed the different risk factors that can facilitate abusive behaviour. I also presented the different forms of abuse. Then we focused our attention on several points: the physical consequences of sexual abuse on minors; the method that predators use to establish their control over minors; the distorted ideas (cognitive distortions) that predators use to abuse minors; the attitudes to avoid when talking about sexual abuse; and the measures to take to protect the child. Finally, I have shown that the struggle belongs to all of us, so as to create a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults.
In the middle of the conference, we had workshops, based on a text – a case study from South Africa. The reactions in the groups were very positive from participants.
I also invited an employee who listens to minors who are victims of sexual harassment in schools to share his experience with us. He encourages young people to get tested for HIV/AIDS in our youth centre. This father spoke about the fact that most of the infected young people are girls between 11 and 22 years of age and this leads us to believe that there are many cases of sexual abuse around us even if we don’t hear about it. The statistics provided by this speaker touched the participants. The fact that this testimony and report were given by a father added weight to the conference. This sharing experience was very practical and touching. It made us think and reflect.
We finished with the video on sexual abuse: “A doctor to save women”, followed by a sharing on the video. No one had seen the video before, and it was a good information and documentation for the consecrated ones. The sharing was superb and good reflections came out during the sharing.
Together we took the prayer of the delegate for the protection of minors.
In general, the consecrated persons greatly appreciated the initiative of giving this conference. They were very happy that we were talking about this but also very shocked to see that finally we can talk about something they consider to be TABOO. They were anxious to know whether the bishop agreed because they were afraid to touch their ” taboos “. It is fortunate that we were able to talk about this scary taboo as people, and especially children, die in the silence of the taboo.
Many wish that this could also be offered in schools and for catechumenate courses. But you have to take it slowly. I am already happy to have been able to speak to the consecrated persons of the Diocese of Mahagi.
It is nevertheless worth noting some strong resistance from the side of male religious who thought that this was a criticism of the Church and in particular of the priests to the benefit of the Sisters. But I had experienced this before and it doesn’t bother me. It is a defense mechanism to avoid facing reality. This did not prevent this session from being a success and a great experience for all participants.
Dear confreres who have known, loved and served Burundi by bringing the Good News, Greetings.
We must give thanks to God who made the seed of faith grow well. Our present attitude of gratitude could be defined in the words of Pope Francis: to the past of recognition, to thepresent of passion and to the future of trust.