Mazingira Prize for Michel Dubois
Recently, our confrere Michel Dubois received the “Mazingira” award in recognition of his contribution to the environment (mazingira in Swahili) in South Kivu (Bukavu). He planted some 2400 pine trees on the Lukananda Hill, also known as the Hill of Sanctuary. After spending almost thirty years in Congo, our brother Michel is now in the community of Pau-Billère. Bravo, Michel, for this sign of recognition that you amply deserve. Here is a transcript of the letter that was sent to him:
Good Day Mr Michel Dubois
The Environmental and Agro-Rural Civil Society of Congo SOCEARUCO South Kivu, has the honour to present you with an honorary award for your commitment to the restoration of the landscape of the city of Bukavu and the hill of Lukananda. This event will be organised on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Kahuzi Biega National Park. This is why our jury committee has decided to reward the merits of the few individuals and legal entities that have contributed to the protection of the environment in the DRC and South Kivu.
It is in this context that we are contacting you in order to solicit you to designate a person who can represent you and receive on your behalf the “Mazingira Prize” (2020 edition) which is awarded to you. Please note that this prize will be awarded at the headquarters of the Kahuzi Biega National Park on Monday 30/11/2020 from 9 a.m. in Tchivanga.
My warmest greetings,
MSc Josué ARUNA
Christmas, a treasure to be handed down
Emmanuel Lengaigne (Mini-Lien 501)
We have just commemorated the death of Cardinal Lavigerie and we are preparing to celebrate the feast of the Society. While preparing this editorial, I asked myself: how did our confreres in the first caravans experience their first Christmas?
It was certainly not a Christmas with large crowds and even less with family. For some of them, it must have been a bare Christmas on unfamiliar roads among people they did not know and a language they had not yet mastered… But their Christmas was probably closer to the experience of the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
Incarnation was not easy. Jesus did not come into a world where everything was fine. He came in simplicity to bring a word of hope, a word of life, a message of love that resonates deep within us.
What our confreres experienced at the beginning of the Society and which we were able to experience in a daily life that might have seemed ordinary is an extension of the Saviour’s coming into the world. We do not always realise how many people are impressed by our missionary life. If we remember the transformation of the Church where we served in Africa, we can rejoice and give thanks for having been able to make our contribution to it. How many of us celebrated Christmas in small chapels that have now become parishes or even dioceses? What we have experienced is a treasure of which we are the custodians. A treasure that tends to be less and less known in Europe.
Since the origins of humanity, God has deposited in the heart of each person a desire for fullness, for the absolute, which manifests itself in different ways. It is this desire that has motivated us in our missionary commitment. It is the same desire for wholeness that manifests itself in the many people of all ages who commit themselves to the service of the most vulnerable. If we are attentive, we discover much generosity around us. An attention to others that has become more evident during this period of pandemic.
Can we not respond to this desire for fullness that more and more people are seeking today by valuing our experience and our presence in Africa? In a secularised world, our experience, the treasure that we hold in trust, can be an opportunity for others to open up. It is also a way of continuing to participate in the coming of the Saviour into the hearts of men. We are depositaries of a treasure that we could share more in the world.
This year, Christmas will not be as we would have liked it to be. We will probably have some restrictions and we all regret it. We also know that the essential is elsewhere. That the coming of the Saviour that took place in a given place and time is to be renewed in each person, in each generation! Christmas is also when someone welcomes the Lord for the first time in his or her life. Witnessing this is a source of joy and thanksgiving.
A century of history of the Church of Africa before you!
Mini-Lien of the French Sector – November 1st, 2020 – Editorial
“Of course, obviously, we still laugh for silly things like children… but not like before, not like before” sang France Gall to lyrics by Michel Berger, after the departure of someone very dear to him. Ah the emptiness felt after a death! And we must admit that when we visit the cellars of our deceased confreres on this 2nd November, we will become even more aware of how much we miss them.
The names are engraved in the granite but not as deeply as in our hearts or at least in our memories. Indeed, nothing will ever be “as it was before” again. And this sad year 2020 is going to indelibly mark our memories: only in France – and the year is not over – 20 confreres have left us, and that is huge.
Furthermore, too many of them left without any confrere to accompany them, carried to the morgue by ghosts in horror film outfits and then just as directly to the cemetery without passing through the “compulsory box” of a chapel or a church. Inhuman! No, they did not devote so many years in Africa to the service of the Gospel, carried by an improbable renunciation peculiar to the White Fathers to end up like that! They did not deserve that! And while the undertakers were doing their work, we “living” people were alone in our rooms, our eyes dry but our hearts were upset, whispering endlessly as if to stimulate our hope: “O death, where is your victory? »
Fortunately, faith and reason quickly took over and made us stronger; the feast of All Saints’ Day is there to remind us: “Yes, we know” our confreres are alive and forever at the height of their active missionary and priestly life. And their departure, however painful it may have been, was only their final trial, the same one that Christ lived before his resurrection. Yes, they are alive and we believe in them deeply.
So on this 2nd November, how can we not share the pride we are entitled to feel when we see all that God has achieved through them in Africa or elsewhere? It is by no means in vain that He has chosen His workers from an incredible diversity and richness; each one of them has worked in his own way in the Lord’s vineyard, bringing to the immense stained glass window of the Mission this small personal brushstroke that gives it all its brightness: all the human and spiritual fields have been marvellously ploughed for 150 years. And it is indeed this diversity that has made the Church of Africa the pearl it is today.
But the feast of All Saints’ Day is also the feast of forgiveness, ….. or of forgetting, according to our understanding. The departure of our confreres has indeed erased in our memories all the negative things that could have been attributed to them during their lifetime. And above all, with hindsight, were not what we thought to be shortcomings finally useful, even necessary for the construction of the Church in Africa? It is amazing how much progress she was able to make thanks to all the imperfections of her workers!
It is indeed these small but numerous crosses that have shaped it, and it is indeed many small crosses that still shape this masterpiece in the making. It is the shadows that have always brought out the splendour of light and colour! It is then that we are reminded of St. Paul’s comforting confession: “When I am weak, then I am strong!” “All is grace! “, wrote Bernanos.
At Bry Cemetery, as in other cemeteries, 10 ‘Missionaries of Africa’ vaults are lined up with dozens of names carved in stone in the ‘Book of Life’. To a young couple who had come to pay their respects at their uncle’s grave, I proudly said: “You have before you more than a century of the history of the Church in Africa.
Let us give thanks to God for our deceased confreres! May they rest in peace!
Father Clément Forestier, M.Afr.
Listen to these beautiful words of Michel Berger, sung by France Gall, in memory of our deceased confreres since November 2, 2019.
|De Laet René||Bel|
|Van Wielendaele Lucien||Bel|
|Cuello S. Gabriel||Esp|
|Martínez L. Antonio||Esp|
|Bacaicoa A. Eugenio||Esp|
|Sotillo Blasco José Vicente||Esp|
|Arconada del Valle Germán||Esp|
|de Gaulle François||Fra|
|Aduol Maurice O.||Ken|
|van Kessel Henk||Nld|
|van Haandel Jan||Nld|
|van Dieten Ger||Nld|
|Adriaan van de Laak||Nld|
|Braun John Joseph||USA|
Roquetas de Mar - Mission in the peripheries (PeBeFa nr 39)
The phenomenon of migration is not a new reality. Even our European countries have been shaped by migration throughout history. Today, as we can see around us, this phenomenon has polarised certain segments of the population. The misunderstanding of the problem of migration, as well as the poor explanation of the facts, make the answers given equally insufficient. Neither the politicians who invest incredible sums of money in strengthening the borders, nor the media help to see with serenity and a positive vision the arrival of new and different people on these lands. Fear and suspicion seem to have the upper hand at the moment; the challenge of moving from hostility to hospitality remains.
The Community of Roquetas de Mar was born during the mandate of the Provincial Father Benito Undurraga (1992-1998). At the Christmas meeting of priests in Aguadulce in 1997, a Missionary of Africa proposed to the Bishop a possible collaboration of the Missionaries of Africa with the Diocese of Almeria among African immigrants. The bishop was very interested and suggested to the White Fathers to make a proposal. Several options were considered: to take charge of a parish or to dedicate themselves to the integration of Africans in the different parishes where they were. The latter option was chosen, and the missionaries helped the parish priests in this task. At the end of 1999 the dialogue with the Bishop of Almeria was resumed and at the beginning of 2000 a contract was signed for three years, valid until January 2003 and renewable every three years. On 12 January 2000, Fathers Joaquín Alegrías (missionary in Malawi) and Gabriel Cuello (missionary in Mali) were temporarily installed in the parish of Parador (Roquetas de Mar) and the following year they moved to Roquetas de Mar, to a house in the “neighbourhood of 200 houses”, where many African migrants live; at the same time, they were entrusted with the parish of Saint John the Baptist, which had not yet been built.
The Community welcomes migrants (mainly Sub-Saharans) who come to Roquetas de Mar, full of dreams and illusions after having put their lives in danger during the long journey on the sea. It is a project of welcome, attention to others and help in the integration of so many brothers and sisters from the desert and the sea.
There are two aspects to this project: The first is directly pastoral, with a catechumenate for young people and adults, and the second is of a social nature. In these two areas, we collaborate with a group of more than twenty volunteers: retired or active teachers, doctors, lawyers, religious and priests.
We are an international and intercultural community: Oscar, a Mexican, who has worked in Ghana; Cesáreo Hoyuela, a Spaniard, missionary in Burkina Faso; Alick Mwamba, a Zambian, missionary in Burkina Faso and Mali, and a Rwandan seminarian. We live in the “neighbourhood of 200 houses” which, despite its bad reputation in the rest of the city, is a friendly, lively, colourful and multicultural place. Here you get a taste of Africa in this city which is renowned throughout Spain for its tourism.
The neighbourhood where we live is also a place where newcomers from Africa are often welcomed by people from their own country: they welcome them, feed them and help them take their first steps in this new country, even to find a small job in agriculture.
Welcoming and accompanying, promoting and integrating as Pope Francis proposes, seems to be the best way to describe our mission in Roquetas de Mar. These attitudes are united in a concrete way, on the one hand, by the social dimension of our presence (Africa Intercultural Centre and all its social services), and on the other hand, by a specifically religious dimension (Catechumenate for African migrants in several parishes in our region). The experiences of the mission in Africa, which have transformed us into what we are today, help us in our ministry of compassion, which is essential in these circumstances.
Migrants live in a social context that does not always value them; they live in groups, but far from their own families; they are alone and have little opportunity to find a suitable spouse. They live with the pain of knowing that the “milk and honey” they were looking for is within their reach, without yet belonging to them. They are all strong and resilient people.
This is how we remain faithful to our missionary vocation and to the charism of our founder Lavigerie who invited us to “love Africa and Africans”. Our mission continues in this coastal town in the south of Spain, which is right across from Africa. It is the same mission that we accepted the call in our youth to announce the Good News to Africans.
Juan Manuel Pérez Charlín
In memory of EUGENIO BACAICOA (PeBeFa N°32)
Eugenio liked to remember and repeat with a mischievous smile the classic words of all the grandmothers in the world and especially his own: “My grandson is the most beautiful in the world and the smartest in his class at school”. And the truth is that all of us who had the good fortune to live with him in Africa or Spain can say that Eugene was a great confrere and friend, optimistic and good-humoured, a solid pillar in community life, which we could lovingly define as “a humble fanfarrón”. That is why he was born in Puente la Reina!
A priest from Burkina Faso, whom Eugene brought to the seminary in his youth, also remembers him in this way: “Father Bacaicoa was a great missionary in my diocese, an animator of Christian communities, close to the people, a youth pastor, a guitarist and singer, a courageous apostle.
Eugene was born in 1941 in Puente la Reina, Navarre. If you didn’t know this when you first greeted him, you would have learned it very quickly, so proud was he of his family and his home town, an obligatory stop on the Way of St. Jacques, with its ancient churches and convents, and its beautiful Roman bridge that opens the road to Santiago de Compostela.
Eugene had followed the classical training of the White Fathers of the time: Minor Seminary and Philosophy at the Seminary in Pamplona, Novitiate in Gap, France, and Theology in Heverlee, Belgium. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1968, he went to Upper Volta, now called Burkina Faso, in the Diocese of Diebugu. In 1972 Eugene was appointed Provincial Councillor.
Shortly afterwards, he was appointed parish priest and was part of the last community of White Fathers in this diocese. Eugene used to say that when he returned to Africa after the holidays, he would run away from his father’s house in the early morning to avoid giving his elderly parents a hard time!
In 1977, Eugene was appointed to promote the mission in Spain, more precisely in Bilbao. Later, the Spanish Province asked him again for his service in 1987 as leader of the Africanum and the small group of students at the formation centre.
In 1993, Eugene returned to Africa, to another country, Chad, and to a new mission: a school for catechists, in Bendone, in the diocese of Doba. At the end of his contract with the bishop for that mission, Eugene returned to Burkina Faso. There he was appointed in 1999 to a position of great responsibility: Regional Superior of Ouagadougou (1999-2005), in a very large territory extending as far as Zinder in Niger. He had to make many trips and many kilometres to visit and animate the communities of confreres, which were still numerous at the time. The Regional Father of Burkina Faso remembers him in these terms: “We can say that the missionary life of our confrere Eugène Bacaicoa was very rich in important responsibilities in formation, parish ministry, and in the tasks of governance of the Society, both in Spain and in Chad and Burkina Faso.
During all these years, Eugene kept a secret that only his friends knew: on Sunday afternoons, he would isolate himself in his office to follow the sports news of the National Radio of Spain. With him, we had to rejoice or suffer depending on the results of his two teams so full of enthusiasm: Osasuna and Barça.
In 2005, Eugenio returned to Spain for good due to the fragility of his skin, which forced him to stay away from the African sun. From his residence at the Africanum in Madrid, now without students, he gave a helping hand to the different animation services of the Spanish province, mainly in collaboration with the SCAM (Servicio Conjunto de Animación Misionera) and the animation of prayer groups of young people with a missionary spirit and an interest in Africa.
After the definitive closure of the Africanum, Eugene offered his pastoral service to the Diocese of Madrid, being appointed Mission Coordinator of Vicariate I of Madrid and being appointed parish priest of El Berrueco and two other neighbouring villages in the mountains of Madrid. There he lived happily for some years of apostolate, silence and prayer. Perhaps dreaming of one of the other charisms of the monks, he produced a liqueur of Navarrese origin: Pacharán. He said it was the best of all liqueurs and he kept it for his visitors and friends.
The last post in his life as a missionary was Pamplona, in 2017. It is said that elephants return to die in the place where they were born. Over the last few months, Eugene’s state of health has gradually deteriorated. That is why he was admitted on 26 June to the Beloso Alto residence in Pamplona.
The good care he received was not enough to allow him to resume a normal life. Eugene slowly faded away, and went quietly to the Father’s house on July 21, 2020. We accompanied him with our memories and our fraternal prayer. May he rest eternally in the peace of the Lord.
Juan Jose Osés