Roquetas de Mar – Mission in the peripheries (PeBeFa nr 39)

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 memoriam Eugenio Bacaicoa (PeBeFa n°32)

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

Centenary of Father John Longin

Centenary of Father Jean Longin in Billère

In spite of all the unforeseen health and current situation, here we are at the famous “20th of August” ….

Fr. Patrick Bataille was able to come for a few days and it is he who presides over the Eucharistic celebration. Jean is seated next to Sister Emmanuelle who is 102 years old. It is Jean who will read the Gospel (Mt 18, 2-5), while Fr. Jean-Marie Vasseur will give the homily to thank the Lord for the call of our confrere. At the end of the celebration, M. Poumeyrol, a retired army colonel, will come to remind us of John’s commitment during the last war which took him from Corsica to Mont Cassino, to Marseille and as far as Alsace… he gave him the book ” Promotion Corse et Provence 1964-66 de l’école militaire de St Cyr “. Mrs Cathy Roques, the deputy director, will come to say all her wishes to our centenary in the name of all the staff by inviting us to come to the dining room for a big festive meal finished with champagne, the real thing !

Jean thanks everyone who gave him such a wonderful party and asks me to apologize for not being able to thank you in particular. Here is the text he read to us:

“The past? God forgives it! 
The future? God gives it!
Live the day of today,
In communion with him.
Tomorrow is God’s: hand it over to Him.
The present moment is a frail bridge.”

(text found on Sister Odette Prévost, Little Sister of the Sacred Heart of Charles De Foucauld 10.11.95)

Georges Paquet W.F.
(at the novitiate in Gap 1965-66, with Father Jean)

PP. Jean Longin, Georges Paquet, Jean-François Galtier

Happy birthday Jean!

Jean Longin

Congratulations and prayers to Father Jean Longin who is celebrating his 100th birthday on 20 August 2020 at Billère 64140 (Pau). He became a Missionary of Africa, White Father, on June 29, 1948, that is 72 years of missionary life in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), Tunisia, Congo (DRC) and France.

Father Raphaël Deillon: “Muslims, you have to love them first.”

Father Raphaël Deillon: "Muslims, you have to love them first."

This article was published by cath.ch on 28 June 2020. Please visit the original publication here.

Photo: cath.ch

“Muslims must first be loved,” Father Raphael Deillon told cath.ch. The White Father, who celebrated the jubilee of 50 years of his missionary commitment on 27 June 2020, lived 25 years in Algeria. A specialist in Islam, he has always defended a culture of encounter and dialogue.

On Saturday 27 June 2020, the Africanum, the headquarters of the Missionaries of Africa in Switzerland, at 57 Route de la Vignettaz in Fribourg, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the “missionary oath” or priestly ordination of three Swiss White Fathers: Fathers Raphaël Deillon and Claude Maillard, as well as Brother Karl Kaelin.

Although born in Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, in Haute-Savoie, Raphaël Deillon is originally from Siviriez, the village of Saint Marguerite Bays. In 2009, he was appointed postulator of the cause of “Goton de la Pierraz”, in order to defend the canonization file that the bishopric of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg had to submit to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. “They had also chosen me because I was at that time in Rome as assistant to the General Council of the Society of Missionaries of Africa”.

I took a taste of their culture

But the curriculum vitae of Raphaël Deillon, who in his childhood had known peasant life – his father was a cowherd on the estate of the Count of Viry, near Geneva – was to take a singular turn when he met the families of North African workers living near the seminary of Annecy, where he had entered. “They were living in barracks, a poor place where no one dared to go. We were going to visit them, drink with them the mint tea that smelled so good. I got a taste of their culture…”

An advertisement in the newspaper La Croix

At the seminary, everyone went to military service except him, who was Swiss. “I had read an advertisement in the newspaper La Croix: ‘Seeking boarding school teacher for a vocational training centre in Ouargla in the Sahara’. So in 1965, at the age of 22, I left for a year in Ouargla, in the Sahara, 800 km south of Algiers. I was a boarding school teacher in a vocational school, where most of the pupils came from the surrounding oases. I loved the place and the people so much that one day, I will always remember it, I was under a lemon tree and I said to myself: ‘I will come back, there is something good to live between Christians and Muslims. Back at the seminary in Annecy, Raphael was contacted by Fr. Jean-Pierre Sauge, who was in charge of missionary animation for the White Fathers. He will make his novitiate at Gap, in the Hautes-Alpes.

The die was cast: he would commit himself to the Missionaries of Africa, with the intention of returning to Algeria after his ordination to the priesthood at Viry in 1970. He learned Arabic dialect at El Bayadh, a village 400 km south of Oran, by visiting Algerian families, then from 1971, for two years, literary Arabic at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic Studies and Islamology (PISAI) in Rome. Then, also after two years of study, he obtained a degree in English in Strasbourg, before returning for three years to El Bayadh, where he taught English. In 1980, he left for Sanaa, North Yemen, also to teach Shakespeare’s language in an American institute to civil servants who wanted to study abroad. On his return to Lyon, he spent two years there in missionary animation before being appointed English teacher in 1983 in Ghardaïa, 600 km south of Algiers.

In Ghardaïa, during the dark years

Father Deillon was to experience, in the 1990s, the “black decade” of the civil war between the Algerian government and its National Popular Army (ANP), and various armed Islamist groups with Salafist Jihadist tendencies, notably the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). This bloody episode caused more than 150’000 deaths, mainly Algerian Muslims.

It will be strongly shaken by the assassination, on 27 December 1994, of four colleagues, massacred by armed men in the courtyard of their house in Tizi Ouzou. But comforted by the presence of many Muslim friends at their burial.

Weird Magi’s in arms invite themselves to the Feast of Epiphany

A few days later, on Sunday, January 8, 1995, Feast of the Epiphany, “strange magi in arms visited us in our house in Ghardaïa…” Four unknown men armed with machine guns tried to break down the door, while the religious and his confrere, accompanied by two Beninese friends who had come to Mass, were able to flee through the rooftops, on a withdrawal route prepared in case of attacks. At that time, several men and women religious had already been murdered, and there was strong pressure for all foreigners to leave the country.

During this period, the very small Catholic Church in Algeria counted 19 martyrs, murdered between 1994 and 1996, among them Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran and the seven monks of Tibhirine. They were recognised as martyrs by Pope Francis on 26 January 2018, leading to their beatification on 8 December of the same year in Algeria.

Raphaël Deillon, who did not want to leave the country during the bloody civil war, willingly took up a sentence of a nun he knew, Sister Odette Prévost: “the first thing in dialogue with Muslims is to love them”. She also said: “Between prudence and the Gospel, I choose the Gospel!” The 63-year-old French nun of the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Charles de Foucauld was murdered on November 10, 1995 in Algiers.

“In spite of these ‘dark years’, I can say that having spent a quarter of a century in the Sahara, I have realized my dream: that of an Islamic-Christian encounter. I have lived wonderful years of friendship with the teachers, students and families of the students where I taught: Ouargla, El Bayadh, Ghardaïa. At the age of 22, when I was under the lemon tree, I was right: it is possible to dialogue between Christians and Muslims, provided that we respect the other who is different from us, that we do not go into the figure of the Bible and the Koran, that we do not clash over different articles of faith in the one and the other, that we do not generalize from extreme cases, that we know how to appreciate in the other what is good. “And above all, to love him!” (cath.ch/be)