Sœur Gloria Cecilia

Blessings falling from heaven

When we least expect it, blessings fall from heaven. Today was one of those days when, without expecting anything special, we caught a glimpse of God’s grace. Today, at the Generalate, we had the joy of receiving Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez. 

Sister Gloria’s photo appeared on many social networks the day her liberation was confirmed after four years and eight months of kidnapping.

The calvary began on the night of 7 February 2017 in Karangasso, southern Mali, when four armed men burst into her congregation. The men apparently wanted to take two other young Colombian sisters, but Sister Gloria gave herself up to the kidnappers, claiming to be “the superior”. They kidnapped her and fled in a Congregation vehicle. 

With just enough time to share a meal and a visit to the crypt of Cardinal Lavigerie, one could perceive that Sister Gloria is a woman of a very special human quality in whom there is not the slightest resentment against those who deprived her of her freedom.
To meet people who, by their simple presence, naturally lead us to imitate Christ is surely a blessing from heaven and also a reminder that we are all called to be witnesses of Christ in the world.

Salvador Muñoz Ledo

Missionary of Africa for Solidarity with South Sudan

Jim (James) Greene is a Missionary of Africa born in Ireland on the 27th July 1960. Ordained to the priesthood on the 2nd July 1988 after completing his theological formation in Totteridge, he started his missionary life in Malawi until mid-1997 when he became the Treasurer of the Province of Ireland (today one of the sectors of the European province). In 2002, he returns to Malawi, with a strong interest for Justice & Peace. Delegate to the Chapter of 2004, he is elected Assistant to the Superior General. After a sabbatical in Chigaco, he is appointed to Jerusalem as treasurer in 2011. Since January 2019, he is the executive director of the project “Solidarity South Sudan”.

A word from Jim

I arrived in Juba, South Sudan on the 26th January to join a team of about 30 religious, male and female who are working with the project called ‘Solidarity with South Sudan’. This is an initiative of the USG/UISG (male and female religious congregations) which started after an appeal for assistance by the bishops of South Sudan. 

Seeing the enormity of the challenges in what was then Southern Sudan, over 200 congregations decided to pool their resources together, both financial and personnel. Many congregations do not have personnel to offer to this initiative but presently about 18 congregations are represented on the ground in South Sudan, while many more contribute in other ways.

From an early stage it was recognized that ‘Solidarity with South Sudan’ could not respond to every need. With this in mind, it was decided that the emphasis would be put on training others in the areas of education, health care, pastoral services and agriculture. 

The project established teacher training centres for primary school teachers in Yambio in Western Equatoria and in Malakal in Upper Nile State. Unfortunately, due the hostilities and attacks the centre in Malakal is currently abandoned. 

The Comboni Sisters helped us establish a nursing and midwifery training centre in Wau, situated in the former state of Western Bahr el Ghazal. Coincidently, some of the present buildings were originally constructed by our deceased confrere, Hurbert Barbier in the late 1970s. For many years these buildings were occupied by internally displaced persons before being handed back to the church to start the nurses training project in 2008. 

In addition, a pastoral team was set up and trained many priests, catechists and other pastoral workers from many dioceses in the country. Given the violent history of the country, an emphasis was also put on trauma healing and trying to address some of the effects of past and present conflicts. Currently this team is in need of more members.

Solidarity seeks to witness not only through its actions but also by living in international religious communities of men and women. In a country sadly divided on the basis of ethnicity, we try to show that it is possible for women and men from different nationalities and ethnicities, to live and work together, while respecting each other’s dignity and difference.

Presently, I am the only Missionary of Africa in the country. Who knows what the future will bring? The harvest is indeed great!

Interview of Jim by Radio Vatican on 16th April 2019

Linda Bordoni of Vatican Radio interviews Father Jim Greene, Missionary of Africa, newly appointed executive director of Solidarity South Sudan. The original interview is here :  https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2019-04/solidarity-south-sudan-pope-retreat-father-greene.html

Video produced by Solidarity South Sudan last November

Testimony of Jim to the confreres in Rome

Being the only Missionary of africa in South Sudan and having to attend meetings every now and then in Rome with the board of Solidarity South Sudan, Jim is attached to the Generalate, rather than to the Easr Africa Province which, traditionally, was hosting Sudan. As he was in Rome last April, he gave his testimony to some confreres. The video he is referring to at the beginning is the one above and the power point he is referring to follows. By default, the slides moves forward every 15 seconds, but you can force them forward or backward as you are listening to Jim. Towards the end of the testimony, Jim is answering questions… which are unfortunately not audible, as the confreres did not bother waiting for the microphone. But if you are interested in the testimony, you will be able to guess what the questions were about.


Roman celebrations 150° anniversary – SYMPOSIUM

Like all the provinces of the Society, Rome celebrated its main event at the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Lavigerie Family, namely the White Fathers, Missionaries of Africa, founded in 1868, and the White Sisters, Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa in 1869.

The Symposium had long been planned to be in line with the International Conference of Major Superiors (UISG) in order to encourage the participation of the Superiors General of the 21 African women’s congregations often founded by a White Father confrere (bishop) but especially “accompanied” by the White Sisters.

The success of this symposium would not have been as spectacular without their extremely energizing presence; if the preparation of the 150th anniversary celebrations of our foundations brought our two congregations/society closer together, this symposium confirmed their complementarity, already present in the vision of evangelization of sub-Saharan Africa of our founder Cardinal Charles Martial Lavigerie: Africa will not be evangelized without the presence of women apostles who will accompany African women and families to know, love and follow Jesus.

The main purpose of this symposium was to raise the visibility of the Lavigerie family in the maze of congregations present in Rome. The invited audience was essentially composed of men and women religious present in Rome, who regularly rub shoulders with us, without necessarily knowing us in our specific charism. The theme was: “The significance of 150 years of Mission in Africa for the Universal Mission of the Church”. While the date chosen favoured the participation of African women’s congregations, it was less favourable to the presence of many members of general councils visiting their congregations at this time of the year. The 210-seat auditorium at Urbaniana University, which we had rented for the occasion, was nevertheless almost full.

The conference began with the intervention of the two main speakers. Our confrere, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, spoke non-exhaustively about the “Contribution of our two institutes to the missionary work of the Universal Church”, noting in his conclusion that, from the very beginning of our foundations, the encounter – initially with Islam, then with all Africans and all religious realities – has always been essential in our charism, as well as the struggle for Justice and Peace for and with the people in whose service we work. You will find the link to the text of his speech at the bottom of this page.

Sister Carmen Sammut, Superior General of the White Sisters, presented the essential characteristics that make the White Sisters Missionaries especially to women and for Africa, initiators who will allow the Africans themselves to continue the work of evangelization in Africa. She then drew the portrait of 7 women, missionaries of Our Lady of Africa, all models of women missionaries in the service of the universal Church. The link to the text of his speech is at the bottom of the page.


After a 30-minute break, three speakers took part in a roundtable discussion with public interaction after the presentations. Through the account of some recent encounters with very simple people in his diocese, Bishop Richard Baawobr, M.Afr., spoke of the urgency of sharing the person, the lifestyle and the message of Jesus in the human encounter. It is in the Word of God, shared within human-sized Christian communities, that our efforts to evangelize are rooted. The link to the text of Bishop Richard’s speech is available at the bottom of this page.

In a very theological intervention, Don Antoine de Padou Pooda, a priest from the diocese of Gadoua, Burkina Faso, teaching missiology at the Urbaniana and declaring himself heir to the White Fathers, then spoke to us about the heritage and spiritual fruitfulness of the “Lavigerie Family” in Africa.  The link to the text of Don Antoine de Padou’s speech is available at the bottom of this page.

Sister Lea Belemsaga, Superior General of the Sisters of the Annunciation of Bobo Dioulasso, concluded the Round Table presentations by presenting a Power Point on three of the 21 congregations founded and/or accompanied by the Lavigerie Family. Sister Lea’s Power Point can be downloaded here and the link to the Power Point text (in 3 languages) is available at the bottom of this page.

The Symposium participants then gathered to share, in a spirit of conviviality, the evening meal around an excellent buffet before returning to the audience for the last part of the Symposium, a concert given by a Togolese artist who came with his family from Milan, in northern Italy. At the bottom of this page, you can enjoy a compilation of this concert.

The Symposium was moderated with great talent by our Confrere, Diego Sarriò, who summed up the event by quoting Don Antoine de Padou Pooda: “The Lavigerie family, by its international and intercultural character, extends Pentecost as a cenacle where the Kingdom of justice and peace is already in action.” Father Stan Lubungo, Superior General of the White Fathers, closed the Symposium shortly after 8:30 pm.

Philippe Docq, M.Afr.

A symposium in Rome for the 150°

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary, the Missionaries of Africa, together with our Sisters MSOLA, are holding this Saturday a SYMPOSIUM at one of the Universities of Rome. The General theme is the “Significance of 150 years of service to Africa for the Universal Mission of the Church”.

At 3pm, two personalities will make a 20 minute presentation. Our confrere, Mgr. Michael Fitzgerald, will speak on the “Contribution of the two institutes to the Missionary Work of the Universal Church”. As for Sr. Carmen Sammut, Superior General of the MSOLA, she will present a talk on “Women apostles: some portraits”.  There should be time for interaction with the 200 guests that are expected to attend.

At 5pm, there will be a Round Table with three speakers who will introduce their topics in 10 minutes to start off interaction with the public. Don Antoine de Padoue Pooda, a priest of the diocese of Gaoua in Burkina Faso, teaching missiology at the Urbaniana University in Rome, will speak on the “Inheritance and spiritual fecundity of the ‘Lavigerie Family’ in Africa”. Our confrere, Mgr. Richard Baawobr, will deal with the question “Why evangelize? The contribution of the Bible and Small Christian Communities”. As for Sister Lea Belemsaga, general superior of the Annunciation Sisters of Bobo, she will speak, in the name of all the congregations sponsored by the Lavigerie Family, about “The ‘FIAT’ of the african woman: fundation of 21 female congregations for the Mission”.

After sharing a buffet, we will come back to the Hall for the last part of our symposium, a concert by a Togolese singer and composer, Arsène Duevi, who lives with his family in Milan. He will take us to a singing journey to the very roots of humanity: Africa!

Following are a few video clips made on various themes, which will be shown during the 30 minutes before the beginning of the symposium. You will also see the programme advertised in between, with a glimse on our Togolese artist.

Summit on the protection of minors – Vatican 21-24 February 2019

From 21 to 24 February, the presidents of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences around the world responded to Pope Francis’ call to come to Rome to the Vatican to reflect together on how best to respond seriously to this unprecedented crisis facing the Catholic Church today. The sufferings of so many men and women, children and young people call for a determination on the part of the whole Church. During these three days, several speakers followed one another to address different topics based on the three areas of reflection proposed by the organizing committee: Responsibility, Accountability, Transparency.

All the conferences can be found on the VaticanNews YouTube channel. This summit was also punctuated by several testimonies of victims previously recorded in audio or video. These testimonies allowed those among the speakers who had never heard from victims to discover the extent of the suffering they had endured. Participants also worked in language groups.

What should we remember from this summit?

It is possible to read many analyses in different languages in the online press, indeed 450 journalists were accredited, mainly from the English-speaking world. But for us, here is what we can learn that is important.

This meeting is just one step in this immense project which is to respond to the suffering of the victims with compassion and mercy. It is also a step in the process of conversion of hearts necessary for real preventive work to make the Catholic Church a safe home for children and the most vulnerable. In his final speech, Pope Francis set 7 priority axes of work for the whole People of God and more especially for the bishops of the whole world, here they are summarized with his words (Excerpts from the final speech):

  1. Protection of children: the primary objective of any measure is to protect children and prevent them from being victims of psychological and physical abuse. It is therefore necessary to change attitudes to combat the defensive and reactive attitude aimed at safeguarding the Institution, in favour of a sincere and determined search for the good of the community, giving priority to the victims of abuse in every sense of the word.”
  2. An irreproachable seriousness: I would like to repeat here that the Church will not spare itself to do all that is necessary to bring to justice anyone who has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to stifle or underestimate any case.”
  3. True purification: despite the measures taken and the progress made in preventing abuse, it is necessary to impose a perpetual and renewed commitment to the holiness of pastors whose configuration in Christ the Good Shepherd is a right of God’s people.”
  4. Formation: in other words, the requirements of the selection and formation of candidates for the priesthood with criteria not only negative, aimed mainly at excluding problematic personalities, but also positive by offering a balanced formation path for suitable candidates, oriented towards holiness including the virtue of chastity.”
  5. To strengthen and verify the guidelines of the Episcopal Conferences: that is, to reaffirm the requirement of unity of the Bishops in the application of measures that have the value of norms and not only of guidelines. No abuse should ever be covered…”
  6. Accompanying victims of abuse: The harm they have experienced leaves indelible wounds in them, which are also manifested in resentment and tendencies towards self-destruction. The Church therefore has a duty to offer them all the necessary support by calling on experts in this field.”
  7. The digital world: the protection of minors must take into account the new forms of sexual abuse and all forms of abuse that threaten them in the environments in which they live and through the new instruments they use.”

These are seven priorities that Pope Francis has set for the bishops and major superiors of consecrated congregations and institutes of consecrated life, but also more broadly for the whole People of God.

To complete this roadmap, other measures will come: produce a Motu proprio on this question; offer a practical guide for bishops and major superiors to help them in their mission; “task forces / teams of experts” may also be created to help local churches that have more difficulty finding material and human resources to fight against this evil that spares no particular church or human community.

Let us make this roadmap our own.

Useful links :

Chaine YouTube de VaticanNews pour voir ou revoir les conférences :
En français – https://www.youtube.com/user/vaticanfr
In English – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxIsefyl9g9A5SGWA4FvGIA
Also exists in other languages
Many interviews and articles on www.vaticannews.va

JPIC Promoters’ meeting in Rome

The monthly JPIC promoters meeting was held on the 20th of February 2019 at the headquarter of UISG in Rome. This meeting was organised by the African Working Group and focused on the topic “State of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa: providing keys for better understanding of the expansion of Islam”.

After the opening prayer prepared by Sr. Ignatia Asoh (TSSF) and Sr. Caroline Njah Bongnavti (SUSC), and the presentation of the 20 participants of various Religious congregations and institutes, Fr. Mariano Tibaldo (MCCJ) introduced the speaker. Fr. Felix Phiri is former Director of the Islamic studies in the Tangaza University of Nairobi and former Professor and lecturer at Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamology Studies (PISAI). He is at the moment actually in charge of the Southern African Province of the Missionary of Africa.

At the beginning of the conference, Fr Phiri explained the territorial expansion of Islam in its early existence. Next, he focused more on the Islam in sub-Saharan Africa showing how Islam spread in Africa. The speaker then stressed the conceptual frameworks underlying the Islamic expansion. He offered comprehensive explanation about “Da’wah” which refers to Islamic missionary activities in modern period. He stressed the different types of “Jihad”, the inner and outer jihad, and its extremist forms which are actually spreading out in various African Countries such as Nigeria, Mali and Kenya.

The Da’wah movement is encouraged by several agents of Islamic propagation, such as Islamic governments, Muslim International Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations and individual Muslim Initiatives. The Islamist infrastructure worldwide relies heavily on “zakat”, the mandatory charity demanded by Islam, usually 2.5 percent of one’s annual earnings.

The agents of Islamic propagation explore various strategies such as media, schools and universities, social welfare projects as well as funding of mosques, Islamic centres and madrassas. There are also different ways used to national politics, economy, society, family life, education, language and daily cultural habits.

Fr. Phiri concluded by saying that although a religion with a universal outlook, Islam foresees a coexistence with other religions. In its expansionist thrust, Islam needs no one’s permission, emphasised Fr. Phiri, on the contrary Muslims would gladly see Islam become more accepted in society. (click here for the content of the conference)

During the second part of the conference, the participants asked questions on cohabitation of Muslims and Christians. The answers given by Fr. Phiri were clear and realistic. He encouraged the participants to live their witness through authentic Christian life in coherence to the message of Jesus. To the question about Pope Francis’ landmark visit to the United Arab Emirates, the speaker underscored the important gesture of encounter, the coming as a friend, the importance of collaboration between Muslims and Christians.

At the end of the conference, the moderator, in the name of all participants, expressed deep gratitude to Fr. Felix Phiri for his very interesting and impressive conference on Islam in sub-Saharan Africa.

Before concluding the meeting, Sr Sheila (executive secretary) gave some information about the future events organised by the JPIC commission.

Andreas Göpfert (MAFR) and Mariano Tibaldo (MCCJ)

Discovering Mother Marie-Salome

Some of you have asked for the written text of this very interesting conference. In the meantime, I have adopted and edited the conference title used in the written version. I also received the Power-Point presentation that I have inserted after the sound file below. For the moment I only have the French versions of those two documents, but the English text of the conference should follow soon.

Gisela Schreyer, archivist of the MSOLA, tells us about the history, little known to the White Fathers, of Mother Marie Salome, considered to be the co-founder of the White Sisters with Cardinal Lavigerie.

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