Our “aspirancy” experience

Our “aspirancy” experience

We are nineteen Aspirants in the 2019-20 batch at SOLA, Sollepuram, India. We come from eight states in India and from different cultural backgrounds; yet, we live as brothers of the same family. Here we learn that the Missionaries of Africa live in international and intercultural communities. We learn a lot from each other and believe that our life in SOLA foreshadows such a community life. Listening patiently to our brothers, sharing our time and talents, working, playing and praying together are a few of the experiences, among many others, that we have seen and learned.

Our life at SOLA is centered on prayer and we spend considerable time in prayer. We have learned many prayers in English and we have been introduced to both personal and community prayers. We are initiated to pray through meditation, spiritual reading, and the examination of conscience. The quiet and calm atmosphere creates an environment that helps us to pray well. On different occasions, we join the parish community for prayers, during which we pray together with the local church. Through prayer, we are beginning to understand our Lord better, as well as His invitation for us.

A lot of time is devoted to English, and we are improving in speaking, reading and writing English. Various activities, such as loud reading, essay writing, daily homework, public speaking and quiz competitions are incorporated into our program to improve our English. Regular class tests help us to revise the materials we have covered and to evaluate our progress. All these activities are helping us to build confidence as well as to gain the necessary skills in the English language.

God will not forget anyone, even if a mother forgets her nursing child. In SOLA, we are very well cared for with the fathers of our community never showing any partiality to anyone. They treat each one of us equally, as their younger brothers. We are being shaped like pots shaped by a potter. We are happy and enjoying our stay here at Sollepuram.

On the behalf of all our brothers, we humbly ask you to remember us in your prayers so that one day we will also work in the vineyard of the Lord through the special vocation as missionaries.

By: Chilka Pawan Kumar & Anand Munda – Cebu

From SOA Newsletter – January 2020

Reflection on 3 years of formation…

Reflection on three years of formation

As the psalmist says, “…behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony…” (Psalm 133:1).

When anyone asks what I like in the Missionaries of Africa in my three years of formation in SOLA Study House, the first answer will be community life and the second will be the formators, who helped me to understand the depth and width of my vocation.

Though our community is mainly focused on studies in Philosophy, our formators have moulded a timetable giving equal importance to the essential aspects of formation like prayer, pastoral ministry, studies, community living and other important areas in the life of a candidate, which help the candidate make an integrated development in his personal life and his vocation journey.

Each vocation is unique, and each congregation has a unique charism, but I have always felt that call to be a Missionary of Africa is much more unique than others and a vocation that presents many challenges from the very beginning of our formation programme.

Over the past three years, I have learned that I am chiefly responsible for my own formation and nobody is forcing me to be like anyone else. There is freedom for each candidate to refine their unique personalities within the missionary vocation that each one has received. Through my years of formation, 1 have been helped to improve my level of confidence in various areas like studies, personal responsibility, inter-cultural / inter-national community living and so on.

A missionary vocation is a gift from God, and He forms each one accordingly. Through our formators, I have been helped and guided to deepen my understanding of what God wants of me.
Regular meetings with my Spiritual Companion helped me to evaluate myself from different perspectives. Our monthly recollections and annual retreat have been times for reflection and renewal. When linked with Ignatian spirituality, monthly encounters with the rector and gentle corrections from the members of staff, I have grown to be a better person.

Attending the African mass in the first Sunday of every month, which is something I cherish, when combined with quiz competitions and inputs about Africa and our Society have helped me to know more about Africa and its people. Through all of this, I have come to a deeper awareness of Africa and its people and now have African friends in Bangalore.

My different, weekend pastoral ministries have helped me to better understand the realities of life being faced by people around us, as well as deepening my understanding of what it means to be a servant of God. I felt challenged by these experiences and was gradually able to enter the life of those to whom I was sent. It was a great lesson.

Learning French has been one of the great difficulties I have had. Learning a new language is not, for me, an easy thing to do, but with the constant support of the formation team and our confreres who know French it has given me the courage to move forward.

Team life is also an activity to be appreciated and has helped me in many ways both as an individual and on my vocation journey.

Following in the footsteps of Cardinal Lavigerie in the African world is a unique and challenging call. My experiences in formation in SOLA Study House have been positive and reassuring. I feel I have been well-formed to face the challenges as I move forward. I have been very happy to have been part of a community knitted with love and focused on Christ and I thank all my formators and others who have helped me to be where I am today.

Lithin Varghese
Third-Year Candidate
SOLA Study House – Bangalore

From SOA Newsletter – January 2020

Life in the spiritual year

Life in the spiritual year (Kasama)

When I was in the Philippines preparing to go to Africa, I had no doubt that my Spiritual Year would be a good year. It truly was quite an unforgettable moment in my life. When I arrived in Zambia in September 2018, I was so happy. The place was so beautiful and the people so friendly. I realized, after interacting with them, that their cultures and traditions are not very different when compared to my own: friendly people, respectful of elders, the style of singing and dancing, the love for celebrations and, most importantly, the strong faith of the people towards God. For me, given all the facts it was really a fruitful year.

In my community, I was lucky to live with people from ten different nationalities. I learned many things from them: their cultures, traditions, countries and many such things. In the beginning, I had to make a lot of adjustments. There were times when I found myself quarreling, shouting, throwing heavy words and being misunderstood by them. There, we realized we have to love and to help each other as brothers. I could say that because of them I developed a good backbone, a person ready to be sent anywhere and ready to be part of the mission of Christ in Africa. The formators also contributed greatly for my growth. I was grateful to have them, especially my Spiritual Companion. They challenged me gently on my weaknesses and the things that I needed to change about my behavior. I am happy that I managed at least to face them and am so thankful to my formators for my growth.

The sessions we had, the pastoral assignment every weekend, the immersion experience and the daily routine helped me tremendously. The sessions helped me to know more about myself, our founder, our Society, the Church, etc. My pastoral assignments helped me to have direct contact with the people outside our compound and reminded me that I am a Missionary of Africa. My immersion experience was my opportunity to actualize and concretize all I learned from the sessions. I was able to work with people coming from different religions with whom we made a good community, bearing the goal of the well-being of the people of God. I also loved our daily routine, full of reflections about myself and my relationship with God, His plan for me and who I am for Him. During our retreats, recollections and reflections, my heart discovered that God loves me so much without any conditions and has great plans for me.

My spiritual year was full of God’s grace. I feel so lucky and thankful to God for giving me such an experience. I had a good community and excellent formators. I met very friendly and generous people. I experienced unforgettable moments: the official Entry into the Society, the Reception of the Gandourah, Burnous and the Rosary, the Retreat of Election, the Declaration of Intent and the Reception of the Ministry of Reader. All these wonderful moments were the graces of God for me and expressed His love for me. Everything I have is a result of His Grace and I am forever thankful to Him.

At the end of our Spiritual Year, when I left the Spiritual Formation Centre in Kasama I told myself that, “I miss this place, the silence and my brothers”. Indeed, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I remember Fr. Paul Johnston, my rector in the First Phase saying, “95% of formation is from within and only 5% is contributed by formators”. I now see this is true.

My Spiritual Year experience in Kasama was a very special year for me. It changed my views on life, enlightened me more about God, gave me right direction on the life that I decided to live to and enlightened me more about our Founder and our Society. Moreover, I learned so many practical things. For me I can express my Spiritual Year experience in these words: It was very fruitful, full of growth about myself and full of God’s grace.

Andy Deala from the Philippines

Kasama Spiritual Year -archive photo

From SOA Newsletter – January 2020

Closing the Jubilee Year in Cebu

Closing celebration of the 150th anniversary in Cebu

On December 8, 2019 we joyfully celebrated in our Community House the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the closure of 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Missionaries of Africa.

Very early in the morning, a group of the friends of the Missionaries of Africa generously came to decorate the place where the Holy Mass was to take place. They also brought us some gifts and a gigantic cake prepared specifically for the occasion.

The choir was composed of Missionaries of Africa candidates and a group of the Friends of the Missionaries of Africa in the Philippines (FROMAP). Our talented candidates (Richard, Roberto, Mark, Vincent and Christian) did a tremendous work in preparing for the occasion.

The main celebrant was our confrere Fr. Mike (Michel) Agoh, who currently serves in the Parish of Malalag-Diocese of Digos. The co-celebrants were Frs. Bonaventure Gubazire, Boris Yabre, Luisito Poe, and an SDV Filipino priest, Fr. Gilberto, who served for a long time in Chad. Our stagiaire, Andy Deala, was also present.

During his homily Fr. Mike called upon the faithful to take Mother Mary as their model in matters of faith. Mary trusted in God and humbled herself to allow God to use her as an instrument of love for humanity. Those present were heartily touched to see a black man fluently speaking their local language – Cebuano.

The attendance was higher than expected. Among them were the parents of our confrere from Cebu, Clayb Caputolan, who is currently serving in Ethiopia.

Since our chapel is too small, we used our dining and sitting rooms for the occasion. The alleys of the house were also filled with well-wishers. Could the presence of a good number of friends suggest that our missionary presence and charism are well appreciated in this region? Many people say they feel at home in our communities both here in Cebu and in Malalag.

Could perhaps the fact of living in intercultural communities in itself be an apostolate?

After the celebration of the Eucharist, a catering group had already skilfully set tables, well decorated in white and blue to represent Marian colours. As it is a custom here, several lechon (whole roasted pigs) were served. The meat lovers among us rejoiced to the maximum.

The delicious meal was followed by entertainment. The lay Collaborators of the Missionaries of Africa and former Scholars of the Missionaries of Africa presented beautiful and artistic sketches. In the end, we all joined in the dance.

It was, indeed, a day marked by a joyful and blissful celebration. We give thanks to God who inspired our founder, Charles Cardinal Lavigerie, to dream of such a wonderful family of the Missionaries of Africa, a family elected to bear fruit and become a witness to God’s love and compassion in Africa and beyond.

May Mother Mary, Our Lady of Africa, continue to intercede for us!

From the SOA Newsletter – January 2020

Closing the Jubilee Year in Bangalore

SOLA STUDY HOUSE - BANGALORE: CLOSURE OF JUBILEE ANNIVERSARY

On 7th of December, along with about 250 people from various religious communities and our friends, the two communities in India celebrated the closing of the 150th anniversary of our Society’s foundation at SOLA Study House in Bangalore.

In preparation for the event, the students worked hard at preparing paintings, artwork, banners and posters focussing on Africa and our Society and placed these around our compound. This presented a festive atmosphere in which the celebration took place.

The programme started with a Mass of thanksgiving, with Fr. Praween D’Souza, OFM, as the main celebrant, who was joined by the confreres of both houses. In the name of our two communities, Fr. Paul Johnston, rector of SOLA Study House, welcomed our guests before inviting Fr. Praween to lead us in prayer. In his homily, Fr. Praween emphasized the great missionary zeal of our founder Cardinal Charles Lavigerie and how his words encouraged the early missionaries to speak of Christ and to live like Christ, in the midst of life-threatening conditions.

During the offertory, several symbolic items were presented, including a unique picture of Cardinal Lavigerie painted by Lithin Varghese, one of our third-year students, who used only coffee powder. It was well appreciated by everyone. Music for the Mass was provided by our own SOLA Study House students and the African community in Bangalore when they arrived.

Following the Mass, the festive meal took place during which everyone was delighted and contented by a spicy-Indian buffet. When all were satisfied, our cultural soirée started with presentations from the African community of Bangalore and an Indian component, including presentations from both our communities. While some adjustments needed to be made, not even the light drizzle dampened the spirit of the evening.

The celebration was an important moment where, in the presence of our friends, we gave thanks to God for his abundant blessings and his constant protection on our Society for the past 150 years.

It was a remarkable and wonderful way to bring to a close our 150th Anniversary.

Albin Joseph – Third Year Student – Bangalore

(From SOA Newsletter – January 2020)

Life in CEBU Formation Community

LIFE IN CEBU FORMATION COMMUNITY

The Cebu Formation House is located at 4 Kalaw Street, Santo Nino Village, Banilad, Cebu City. The Community for the academic year 2019-2020 is composed of three priests (Frs. John Gould, Bonaventure Gubazire and Boris Yabre) and five Filipino candidates (Richard, Roberto, Mark, Vincent and Christian). Our candidates come from different islands of the Philippines and have come here to follow God’s call and are aspiring to be part of Missionaries of Africa community.

Our academic year started in August 2019 with a three-week immersion experience at the “Fazenda de Esperança”, a rehabilitation centre for people with addictions, which is located on Masbate Island, about 300km from Cebu City. On our return to the community, together with the formators, we held meeting to decide on how we would like to live together as a community. We came up with a document entitled “Community Orientation Plan” in which we outlined our expectations, means to achieve them, and the obstacles that we might encounter on our discernment journey. During our monthly recollection, we committed ourselves to our Community Orientation Plan under the theme: “Called by Jesus, we commit ourselves to grow in love through openness with one another as we discern our call.”

From a spiritual perspective, our daily life is centred upon Morning and Evening Prayer, coupled with meditation and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Every third weekend of month we go for a recollection at Betania Retreat Centre – Lahug with the recollection animated either by one of the formators or someone from outside the community. These moments of recollection help us to be in touch with ourselves as well as to reflect upon our struggles and hopes and how we are being called to deepen our call to become disciples of Jesus in the Society of Missionaries of Africa. At the same time, they provide us with a moment of rest from our academic life.

From an academic perspective, we follow the Philosophy Program (B.A.) at the University of San Carlos, Talamban Campus, located at about 3 km from our Formation House. There we are challenged to reflect deeply. Apart from academic studies, in our community, we are also privileged to follow sessions and programmes, like human formation, English classes and initiation into the Missionaries of Africa Charism. All of these things put together provide us with a well-rounded formation.

We have candidates’ meetings and other platforms where we are free to share our life experiences as well as our challenges. Once a week, during our daily mass, we are invited to share our reflections during Mass. During these moments, we learn to listen to how God is speaking to us through Holy Scriptures and the events of our lives. Birthdays are celebrated on the last Friday of each month.

Every second Sunday of the month, we have an open mass for the Friends of the Missionaries of Africa (FROMAP).

Through these encounters, we are learning to relate with people of different ages and gender. We also do some vocation promotion through sharing our experiences with the young people who came to attend the Mass.

We are grateful to the Missionaries of Africa for granting us this opportunity to learn to become disciples of Jesus, also to discover and to develop our academic potential and to learn more about who I am as a person.

We congratulate our brother Kiran Joseph, from India, who received his ghandourah and rosary at a ceremony held in the Spiritual Formation Centre in Kasama. We keep Kiran and all our young brothers in our prayers.

(From SOA Newsletter – January 2020)

A 17-day immersion experience in the Farm of Hope

MASBATE PASTORAL EXPERIENCE IN FAZENDA DA ESPERANÇA

Masbate, an island in Bicol region, is at a crossroad of two Major Island in the Philippines – Luzon and Visayas. Its capital city is Masbate, but it is not in the city where we had our 17-day Immersion Experience.

It was in the place called Fazenda da Esperança, a name in Spanish meaning “Farm of Hope”, located in the town of Milagros, where we did our immersion experience.

Communication with those with whom we were living was difficult as there were people from different parts of the Philippines, but Tagalog was the common language used and became the middle ground for our communication.

Fazenda da Esperanca (Farm of Hope) is a place helping in the rehabilitation of people with various addictions like drugs, gambling, alcohol and even video games. Recovery is based upon three pillars:

    • COMMUNITY: where love and unity are lived as a family;
    • WORK: where each member of the community works for the food they eat daily as a way of making the project self-sustainable and
    • SPIRITUALITY: which gives meaning and direction to their lives and helps them to discover that God is the one who journeys with them, who loves them and who provides them with the strength to make the journey toward recovery.

These three pillars are the foundation which we experienced during our Immersion Experience in Fazenda da Esperanca. We lived, worked and prayed as they do. Seeing these things and experiencing life in their community helped us to grow more in our formation and brought us closer to the reality of life.

By representative of student community – Cebu

(from the SOA Newsletter – January 2020)

Ordination to the Priesthood of Bipin Kerketta

Here are some pictures of Bipin Kerketta’s ordination and first mass in northern India. The photos are of confreres who were present. Some photos come from Georges Jacques’ Facebook account, who had attached the following words to it:

“Here is a sample of this beautiful celebration of the ordination of Bipin Kerketta in India. We were 4 confreres to accompany him in addition to Felix, an abbot of Ste Marie d’Aguetto (Abidjan). But also the large crowd in the village! Beautiful cultural traditions. Unforgettable moments for Bipin and for each of us.”