Ghislain De Jaeger, R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Yvo Wellens, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Belgium,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

Ghislain De Jaeger

on Monday 13th September 2021 in Bruges (Belgium)
at the age of 96 years, of which 71 years of missionary life
in D.R. Congo and in Belgium.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

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First meeting with the Chapter moderators

First meeting with the Chapter moderators

Here is some news from the Generalate at the beginning of the academic year. The General Council is once again complete after the usual summer dispersion. Two confreres have joined them in this first week of work, the mornings of which are dedicated to the preparation of the 2022 Chapter. They are the two future moderators, Innocent Maganya, who directs and teaches at the Institute for Inter-religious Dialogue and Islamic Studies (IRDIS) in Nairobi, and Yago Abeledo, who resides in New York and follows a 4 year specialised formation in process-oriented facilitation and conflict studies.

This first contact between the General Council and the future moderators of the Chapter is very important because the former have already reflected a great deal on the Chapter of 2022, notably by reading the responses to the General Consultation launched last year, while the latter are anxious to know what the description of their future task will be, that is to say, how they will be able to stimulate and nourish the discernment of the capitulants.

This week’s work is focused on three documents:

    • The internal regulations of the Chapter: the basis of this document will of course be the regulations already in existence at the 2016 Chapter, but which will be reviewed, corrected and adapted in view of next year’s Chapter. For example, the role of the spiritual guide of the Chapter will enhanced, as well as the times of prayer at the beginning and end of the day, in order to give more space to discernment and listening to the Spirit.
    • The method to be used during the Chapter was one of the questions of the General Consultation. There is a clear consensus for the so-called Cardinal Cardijn method “See, Judge, Act”. But the General Council has already gone further by taking inspiration from the famous “Pastoral Cycle” (Experience – Analysis – Theological Reflection – Action – Celebration – Evaluation…) widely used by JPIC.
    • The Chapter Calendar will be the third and final document to be drawn up during the working meetings of this week.

 

In a future working meeting, the spiritual guide of the Chapter should probably be present.

But Rome is not the only one to get to work. The Pre-Capitulars will begin in all the provinces. Their reflections will complement those of the General Council to give the future 2022 Chapter a solid basis for work and reflection.

Good meetings to you all!

And above all… with a touch of humour…

Birthday of Our Lady in Jerusalem

8 September : Birthday of Our Lady in Jerusalem

The Proto-Gospel of James (2nd century) indicates the birth of the Virgin Mary in the vicinity of the Temple; and pilgrims from the 5th century onwards visited the church of the paralytic and “Saint Mary where she was born” at the probatic pool.

This church, destroyed before the arrival of the Crusaders, was built on the present site of Saint Anne’s, with a large monastery, provided with royal revenues, where AUDE, wife of King BEAUDOUIN I, and Judith, daughter of BEAUDOUIN II and sister of Queen MELISANDRE, ended their lives.

In 1192, as an Arabic inscription on the tympanum of the main door indicates, the church was transformed by Saladin into a Shiafi’i college; hence the name Salahiye.

During the Muslim occupation, the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land used every means to gain access to the crypt from time to time to pray with their pilgrims. They could only enter by descending through a window that can still be seen today from the platform through which one enters the Crypt of the Birth of Mary.

As early as the 15th century, the Franciscans obtained a firman that allowed them to celebrate Mass (which was done with difficulty and fear) on 8 September, the feast of the Virgin’s birth, and on 8 December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1856, after the Crimean War, the building was given to France by Sultan ABDUL MAJID. The church, carefully restored, was entrusted in 1878 to the care of the White Fathers founded by Cardinal Charles LAVIGERIE.

During the 1967 war, the basilica and its dome were badly damaged by Israeli bombing. In the following years, the church was restored under the direction of the architects M. TROUVELOT and P. COUASNON OP.

On 14 July 1971, France’s National Day, it was solemnly reopened for worship.

Season of Creation 2021

The Season of Creation 2021

As every year since the promulgation of the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis “Laudato Sì”, the Season of Creation is celebrated throughout the World from the 1st September to the 4th October. 

If you haven’t found it yet, you can find all the documentation following this link :

https://seasonofcreation.org

In Rome, four communities – the Marist Sisters, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Africa – decided to plant the “Tent of Abraham” in turn in the four gardens of their Generalates. Every Saturday, these communities will celebrate together, deepening various themes around the “Tent of Abraham”:

      • The tent of the Presence of God
      • The tent of Hospitality
      • The tent of a People in movement
      • Expanding the tent space.

In our own garden, at the Generalate, the celebration will take place on Saturday the 18th of September. 

The photos below are taken from the album offered online by the organisers. You may access the full album by clicking on any of the photos. I suppose other photos will be added as the tent is planted in other gardens. Please check out every week. 

Felix Hoffmann, R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Rudi Pint, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Germany,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

Felix Hoffmann

on Saturday 4th September 2021 in Trier (Germany)
at the age of 83 years, of which 56 years of missionary life
in Zambia and in Germany.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

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Jan Mol, R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Jozef de Bekker, Provincial Delegate of the sector of the Netherlands,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

Jan Mol

on Friday, 3rd September 2021 in Breda (Netherlands)
at the age of 86 years, of which 61 years of missionary life
in Belgium, France, DR Congo, Great Britain and the Netherlands.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

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Edouard Duclos, R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Emmanuel Lengaigne, Provincial Delegate of the sector of France,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

Edouard Duclos

on Tuesday, 1st September 2021 in Pau-Billère (France)
at the age of 97 years, of which 70 years of missionary life
in Burkina Faso and France.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

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OSUN-OSOGBO Festival

Pilgrimage to Osun-Osogbo Festival 2021

An amazing experience by Peter Ekutt

African Traditional beliefs involving animist spirits are still widely held in many African societies despite the arrival of Christianity. In some places it is restricted and private. For the Yoruba people of Osogbo land, it’s a civic traditional religion. The concept of religion is not exclusive. In each family one can have many deities and divinities while belonging to any other religion like Christianity, Islam.

Every year in August, during the long vacation, an annual processional festival occurs in “Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove” to re-establish the mystic bonds between the goddess and the people of the town and thus sustains the living cultural traditions of the Yoruba people. The 75 hectares and dense virgin forest located on the outskirts of the city of Osogbo town, the capital of Osun State, was founded some 500 years ago in southwest Nigeria, at a distance of 250 km from Lagos. The Osun Sacred Grove is the largest and perhaps the only remaining example of a once widespread phenomenon that used to characterize every Yoruba settlement. It now represents Yoruba sacred Groves and their reflection of Yoruba cosmology. It is the largest sacred grove to have survived and one that is still revered today. The secret Grove inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005 is amazing and full of excitements.

The festival of Osun-Osgobo, which takes place every year in Osogbo, Nigeria, celebrates the Yoruba goddess of fertility, Osun. The festival renews the contract between humans and the divine: Osun offers grace to the community; in return, it vows to honor her Sacred Grove.

After a private visit to the grove three months ago, I had a chance to participate at this year’s festival (13/08/2021) amids sounds, talking drums, cultural and religious manifestations. The “Osun-Osogbo festival” is the biggest annual religious festival among the Yoruba people and serves as a strong unifying factor for indigenes of Osogbo land during which irrespective of the different social, economic, religious and political convictions of the people, they all come together annually to celebrate the festival and to witness the sacrificial offering by “ Arugba” a virgin maiden who is a link between the community and deity. The Arugba, also known as the calabash carrier, comes out with a large calabash on her head underneath a colorful veil accompanied to deliver the message of the year’s festival sent by Osun to his people gather around the grove. The calabash contains the sacrifices of the entire community and those offered by the people in attendance. Information gathered at the scene reveals that every Arugba has to remain a virgin during her time in the role. Before all this happens, the worshippers offer a special prayer in the shrine of a priestess which I had the opportunity to visit during the festival though with lots of challenges.

Experts on traditional religion met at the scene say the festival was started by the founders of the town of Osogbo around 600 years ago. They had planned to build their houses by the river bank, but as they began felling trees, it is said the spirit of the river-god Osun called out to them, ordering them away. Was this action related to any respect and preservation for nature? Yes, I can say. The grove has been a sacred area of worship for the spirit’s devotees. The goddess promised to protect the entire group and bring them prosperity in return for an annual sacrifice to her. The group accepted the proposition. Today the annual sacrifice to the Osun River Goddess is what is celebrated as the Osun-Osogbo Festival. This is why August is a month of celebration, traditional cleansing of the city and cultural reunion of the people with their ancestors and founders of the Osogbo Kingdom.

Osun is a goddess of all things feminine; fertility, spirituality, emotions, sensuality, nurture and love.

My experience

Once I step into the place, I had some feelings, seems like all the African gods inhabit this place, decorated with very creative artwork, the grove is a place to be, get close to nature, experience healing and meditation. Discovering for the first time, the landscape of the grove dotted with sanctuaries and shrines, sculptures and art works, its meandering river and vegetation in honor of “Osun” and other deities made me stand in owe and splendor. I witnessed the beauty and natural conservation of species and animals. The grove is a natural herbal pharmacy containing over 400 species of plants, some endemic, of which more than 200 species are known for their medicinal uses. Birds, reptiles, and animals are well preserved and protected. As I walked around the, I discovered signs and indications that reads: “it is forbidden, to destroy or kill any animal for food”. There are traditional activities that have been used to protect the site from any form of threats such as traditional laws, myths, taboos and customs that forbid people from fishing, hunting, poaching, felling of trees and farming inside the grove. The traditional worshippers and devotees maintain the intangible heritage through spiritualism, worship and symbolism. It is amazing how things are connected. Natures is not meant only to serve man’s economic needs.

This year’s festival attracted local, international worshipers, devotees, spectators and tourists drawn by what I see as a religious and cultural interaction. This was what pushed me as Missionary of Africa to participate at this year’s festival. These cultural and religious interaction reveals to me how interconnected we are in terms of religion, culture and nature. During the festival I felt that Traditions, religions and Nature become a mix of colors, religion, culture and sounds. The authenticity of the Grove is related to its value as a sacred place. The sacred nature of places can only be continually reinforced if that sacredness is widely respected. And this was displayed in the festival.

Over the past forty years the new sculptures in the Grove have had the effect of reinforcing the special qualities of the Grove and giving it back its spiritual qualities that imbue it with high cultural value. Devotees at the Osun-Osogbo festival believe that the sacred grove forest, situated on the outskirts of the city of Osogbo, is one of the last remaining places that the spirits, or “Orishas” reveal themselves to bless them. this actually makes me understand why such a large crowd present and active at the festival. Many fetched some water from the Osun river to drink, to wash their faces and to take it home for other uses. I met many on the way going back home with buckets and buckets of water with high esteem and trust in such a colorful water. It reminded me of the Christians coming out from NAMUGONGO’s shrine carrying also colorful holy water in bucket and bottles. I stood in awe to see such expressions of trust and faith in a cultural fiesta. Christians, Muslims, and even non-believers were present at the festival offer sacrifices around the water. Some had crosses on their neck, others came with different religious symbols. I got the chance of meeting one IFA PRIEST who allowed me to be at the scene of sacrifice and ceremony. Colas, hard traditional drinks, animals, birds like pigeons were offered by many at the riverside. The religiosity was incurable- there was something more to it as people felt into trance and were taken over by the spirit of Osun. The adoration for Osun, the deity of fertility is undeniable for the Yoruba people. It was an amazing pilgrimage.

I will say, the festival’s popularity has been growing in part because of the activism of Austrian-born artist and activist, Susanne Wenger, who rebuilt the shrines and worked to get the grove protected. Ms Wenger arrived in Nigeria in 1950s, she later divorced her husband and resolved to stay in Osogbo for the rest of her life. She was also known as Adunni Olorisha. She really entered into interaction and encounter with the culture of the Yoruba people of Osogbo.

If you love the African tradition and culture, here is your goto destination. Expect to see monkeys jumping around, and reserve some tips for the praying women at the entrance of the shrine. Feel free to pray to the river goddess, and experience walking through the first ever suspension bridge in Nigeria. You will enjoy an art village with tye and dye, paintings, wood carvings, drums and other arts and craft, amazing architecture, fantastic landscape and nature and its totally worth a visit. Above all something will take you into dialogue between religion and culture. I hope this site’s maintenance remains top-notch! Greetings from the Osun-River.

Peter Ekutt

Jacques Pallas (Palasse), R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Réal Doucet, Provincial of the Americas,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

Jacques Pallas (Palasse)

on Sunday, 22nd August, 2021 in the Residence Terrasses Bowen in Sherbrooke (Canada)
at the age of 91 years, of which 71 years of missionary life
in Canada and Malawi.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

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