Mazingira Prize for Michel Dubois

Mazingira Prize for Michel Dubois

Mini-Lien n°501

Here, on the Sanctuary Hill, Michel has planted 2400 pine trees.

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

Christmas, a treasure to be handed down

Emmanuel Lengaigne (Mini-Lien 501)

Multitude of angels - Brian Kershisnik

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.

 

Community life in a COVID world (SOA Newsletter)

Community life in a COVID world

Francis Barnes, the First Assistant General of our Society, became a refugee in our community as he waited for the opportunity to travel back to Rome. He would have liked to go out to visit some of the Malls in Cebu, but this was not possible due to quarantine controls. Bonaventure Gubazire continued to finalise his Doctoral Dissertation, which he successfully completed in October 2020. He is now at home in Uganda with his family.

Boris Yabre, appointed here primarily for studies, continues to move toward completion of his studies and hopes to finish next year. Luisito Poe prepared his visa papers that will allow him to travel to Canada at the end of this year to follow a course. He is now anxiously waiting for approval of his visa. Sergio Villasefior, the bursar of the community, did his best to keep our cupboards full so we could enjoy good meals. He also worked hard in our vegetable garden. Paul Johnston worked on rearranging our library in preparation for the new academic year and getting himself reacquainted with the formation house and the beginning of a new academic year. John Gould, our Section Superior, kept things moving with the often-difficult administration of the Section. He was unable to travel to India as originally foreseen. Our students eventually went home for a holiday and returned to start the new academic year under not so normal circumstances. Currently, they are following on-line classes, which may or may not continue into the second semester of the academic year.

As a community, we prayed together and celebrated daily Mass together. We prayed in a particular way for the people around us who were suffering in one way or another from the COVID Pandemic. Some of us kept ourselves moving with evening walks around the village, while others moved their bodies playing table tennis.

A few evenings per week, we had recreation. We celebrated anniversaries and birthdays. In many ways, community life is what has helped us during this time of the pandemic.

These days, life around Cebu is returning to some sense of normal (or as some say … the new norm). Life is returning to the streets of Cebu. Some “jeepneys’, the local transportation, are being allowed to move once again, which will be a relief for the people. Most of the shopping malls are open, but with certain protocols, like face masks and face shields, in place. For our community, outside Masses with some of the congregations of sisters have restarted. We have also had some Masses to mark special occasions with a select group of friends.

COVID19 has changed our world! COVID19 has challenged us! However, COVID19 will not defeat us!

The SOA Circular Letter, published in November 2020, is available here: SOA News

An extended stay in the Philippines (SOA Newsletter)

An extended stay in the Philippines

On 25 February 2020, FR. FRANCIS BARNES, First Assistant General, arrived in the Philippines to visit the communities of Cebu and Malalag. Following this visit, he was foreseen travelling with John Gould, Superior of the Section of Asia, to India to visit the communities of Bangalore and Sollepuram. However, COVID19 had other ideas.

Like many other people, Francis found himself stranded in the Philippines, unable to travel to India or to travel back to Rome. In the Philippines, the Emergency Community Quarantine (better known elsewhere as a lockdown), shut everything down. Adjustments had to be made and Francis had to find ways of making the best of a difficult situation. He kept in contact with the other members of the General Council, who were in similar situations in different places in Africa, via video conferences. Even COVID19 could not stop the work of the General Council! While unable to go to any of the shopping malls, Francis had his daily walks within the Village of Sto. Nino, where we have our community, as well as the opportunity to experience the food of the Philippines. He gave some inputs to our students and joined our community for prayer as well as social activities and recreation. Francis was finally able to travel back to Rome on 14 August 2020. This extended visit was unexpected both for Francis and the community, but we hope he enjoyed his stay with us. We thank him for his presence in our community and for sharing some insights into the wider aspects of our Society. We thank him and all the members of our General Council for the work they do behind the scenes to ensure our Society runs as efficiently as possible even in the midst of difficult times. Francis is most welcome to return to the Philippines for a much longer (and more permanent) stay following his term as a member of the General Council.

The SOA Circular Letter, published in November 2020, is available here: SOA News

News from SOA (Editorial)

News from SOA (Newsletter Editorial - November 2020)

Unless you are living in a totally different world from the rest of humanity, the term COVID19 is well known. Along with other words like lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation, social distancing and others, which have become part of our day-to-day vocabulary, the COVID19 Pandemic defines much of what our world is experiencing these days. It is, as they say, the “talk of the town’. Face masks and shields are worn for protection and have become part-and-parcel of everyday life.

Our Society of Missionaries of Africa has not been immune and we have had to adjust to the changing and challenging landscape. How we interact with one another in community has been challenged. How we carry out our meetings at different levels of our Society has been challenged. Candidates, who completed their Spiritual Year, had to wait until they could gradually move to their places of Stage. Those who had completed Stage were delayed in returning home for their holidays before moving to their respective places for Theology studies. Ordinations that were planned months before had to be rescheduled with a reduced number of those who could attend. In general, our normal way of doing things has been challenged and adjustments needed to be made.

Within our own little corner of our Society, we have not escaped the bite of COVID19. Confreres and candidates were stranded in places, unable to move due to travel restrictions and the closing down of International air travel. Ordinations were postponed. In India, ways and means had to be found to get our students back to our formation centre in Bangalore to start the new academic year. Our students at Suvidya college in India and the University of San Carlos in the Philippines currently follow courses via the Internet. Our communities both in the Philippines and in India have undergone different versions of lockdowns and quarantines and it has not ended.

The reality is, COVID19 is in our midst and it does not look like it will disappear anytime soon. It is something we have to learn to live with, which has wide-ranging effects from economics to the way we relate with one another through social distancing. The positive news is that many people are working hard to bring this pandemic under control.

There is no denying that our world is changing and we, as individuals and as a Society, need to change with it. We need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves, our communities, and the people around us. However, life must continue. We must face the challenges ahead of us with hope both as individuals and as a Society.

‘I have hope in the peoples’ of the world who ‘are going to take lessons from this crisis to re-evaluate their lives. We’re going to come out better. Fewer of us, of course, many are still sick and it’s hard. But I have faith, we’re going to come out better,’ (Pope Francis – March 25, 2020)

The SOA circular letter, published in November 2020, is available here: SOA News

Cardinal’s Day 2020

Cardinal’s Day 2020

Ten days from the Feast of the Society, the anniversary of Cardinal Lavigerie’s death is always an occasion to give the first place to the one who had the vision for our Mission. Father André-Léon Simonart gave us the homily during the Solemn mass of Cardinal’s Day.

As Qohelet says: There is a time for everything under heaven. We have gone through a time of preparation for the jubilee of our missionary institutes. We have had some beautiful celebrations. Now the time has come for apostolic action. It is the time for the commitments that our missionary institutes are embarking upon, as a follow-up of our Jubilee celebrations, to be realised. Such commitments have two major characteristics. They are inspired and motivated by our charism and they are intended as a response to appeals and challenges coming especially from Africa.  

I single out three such commitments. The first one is at the level of “our common home” as Pope Francis likes to call our world. It is an ambitious project of the whole Church, spread over seven years and meant to foster an integral ecology. Here we work with many other congregations and local Churches, with people of good will, all taking part in the campaign “Laudato sí in action”. Andreas and the General Council shared about it.

The second is about to be realised as the first White Sisters and the first confreres have started to move. It is the project that our institutes chose to mark our jubilee in a meaningful apostolic way. It is a project of the two institutes together. It is about being on the margins, among refugees in the north of Uganda.

The third project, specific to each of our two institutes, concerns the further appropriation of the charism that Cardinal Lavigerie bequeathed to us.

During the Plenary Council, last November, in Kampala, Brother Reginald, a Xaverian brother, made a brilliant presentation on charism. At the end he left us with four questions. The first is about spirituality. What are the different spiritualities, he asked, behind Cardinal Lavigerie’s spiritual intuitions? The second refers to personal dispositions. Reginald put it this way: According to Cardinal Lavigerie, what should the dispositions be of those who want to follow Christ as Missionaries of Africa? The third is about our identity, about who we are in front of Jesus, our one and only love. And the last one is about the practical consequences of the two previous questions: how does a M.Afr. organise his daily life, what is his lifestyle?

As we celebrate Cardinal’s Day, let us recollect ourselves before one or the other of these questions. It is true that our mission is a bit special. We are here either to study and likely to prepare ourselves for a new task, or we are here for helping with the general administration of our institutes. All the same, all of us we are engaged in mission.

Let us recall what our founder wanted our identity to be as missionaries and apostles. The question is not the one Jesus put to Peter when he asked him “who am I for you”, but “who am I for Jesus? Who am I in front of Jesus?” Starting out from there, we may then like to see with which inner dispositions, in which spirit, we are to assume the tasks and responsibilities which are ours today.

The Gospel of this celebration helps us to recall who we are for Christ and the first reading reminds us of the apostolic ideal of Saint Paul, an ideal our Founder Cardinal Lavigerie reminded us of so often and which he himself lived by so generously. Let us ask him to obtain this grace for us. 

Amen.

Yves Gaudreault, 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

Yves Gaudreault

on Thursday 26th November 2020 at Québec (Canada)
at the age of 92 years, of which 68 years of missionary life
in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Italy and Canada.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

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