New structured email addresses

Last May, a workshop on “Communication” brought together in Rome representatives of our ten provinces / sections. It was the first workshop of its kind in a long time. In the second part of this workshop week, we had the privilege to meet three communication specialists, all collaborators of the CREC-International association (Centre de Recherche et d’Éducation à la Communication). In the introduction to each of their workshops, all three confirmed what we had already perceived during our reflection on the establishment of a strategic plan for better communication: How do we present ourselves? Are we Missionaries of Africa, are we White Fathers? What is our logo? Can we be recognized in different websites, blogs and other social networks by identifying custom colors and styles? What are the specific values and priorities to which we adhere and how do we get them across in our communication? And are our e-mail addresses identifiable at first glance?… We have therefore decided to embark on a series of reflections and actions to establish a “corporate brand” and thus improve our “communication“.

Last year already, we were reflecting with the provincial superiors on the lack of coherence of our e-mail addresses. To show just one province, my home province, here is an example of inconsistency:

Provincial of Europe : pep.prov@gmail.com
Assistant Provincial of Europe : provasteu@gmail.com
Provincial Treasurer of Europe : mafr.econ.prov@belgacom.net

Delegate Prov. of Belgium : secteur@mafr.be
Delegate treasurer of Belgium : economat@mafr.be

Do you see the lack of coherence, as well on the left as on the right of the “at sign” (@)? To the left of the “at sign”, a logical structure would allow to write an official address without having to consult a directory. To the right of the “at sign”, the “domain” should allow everyone to identify who we are without too many problems. While the Belgian sector is on the right track, its membership of a broader structure is not obvious.

At the beginning of this year, in agreement with the Superior General and the Bursar General, we acquired the domain name mafr.org which identifies us as the “Organization (Society) of the Missionaries of Africa”. Then, during our communication workshop, and mandated by the provincials, we finalized the semantics of our future official e-mail addresses.

Having acquired the domain name mafr.org, all our official addresses will soon be hosted at the Generalate in Rome and will be of the type …@mafr.org. As for the first part of the address, it will be structured according to the province, the sector, and the name of the service to which the e-mail will be addressed. For the provinces, the three official letters will be used, for the sectors, three letters also, approved by the delegates present at the May workshop. As for the function, nothing is perfect, but it was important to choose abbreviations that would be clear in both languages of the Society.

For example, to take the case of Europe, here are some examples of addresses :

Provincial of Europe : pep.prov@mafr.org
Assistant provincial of Europe : pep.ast@mafr.org
Provincial Treasurer of Europe : pep.econ@mafr.org

Delegate Prov.of Belgium : pep.bel.del@mafr.org
Delegate treasurer of Belgium : pep.bel.econ@mafr.org

The complete list can be downloaded from here but it may be updated until the 1st October.

The addresses will be created before September 1st and operational before October 1st. Do not use these new addresses before October 1st. Clear and precise instructions will be sent to the users of these e-mail addresses so that they can set up their new e-mail address. For a while, emails sent to the old addresses will be redirected to the  new addresses.

On the other hand, each confrere will be able, in due time and if he wishes, to obtain a structured e-mail address, for example for me philippe.docq@mafr.org. This will be done from next January, through your province’s communications delegate.

Philippe Docq, M.Afr.

First Novitiate at Maison Rostan

Here is an extract of Lucien Duchêne’s History of the White Fathers:
Les Pères Blancs. 1868-1893. vol.2

The first novitiate at Maison Rostan

On 20th Sept 1868 the “L’Echo de N-Dame d’Afrique” announced: “Following the mind of the Holy Father, Monseigneur the Archbishop of Algiers is going to found a special seminary for missionaries. In imitation of the French missionaries to China, they will adopt the manner of life of the Arabs and of other African peoples. Thus they will gradually establish themselves in the desert which, south of Algeria, extends from Senegal in the west to the country of gold and the black people in the east. Being true pioneers of European civilisation, their apostolic stations, while establishing communication with each other, will link our two African colonies on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.”

Maison Rostan, on the hills of El Biar, in Algiers

What the article calls a seminary for missionaries was, as Mgr Lavigerie admitted, “a poor rented house situated on the hills of El Biar” dominating the south of Algiers. The Maison Rostan, a Moorish house, hidden behind groves of mastic trees, some minutes from the orphanage of Ben Aknoun, was the humble cradle of our Society. Previously, it had been inhabited by the Arab orphan girls under the direction of the Sisters of St Charles of Nancy. These now moved to Kouba and the novitiate began at Maison Rostan on 19th October 1868.

The courtyard in Maison Rostan

The Archbishop had invited the Jesuits to provide a novice master. They gave him Father Vincent who had previously been an assistant to Fr Ducat at the orphanage of Ben Aknoun. Mgr Lavigerie drew up a line of conduct which the novice master tells us about in a letter. “On 17th October I went to receive my orders from Monseigneur before coming here and to ask his blessing on the beginning of this Society. He said to me, ‘Go, Father, and may the blessing of God be with you. Train apostles following exactly the direction of the novitiate of your own Society. The only difference is that you will give more time to study. Saints, I want saints. Throw them into the mould of St Ignatius and let them be in your hands like a dead body which will let itself be carried anywhere in whatever way that is required. Let them be like a stick in the hands of an old man to serve him in whatever place and for whatever purpose he wishes.’ These words of the Rule he repeated to us, and insisted on them, when I went with the community on his feast day to present our congratulations.”

Father Vincent SJ, First Novices’ Master

Towards the end of October Monseigneur gave Fr Vincent an assistant, Fr Gillet. He was a Sulpician priest who had come to Algeria hoping the African climate would restore his health. He was charged with the teaching of theology. There were seven novices. The three former seminarians of Kouba, Finateu, Pux and Barbier, then Fr Blanchard, a young priest from Douaouda, Fr Dubut the parish priest of Saoula and two young men from his parish, Tassy and Be’ne’jean. On the 20th of the same month another novice arrived at the novitiate, Victor Cordier. Later we shall speak of him at length. Also at the novitiate, but not a novice, was a young African called Luigi. Originally from the missions of Mgr Comboni in the Sudan, he had been raised at Verona in Italy where he had obtained a teaching diploma. He was given the task of teaching the novices Arabic and so helping them catechise the orphans of Ben Aknoun.

Orphans being presented to Cardinal Lavigerie
Photo pose of Cardinal Lavigerie with an orphan

 

I must also mention the cook, Francois Boulac. This young man had an interesting history. He was born at Bab-el-Oued, a suburb of Algiers from where he had moved to Boufarik with his parents. When his father died, he remained there with his mother in the same village. Whenever he misbehaved, she threatened to send him to the Jesuits directing the orphanage of Camp d’Erlon. Eventually, the poor woman died in her turn. On returning from the burial, the parish priest of Boufarik was touched with compassion and took Boulac to his presbytery. “Wait for me here,” he said. “I am going to ask the superior of the orphanage to take you in.” At the mention of the word orphanage,the child was filled with fear for he believed it to be a kind of prison, and taking advantage of the absence of the parish priest, he fled. In the evening, he arrived at Blida and went into a Moorish cafe to spend the night. The kaouaji gave him a little food and lodging for the night without payment, but made him do the washing up. The next day, a rich Arab, seeing the young French boy there, offered to take him to his douar. Francois did not need coaxing and straightaway followed his new master. Henceforth he abandoned European clothing and dressed like an Arab. He received the name of Si Hassen until one day, he was pressed to marry a Muslim. He refused and left the Arab’s house. At the time of the famine, Boulac, now twenty-three years old, went to Lavigerie and offered his services. I am a Frenchman and a Christian, he told him. To the prelate’s reply, “I have not a lot of confidence in you,” he pleaded,” All the same, try me, Monseigneur, if I cannot satisfy you, you are always free to send me away.” Francois was accepted and there was every reason for Lavigerie to be pleased with him. He settled in well among the orphans of Ben Aknoun, getting them to sing and encouraging them as well as he could. He rendered services to them like shaving their heads to get rid of nits or curing the many who suffered from ringworm. When the novitiate opened at Maison Rostan, Lavigerie sent him there. He was very useful to the Bursar with his knowledge of both the Algerian dialect and local customs.

Orphelinat Ben Arkoum

Lavigerie also attached four orphans to the service of the house. The novices were expected to speak Arabic with them during their recreation. In order to give even more opportunity for language study, the Archbishop sent away the Jesuits from Ben Aknoun, and confided the spiritual ministry of the orphanage to the young missionaries.

Saint Joseph, the sailors’ chapel, before the construction of the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa

Happy anniversary

On October 18th, 1868, the first novitiate opened with seven candidates at the «Maison Rostan» in Ben-Aknoun on the heights of El Biar in Algeria. This day marks the birth of our Society, which we will commemorate on December 8, the Feast of the Society, which will also open the Jubilee Year of our two missionary Institutes.

Stanley Lubungo M.Afr,
Superior General

Pope Francis at the Synod with the Youth

On October 6, a meeting between the Pope, the Synod Fathers (Synod on Youth) and the young people took place in the Paul VI Hall (Aula Paolo VI) of the Vatican. Two hours of testimonies from young people, very high quality songs and a meeting with the Pope. Very beautiful! (In Italian with translation in French)

Dionys-Adolf Siedler, R.I.P.

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

Dionys-Adolf Siedler

on Wednesday 10th October 2018 at Hechingen (Germany)
at the age of 92 years, of which 64 of mission years of missionary life
in Burkina Faso and in Germany.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

Download here the announcement of Father Dionys-Adolf Siedler’s death Continue reading “Dionys-Adolf Siedler, R.I.P.”

Talking together at the Generalate

At the Generalate, we are mostly scheduling everything around the programmes of our “confreres students”. And as most of them resumed or started their studies today or last Monday, the past weekend had been selected to have some activities together. We started on Friday evening with a nice BBQ gathering not only the 45 members of the community but also the 14 senior missionaries from our Society and from the MSOLA, who had come for the “senior-session”, plus their two animators, Father Bernard Ugeux and Sister Helga Franke. Some visitors were present as well to make of that evening a grand evening!

The next day and a half were dedicated to living out together a formation session, entrusted to our JPIC-ED coordinator Andreas Göpfert and our studying confrere Prosper Harelimana. On Saturday morning, we started with some ice-breaking games meant to … well, break the ice, but also to highlight in a ludic way the frequent misinterpretations that can occur in a large community composed of members with so many different backgrounds.

Throughout the weekend, we were divided into small groups of discussion, carefully composed according to the topics discussed. As the big community of the Generalate is divided into three sub-communities, which we call teams, we were invited to assess in teams the quality of our communication among ourselves and to bring creative proposals to improve it, and then to do the same at the level of the greater community. The next day we were also divided into intercultural and intergenerational groups to share the success and the challenges of communication among us and the possible ways of improving it.

Mass on Saturday presided by the superior of the community, Guy Theunis.

Most of us took advantage of that session, which ended with an “apero” after the final mass presided over by Martin Grenier, the assistant playing the role of the provincial in the community of the Generalate.

The closing mass was presided by Martin Grenier, the official “Provincial Superior” of the General House Community.

 

August Van de Velde (Brother Staf), R.I.P.

Father Luc Putzeys, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Belgium,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Brother

August (Staf) Van de Velde

on Friday 5th October 2018 at Avondrust (Varsenare – Belgium)
at the 96 years, of which 75 years of missionary life
in Congo and in Belgium.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

Download here the death announcement of Brother August Van de Velde Continue reading “August Van de Velde (Brother Staf), R.I.P.”

Project Princess Tamar (Protection of minors in Brazil)

In Brazil we have grouped together in a structure called the “Cardinal Lavigerie Center” our commitments for Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation and Encounter and Dialogue. This centre is located at the Catholic University. We organize round tables, exhibitions, conferences, seminars on JPIC ED issues. The prevention of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons is one of the projects managed by the centre.

Last year, after having followed the training offered by the Society of Missionaries of Africa for its Delegates for the Protection of Minors, I returned to Brazil wondering what we could do in practice. The missionary is an apostle who knows how to translate compassion (a feeling) into mercy (a concrete action in favour of the person). I started by speaking openly about it in our parish and also during the retreats and recollections I preach. As everyone feels uncomfortable talking directly about abusers, abusers and abusers, I then started from the biblical story of Princess Tamar who was raped by her stepbrother Amnon (2 Samuel 13). The narrative always has a liberating effect. The result was explosive: tongues untied to reveal the Tamar and Amnon of today who frequent our churches.

During the annual retreat of the Mass servers of our parish last year, we spent a few hours with the story of Princess Tamar. These teenagers stepped into the story with passion, emotions, revolts… From that moment on, I created the Princess Tamar Project, a campaign to raise awareness and protect minors and vulnerable people against sexual abuse. This year the Sisters of Saint Joseph in contact with this reality wished to participate in this campaign to protect minors. I also spoke about sexual abuse at the annual retreat of the clergy of a diocese. The priest in charge of the diocesan Social Action and who is also president of an association for life (ProVida) was passionate about the Princess Tamar Project. All these positive and spontaneous reactions led to the organization of a seminar on the prevention of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons from 17 to 19 September 2018 in Salvador, an initiative of the Missionaries of Africa in Brazil.

We were 14 participants representing institutions or associations that would form a network of collaboration: the Missionaries of Africa, the Social Pastoral Ministry of the parish of the Missionaries of Africa, the Social Action of the Archdiocese of Salvador, including one representative of the Pastoral Ministry for Minors and another of the Youth Pastoral Ministry; the Children Pastoral Ministry, the ProVida Association, and the Social Sac Association. The seminar took place in 3 moments:

  1. Personal sharing on the reality of sexual abuse. This moment quickly became emotional. Compassion is indeed a necessary force in this commitment to life.
  2. Training: understanding this evil of sexual abuse. Our basic text was two of the booklets published in Brazil on the subject.
  3. Define concrete actions of the Princess Tamar Project.

Our objective: a prevention campaign. We have prepared printed, audiovisual material based on the culture of northeastern Brazil. These materials will be used during meetings organized in schools, parishes, neighbourhoods… The network’s member associations have the capacity to mobilize people and enter all spheres of the Brazilian society. We will visit institutions where there are minors to ensure that they are safe places. The seminar developed a whole programme of actions.

The Princess Tamar Project is therefore underway as a collaborative network for the protection of minors and vulnerable people in northeastern Brazil. We will need financial support to carry out this awareness and protection campaign. We count on the generosity of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa and the confreres. We have decided to meet twice a year to evaluate our commitment and to participate in the training necessary for our mission.

Moussa Serge Traore, M.Afr.