Missionaries of Africa founded the village of Karema with five hundred redeemed slaves

Karema, First Mission

On the 17th Aug, 2023. Bishop Eusebius Nzigilwa of the Diocese of Mpanda, western Tanzania, invited the Missionaries of Africa to attend a celebration at the parish of Karema. The Bishop wished to re-consecrate the recently renovated church. In addition, he wanted to inter the remains of a predecessor, Bishop Adolphe Lechaptois, in front of the altar. Bishops from the suffragan dioceses of Tabora who included the recently announced Cardinal Protase Rugambwa, coadjutor of Tabora Archdiocese, also attended.

Karema had been a Belgian military station founded by Captain Emile Storms. In 1884 Captain Storms subsequently handed it over to the Missionaries of Africa who had arrived to evangelize the Vicariate of Tanganyika, when he returned to Europe. The Missionaries of Africa founded the village of Karema with five hundred redeemed slaves. The former Papal Zouave, Leopold Joubert, reached there in 1886 to offer protection. Dr. Adrian Atiman arrived in 1889 and remained the medical doctor and catechist until his death in 1956. His small house can still be seen close to the Church of Karema.

 Bishop Lechaptois was not the first bishop. Jean-Baptiste Charbonnier who was ordained bishop at Kipalapala, Tabora, on the 24th Aug, 1887 by Archbishop Livinhac (the first bishop to be ordained south of the Sahara) was the first Vicar of Tanganyika. Bishop Charbonnier died at Karema on 16th March, 1888. He was succeeded by Bishop Leonce Bridoux who had been ordained bishop by Lavigerie in Paris in 1888. Bishop Bridoux died in 1890.

 Adolphe Lechaptois was appointed Bridoux’s successor. After ordination as priest in 1878 he was to spend the next ten years in North Africa, teaching in seminaries and in the promotion of Christian villages. He reached Karema in 1891 during a time of great insecurity and remained as bishop until his death in 1917. He visited and established missions in present day Sumbawanga and Mbeya and also on the west side of Lake Tanganyika before the Apostolic Vicariate of Upper Congo was established with Bishop Roelens in 1892. Adolphe Lechaptois attended the General Chapter of the Missionaries of Africa in 1895 and was not ordained bishop until 20th May, 1895 by Archbishop Prosper Dusserre. He returned to Karema in 1895 with the first community of MSOLA Sisters who settled at Karema. Their original house is still standing, now occupied by the Sumbawanga Sisters.

 Aylward Shorter has written a short but detailed biography of Adolphe Lechaptois and referred to him as “a man of great zeal, inherent goodness, and simplicity who visited every station annually”. Lechaptois established Catechist training centres and the first seminary at Utinta which neighbours Karema on the Lake. He was also interested in the culture of the people and wrote “Aux Rives du Tanganyika” in 1913 which demonstrates his appreciation of the people of the region. For this he won a prize from the Geographical Society of Paris.

 Bishop Lechaptois founded the first Sisters’ Congregation in Tanzania, the Sisters of Our Lady Queen of Africa, in 1903. The MSOLA Sisters became their mentors and formators. As his remains were being laid to rest before the altar many of the Sisters were present singing in the church.

 Bishop Lechaptois died on the 30th Nov 1917 and was succeeded by Bishop Joseph Birreaux who had been the rector of the Seminary at Utinta and was later Superior General. In 1946 Bishop James Holmes-Siedle became Bishop of Karema. Previously it had been known as the Vicariate of Tanganyika. In 1958 it was renamed the Diocese of Sumbawanga with the transfer of headquarters to Sumbawanga under the Tanzanian Bishop Charles Msakila.

By: John Slinger, M.Afr.

Happy are the peacemakers

JDPMC of Osogbo meets politicians for dialogue on women participation in politics

Education or the culture of peace is putting into practice, day after day, values, attitudes and behaviours that help society rid itself of all patterns of life that lead to violence, conflict, war, tribalism and racism.

Centres for justice, development and peace

In Nigeria, each diocese has taken the initiative to establish its own Justice, Development and Peace Centre to facilitate education and the culture of peace. The Diocese of Osogbo, in south-west Nigeria, also has a Justice, Development and Peace Makers Centre (JDPMC). This centre’s mission is to promote justice, sustainable development and peace, leading to the transformation of the world. Its coordinator is one of the diocesan priests, assisted by another priest, 18 staff members, five administrative staff, three assistants and four drivers. According to the coordinator’s 2023 Annual Report, the centre focused on inclusive and credible elections, defended the rights of the weak, helped vulnerable people through campaigning against violence against the disabled. It also promoted the role of women in the governance of Osun State, peaceful cohabitation, rural development and food security. Furthermore, it campaigned for mass enrolment before the 2023 elections and organised sessions in the various communities in Osun State to ensure peaceful cohabitation and security.

The Justice, Development and Peace Commission has also done a lot to promote justice and human rights. For example, it received 43 complaints relating to violence, 70% of which concerned gender-based violence; it intervened on behalf of 17 prisoners in various courts; 10 criminal cases were concluded, and 3 people were released from prison; it also intervened for the release of vehicles and other belongings confiscated by the police; it has advised people in different parts of the diocese and Osun State; seven cases of child abuse were prosecuted; children arrested by the national police were released; finally, it has set up justice, development and peace commissions in different parishes. 

Peace and development are inseparable.

The inseparable nature of development and peace is best explained by Paul VI’s words to the UN on its 20th anniversary: “Never again war! Peace is necessary, the inescapable condition of humanity, and this is the ultimate reality that is emerging”. The Pope defined peace as “the reflection of God’s plan for the progress of human society on earth” (cf. Lucien Guissard, Vers la nouvelle histoire, La Croix, 6 October 1965).

Therefore, no one can ignore or refute that peace and integral development are strictly inseparable. Peace is the key to progress; without peace, there can be no prosperous economy. Development projects such as education, trade, agriculture and infrastructure construction, can only be carried out, when and where there is peace.

Attitudes for the peaceful resolution of conflicts

How long will we keep repeating the psalm: love and truth meet, justice and peace embraced (Psalm 85:11)? If we don’t get to the root causes of conflict in love and justice, we will simply be “beating around the bush”. To resolve conflicts, mediation and dialogue must be based on love, justice and peace, in order to move forward in life. At Ejigbo, for example, to resolve conflicts between individuals, families and groups, we bring them together for dialogue so that they can see the consequences of violence; at the same time, we help them reach a consensus in love and truth. Above all, we invite them to simplicity, respect, love, truth, forgiveness, mutual help, refusal of corruption, violence and manipulation of young people, and impartiality on the part of pastoral workers.

Missionaries of Africa’s contribution to peace

In our Sector here in Nigeria, I cannot overlook the contribution of the Missionaries of Africa to education and the culture of peace. Since peace is linked to the rights of all human beings and restores them to a dignified life, our Sector participates in peace education by living out the charism of the Society; we strongly advise parish communities to set up a JPIC-ED commission in collaboration with the diocesan commission. In our own parishes, we have set up justice, development and peace groups whose members meet once a month and report back to the parish council.  

The Gospel, the main tool for promoting peace in the world

Peace is central to the Christian faith. And the Gospel is the most excellent tool for promoting it. We cannot talk about Jesus without talking about peace because “Christ is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14); “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). It is a call and a challenge that Jesus made to all Christians. Jesus sends us out as his disciples with the instruction that “in every house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house'” (Luke 10:5). The first word of the risen Jesus to the apostles was “peace” (Luke 24:36; John 20:21). In John 14:27, Jesus says: “I do not give you peace as the world gives”, because his peace eliminates evil and violence of this world right down to its roots.

The Eucharist, another tool for the culture of peace

The peace of Jesus – not that of the world – is always shared at Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is an education in the culture of peace. Right from the start the participants are offered peace, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”, and at the end they are invited to “go in the peace of Christ”. Before the invitation to greet one another, the principal celebrant always prays as follows: “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your Apostles: ‘Peace I leave you; my peace I give you’…”; then he wishes the participants “the peace of the Lord be with you always” and invites them, “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”. Yes, the Eucharistic celebration is an opportunity to instil peace.

By: Pierre Chanel Ulama, M.Afr.

Working Session on African Traditional Religions:  the Way Forward

Cinquième journée de la session de travail sur les religions traditionnelles africaines au Centre Kungoni, Malawi

From left to right : Mathew W. Banseh (Centre for Social Concern (CfSC)), Bernhard Udelhoven (Lumimba parish) Zambia, Ignatius Anipu (Institut de Formation Islamo-Chrétienne (IFIC)) Mali, Philip Meraba (Faith and Encounter Centre, Zambia (FENZA)) Zambia, Anselme K.A. Tarpaga (Assistant General) Rome, Prosper Harelimana, Rome, Brendan O’Shea (Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art, Malawi), Malawi, Bruno Ssennyondo (Centre de Recherche pour la Sauvegarde et la promotion de la Culture Senoufo (CRSPCS)) Mali

The Missionaries of Africa concluded their working session on African Traditional Religions (ATRs) at Kungoni, Malawi this Friday 22nd March 2024. It was a week of sharing of experiences, insights, ideals and perspectives for the future. There remains a question to be asked. What next? Intense reflection on ATRs has led to five areas of focus: (1) animating confreres, (2) initial formation, (3) creating a synergy between centres and parishes, (4) research and publications, and (5) visibility and communication.

The first area of focus will target the following: sessions and workshops, build up a repertoire of issues of concern through modern technology, and establish core groups (commissions) to enrich pastoral activities in line with ATRs. The second area will encourage candidates in formation to intentionally research and investigate contemporary issues of  ATRs. It will also nurture candidates’ talents, encourage the teaching of  African Philosophy and Theology. It intends to introduce sessions on ATRs into our formation system, review the Stage Vade mecum on ATRs to help stagiaires go deeper on specific topics, etc. The third area will ensure that modern technology is well used to store and share materials on ATRs. It shall subscribe to Jstor, Ebscom and other academic websites for quality research. It shall source expertise to enhance our centres. Furthermore, it shall aim at improving collaboration between centres such as Kungoni, FENZA, IFIC, etc., and parishes. It shall enhance professionalism in our centres, enlighten younger generations in the area of ATRs, and empower personnel through capacity building programmes. The fourth and fifth areas will promote academic publications on ATRs issues, create a  platform where publications of Missionaries of Africa on ATRs can easily be accessed. It will ensure that the websites of our various centres are linked with the main website of the  Society. It shall encourage sharing of events on ATRs that take place in our different areas of mission.

The above-mentioned activities entail creativity, dedication and team work. They also call for rigorous monitoring and evaluation. Looking back to appraise our performance and activities remains a fundamental exercise to be constantly carried out. It shall be done by ourselves, and if need be,  involve experts. All is being done to accomplish, respect and  promote what our founder Cardinal Charles Lavigerie urged us to do. He strongly advised us to cherish the language, culture and tradition of people. 

By: Prosper Harelimana, M.Afr.

Passing on skills for a better understanding of African Traditional Religions

Fourth day of the Working Session on African Traditional Religions at Kungoni Centre, Malawi

Understanding African Traditional Religions (ATRs) entails willingness to be with people. It also calls for rigorous academic work, with acknowledged scientific methods.  Research methods and modern technology are necessary tools to explore and understand better ATRs. Which type of skills?

Our today’s discussion was on how to make use of practical skills, research methods and modern technology. We need such skills to discover, understand and make known the cultural heritage imbedded in ATRs. Practical skills focus on people’s (human) actions, i.e., their behaviour and actions that affect or are affected by great passages of life such as practices at the time of birth and death, observing religious and cultural expressions during happy or sad moments, etc. Research methods investigate patterns of African thinking and understanding of good and evil, cosmology, hermeneutics, theodicy, what it means to be a “human person” (‘Ubuntu’ concept), etc. Rigorous methods point to research gaps – what have not been discovered, answered or explored – in the realm of ATRs. Modern technology helps in creating a repertory of African cultural heritage. There are so many materials on ATRs that need to be well preserved according to modern standards. Technological is tool to preserve what we already have. It is also used to discover what we do not know yet.

Early missionaries had awe-inspiring skills. They left us a legacy. We learnt a lot from them. It is time we gradually pass on to younger generations what we received and know about ATRs. «Happiness is not perfected until it’s shared.» Let us share what we have, know and cherish about the African heritage. Those being born in our times crave for identity and authenticity. Are we ready to help them discover who they really are?

By: Prosper Harelimana, M.Afr.