By Everisto Mwelwa, M.Afr
It has taken a whole year of various celebrations to mark a hundred and twenty-five years since the Catholic faith was brought to Zambia by the missionaries in 1891. Part of the opening of these celebrations was the Eucharistic celebration held at Mambwe-Mwela on 6th August, 2016. It is at Mambwe-Mwela where the first missionaries settled down in the present day Republic of Zambia.
Catholic dioceses and parishes in Zambia held various celebrations to mark all these years of Catholic faith in Zambia. Kasama Archdiocese, as an example, closed the year with a Eucharistic celebration held at Chilubula (Mary Help of Christians Parish) on 24th June, 2017 on which day two deacons were ordained to priesthood.
For the national celebrations to mark the end of 125 years of Catholic faith in Zambia, two days were set aside in the Archdiocese of Lusaka. On Friday, the 14th July, 2017, all the roads were leading to Lusaka from all the Catholic dioceses in Zambia. This day was dedicated to the Catholic Youth. They had various activities and talks in the Cathedral of the Child Jesus (Lusaka) and then proceeded to the Agricultural Show grounds for the Eucharistic celebration. The youth and their patrons/matrons had a coloured procession of about three quarters of an hour accompanied by two musical bands. At the end of Mass, the Catholic bishops came to convey their wishes to the youth.
The final ‘finale’ was the Eucharistic celebration held in the Agricultural Show grounds of Lusaka. The Apostolic Nuncio, Most Rev Julio Murat, all the Zambian Catholic bishops and the two archbishops were present. Two bishops from Malawi and Zimbabwe also came. AMECEA sent a representative. The Superior General of the Missionaries of Africa, Fr. Stanley Lubungo, who happened to be in Zambia at that time also attended. Indeed, not fewer than twenty-five Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) were present! The government of the Republic of Zambia was represented by the Vice-President, Inonge Wina, and several ministers.
The main celebrant of the Eucharist was the Apostolic Nuncio but the homily was delivered by the Archbishop of Lusaka, Telesphore-George Mpundu. In his homily, the Archbishop highlighted the dedication and self-giving of the early missionaries despite the difficulties, many of whom died in their early years of missionary life due to diseases. He urged the present day Catholics to take a leaf from them; quoting the theme of Mansa Diocese “We are the Missionaries of today”. Archbishop Mpundu urged Catholic faithful of today to be more self-reliant. He also underscored the holistic human developmental work carried out by the Catholic Church in Zambia.
One can easily estimate about five thousand Catholic faithful attended the celebration, not counting the priests and the religious.
At the end of the celebration, medals were presented to the Catholic faithful who have dedicated to evangelisation. These were dedicated men and women, laity and religious. For the Missionaries of Africa, three confreres were decorated with medals, namely Henk van Kessel, Jean-Luc Gouiller and Robert Lavertu.
A colourful celebration to mark the ‘finale’ of 125 years of Catholic faith in Zambia.