Month: October 2022

A Day of Unity in a Diverse World

Open Day at Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art, 2022

The Chameleon has been blessed with eyes which provide 360-degree vision allowing a clear view of the journey taken and the movement forward. It is also much admired for its ability to adapt to its present milieu. It is this animal that God used in the Chewa myth of creation to announce the Good News that there is life after death although it was out paced by the swifter lizard who provided a contradicting message.

In Kungoni we have chosen the chameleon as our mascot. We too want to help people, especially Malawians, to learn from the journey of all the generations who have preceded us. We believe that this wealth of knowledge can provide a much clearer vision for our future. We are not beginners on our journey but hold within us a reservoir of history and thought. It is this storehouse which we want people to tap into.

The chameleon is also our inspiration because we are all called to adapt to our present environment. This is even more pertinent for missionaries sent to different cultures and contexts. Just as the chameleon merges into its surroundings so too we are called to immerse ourselves in the context we are sent to serve. Through our efforts to learn the language and understand local culture and ritual we can also begin to understand the world from a different perspective. It is this knowledge which allows us as missionaries to share the Good News in a meaningful way which can have an impact on people’s lives. Facilitating such experiences has been the mission of Kungoni Cultural Centre since its establishment in 1976 under the guidance of Fr. Claude Boucher Chisale. 

As Missionaries of Africa, we have been commended in our desire to adapt to our milieu. Adaption is only possible with knowledge – knowledge is only possible with encounter. It is this experience which inspired our 2022 Open Day. Originally, this day was inspired by Fr. Champmartin (known locally as Chamare) who was one of the long standing members of the Missionaries of Africa community in Mua. This day is one of the highlights of our calendar as an annual event, with an open invitation to all.

For our team here in Kungoni, the preparations began long before the day arrived. Key to all the discussions was the need for inclusivity, recognising the richness that can be found in diversity. Such a desire dovetailed very easily with recent discussion at our 2022 General Chapter. In Rome we were reminded of the importance of encounter as a means of fulfilling our mission. We all acknowledged that the fruits we produce as missionaries can only taste good if they are rooted in the lives and culture of the people we are called to serve. It was for this reason that we at Kungoni felt it was only right that we should begin our day with an inter-religious prayer service.

The first step in preparing such a service was not ritual and rubrics but rather a knock on a door and a heartfelt greeting. And what a welcome we received. It was as if these church leaders had been waiting for this moment. The C.C.A.P. Pastor even arranged that we pray together on the following Sunday in his church. It is always a moment of enlightenment and an important moment of recognition that nobody can claim to have a monopoly on how we understand the human relationship with God. It would seem a natural inclination to realise that we have so much to learn from each other in our understanding of something that is beyond our comprehension – that something being God. 

And so the encounters continued with phone calls and visits to the homes of the Muslim, Anglican and Traditional authorities. What we lacked in experience, we gained in enthusiasm. Nobody missed a meeting or practice. We struggled with meanings and symbols. How could we, after asking for forgiveness, express our desire to be reconciled in a post-Covid era which prohibits the shaking of hands. Somebody suggested planting a tree together as a sign of sowing the seeds of new life. We discussed about carrying the Koran during a procession and sharing the word of God in Arabic. Everyone agreed that we should all be free to express ourselves in a respectful and meaningful manner. As all our prayers were calling for greater unity and understanding, we wondered if we could not express this desire in a way which would be meaningful in our local culture. We shared about how unity and solidarity is expressed during the grief of a funeral or the joy experienced during a wedding. We noticed that during a funeral grandchildren of the deceased carry flags made from identical cloth. Women also choose a cloth to signify the friendship of their group which they wear at various gatherings such as weddings and funerals. Such cloth is called “kalala” and upon seeing it one instinctively knows that it is a sign of familial or group unity. So we too adopted this approach by choosing one design which would become the sign of our common heritage in faith and culture. Each participant was given this cloth to tie around a central pole (mzati) that we carried together into the arena. It is the “mzati” which provides the central support for the traditional round house. This symbolism of unity continued throughout the day as more “kalala” were added by the various groups who came to perform, recognising that we all share a common home, Malawi.

The reaction to our prayer service has been overwhelmingly positive. As a group we have subsequently met and hope to have similar services linked with national events like the National Day of Prayer for the Sick. More importantly we have encouraged visiting and getting to know each other better. 

The upcoming documents of the Chapter once more remind us that encounter and dialogue are by no means the preserve of specialists. For many of us as M.Afr, this is already a reality as we meet different faith beliefs in our work through funerals, development projects, and other community events. However, the General Chapter 2022 calls for a proactive approach encouraging us to seek out this encounter as part of our charism as Missionaries of Africa.

The second part of our Open Day aimed to provide a platform for various groups to present their performances in line with our theme; “Let Us Reconcile So As To Build The Central Pillar Of Malawi. Remember Culture Is Our Backbone.” It is our belief that song, dance, poetry and drama have incredible influence on the human psyche.These forms of cultural expression have evolved over generations and are embedded in the DNA of our human nature.

Before the advent of mass media, song, dance, poetry and drama had already developed to become one of the most effective means of teaching the next generation. It is also through these expressions that we can understand how our ancestors were able to negotiate issues of grief and joy, and the expectations of growing up in a community. It is imperative that young people understand the power of these cultural expressions to present a message. It is this format that we used during our Open Day to help people reflect on the power of having a unified voice in our efforts to make Malawi a better country.

We also wanted to continue the efforts for inclusivity at all levels. Therefore, our groups were varying in age, gender and capacity. We invited the children from the local School for the Deaf to prepare a performance of their skills. These children astounded us in their ability to formulate and coordinate three dance performances. One of their performances included highlighting the value of education and avoiding activities that confuse young people. The very fact that the whole auditorium waved their hands rather than clapped to show appreciation was already a learning lesson. 

Other performances called for greater respect for our environment and more efforts to appreciate our differences. Overall, everyone contributed their part in showcasing the incredible wealth of knowledge and skills we have here in Malawi.

The forthcoming Chapter documents will reiterate that encounter is at the heart of our mission and invites us to dialogue with all cultures and religions. It has been an integral part of our congregation from the very beginning. Our founder, Cardinal Lavigerie was indeed a man ahead of his time. With the limited knowledge and exposure of that time, the first missionaries immersed themselves in a world very different from their own and sought out encounter as a means of understanding this new reality. These men have been our inspiration ever sense and have provided us with the blueprint for what we now call “The daily dialogue of life and faith.” We are now fully aware of the diversity that exists in our world and its potential to build or destroy. We can be at the forefront in harnessing this wealth to present the Gospel message in a more dynamic and inclusive manner. However, nothing can replace the beauty of an encounter and a desire to know the other. It is such a desire that promises to make us true Missionaries of Lavigerie.

By Fr. Brendan O’Shea (M.Afr)

Priestly Ordination of Deacon Joaquim BELITO JOSÉ, M.Afr

Priestly Ordination of Deacon Joaquim BELITO JOSÉ

In April 2022, Deacon Joaquim BELITO JOSÉ who was still finishing his theological studies in Jerusalem was called to be Ordained as a priest. Once this good news reached the Sector of Mozambique, the deacon’s family and parishioners, they all started to prepare towards this great occasion. The Archbishop then set the 22nd of June 2022 as the date for this Priestly Ordination.

Vocation Journey of Deacon Joaquim BELITO JOSÉ

Deacon Belito started his vocation journey with the Missionaries of Africa with “Come and See” programs in 2011 at Beira, Mozambique and another one in 2012 at Serenje, Zambia. Afterwards, he went to Ejisu, Ghana for his philosophical studies in 2012 and completed in 2015. He then continued in 2015 to Noviciate in Arusha, Tanzania. After spending one year in Noviciate, he went to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso in 2016 for a two-year Stage (Pastoral Experience). He finally went to Jerusalem from 2018 to 2022 for his theological studies where he took his Missionary Oath and was ordained a deacon.

On the morning of the 22nd of June 2022, it started to drizzle as all the Missionaries of Africa, family members and friends of Deacon Joaquim BELITO JOSÉ, and all the Christians headed the Nossa Senhora de Fatima Parish of Beira.  On this faithful day, our confrere was ordained with two other deacons, and one acolyte to the deaconate, all diocesans. The long entrance procession started at 9:15 am with joyful songs and acclamations. The Archbishop of Beira Dom Claudio (the main celebrant), Emeritus Bishop João Silota (M.Afr), and the Sector Delegate of Mozambique, Fr. Raphaël Gasimba (M.Afr) among many others graced the occasion.

In his homily, the Archbishop of Beira Dom Claudio, thanked the families and parishioners of the ordinands for offering their sons to God for the proclamation of the Gospel. In them, he added, God wants to reach out the needs of his people and have a boundaryless Church. The main celebrant reminded the ordinands of the unconditional love God has shown to them by choosing them, as God does not choose us by our merits. Without this love, no one can pretend to be dignified. Therefore, being aware of the mercy of God in their lives, they should reveal the love of the Father, his plan of salvation to their brothers and sisters by presenting the offering of the people to God. And as Jesus, reconciled the world with God, priests should play this role in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Archbishop continued. They should also be the voice of the voiceless, and feed their sheep as the Good Shepherd. To be able to do this, they should accept to lose all the advantages of the world for the sake of the mission of God, following Jesus without turning back. May they always count on the prayers of the Church and the intercession of all the saints, as expressed in the litany of the saints during the ordination rite. 

Towards the end of the celebration, the Archbishop proceeded to send-off the newly ordained to the Mission. Our confrere Belito was sent to Niger, a good sign that the local Church is contributing to the Universal Mission of the Church.  After the Eucharistic celebration, there was a meal with the newly ordained. Later in the evening of the same day, the Sector organised a reception at Centro de Formação de Nazaré where Missionaries of Africa, family of the newly ordained and friends rejoiced for the grace of the ordination of their son, confrere and friend. What a blessing! Fr. Belito is now the 5th Mozambican missionary of Africa.

On the 10th of July 2022, Fr. Belito celebrated his thanksgiving Mass at Marromeu with the two other newly ordained diocesan priests, all from the same parish. 

« …The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest» (Lc 10,2).

Sector of Mozambique!

By Fr. Augustin Kambale (M.Afr)

Launching of CfSC 2021 Annual Report & Opening of the late Bp. Patrick Augustine Kalilombe Library Section

Launch of CfSC’s 2021 Annual Report

On the 16th of August 2022, the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) launched its 2021 Annual Report and also the Kalilombe wing of its Library. The event which brought together the staff of CfSC, some of its beneficiaries, donors and Missionaries of Africa was also graced by dignitaries from the government, the Provincial Superior of Southern Africa Province (SAP) and many journalists. The Centre for Social Concern is remarkable for its Research-based facts, Advocacy and the Promotion of Peaceful Co-existence among People of different Faiths and Backgrounds. As a faith-based organization, the nexus between Mission and Justice and Peace, Mission and Dialogue, Mission and the Integrity of Creation, Mission and Critical Thinking, is the kernel of its functionality guided by the Social Teaching of the Church (STC). The concern and compassion for the poor and empowering them to fulfil their human dignity are at the heart of CfSC’s prophetic mission.

In his opening remarks, the Director of the Centre for Social Concern, Fr. Dr. James Ngahy highlighted some of the key achievements of the organization for the reported year 2021. The contribution of the Centre for Social Concern to the provision of quality Education as well as other critical services in both health and economic sectors through its advocacy work which has resulted in many of its beneficiaries having access to better roads, medical services and portable water among others. He also appreciated the support from various partners such as the Missionaries of Africa represented here by the Provincial (who is the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Centre), HIVOS, UNDP/Flanders, GIZ, Misereor, Trocaire and Irish Aid.

A beneficiary of the library, speaking on behalf of her fellow students, thanked the Centre for the presence of this library in Area 25. She highlighted that the library is cost effective to them as they do not have to go to the National library in town to access books. Indeed, the library has a wide-range variety of books on different subjects for the different levels of education. Besides, they only pay Mk100.00 per day to use the facility. She also appreciated the fact that the library provides a quiet and calm environment for personal studies and group discussions.

The Provincial in his address thanked the initiators of the Centre as well as the current Director for the great work that has been realized in the past years. He also thanked all those working with the Centre both locally and internationally to achieving its objective. He emphasized that, addressing issues of social concern as the Centre does is a better of way of living the gospel values rather than simply preaching in words.  The Provincial appreciated the fact that despite the challenges of Covid-19 which affected all levels of human society in the years 2020 and 2021, the Centre managed to carry out a lot of its activities. He added that as a pro-poor and faith-based organization, the Centre has the duty of responding to the needs of the poorest of the poor and ensuring that every person has access to opportunities and enjoys his or her rights responsibly.

He also applauded the effort of CfSC at empowering the human society through its library, saying ‘if you want to kill a human society destroy education and if you want to build a human society improve on education.’ He also appreciated the introduction of the computer laboratory which is meant to empower the youth in this digital world.

During the launch of the 2021 Annual Report, the guest of honour, Mr. Misheck Munthali, the Director of Teacher Education and Development (DTED) from the Ministry of Education, commended the great work that CfSC does in the field of education.

Appreciating the gift and works of the late Bishop Patrick Augustine Kalilombe, the guest of honour affirmed that ‘when you do activities of that nature, you continue to live on beyond your actually ordained life on earth’.  He added that “libraries are a critical resource in bringing enlightenment to communities”. He appreciated the fact the Late Bishop Kalilombe has not only left us his books and writings (physical library), but he has also left us the witness of his life (human library). He posed these questions: “What kind of book are you? What kind of chapters do people read when they see you?”  He also encouraged the beneficiaries to use the library responsibly and desist from irresponsible use of the library such as tearing pages of books.

The guest of honour also appreciated the critical pillars of the Centre such as Social Justice and Peaceful Co-existence, highlighting how critical these pillars for are our country’s future. He also challenged the Centre to work at ensuring that CfSC library becomes digital so that students can access other E-Libraries through the internet. He promised to help link CfSC to the right people within the ministry of education to make e-learning and distance learning at CfSC a reality.

During the final remarks, the former director of CfSC Fr. Jos Kuppens remarked that the day’s event is an example of real partnership and all present are “partners in development”. Emphasizing on the importance of real partnership as exemplified in the presence of different actors from the Civil Society, the Church, the Government, and donors, he affirmed that “when we do networking properly, we can achieve a lot of things”. He also appreciated the last remarks from the guest of honour about e-connection as it has also been his interest for a long-time even to introduce e-readers. He also appreciated the fact that his successor has brought the torch to a higher position so that it can show more light.

After the closing remarks, the guest of honour and the Provincial cut the ribbon to launch of the Kalilombe wing of the library, after which those present appreciated the variety of resources in this new section of the library. Both the old main section of the library and the computer laboratory were also toured.

The ceremony was a moment of looking back and appreciating the achievements of the Centre in the past years as well as showing gratitude to all its staff, partners and donors.  It also brought new ideas on how to help the Centre to reach a higher pedestal in the future.

By Bro. Vitus Danaa Abobo (M.Afr)

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