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News from Sectors and Rome

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)

The world of our ideas, Coping with Covid-19

Value of global vaccination

In looking at what sense people are making, or not, of what is happening in the world today concerning the pandemic of Covid-19, despite their endeavour to fight against it, there are some who are affirming that life is ok in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic. Others are pessimists who state that; alas friends, things will continue to be bad, we are damned!   The nihilists go as far as taking the view that life is just suffering after all and is not worth living – life is fundamentally meaningless.

To begin with, allow me to refresh your philosophy, as a prelude to my reflection on Covid-19. The perspective I ‘am about to share concerns idealism which hold the view that there is no external reality to material objects but only ideas of them existing in our minds (Omnia Vinieris, 2002). This is opposed to those who believe in the materiality of things – things as they are in themselves.

The view of idealism surfaced among ancient philosophers and religions and emphasises mental and spiritual components of experience and renounces to concepts of material existence. Plato believed that the physical world around us is not real, it is constantly changing and you can never say what it really is. There is a world of our ideas which is a world of unchanging and absolute truth. But does such a world exist independent of our human minds? Plato thought it does and that whenever we see something with or mind’s eyes we are using our mind to conceive of something in the ideal world. For example, when we conceive of moral perfection, he said, it exists in our mind even if we know there are no people who are morally perfect around us. So their idea of moral perfection came from the ideal world.

George Berkeley a philosopher and Anglican Bishop from Ireland stated that ideas come from God and so all humans are merely ideas in the mind of God. He further asserted that all ideas hostile to God’s infiniteness, permanence, and goodness such as the conception of death, hell and evil are flawed and wicked hallucinations and are not real. For some even Covid-19 is not real but a phantasy or an idea (my emphasis). Another philosopher pointed out that all objects of our perception and all natural phenomena are representations but the world as it is in itself (noumena), it is a world of the will. Does that mean we create objects, or the phenomena we see, hear or experience, to suit our will and our mind? Is that true?

Certainly, due to the number of deaths from Covid-19 and the related sicknesses, the world is shaken and some people have lost hope and are disgusted and fearful, while others are positive and holding on, saying: ‘it will come to pass’. It is not only the attack of Covid-19, but also its variants too which are worrying and exacerbating pessimism and nihilism despite scientific progress to find a remedy. Long lasting Covid-19 which can take over a year before being cured has been has been detected in some patients. Then, there has appeared the ‘The Indian Variant’ publicized on June 14 in the journal Lacent digital health Vol. 3 June/July 2021. The journal examined also the impact of the ‘Delta Variant’ in Scotland, where it had become the dominant strain. Researchers found that the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19 has doubled more due to patients infected with the ‘Delta Variant’, than with people infected with the ‘Alpha Variant’.

As can be seen, after the appearance of the ‘Indian Variant’, there emerged the ‘Delta Variant’, as if that were not enough, then the ‘Alpha Variant’ was detected in Scotland, with its own mutations which they also dubbed variants of concern. The ‘Alpha Variant’ attacks the immune system and is more infectious and is more worrisome. The ‘Delta Variant’ itself, also known as the fourth wave, identified in India, which caused a rapid rise in cases of infection and is a highly transmissible strain in Uk, has put countries in Europe, North America and Africa on watch. According to WHO this fourth wave (the ‘Delta Variant’) resists antibodies in our blood (needs higher levels antibodies to overcome it and causes relentless itching of the eyes and toothache). But the good news is that all the vaccines developed thus far can prevent people from developing severe diseases, hospitalization and death. All the vaccines are not 100% efficient but can prevent from severe diseases and are good enough. There is a reminder though that even if you have been vaccinated you can get infected but the disease will be mild. So get a complete vaccination to protect yourself and avoid infecting other people.

In some developed countries though there are rapid rises cases of Covid-19, more than 25,000 a day, they are planning to remove face masks, stop social distancing and are advising people to go back to work because the vaccine roll out is working for those fully vaccinated. What a shift!  This is a talk of forward and backwards: “it’s look and see, take care of yourself”. The leaders of states are on one side and the people are on the other side.  Most people oppose it because they fear that there will be more hospitalizations as the number of cases will surge.

There has been also notable vaccine pessimism; this is a wonder and something curious. There have been ideas of disinformation and theories of conspiracy across the spectrum of people, even among scientists themselves who have developed the vaccines; ‘I will wait and see’, some say. As has been noted, among those first to be vaccinated were health workers such as doctors, nurses, and other health workers. Surely can the whole world afford to lose all these populations of health workers so that we are left bereft of them? It cannot be. If so then that would mean supporting pessimist and nihilist ideas.

Among the ideas and conspiracy theories prevailing these days are those claiming that there are dark forces that want to eliminate half of the world population, especially the Third World; Africans in particular. Others say all those who have been vaccinated will become impotent. This conspiracy is the most feared by the big population. Some people have suffered from Covid-19 and been fully vaccinated, but have there is no evidence that they become impotent. This is just an idea in the minds to discourage and frighten others. Then there is the issue of the blood clot and deaths also, but these are minimal in comparison to the benefits of being vaccinated.

On the other hand, there are those who are not adhering to the warnings. They think that Covid-19 is just an idea, a myth. Others are going about their life mask-less, while others are wicked and comingling with others when they know they are sick and with little or no vaccines. They gather in groups to socialize with the others. The other day I saw the police with teargas dispersing a group of drunkards but they regrouped after the police have disappeared. I wonder whether this type of drinking in our country Zambia does not reflect a national or collective neurosis or a senseless and meaninglessness of life? How can people be drinking beer like this as if their lives depended on it?

To come back to the scenario of the pandemic, there are those who see in it the coming to the end of the world and nonchalantly pass comments such as “if Jesus Christ wants to come, let him just come now, this is the end of the world” (Yesu ngalefwaya ukwisa naesefye, uku ekupwa kwacalo; Ambuye Yesu ngati afuna kubwera angabwere, uku ndiye kutha kwa dziko).” This calls to mind of the sort of Christian sect idealist pessimists fond of foretelling the end of the world.  Without dwelling much on what went before, in recent times, they used to proclain that in 1980 the world will come to end, but it did not. They repeated the same thing in 2000, ‘the world will be over and everybody should stop amassing provisions for future use’. What was the origin of such ideas?

I do not know whether you have come across a book entitled, “Better not to have been born; the harm of coming into existence” 2006. The writer is a pure anti-natalist and nihilist philosopher and he is not only against reproducing for fate can befall on anyone but because life for him is permeated by badness. Therefore, reproducing is intrinsically cruel and irresponsible. He has produced another book called, Human Predicament 2017. He has argued in this book that human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. He provides an escalating list of woes, designed to prove that even the lives of happy people are worse than they think. He argues that: “we’re almost always hungry or thirsty, and when we’re not, we must go to the bathroom. We often experience ‘thermal discomfort’ – we are too hot or too cold – or are tired and unable to nap. We suffer from itches, allergies, and colds, menstrual pains or hot flashes” quote.

Life is a procession of “frustrations and irritations” – waiting in traffic, standing in line, filling out forms. We are forced to work, we often find our jobs exhausting; even “those who enjoy their work may have professional aspirations that remain unfulfilled” quote. Many lonely people remain single, while those who marry fight and divorce. “People want to be, look, and feel younger, and yet they age relentlessly. This idealism has earned him fame and has a lot of followers. Strangely enough he does not answer personal questions because people will analyse him psychologically and therefore does not want to be interviewed. He is a very isolated and withdrawn person.

This perspective seems to indicate that life would be meaningful only when there is no suffering on earth. Is this true? In other word, one thing which we quickly and already realise when we come into existence is that we are not going to live forever and we shall depart in different ways from this life. This is a fact and life’s meaning should not be based on or judged according to whether there is suffering or happiness.

All sentient things seem to have that kind of life-experience of pain suffering and happiness. And therefore the question to ask is what kind of creatures are we human beings? We are intelligent, creative, developmental, communal; interpersonal whether there is suffering death or happiness. If we have not been most of these, then we have failed. These are the values we have here on earth and should inculcate in others. A new philosophy of life and religion must reject all superstitious beliefs and ideas in their objective reality and be able to reason and realise that the others ideas are only mental pictures we paint to please our own souls or mentality (Jung 1964, p.159).

It is true that we do not like suffering or death though we can make sense of them. But the irony is that when you have had a good life and after that you experience pain and suffering you seem to reason and catastrophise that things will be bad. When in distress one’s thinking becomes rigid, distorted and over generalized and absolute (Weishar 1996, p.188). There are also some people who think and behave as though they have come into this world by accident. They are not productive and they want to manipulate others and make them work for them. St Paul advises such idle people and begs them to go on quietly working and earning the food they eat. Such idle people when they sit on the food to eat, eat as though they are eating for the last time or are going to prison.

Though I meandered this much, my point was really to comment on the prevailing scenario of Covid-19 and its ramification and the fear or pessimism it has engendered. People should not give up themselves because of the challenges brought by Covid-19, come what may we shall overcome; come rain, come storms. We are advised to put on the masks, observe social distancing and to be completely “jabbed up” where there is vaccine. Otherwise certain pieces of advice, even those given by certain developed countries, will just be a form of idealism.

By Fr Patrick Mumbi

Livingstonia Missionaries and White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa)

Kenneth David Kaunda during a working visit to President Reagan, 3/30/1983

Kenneth Kaunda was born on 28 April 1924 at Lubwa Mission in Chinsali, then part of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, and was the youngest of eight children. His father, the Reverend David Kaunda, was an ordained Church of Scotland missionary and teacher, who had been born in Nyasaland (now Malawi) and had moved to Chinsali, to work at Lubwa Mission. His mother was also a teacher and was the first African woman to teach in colonial Zambia.

Lusaka, Embassy Park: Here lies a gallant freedom fighter, the African Child, Kenneth Kaunda. He came from a missionary family from Malawi that had settled in Lubwa. Born on 28th April 1924 and died on 17th June 2021, at the age of 97.

One notices the difference in evangelisation between White Fathers and the Livingstonia Mission who stressed the education of Africans in practical skills and in particular qualities which were consonant with the Calvinistic ethic as opposed with the Roman-Catholic, the White Fathers. For the Livingstonia Mission salvation was through individual faith in Christ; for the White Fathers the Sacraments, especially baptism, led to salvation. Lubwa Mission used literacy and intellectual agreement with the contents of the catechism as criteria for admission to church membership. For the Livingstonia Mission new members were incorporated into the structure of the Mission as teachers, evangelists, catechists, or paid employees of the Mission. The converts were initially mainly young men, exhibiting a westernized style of life. There emerged a competition between the White Fathers and the Livingstonia missionaries in the area of evangelisation. The phenomenon of evangelisation brought a rift between families and clans (Erie I, 1991).
In the 1940s Lubwa missionaries came under criticism by young mission teachers like Kaunda and Kapwepwe, who established a Chinsali Branch of the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress at Lubwa. There was opposition especially in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) to amalgamate or federate Northern and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
As orally narrated by some old White Fathers like Fr Robert Lavertu, in 1955 Lubwa was confronted with a break-away movement, the Lumpa Church, led by Alice Lenshina (See also Fr Hinfelaars 1985, 1989). There was a fierce clash in 1964 between the Lumpa Church and UNIP and by then the colonial British Government was still in power and in charge of security. Many people died (1000) and this ended in the dispersal of the Lumpa Church. According to Robert Lavertu, a Missionary of Africa who was there at the time, some members of the Lenshina group dispersed into Congo, while others remained in Chinsali and elsewhere in Zambia (Luwingu district).

By Fr Patrick Mumbi

Missionary life at St. Thomas Parish, Mzuzu, Malawi

Our Parish is named after St Thomas the Apostle and its Parish Priest happens to be Fr. Thomas. St Thomas the Apostle Parish is a semi-rural parish in the Diocese of Mzuzu in Northern Malawi. The Parish was created in October 2013. It currently has 17 prayer stations, 2 in town and 15 in the villages. The rural outstations are characterized by their distance from the Presbytery, the low number of their Christians and the poor or inexistent structures. One of the churches is not accessible by car. Most of these churches have very lively liturgies where all members participate in praying, singing and dancing. Our main Apostolate rotates around the ordinary administration of the sacraments, teaching/training of the Christians in the context of primary evangelization, Justice and Peace and Integrity of creation, and development works.

As a child I grew up in a village which was not even an outstation. The Catechist was the hero of the faith through his way of organizing the spiritual life of the people. The priest only came to the village once a year, under a special request on the feast of patron saint of the Christian Community, St. Andrew. Sisters and seminarians occasionally came during the Lenten Campaign for 2 to 3 days of teaching. I guess this has affected my missionary approach to remote areas. In a parish like St. Thomas, the temptation is to settle in town where life is softer and Christians are more capable intellectually and financially, while neglecting the rural outstations which are difficult to reach and have small numbers of Christians. Aware of this risk, we have adopted an old but efficient Missionary strategy of spending days at the outstations to maximize our presence among the Christians. We often go as a team, sometimes including Christians from town. The Christians of the outstations are always glad to receive us in their places and they are more than happy to have us in their midst. Materials such as drawings and movies are still relevant pastoral tools in such areas.

Such a Missionary approach goes with its requirement in personnel and finances. It is quite difficult to go to the distant outstations when there is only one priest at the presbytery. I happened to be alone for most part of the year 2020 and despite all the good will, I could only visit the distant outstations during week days. Finances are also crucial for one to reach out to such places. This has compelled us to reflect on ways to empower the parish financially so that it has enough to cover these expenses. Apart from the traditional ways of collecting funds such as tithe and offertory, we have explored ways of generating funds even in rural outstations where the livelihood of people is low, making it difficult to contribute meaningfully. Our Parish does a bit of farming on two farms: One for food crops where we are currently adding a piggery, and the other for tree farming where we have planted beyond 500 apple trees. In town we have small hostels which students of a nearby Technical College rent. Having seen the advantage of this, we have undertaken to build a proper hostel to receive around 100 students, though we are facing some financial difficulties to finish the works. Once completed, this will not only boost the income of the parish but also create a venue for retreats and trainings during holidays.

While some of the development works are for Income Generation, others are aimed at responding to the needs of the parish and the communities around us in areas of infrastructure: offices, school blocks, boreholes, making of bridges/roads in some rural places to enhance accessibility.

After 7 years of existence, St Thomas the Apostle Parish has managed to meet most of its basic needs including salaries of all the workers, upkeep of the confreres and stagiaires working in it, and also the cost of transportation for ministry.

Justice and Peace is part and parcel of our daily pastoral activities. It is very common for us to have to deal with cases where the lives and property of people accused of witchcraft are threatened. We also deal with early girl marriages mainly in the rural areas of the parish. It is fulfilling when after a long struggle a family finally understands that their young daughter is better at school than in a marriage. Also, we attempt to respond to the yearly struggle of the less privileged people during the transitory period before the maturity of their crops, when they are exposed to hunger and starvation. The Justice and Peace Commission of our Parish is also active. Luckily, an oncoming workshop in August 2021 on accompaniment of victims of various injustices will increase their capacities.

By: Thomas Delwende Pouya M.Afr.


Justice and Peace and the Integrity of Creation and Encounter and Dialogue (JPIC-ED) of South African Province (SAP) in its entirety has been up to date in living and journeying with the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis, Laudato Si. Most, if not all of our confreres or communities, do understand and take to heart that our Mother Earth, who contains us, does also sustain us and govern us accordingly (cf. Laudato Si’ no. 1). At the same time, she expects us to be responsible of taking care of her according to God’s command. “God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth.’ God also said, ‘Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food. And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food … God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:28-31). Pope Francis, in his wisdom and on behalf of the Church, emerged with the Encyclical Laudato Si‘ (LS) in response to such God’s command, while looking at the signs of the times. A timely moment of publishing it when human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God himself begin to abuse the Mother Earth; hence, endanger human species and all that she inhabits.

Most of our communities in the different Sectors of our Province have embraced this Encyclical not just from a ‘sermon point of view’ but also from a ‘pragmatic point of view.’ Many of our communities are engaged in different activities to making this exhortation a reality. A good and authentic reference can be found in our last JPIC-ED report to the Provincial Council, whereby it was clearly stated that most of our Communities/Parishes are engaged in planting pine trees, eucalyptus and cyprus trees, some fruit plants as well as up-grading mission compounds ecologically to a good standard while curtailing soil erosion. All this has not been done in isolation, but rather working hand in hand with the local or Parish Justice and Peace Committees or Commissions. This explicates clearly that Missionaries of Africa are not working in isolation but rather in collaboration with the local Church. The spirit of ‘I am because we are’ is very much integrated in implementing Laudato Si! This is very encouraging, and the larger communities in which we work are very appreciative of our approach.

Laudato Si‘ is a prophetic Encyclical as conflict in the future may be mainly caused by the exploitation of natural resources. In fact, the document has become highly influential and widely shared document of the Church as it urges humanity to have an attitudinal change towards the Mother Earth. It is for this reason that LS embraces three key words namely, respect, responsibility and relationship. Respect for each other as human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God; responsibility for what is entrusted to us, human beings, by the Creator; and positive relationship between the earth and human beings, among human beings themselves as well as between human beings and their Creator. “As Christians, we are also called ‘to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet’” (LS, no. 9).

It is clear that this document as we try to implement it in our own context as Missionaries of Africa within the communities we serve, needs to be understood not as a scientific document. It is a justice document applied to the Ecology. In other words, this document, can only be appreciated and understood if engaged as a social justice document as an expression of Catholic Social Teaching in its practical sense of the word. It follows Pope Francis’ prism based on encounter, dialogue and solidarity. It is realistic and pragmatic. It envisages “A word of paradigm shifts leading to centrality of justice, empowerment from below, a dynamic interaction between deductive and inductive method, interplay between the contextual and the universal” (Peter-John Pearson, Reflection on LS, p. 1). In a sense, LS follows a katabatic approach. It is justice document as it is the constituent of the mission of the Church. It is critical not only to Church’s life, but also to all who value and care for our common home just like us Missionaries of Africa who have taken it to heart. It provokes the sense of redeploying social power and the transformation of the social system. As a justice document, it is not a paracetamol pill or a tranquilliser document as W. Brueggemann states: “Justice is not some romantic social ideal for another world. It is the hard work of redeploying social power and the transformation of the social system. Those of us who benefit from inequality in the world are susceptible to blind spots and generally we struggle to keep those spots blind. But one must conclude from Micah and the whole prophetic tradition that the redistribution of social power is a crucial element of the Gospel, and that is a summons to justice.” Justice demands not only the avoidance of unnecessary pain, but fostering care and responsibility for the other, for the ‘Mother Earth’.

Based on the Social Catholic Teaching, while reading and interpreting the signs of the times, Laudato Si expresses a deep sense of the communitarian vision. This emanates from the Trinitarian principle which begins with the sign of the cross, expressing God who is Trinity. And of course, the Trinity is relational, is love; three in one, making part of the systematic theology. Surely, LS coheres around a theologically inspired communitarian ethic. Thus, it decries “… the classical liberal model where society is understood as an artificial contract between autonomous individuals undertaken for self-interest rather than fraternal reasons” (Schuck, p. 187). Its approach, therefore, takes a wider scope compared to other documents of the Church. Pope Francis quotes not only other Popes but also other different documents as well as individuals who compliment the care of our common home. This shows that the Church is not an isolated entity. She is part and parcel of the planet entity. This fits perfectly well with Charles Cardinal Lavigerie’s principle of Community Life.

The concern of Pope Francis to bringing out LS is a provocative challenge to us Missionaries of Africa. It is a serious call or invitation to us to look at all the signs of the times and find out not only short-term solutions but also long-term solutions to our ‘Mother Earth Crisis’ such as global warming and climate change, for which the future generations of Missionaries of Africa will appreciate us, and not condemn us. This implies that individuals alone cannot do much, the communitarian aspect of it at both local and global levels (i.e., Sectors, Provinces, Society and the Church at large) have necessarily to be engaged. Care for the common home is, indeed, our business as Missionaries of Africa!

By: Fr. James Ngahy, M.Afr.

In Memoriam Gotthard Rosner

Father Rudi Pint, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Germany, informs you of the return to the Lord of Father Gotthard Rosner on Wednesday September 2nd, 2020 in Munich (Germany) at the age of 79 years, of which 53 years of missionary life in Uganda, Switzerland, France, Italy, USA, Zambia UK and Germany.

Every now and then, there is a little controversy about the photo of an elderly confrere who died. Should we publish a recent photograph, which reflects the physical appearance of the confrere during the last years, or should we post an older picture, which will be acknowledged by the people he worked with when he was in Africa? Father Gotthard died on the second of September. He was a formator for many years and a superior general for 6 years. Many younger confreres have known him… with a beard, which he let go for the last few years.

“White Fathers – White Sisters: the graces of the jubilee year,” The Southern Africa Province (SAP)

By Felix Phiri, M.Afr

The Southern Africa Province (SAP) is composed of four countries, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia, of which only Malawi has remained to date the only country with the presence of the MSOLA. Nonetheless, the whole Province experienced something of the close collaboration with the MSOLA at the occasion of the Jubilee, mainly the Malawi Sector and to a certain extent the Zambia Sector.

In 2016, the two superiors of the Missionaries Africa and MSOLA announced the Jubilee of the 150 years of the foundation of their two institutes, with a clear three years roadmap, each year marked by a specific theme. The Malawi Sector, being the only country with the MSOLA presence, immediately put in place a team composed of vocation animators belonging to both institutes to spearhead the planning and actualization of the activities related to the Jubilee. The team met on a regular basis in order to organize the activities together.

Several activities were conjointly agreed upon and realized in the course of the three years. To start with, there was the pilgrimage visit to Mponda, point of arrival of the first Missionaries of Africa in Malawi in 1889, to revisit our origins in Malawi – a similar pilgrimage was done in Zambia to Mambwe Mwela the place where the first Catholic presence in what is presently known as Zambia was established in 1891, in connection with the 125 years of Christianity in Zambia. The pilgrimage in Malawi was extended to Mua, the place where the first permanent mission was established in 1902. The official launching of the Jubilee took place in 2017 in St Denis parish, Chinsapo, in Lilongwe. The colourful ceremony was presided over by Archbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye, the archbishop of Lilongwe. Each Sector organized its own closing ceremony; in Malawi the ceremony took place in St Thomas-Zolozolo and St Francis in 2019. In Zambia it took place on the 10th November 2019 and the MSOLA were represented by two of the sisters. It was a colourful celebration presided over the archbishop emeritus Telesphore-George Mpundu whose personal knowledge and past history with the Missionaries of Africa added a special flavour to the ceremony. At the end of his homily he rolled on the ground in the traditional way of expressing gratitude for the missionary work realized in Zambia. 

In the course of the three years, a number of activities were realized, some together with the MSOLA others alone as Missionaries of Africa. For instance, to mark this common journey, celebrations of the 30th April, the feast of Our Lady of Africa, on the 26th November (the Anniversary of the death of our founder), and the 8th December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, were conducted with a notable participation of members of either institutes. These were occasions to express our common origin and unity of purpose in the mission. On different occasions, various talks were given conjointly with the MSOLA on the themes of the year and/or on the life of the founder and spirituality of the two societies. Furthermore, the team went around the parishes that have been previously run by the Missionaries of Africa for a reminder of our presence there as well as vocational animation. In some parishes this brought back nostalgic souvenirs of the ‘good old days.’

Among the accompanying artefacts produced on the occasion of the Jubilee the most significant epitomizing the close collaboration with the MSOLA was the printing of the Jubilee cloth (nsalu) in 2018/2019. Over 1,200 pieces of cloth was printed and sold successfully. This was the most conspicuous symbol of the jubilee, not only was it worn by many women but it was also used as ornaments during celebrations. A similar initiative was undertaken by the other Sectors which also produced their own sets of jubilee clothes, alongside other products such as jubilee golf shirts, calendars, Missionaries of Africa rosaries, etc. In 2019, the MSOLA receive a special invitation from Bishop Lungu of Chipata Diocese, in Zambia, to come and mark their jubilee celebration in the diocese. Although the invitation was specifically for the MSOLA, it was an opportunity for us to interact with the MSOLA sisters who came to attend the events and to accompany them.

By the nature of the presence of the MSOLA in our Province, common activities could only be carried out in Malawi where they still have a presence and Zambia the last country where they were. In spite of that, we can discern tangible fruits of the Jubilee in collaborating with our sisters. Firstly, the very fact of working for the same cause during these last three years reminded us of our common origin and drew us closer together. Secondly, this has been an extraordinary opportunity to revisit our immediate and distant history; the different talks given about the history of our two institutes refreshed our sense originating from something greater than we are and the visit to the historical places where the first missionaries first arrived made us realize the amount of sacrifice and courage that went to the beginnings of the church. Finally, the participation of the local church made us understand and appreciate the contribution of our two institutes to the founding of the church in this part of the world. This was not a celebration isolated from the rest but indeed that of the whole church; we were not the object of the celebration but the occasion for it.

Serving and living with God’s people.

By Hervé Tougma

Proud to be a member of our Society by my missionary Oath, I was ordained in and for the Church. I am a Missionary of Africa priest in the Church who is mother and educator. Since my ordination, the Society has granted me the grace and privilege to live in a parish in Mozambique.

In this semi-urban and semi-rural parish, my desire is to live a very active apostolate in which the collaboration between the pastoral team and the Christian faithful is felt and lived. This desire, which is a reality in our small and young parish, is the subject of a sharing on “the life and the participative management of our parish”.

Encounter with the right key

Hand in hand, we will build up the Church as God’s family. As a Missionary, I am aware of my contribution but the strength of the building will depend on the people who receive the Gospel, and allow it to penetrate their lives and be its life-giving source. In Mozambique, every confrere who arrives for the first time in this “Glorious Land” becomes a small library which is once again enriched with two languages: Portuguese and the local language. Taking to heart the invitation of our founder, Cardinal Lavigerie, learning the language brings us into the reality of the people and brings us closer to them. As Missionaries of Africa, speaking the local language remains a priority for the sharing and incarnation of the Good News, for breaking down barriers of communication and for coming into contact with and understand the local culture. Speaking the language already gives this joy of walking together.

In his missionary sending, Jesus said: “Go therefore, make disciples of all nations, (…) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20a). To make disciples of them and to transmit what the Lord Himself has commanded me, knowledge of the language is the key that allows me to be a happy and fulfilled missionary.

The Apostolate of collaboration, baptized and sent

Invited by the Bishop because of our charism, we have responded by taking a parish as a starting point for our apostolate of Justice and Peace and of Integrity of Creation JPIC). In the same perspective and taking advantage of our presence, the Bishop also asked us to join his pastoral team to initiate ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue with the growing number of Muslims in the region. The cosmopolitan reality of Tete calls for an integration of our specialisation with the pastoral needs of the Diocese. In this mining town and crossroads of travellers from neighbouring countries such as Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, we observe the intermingling of races and human mobility as ordinary realities. As Missionaries of Africa, managing a parish that responds to our vocation as ordained for the Church, the particularity of our charism propels us to respond to pastoral needs starting from the parish that serves as a springboard.

With very few diocesan priests, the Diocese counts on different congregations each with its own approach to mission, based on its Charism.

The absence of permanent catechists in the Diocese of Tete was a surprise to me. This reality provides for a very close collaboration with lay people and pastoral agents. For catechesis in our parish, we work with volunteer catechists. We have the presence of the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and the Ministers of Hope. The Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist assists the priest in the distribution of the Eucharist and brings communion to the sick. He also accompanies the priest at the appropriate time for visits to the sick. The Ministers of Hope collaborate through being close to the sick. In case of decease, the Minister of Hope leads the prayers for Christian burial when the priest cannot be present.

Within the framework of these two extraordinary ministries, each group is being prepared and trained before being sent out for witnessing to their faith through their ministry.

As pastors, we visit the communities for Masses and in the absence of the priest we count on their leaders for the celebration of the Word every Sunday. According to St. Paul “How could they call upon him, if they had not believed in him? And how could they believe in him without hearing him? And how can they hear him if no one proclaims him?

And how can they proclaim him unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:14-17). This responsibility is shared and the most important thing is to empower these lay leaders through prior preparation. The training and meetings allow us to journey with the members of the different groups and movements towards a precise horizon. We keep an eye on the organization and the life of the basic Christian communities. We visit these communities from time to time so as to accompany them and to remain in touch with the faithful. We also encourage them to practice solidarity in their daily living.

The reality of the mission in the field educates and teaches us. After a long time of formation, I discovered the necessity and importance of pastoral collaboration. In addition to the collaboration with the Pastor of the Diocese and his pastoral agents, I have learned to appreciate collaboration with the laity so as to live the apostolate of closeness in view of rooting the Gospel in the life and culture of people. The preparation I have received is being contextualised and teaches me to delegate, to share my experience and know-how with close collaborators for the building up of the mystical body of Christ: the Church.

Source : Petit Écho de la Société des Missionnaires d’Afrique, no 1109, 2020/03

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