Catholic Youth for Christ


By Lawrence Tukamushaba, M.Afr

Lawrence Tukamushaba

In line with the call of Pope Francis to devote the 2018 Synod of Bishops to young people, the Archdiocese of Kasama decided to dedicate the whole year to them. Catholic Youth for Christ was the theme that was chosen to guide the year. The Year of Youth was launched with Solemn Mass in a packed Cathedral by young people from all parts of the Archdiocese.

The adolescence young adult stage is a critical time in the life of young people. It is a stage where they are searching for their place in the Church and society. It’s a time when they need to be grounded in their faith. Role models, mentors, spiritual guidance, counsellors are much needed at this critical stage. When not much attention is paid to young people then there is the risk of losing some of them to new religious denominations and new ideological movements.

Youth organizations in St. Anne’s Parish

In St. Anne’s parish, pastoral care of young people is one of the most important ministries. Our parish has a large vibrant youth group scattered over our 15 outstations but the majority of the organisations are to be found in the central parish area as this is in town. Most of the young people belong to lay groups such as Xavarians movement, Young Christian workers, Junior legionaries, Stellas (Liturgical dancers), Alter boys club, Senior youth (those transiting from youth to Adults). Besides this, the young people have their own Small Christian Communities where they meet every Sunday afternoon to share the word of God. They also hold a youth council once a month. We also have Youth Alive and Young Christian Students. With so many groups, one cannot just leave them in the hands of Parish Priest. There has always been a tradition in the Parish that the curate and stagiaire give special attention to young people. Each lay group and Small Christian Community for the youth has a youth leader who accompanies them and works together with the youth chaplain and promoters. Without praising ourselves, this system has always worked well and as a result it has become the practice in the diocese that a priest, stagiaire, and a sister are assigned to youth ministry in the Parish.

Parish Activities

Lenten retreatAt the beginning of the year, all youth groups meet in the Parish to plan the activities for the coming year. The activities range from the spiritual (retreats, pilgrimage to the old mission of Chilubula, biblical and doctrinal quizzes, spiritual talks), to charitable works such as visiting the sick and homes of the physically challenged, plus social activities, sports, cultural and talent shows, youth day celebrations, career guidance, sensitization on social issues like drug and substance abuse, issues of Justice and Peace, youth camps, among others. Some activities are organized at the centre level, parish, deanery or diocesan level. At the parish level the program is done by the parish executive together with the chaplain. Every time there is a Church council or Parish council the youth organisations also give their report.

One annual event that attracts many young people is the pilgrimage to Chilubula, the Cathedral in Zambia where our confrere, Joseph Dupont, the first Bishop of the region is buried. The pilgrimage to Chilubula was started by our predecessors in the Parish. Now it has become an annual event in the deanery. Last year in October 2018, I accompanied 400 young people of whom half was from our parish, on a 35km journey on foot. It was an enriching experience for me walking with them, singing and praying, giving talks at various stations and especially celebrating the Eucharist for them at Besnar Centre, 5 km from Chilubula.

Some challenges for youth ministry today

Religious pluralism.

A number of our young people come from families with different denominations among its members. Unlike in the past where you would find that the whole family was Catholic; today, with the coming of Pentecostalism, the situation is different. Some have defected to these churches. You find that in a family of five some are Catholics, others are evangelicals or Pentecostals. This affects the faith as Catholics tend to shy away from expressing their faith, in fact at times, they belittle their faith. For example one youth shared that his siblings, who are no longer Catholics, laugh at him when he makes the sign of the cross.

It’s easy to notice that most of our young people’s way of praying is influenced by these religious movements whose leaders have a big following on social media. This confuses them and leads them to question their faith in Catholic doctrines.

Family breakdown in modern times.

NurseA good number of our young people are raised by single parents; others have been orphaned at a young age and were brought up by their grandparents. Some have never met their fathers. Dealing with such young people needs care and attention which cannot be solved by Mass or the administration of sacraments. It needs spending time to listen to them and counselling them. Peer counselling is a skill that is needed.

The widening gap between Urban and Rural Youth

There is a growing gap between young people coming from urban and rural setups. St. Anne’s Parish has a small section of the parish in town while the other, bigger part, is in a rural setting. Young people living in the countryside are more disadvantaged as they have limited access to social facilities. We have some outstations where getting to school is a challenge. In some areas, children have to walk 10 km on foot to reach the nearest primary school. In the rainy season, roads get really bad and some bridges are washed away. Added to that, the grass grows tall so that it becomes risky to walk in the bush and on top of all that some villages are widely scattered. In such areas it is difficult to find someone who has finished secondary school. This poses a challenge of leadership in the Church. It also increases a vicious circle of poverty.

YouthAs a result, there is high incidence of school drop-outs, early marriages, and teenage pregnancies. In the year 2017, I baptized 17 adults among whom were 8 school girls aged between 14 and 18 years of age who had dropped out of school. Later I discussed with their parents and church council how to ensure that they go back to school. As pastoral agents it is our task to take a keen interest in the formal education of our Christians if our ministry is to be transformative.

Conclusion

Youth ministry has always been part and parcel of our priority as witnessed by some of the lay movements which our confreres started in various countries, by the youth centres we still run and by the big number of young people that have been educated by the Missionaries of Africa. Today we need to invest more in this noble ministry because it is by starting with young people that we can be assured of continuity in the Church and mission. Pope Francis rightly says “youth are the now of God”. I believe so. They are not only the future leaders but the present hope of the Church today.

Source: Petit Echo, 2019 / 05 – No 1101

A short history of the Centre for Social Concern at the occasion of clocking 15 years.


Several chapters of the society of Missionaries of Africa put increasingly greater stress on the link between mission and justice and peace, mission and dialogue. The chapter of 1998 speaking in the language of objectives and planning proposed to all the members that they should integrate justice, peace and the integrity of creation as an essential dimension of our lives as missionaries and to promote dialogue with those who are different in religion and culture. In Malawi during the post-capitular assembly the participants put this chapter decision into practice by evaluating all our commitments with as criteria: in which commitments (parishes) can we best apply the above-mentioned objectives. This led to a recommendation that we should both plan to handover some of the parishes we were running then, but also start new projects with the specific intention to respond to the challenge posed by the 1998 chapter. The Missionaries of Africa already had a centre dedicated to culture in Kungoni so we saw the need for a new venture, which would dedicate itself to Justice and Peace and the Integrity of Creation. This became the Centre for Social Concern. It took about three years of deliberation before we actually were ready to commence. Kanengo was chosen as the location, next to St. Francis Parish.

The infrastructure was first on the list. A house for confreres to live and an office block with a small library. We hired our first personnel. There was a small group of Missionaries of Africa who guided the process. The CfSC needed to find its niche in the ecclesial and national landscape. The CfSC also needed to find the funds to run it. Since the director had experience of working with CORDAID this Dutch co-financing organisation became the first partner to the CfSC. At the same time because of existing contacts with some members of GTZ, the centre was asked to assist in a project to research whether there is a link between (self)-marginalisation and violence. It was the time after the bombing of the World Trade Towers in New York and the project proposed to research this thesis. The CfSC was asked to do this. It led to our inter-religious dialogue project. Because what we found out was that there seemed not to be a direct link, but that even mainline religious groups were becoming more fundamentalist so that the normal ‘dialogue of life’ was not deemed sufficient to cope with this hardening of opinion and increase in prejudice. The conclusion was that a greater effort needs to be made to tackle prejudice and promote greater religious tolerance. The method followed was to do first a fairly in-depth appraisal to find out what is happening in a specific area and based on that to start some interventions, which lead to greater tolerance.  The centre bundled the lessons learned in Karonga and Nkotakhota in a book and at its launch, it was asked to tackle the tense situation that had arisen in Mangochi. Following the method proposed a team of researchers from different religious backgrounds started with the in-depth appraisal. The subsequent action was done by the ‘Forum for Dialogue and Peace’.

Promoting Critical Thinking

The library proved very popular and burst out of it seems. The room earmarked was far too small and new building was added to our infrastructure. It housed both a large meeting room and a library with reading room. In the meantime, the Centre employed an economist who was heading the economic governance desk and it embarked on its first strategic plan. It advocated for debt cancellation and used as a channel for this work the faith community leaders. It was at this time that the basic needs basket research was shaping up and being done in the four main cities in Malawi. Other donors came on board like OSISA, TROCAIRE and Misereor. While the first strategic plan was produced in 2005, there was need for a follow-up plan in 2008. This was the first plan for which the CfSC hired a consultant. 2011 and 2014 followed. In that way the CfSC tried to stay focused, refine its mission and adjust its vision according to changing circumstances. What helped it to focus were some of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching like: the option for the poor, the common good and the integrity of creation.

The Poorest of the Poor

One of the groups of people that deserved the attention of the centre were and are the tenants on tobacco farms. They are the forgotten ones but with their sweat they produce the crop that brings in a large amount of the foreign exchange which is needed to keep the economy going and cover the imports which Malawi needed to survive. Our cars, little do we realise that it is because of the sweat of tenants that we can drive them. But they themselves even today are oppressed. The much-touted Integrated Production System has only lifted the old system to another plain: now the landlords have become the tenants of the tobacco companies. Many of them still use the bonded labour, because of lack of sufficient liquidity to pay salaries on a regular basis. Without these interventions by Justice and Peace groups and the Centre for Social Concern, they would truly have belonged to the forgotten of the earth.

Human Trafficking

The centre started bringing to the attention of the nation those who were being subjugated to new forms of slavery: those who were trafficked either within or to outside the country. This work was in line with the work of the founder of the Missionaries of Africa, Cardinal Lavigerie, who played an important role in the abolishment of slavery in the eighteen seventies. Today human trafficking is the new slavery. The centre cooperated with women’s groups at first within the Catholic Church but later also with others, creating awareness about this modern scourge and training women to recognise human trafficking when it was occurring in their areas and to report it to the centre, which was taking further action. This was several years before Norwegian Church Aid made money available to several NGOs and supported action against human trafficking to the point of assisting the nation to draft legislation which made it easier to punish this heinous crime.

Inspired by Catholic Social Teaching

The centre did a survey in how far it is true that Catholic Social Teaching is our best kept secret: in other words, in how far does this body of teaching influence Catholic Christians. This was to prepare a project which was trying to introduce a value-based approach to policy debates. The idea was that the country needs not only sound economics but these economics must also be ethically sound. This in turn was part of the ‘active citizenship’ pillar of the 2014 strategic plan. In earlier strategies the centre referred to ‘building human capital’: An indication that the CfSC was recognising that integral development, justice and peace can only be realised when citizens themselves take to heart their own human development.

From ‘advocacy for’ to ‘advocacy by’                                                                                                          

Empowerment has also been underlying the efforts of the centre in its advocacy strategy to move from advocacy for to advocacy by. The centre started basic needs advocacy groups. These were trained in identifying the issues concerning their lives, their rights. They learned how analyse them, and how to link them to their rights as rights holders. With the help of the centre they had interface meetings with the duty bearers where they raised the issues. This led to duty bearers realising they could not just do business as usual. They had to account and become transparent. It also led to remedial action, like improving health services, school buildings, and the provision of clean water. The citizens started to realise that they did have power. If duty bearers did not respond the media helped by bringing the problems to the attention of the whole nation. This ‘rights-based approach’ to development has proven to be a powerful tool for empowering communities to take their own lives in their hands and do the needful to rise out of poverty.

Up and Downs

In our history we met, of course, with ups and downs like changing priorities among the donor partners. Working with people at the grassroots takes time and often the demands were for short-term results. While generally the CfSC can pride itself on a dedicated staff, this was not always the case. But all considered, the centre thought it was right that it celebrates 15 years of existence. The whole staff did so in the presence of some of our volunteers, partners, and well-wishers. It is gratifying to hear it confirmed that the basic needs basket is fulfilling a need and is eagerly awaited by many; that even if very slowly taxation justice is becoming a bit more of a reality; that networking has helped the tenants so that their cause is not forgotten; that the revival of the monster of unsustainable debt is at least brought to the attention of all stakeholders; that youth and adults find good literature and a conducive environment for study in our library; that people realise that they are the rights holders and can proudly refer to good developments in their areas because they feel they are equipped to for interface meetings with duty bearers; that so many people have been empowered with knowledge and graduated from being a victim of circumstances to agent of their own development. In other words, there was reason to celebrate. This was done on the 22nd of November 2018 through an open day. In the presence of Archbishop Tarsizius Ziyaye and colleagues from civil society, donor partners and co-operators, volunteers and beneficiaries the CfSC thanked God and showcased its work in the areas of social conditions research, economic governance, inter-religious dialogue and active citizenship. It was a great celebration like a crown on 15 years of learning, operating, implementing our vision and mission.

The Future

One thing we learned as an organisation is that development is a slow process. It needs an awakening of those at the grassroots, who are experiencing the problems often not of their own making. It needs dedication and commitment. It needs the contribution of all, especially those in power be they politicians or technocrats, NGOs or donors. Malawi is still one of the least developed countries. It is still referred as a country with one of the lowest GDP in the world. But the CfSC does not think that this is preordained. Charting its course into the future it wants to assist its clients to build on strength, to discover their potential and make it work for them and for the common good. This means that there is still plenty of work to be done. Reinforcing the rights-based approach. Continuing to bring together those who are different in religion and culture, to discover what unites and to make religion one the forces for the common good and against division. It needs the contribution of the Centre for Social Concern.

2017-01 CfSC Press Review

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Commemoration of 150 years of the M.Afr in Chipata diocese


Modéra Bazié2By Modéra Bazié, stagiaire

In order to commemorate the 150 years of the foundation of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa, the diocese of Chipata expressed its gratitude to the White Fathers by organising a pilgrimage of faith in Lumimba Parish run by our confreres.

On Saturday 20th October, a number of activities were held in Chasera; poetry, a play, a traditional dance presented by the students of the formation house in Chipata and football matches. Were present Bishop George Lungu, brethren from other Christian denominations and representatives from the Muslim community.

At the Sunday Eucharistic celebration, honourable chief Mwanya attested her happiness and the gratefulness of the people of Chasera for the work of our ancestors in the mission. She also expressed her thankfulness for the education and health facilities the missionaries have been given to the people of Chasera. She concluded: zikomo kwambiri, which means ‘‘thank you very much’’.

Bishop George Lungu expressed his joy of having missionaries in his diocese. He also prayed for the first confreres who planted the Catholic faith in Chipata. He encouraged all the religious over the diocese and the students of the Missionaries of Africa to take up the challenges of their time in order to bring the Gospel to all the whole world in the same spirit as the first missionaries did. All gratitude to the Missionaries of Africa, he said.

Chasera-01He also invited the Christians to be grateful for what the confreres have done and are still doing for them by supporting them. He concluded his speech with a special word of gratitude to Father Toon van Kessel for his wonderful work in Chipata diocese.

Finally, Father Adelarde Munishi thanked the Bishop, the whole diocese, the traditional believers and other denominations for their collaboration. We are all from one Family, the family of God – Banja Nyumba Ali modzi, he said. He expressed his gratitude to the Christians of Chasera for having hosted the celebration.

In this atmosphere of great joy, the celebration ended with the final blessing of Bishop George Lungu after the missionaries had sung the Sancta Maria.

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Chinsapo becomes a fully fledged Parish, Malawi


Vitus Abobo 2018 (2) copie copieBy Vitus Abobo, M.Afr

Until the 90s, Chinsapo was an outstation of Likuni Parish under the care of the Missionaries of Africa, namely Fr. Roger Bélanger and Fr. Angelo Belloti who developed interest in the area. When the Missionaries of Africa handed over Chilinde and Kawale parishes in 1998, Chinsapo became a possible place to establish a new parish.

Already, Bishop Felix Eugenio Mkhori foresaw that Chinsapo would become a parish. Fr. Martin Onyango initiated the whole process while being curate of Likuni Parish. Together with the Christians, he bought the plot with financial support from the Missionaries of Africa, the people themselves and Bakili Muluzi, President of Malawi between 1994 and 2004.

Fr. Martin Onyango, Fr. Jacques Pallas, Fr. Piet Van Hulten, and Fr. Julio Feliu worked in Likuni until it was handed over to the diocese in 2003. Fr. Jacques Pallas, chaplain of Likuni hospital, though staying at the sector house in town, went to Chinsapo regularly.

The idea of Chinsapo becoming a Parish came back in 2008. Fr. Piet Van Hulten together with Fr. Louis Blondel sent Fr. Julio Feliu, who was then the Parish Priest at Mua, to Chinsapo. Earlier on, during a confirmation ceremony of 200 Christians, the people of Chinsapo asked Bishop Rémi Sainte-Marie to make Chinsapo a parish.

Fr. Julio arrived in Chinsapo in February 2009. He put his heart into the pastoral work. Though the official status of Chinsapo was not clear, Fr. William Thurnbull, then the Sector Delegate for Malawi, and his team kept supporting Julio. Finally, Chinsapo became a quasi-parish on 3rd June 2009, the Feast of the Martyrs of Uganda and named after St. Denis.

The infrastructural developments currently in Chinsapo started with the construction of the sports ground which in the beginning was the crossroad of many roads. Afterwards the Christians built a fence at a cost of about four million kwacha. Then the catechist’s house, Home Base Care (HBC) also known as the Rainbow Centre was constructed with support from a Spain-based NGO, followed by the Justice and Peace office.

In 2010, Chinsapo received some financial help through Bishop Rémi from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome to build the Parish residence. It has taken six years for the building project to be completed.

Unfortunately, Fr. Julio fell ill due to back problems and had to go home for treatment. During that time the future of Chinsapo became very dim as there were even plans of having it over to the Silesians or the Jesuits.

Then Fr. Felix Phiri, the new SAP Provincial, realising the situation of Chinsapo, requested Fr. Julio to ask the confreres at the Sector house for support. From that time, Fr. Paul Namono, Fr. Michel Sanou, Fr. Africano Mucunguzi kept giving Julio a helping hand in the Pastorals at Chinsapo.

Around the middle of this year 2018, the Province/Sector decided to establish a Missionary of Africa community at Chinsapo and make Chinsapo a project of the Missionaries of Africa. After discussions between the Missionaries of Africa and the current bishop of Lilongwe Archdiocese, Chinsapo was raised from to status of quasi-parish to a full parish.

Chinsapo blessed with a Parish and Missionaries of Africa community.

Chinsapo 04On the 26th of August, 2018 Chinsapo was blessed with the erection of not only a new Missionary of Africa Community, but also the raising of its status from quasi-parish to a full-fleshed one. The Bishop of Lilongwe Archdiocese, Most Rev. Tarsizio G. Ziyaye, made the declaration at the end of a Eucharistic Ceremony.

The Provincial Superior, Fr. Felix Phiri announced the coming of three confreres and a stagiaire. All new community members were present; Fr. Piet van Hulten, Fr. Julio Feliu and the stagiaire Crepin Kombate Moiyikitie. Yet to come Fr. Pawel Patyk from Poland.

At the end of the Mass, the Bishop, announced the good news to all present declaring that: “I myself, in conjunction with the Superiors of the Missionaries of Africa, we have given this Parish to the Missionaries. These our parents in faith will be in charge of this parish and Fr. Julio Feliu is to lead it.”

The declaration was greeted with a lot of ululations and clapping of hands. The Bishop then handed the official letter which he had signed, raising Chinsapo from a quasi-parish to a fully-fledged parish, to Fr. Felix Phiri, the Provincial Superior of Southern African Province.

The Bishop thanked Fr. Roger Tessier who came from Kenya to visit Malawi, before returning to Canada for good. He knew Fr. Roger when he was the manager of Likuni Press, back in the 70s.

At the end of the Mass, the Bishop blessed the house where the new community will be housed, amid melodious songs from the children’s choir.

Both Fr. Piet and Fr. Julio see very great opportunities in the areas of Justice and Peace, Inculturation and Interreligious dialogue. There are about 32 different Christian denominations already at Chinsapo. Also, there is a good relationship with the Khadra group of Muslims, the Anglicans and the Lutherans. They foresee a great challenge in the area of Integrity of Creation, and population density as many people continue to settle in the area. The population is estimated to be about 800,000 people.

Chinsapo 01The focus of Chinsapo as a Parish will be in the area of youth apostolate as almost 70% of the population are below 25 years old. Luckily, some Sisters are expected to arrive in Chinsapo, and they will be of great help in caring for the youth.

Conclusion

This day was a very colourful day, not just because of the sacrament of confirmation that took place, but also because on this day the dream of many confreres and Christians of seeing Chinsapo as a parish was realised. On this same day, God also blessed this new parish with the presence of the Missionaries of Africa community. The questions, doubts and worries of many people about the future of Chinsapo have been laid to rest.

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Celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Missionaries of Africa in Chipata, Zambia.


Father Dave Cullen wrote an article recently about the celebration at Mphangwe which took place on September 8, 2018. Here below is the testimony of Jacob Maasang, stagiaire in Zambia.

By Jacob Maasang, originally from Ghana

Ahead of the official beginning of the 150th anniversary of the Missionaries of Africa which will take place on December 8, I had the opportunity to attend this celebration at Mphangwe Prayer Centre in the Diocese of Chipata on the feast day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 8th September 2018 under the theme: “serving God’s people in Africa”.

Apart from members of our Missionary Society, there was a number of men and women religious congregations present as well as a number of lay faithful from the Katete Deanry. Rt. Rev. Bishop Benjamin Phiri, the auxiliary bishop of Chipata Diocese, was the main celebrant.

For Fr. Felix Phiri, our Provincial, the gathering was a blessing moment to commemorate 150 years of service to the people of God in Africa and the African world. He used the opportunity to explain the mission of the Missionaries of Africa through a brief history of our founder and our Society. He recorded the early struggles our first missionaries met in Africa and the activities done by our confreres in Zambia up to now.

According to Bishop Benjamin, it was not a thanksgiving Mass for the missionaries alone but also for the people of Zambia, especially the Diocese of Chipata. He gave acknowledgement to some elderly confreres, still present, who worked utterly in that diocese. For him, it was an opportunity for the people to appreciate the work of evangelisation done by the missionaries of Africa in that part of Zambia.

After the Eucharistic celebration, all the Missionaries of Africa introduced themselves. To my surprise, I was the only one to do so in icibemba while others did it in cinyaja. Messages of congratulation and gifts followed. To my amazement, there was even a cow offered by the Katete deanery.

Done in a very simple manner, everybody had something to eat and drink. This, I felt, was part of our charism as our founder insisted on simple lifestyle and moderation in everything. I was very happy and privilege to be at this 150th anniversary celebration of our foundation as Missionaries of Africa, serving the people of Africa and the African world. Mission continues.