History of the beginning of the Catholic Church in Zambia in Chipata, Eastern Province.


Meeting of all Priests of Chipata Diocese April 2-5, 2017 at the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Catholic Church in Zambia.

History Catho Church ZambiaBy Fr. Jean-Luc Gouiller, M.Afr 04/04/ 2017

On the page one of the “History of the Catholic Church in Zambia” by Fr. Hugo Hinfelaar, in 2004, we read: “1891 is often considered the year when the Catholic Church was established in our part of Africa now called Zambia when the Missionaries of Africa settled near Mambwe Mwela. But the people of Zambia had been in contact with Catholic Christendom from the beginning of the eighteen century onwards. (…)

The Portuguese-speaking Dominical Missionaries had arrived around 1730 in a market place known as Feira by the Portuguese, situated at the confluence of the Luangwa River and the Zambezi River, near the District Centre of present day Luangwa. (…)

By then, the Chiti mukulu dynasty had been established in Bembaland which had had some contact with Christianity. Their Paramount Chiefs claimed to have come from Kasai in the Congo with some of the sacred relics of Catholic Portuguese origin. (…)

Some Catholic Christians came from India. We know that after Jesus’s departure some of his apostles went to India to bring the Good News of Jesus, the most well-known of them being St Thomas. A place in India became well-known for its Catholics: Goa. This is how, in the 18th century, some Dominican Friars from Goa came to Mozambique as missionaries. Some Catholic priests would come to administer the sacraments and teach catechism. (…)

In 1754, still from India, some resident parish priests came to Mozambique to be in charge of the station of Zumbo. A certain Fr. Pedro, from Goa, became very well known. People would say of him that he had planted the tree of the Holy Gospel. All this very near what is now Zambia, and certainly at times in Zambia. One day, Fr Pedro even met somebody in authority called Mazombwe, whom he wanted to stay with. Fr Pedro was also a medicine man. He died in 1751. His funeral attracted many people, apparently thousands of Cewa, Nsenga, Bisa, and Kunda people. (…)

When the well-known Protestant missionary explorer Livingstone passed where Fr. Pedro had been he still found the remnants of his church and a broken bell. (…)

At the beginning of the 1880s, the Jesuit missionaries opened a small mission among the valley Tonga at Mwembe and visited the Litunga, Lewanika, King of the Lozi at Lealui. However, because of a lot of setbacks, sicknesses and deaths, they abandoned their project a few years after. (…)

Another example around 1798: On the “Danger Hill” road, north of Mpika, a monument has been erected in remembrance of the journey of the Portuguese explorer Jose Maria Delacerda el Almaida. On a board we read this: Was Dr in mathematics, some time he was the royal astronomer in Lisbon, Portugal, Governor of a region in Mozambique and leader of an expedition to cross Africa. Later he also established a chain of fortified trading posts between Mozambique and Angola. He had set out from Tete with a large party including nine Europeans to reach the town of Chief Kazembe, a very well-known Chief at the south of lake Mweru. But he fell sick and died of exhaustion. His diary gives us the first accurate account of the country and its people of the Eastern part of “Northern Rhodesia in Zambia. The expedition returned to Tete under a Father Pinto. (…)

In the Bangweolo there is the mention of a very gentle person, Luchere Nganga, from Brazil, who went to many places helping people to forget about their differences and jalousies. One day he disappeared after having said, it seems, that another one, apparently a missionary (or several of them) would come in the future dressed in white.”

Cardinal_LavigerieNow let us see the position of Cardinal Lavigerie, Bishop of Algiers and founder of the Missionaries of Africa in 1868, and of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Africa in 1869, first called “The Agricultural and Hospital Sisters”. Little by little, Lavigerie was getting ready to send his Missionaries in Central Africa.

In 1878, a group of three set out for Central Africa by a long way which they thought safe, accompanied by guides apparently very cooperative. But, in a desert, they killed the three Missionaries. Three more Missionaries followed another new way and were also killed. It was clear that another way to go to Central Africa would need to be found. This is what was planned for 1889.

Cardinal Lavigerie sent four Missionaries to the South of Malawi. These were: Fr. Adolphe Lechaptois, Fr. Valentin Heutebize, a Brother builder Antoine Verkuelen and Fr. Joseph Mercui. They were sent to a place where they could probably meet some Portuguese Christians. They arrived at Mponda on 28th December 1889, but at a time when they were some troubles between two groups of colonisers: the English and the Portuguese. The area had just been declared a “British Protectorate”. The newly arrived Missionaries were in a dilemma.

Great Britain’s plan (ambition) was to be “at home” from Cape Town in the South to Kairo in the North. Hence the name of “Cairo Road” given to a street of Lusaka town in present Zambia. The Portuguese had another ambition: they had been in that part of Africa since the 16th century. They too felt at home over there. They wanted to link together for themselves the East of Central Africa, Mozambique, with the West: Congo and especially Angola.

However, in the meantime, the four Missionaries had started some activities, especially caring for the sick and organising a school for young people, which they very much enjoined. But on the other hand the Missionaries were not at ease with the local Chief “Mponda” and some of his people.

A decision had to be taken: to go elsewhere. Lavigerie himself, from afar, had realised that the members of another denomination had been campaigning against the Catholic Missionaries, and Chief Mponda was disappointed because he had not received guns or whatever else from the Missionaries of Africa.

ob_8b5b72_siege-de-la-african-lakes-companyThe new plan of Lavigerie was to ask the four Missionaries to go to Karema in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). So the four Missionaries left Mponda in June 1891 by boat towards Karonga on the shore of Lake Malawi. Then they were to travel by following the “Stevenson” Road up to Lake Tanganyika. With the help of an Englishman agent of the African Lakes Company, they gathered a large group of men to protect them and help them carry their luggage. On their journey, men, women and children whose villages had been destroyed by the slave traders, joined them.

They were well received when passing through the village of Chief Mambwe. However, by then, the young Fr. Heurtebise had contacted a bad malaria. He was very sick and his companions were afraid that he would not survive. Providentially, they found a place called in Chimambwe “mwela”, meaning “wind”, because it is in a high place and with a cold weather. They settled in a shed built but then abandoned by the African Lake Company. In July 1891, because of the sickness of Fr. Heurtebise, they began to organise a place as if it was to become a Mission Post. Brother Anton began to build a house for the Missionaries and started a garden while Fr. Heurtebise, feeling better, started to instruct a number of people using the little they knew of Kiswahili, Chichewa and Chimambwe. That was a beginning of evangelisation in Zambia.

cropped-mambwe-mwila-06-08-2016-18-jpeg.jpgMambwe-Mwela becomes a Mission.

 During that time Fr. Lechaptois managed to travel as far as Karema (in Tanganyika) to inform the other missionaries of their intention of establishing a permanent Mission post at Mambwe-Mwela. He dedicated the new Mission to Mary, Our Lady of the Angels. Fr. Heurtebise, sick with malaria, was persuaded to go back home in France. Fr. Lechaptois was appointed Superior of the Missions in Tanganyika, where he would become a Bishop later. He was replaced in Mambwe- Mwela by Fr. Depaillat.

At the end of the rainy season, in May 1892, their new house was hit by lightning. The grass roof burned down. However, more and more visitors (traders, hunters, explorers) were coming to see them seeking accommodation for a night or two. Unfortunately, problems were developing in the area around Mambwe-Mwela, as the Mission was squeezed between the territory controlled by the British South Africa Company and the Tanganyika Territory.

During that period, a new Father, Achille van Oost, arrived and saw the difficult situation of this new Mission Post. He then began to look further South, in the Bemba country, for a new foundation. In January 1894 he succeeded in establishing a first contact, and then a second, with Chief Makasa, explaining to him that he was a God’s messenger. It impressed the Chief, who, in March 1895 offered him to settle to Kayambi. Unhappily, Fr. Achille van Host died on 20th April 1895. His grave is at Mambwe- Mwela. But the idea of building a Mission in Kayambi remained in spite of a fear that Chief Chiti Mukulu would not approve it. He accepted it.

In May 1895, Fr. Lechaptois, Bishop in Tanganyika, came to bring a successor to Fr. Van Host: Fr. Joseph Dupont who would be nicknamed “Motomoto”. Together they visited Chief Makasa. Fr. Dupont immediately took up the challenge of setting up the new foundation of Kayambi. But it was not a simple project, they would have to move with more than two hundred people (some of them orphans of parents killed in war) who lived with them at Mambwe- Mwela. Some others were young men and women who had been prisoners of war and were bought as slaves from various chiefs by the Arab slave traders, but who had been redeemed by the missionaries.

Two months later, in July 1895, the Missionaries, together with their people, started on their journey to Chief Makasa village first. The Chief was not very happy with so many people but Fr. Dupont showed his bravery and strength of character until Chief Makasa allowed them all to move to Kayambi. So, July 1895 became the date of birth of the first permanent Mission post of the Diocese of Chipata and even Zambia as a whole.

Development of the Diocese of Chipata.

Bishop Dupont (Motomoto) was ever ready to advance the development where he was at ease, mostly at first in the Bemba area, just as the Abemba were also very at ease with Motomoto. In 1895 he was sent to Nyasa. (Nyasa was the name given by the Yao people to lake Malawi). Motomoto was consecrated Bishop on 15th August 1895 in Kayambi.

Regularly, at first, new Missionaries would arrive in the country, learn the language spoken where they were posted and get involved in the evangelisation of the people they were sent to, and work in the various activities needed.

In 1899, after some teaching in France, the French Father Mathurin Guilleme was sent first to Zanzibar to take charge of the ‘procure’ and receive the newcomers or those going on leave. There, with his own eyes, Fr. Guilleme saw the horrors of the slave trade. He used some funds of the Holy Childhood and of St Peter Claver to buy back some 1500 boys and girls, including from Congo. In 1899, Fr. Guilleme founded Chilonga. Later he was asked to replace Bishop Dupont who had gone to France for rest. While acting as Bishop, Fr. Guilleme founded Chiwamba, Mua, Kachebere, Nguludi and Kambwiri. These new foundations nicely gave life to the southern part of Nyasa.

On 24th February 1911, Fr. Guilleme was chosen to succeed Bishop Dupont. Something new and very appreciated by all, happened sometime later in January 1913: Bembaland called “Bangweolo” was entrusted to Fr. Étienne Larue, while the Southern part kept the name of “Apostolic Vicariate of Nyasa”, under Mathurin Guilleme. All would be less under pressure. Fr. Guilleme was ordained Bishop in Baudouinville (Congo) on 18th June 1911. Nyasa had had five Mission stations and the new episcopal residence was Bembeke. Bishop Guilleme decided to found a station to the West of Kachebere: Mphangwe. Until that time the “Shire” in what is now Malawi was still served by the Apostolic Vicariate of Nyasa. Little by little it would be only in the hands of the Montfort Fathers, whom Bishop Dupont had called for, without really referring the matter to Rome. But it was finally recognised by Rome.

The First World War diminished the number of Missionaries since some were called as army chaplains. When the war was over, Bishop Guilleme was able to realise one of his dreams: to open a Mission in Sengaland: Minga Mission. He also founded more Missions in Nyasaland.

By the time Bishop Guilleme was 76 years old, he had the consolation of ordaining his successor, Father Oscar Julien. Bishop Guilleme died on 7th April 1942, at 82 years saying; “Into your hands I commend my spirit, ô Lord”.

When Bishop Julien (“Juliere”) started his work, his diocese was a new arrangement of various Vicariates. Bishop Julien had to get used as to which places or peoples of his Vicariate were in; Malawi or Zambia. Moreover, in the North of his Vicariate, the new “Mission sui Juris” of Luangwa was also a little in the same situation; they even had an “Itinerant Catechist school” to make it easier to serve all people. But being given the shape of his Vicariate, as soon as Bishop Julien took charge of it, he transferred his headquarters to Kachebere in order to be within easy reach of all his Missionaries scattered in the various parishes. Between Minga and Naviruli, after having bought a farm he opened Chassa Mission in May 1936. In 1935, he organised and held a synod to discuss Catholic Action, the foundation of a postulate for indigenous Brothers and a common policy to be followed in the different Missions. In fact, they realised that they somehow were in advance concerning Catholic action. Concerning a novitiate for indigenous Brothers, it was thought difficult, at such a point that after some time the effort did not have a happy ending. In 1944 he went home for a long rest. Rome accepted to release him.

On the 1st of July 1937, the Roman Congregation for the Propagation of Faith made a decree, establishing a new ecclesiastical unit made up of Lundazi District which until then had been part of the Luangwa sui juris and the new Apostolic Prefecture of Fort Jameson as well as Petauke District which it received from the Vicariate of Nyasa. This territory was exactly what the Eastern Province of Zambia would be after independence.

Obviously, the rearrangement done for the new Apostolic Prefecture of Fort Jameson of which Monsignor Martin was made the Prefect in 1937, was a very significant arrangement. It was making it possible to have an easier and better unity between people having the same political boundaries, the same administrations or syllabuses in school, a greater unity between the different parishes. Though reluctant to accept his appointment at first, Monsignor Martin worked hard until 1947 to bring unity in his Prefecture and prepare for the future.

At the arrival of Bishop Firmin Courtemanche and later Bishop Medardo Mazombwe and nowadays Bishop George Lungu, and his Auxiliary Bishop Benjamin Phiri, the Diocese did not need big readjustments. But it was and still is the time for new Congregations or Societies to come and enrich the Diocese with their own charisma, the time also for new parishes, to give the chance to many faithful to gather nearer their homes.

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History of the Catholic Church in Zambia, considering the whole country.

The Jesuits Missionaries

After their first attempt to go as Missionaries especially in the West and South West of Zambia, they let a few years pass and they tried again. Fathers involved:  Frs Prestige, Moreau and Torrend in particular.

The first place they chose to become a Mission was Chikuni, not far from Chisekesi in the north of it.  They found plenty of land around near the Magoye River. The BSA (British South African Company) gave them a freehold contract.

Once the routine of evangelisation had started around Chikuni itself, they took the decision to continue northwards to possibly find another Mission place starting from the Ngwerere River. One day, the unbelievable happened. The team of walking Missionaries had with them a young man called Francis Borja, whom they had saved from raiders. As they walked their way forward on the road, some people walking in the other direction met them. Then they recognised in the first group their own son walking with the Missionaries. It was him indeed, what a joy for the parents (He was lost but now found!). What a surprise for all, a great sign of the Providence.

Then after the joyful encounter, the Missionaries went on walking and walking until they found a site fitting, according to their desires for a second foundation. The people called the place Kasisi. It was about 230 km from Chikuni.

The group started building provisional shelters, preparing a place for a garden and making a small dam. It was Christmas time. Some people living there build a small chapel. Later they would build schools. Some other local people gave the Missionaries a dozen heifers and some oxen to start with. Not far away a certain place called “Rusangu” had already been taken by the 7th Day Adventist Church. The Providence was with them all.

On Kasisi and Chikuni, Frs Moreau and Torrend have always insisted on improving agriculture, especially by using cattle for ploughing. From long ago the Tongas are proud of their cattle, still more then because of the help it can give for development.

Other foundations within Zambia by the Missionaries of Africa in the Luapula: Lubwe: 1895-1905.

Some Missionaries of Africa were appointed to Chilubi Island. People had heard about the good work they had done elsewhere. They were happy to receive them. One well-known Father was Fr. Foulon.

Straight away they started meeting the people around in the small or big islands in Lake Bangweolo. With the Montfort Fathers helping in Nyasa, some Missionaries of Africa had become free for the Bangweolo. So the Luapula Province was going forward. The building of Kapatu and Chibote was done at that time.

During the first decade of the 20th century, the Missionaries of Africa founded no fewer than seven mission stations. The Jesuit Missionaries did the following foundations: Katondwe, Kapoche and Ching’ombe near the Eastern Province. Eight White Sisters arrived in Zambia to start a convent in Kayambi. Other Sisters, of Notre-Dame of Namur, arrived at Chikuni.

But the First World War which started in 1914 made life difficult and some Fathers had to return to France as soldiers in the trenches. Some years after the end of the war, the ideology of the “Indirect Rule” was pushed through.

During the 1930s, a wave of Catholic Missionaries arrived in Northern Rhodesia. It has been an important decade of the history of the Missions: arrival of Franciscan Friars and some missionaries from Poland. Chikuni school became an educational Centre. Still during the 1930s, the Missionaries of Africa established themselves more than before in the North of Zambia, in town. The Conventual Franciscans came to Ndola. Seeing the “Barotseland” in need, the Capuchins arrived. Groups of Brothers and Sisters came for schools and other types of formation helpful for the development of the country.

Then, a bit too fast, came the Second World War which had some serious repercussions for the Missions because it meant cutting off both personnel and money. It was a time of great financial difficulties. However, it must be recognised that the two World wars have made things and people also change for the better. But the Lenshina independent Church was a dramatic experience.

With the coming back of peace, Christian life had started growing in towns. The formation of the local clergy, Priests and Sisters, was getting organised, putting into practice what Pope Pius XI had asked for in the past, the “plantare Ecclesia”. Catechists and laity joined in, and the local hierarchy was taking its place. Little by little a Catholic Secretariat was being organised to guide both the clergy and the lay people.  The coming of Independence, 1950-1964 and after, was a challenge to all. The growing Church could not let that time pass without getting involved in the development happening in the country and in planning for the future. The national Office of Social Education, started by Fr. Calmettes, helped people to understand the numerous declarations.

Indeed, like the country as a whole, the Church also was “coming of age”.  Many were the topics which had to be talked about, one of them being for instance the “Philosophy of Humanism” launched by President Kenneth Kaunda or the “Scientific Communism”.

Hugo HinfelaarLittle by little, up to our modern times, themes for discussion have become “plenty”. But many more also are the people who are able to discuss them, explain them and see what they mean for us in our modern life.  In his book History of the Catholic Church in ZambiaFr Hugo Hinfelaar has recalled and presented many of the topics which make the life of modern Zambia and our Church more understandable and challenging!  If you have the book, let us enjoy it and learn from it!

May God bless Zambia and its people!

History of the beginning of the Catholic Church in Zambia in Chipata, Eastern Province.

First edition of Mansa Diocese Roundup for the year 2017, Zambia.


Mansa Roundup Newsletter Vol. 3 Issue 1 No. 21 logoBy Rt. Rev. Patrick Chisanga, OFM Conv., Bishop of Mansa Diocese

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as the Year 2017 Unfolds, I present to you this first edition of Mansa Roundup for the year 2017: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Pastoral Theme that is accompanying our programs this year is: Ba Minshioni ba Lelo Nifwe (We are the Missionaries of Today). This is inspired by the ongoing commemoration, of 125 years, since the arrival of the first Catholic Missionaries into the present day Zambia, and 116 into today’s Mansa Diocese.

On the national level, this Jubilee was inaugurated, on 6th August 2006, at Mambwe Mwela in Mbala District, the very site of first settlement by the pioneer White Fathers (1891). The celebrations will conclude, on 15th July 2017, with the solemn celebration of the Eucharist in Lusaka.

Locally, in Mansa Diocese, the celebrations were launched on 2nd October 2016 at Santa Maria wa Mwelu, near Chibote Mission, where the first missionaries settled in 1900 and intended to establish the first Catholic mission in the Luapula region. The ruins and bricks of the house for priests are still intact up to date – a living sign of the continued sacredness of this site. To this very place we are returning on 7th October for the diocesan solemn closure of this year of celebrating the arrival and works of the pioneer missionaries. This would also be the fitting occasion to consecrate this holy site as a Diocesan Marian Shrine, dedicated to the Queen of Missionaries. Let us all work together towards the success of these events, for Ba Minshioni ba Lelo Nifwe.

Patrick Chisanga, OFM ConvThe beginning of this year has been crowned with significant events in the life of our Diocese and the realization of its Vision. It was very remarkable, for instance, that the very first procession into the Cathedral, for the New Year Eucharistic celebration, was led by a person with special needs who carried the processional cross and served during Mass. Our dear friend, Billy Beddor, who was born with Down Syndrome 51 years ago, came all the way from the US with his sister Sandy and sister-in-law, Coleen, together with Amy Hewitt and her team from the University of Minnesota.

The training they conducted regarding people with disabilities was a great step towards the realization of our Vision of “A Diocese that Embraces Everyone with Christ’s Love.” To this effect, I call upon every parish and diocesan institution to put in place deliberate policies that fosters love, respect and inclusion of people with disabilities.

Another significant blessing at the beginning of this year (5th January) was the Government’s handover of Kabunda Girls Secondary School as a Catholic Mission School with Grand-Aided status. This followed the arrival of the Dominican Sisters in the Diocese (4th January) who have since been entrusted with management of the institution, which on 24th February was re-dedicated as Holy Trinity Girls Secondary School during the solemn Eucharistic celebration. Welcome to Mansa dear Sisters and thank you for taking up the challenge. The needs of this school are immense; let us all contribute to its rebuilding.

A hearty welcome also to members of other religious institutes who have recently come on board to contribute to our mission of giving life in abundance to God’s flock (John 10:10). I thank in particular the superiors of the Little Servants of Mary Immaculate (LSMI), the Franciscan Missionaries of Divine Motherhood (FMDM), the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters), the Sisters of St Joseph (Soeurs de Sant Joseph Auxiliatrice de L’Eglise) and our own Sisters of Mercy for the personnel they have made available to serve in the various apostolates of the Diocese in the recent past. Furthermore, I welcome the many lay faithful who have come to our Diocese and are already fully involved in the life of their respective new parishes.

Events such as the foregoing are a source of great hope for our Diocese despite the many challenges we face, especially those arising from the economic crisis that have always haunted our region of Luapula. Let us be united and fight this dehumanising evil of poverty. Let us also demand positive action from all our leaders, especially those appointed to high portfolios of central Government who tend to forget their roots. There shall be no excuse for them not to make a difference.

As the year 2017 unfolds, I invite everyone to pay heed to the Lord’s command, which we have also adopted as the theme for our Diocesan Strategic Plan 2016-2021, to “Let Down the Nets for a Catch” (Luke 5:4). All departments and individuals must strive to implement the strategic goals that pertain to them. Let us be true missionaries of today who pledge not to betray the great sacrifice and works of the pioneer missionaries.

May God bless all our readers of Mansa Roundup. Thank you for your constructive feedback and every support. Have a fruitful Lenten Season.

Click here to open the PDF file of this magazine.

 

2017 MIMSAF Calendar


Celebration of the 125 years of the Catholic Church in Zambia 1891—2016.

Moving Together in Christ’s Love and Mercy.

2017-mimsaf-calendar-01On the 19th July 1891, the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), who were on their way to Lake Tanganyika coming from Mponda in Malawi, stopped at a nearby place on the land of chief Mambwe.

When one of them fell ill, they settled on this land in an abandoned house belonging to the African Lakes Company. This was the beginning of Mambwe-Mwela Mission; the first Catholic foundation in Zambia. In July 1895, the Missionaries of Africa moved to Kayambi.

The Catholic Church has begun in 2016 a yearlong celebration of thanksgiving for these 125 years of God’s Love and Mercy. Mass for the National launch took place at Mambwe-Mwela on the 6th August. All Dioceses and Lay Groups have been encouraged to line up Thanksgiving Spiritual Exercises, especially pilgrimages, to the nearest early mission parishes in their respective Dioceses. The closing Mass for this yearlong celebration is taking place in Lusaka on the 15th July 2017.

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MIMSAF LOGO_modifié-1Objectives of MIMSAF:  – To be fully involved in the work of the Church through the works of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa. – To know and participate in the spirituality of Missionaries of Africa. – To facilitate the smooth cultural transition of incoming missionaries into our Zambian culture. – To mobilise resources to support missionary work within and outside Zambia. – To network and collaborate with other organisations and religious groups with similar objectives locally and internationally. – To promote ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. – To collaborate in spiritual and social events. – To promote and support Missionary vocations for the Society of the Missionaries of Africa.

 The 2017 MIMSAF is on sale at the cost of 20 kwacha. Please contact Mr Joseph Kamanga through e-mail: mimsafzambia@gmail.com

stan-lubungo_jpegThe Catholic Church in Zambia started a yearlong celebration on the 6th August 2016 to mark the 125 years of its existence. The first missionaries were few. They encounter great difficulties and challenges. Their courage and faith have brought blessings in this part of the world. Today, 28 Missionaries of Africa of Zambian nationality are themselves spreading the Word of God in other parts of Africa with the same spirit as their predecessors.

In 2016, one of them, Father Stanley Lubungo, was elected as Superior General of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa. He is the first Zambian missionary to become Superior General. We thank the Lord for such a gift, 125 years after the arrival of the first missionaries in Mambwe-Mwela in 1891.

 

 

Flashback – Missionary feet at Mambwe-Mwela: 125 year ago


Mambwe-Mwila 06-08-2016 01  JPEG

The conference of the Catholic Bishops of Zambia (CCBZ) decided to launch 125 years of Catholicism in Zambia. It was done on August 06, 2016. Present were local people, Christians of neighbouring parishes, representatives of various Catholic dioceses in Zambia, priests, religious, government officials, traditional chiefs, some bishops and the President of the Republic of Zambia and the first lady. It was an inauguration 125 years anniversary of the Catholic Church. It will be concluded next year in 2017, July 15.

Mambwe-Mwila 06-08-2016 05  JPEGMy first time to visit this site was in June 2004 when we scouted for it with a team of journalists to collect footage for a documentary on the history of the Missionaries of Africa in Zambia. When we reached this place, we took pictures and the video cameras rolled measures of tapes. At a point the five of us were in total solitude, sobbing in tears, cleaning the graves, uprooting some grass and shrubs with our hands. This was not our planned exercise on this place. Why did this happen? In our daily reviews we did not discuss this incident. I suppose there is something that hit-hard on each one’s soul. We were standing on sacred grounds and we lived a moment of grace. We were at a gate-way of God’s graciousness to the people of Zambia by establishing the Catholic Church.  

During a seven-hour presence at Mambwe-Mwela yesterday in my mind propped some important issues that help me to relive this missionary memorial moment. I would like to highlight a few:

  1. We are inspired by the courageous missionaries who braved the insecurities of the time to come and establish Catholicism. At that time when a missionary left from Europe to Africa, his family mourned because the chance of his returning was very little.
  2. We appreciate the people who welcomed the first missionaries.
  3. We urge all missionaries and various religious congregations to collaborate closely with the local church.
  4. We commit ourselves to listen attentively to the command of Christ so as to go and attend to his flock.
  5. We ask ourselves what work missionaries are doing today and what issues are their missionary priorities.
  6. It is a time to rekindle the principle of subsidiarity.
  7. We recommit ourselves to core values of the Gospel as emphasized by Christ Jesus and get in touch with the aspirations of the first missionaries to respond the human reality.
  8. We appeal to the local church to foster vocations and form the agents of evangelisation for both the local church and for missionary life.

As Missionaries of Africa and all other missionaries who work in Zambia, we appreciate the people from every tribe, social strata and religion who welcomed us. Hospitality of Zambians is remarkable. We have lived our vocation, responded to the call of God and shared the Gospel among these people. Thanks to traditional, civil and political leaders in Zambia who afforded us human-social and political climate which has been essential part of our missionary work. “Akamana ukupoma: ni pa mabwe!” Jesus’ approach was to send the disciples to people. One factor was essential; that the disciples would be accepted and received by the people; disciples in turn would live among them, share with them the message of the Lord peacefully. If there has been any moment of tension or ungratefulness to the people of this land; the civil, traditional or church leaders, my sincere apologies.

Missionaries of all times are at the service of God among the people to whom the spirit leads them. This is possible in respect and collaboration with Bishops. A spirit of partnership with a local church marked by unity among various congregations makes our vocation meaningful and a sign of witness to the kingdom of God in Zambia. “Twende pamo: te mwenso” also, “Umucinshi wa nseba: kwimina pamo”.  We respect the charism of different congregations and missionary societies in Zambia. The Bishops have their own policies and priorities for their particular dioceses. The people of God live an experience that asks us to act under the inspiration of the Gospel of Christ. In spite of all, we need to cultivate a spirit of a common orientation in our pastoral work and have a common drive in our evangelization enterprise. We are not NGOs or Multinational Corporations in which competition and difference in approach matter. “Akanwa kamo: takomfwa nshama ukupya”, plus “Icilola umo: e caba ubufi”!

We need to listen to Christ so as to attend to His flock. This demands deeper spirit of prayer and discernment, it urges us to be attentive to the reality in which we live, it calls us to be compassionate and exemplary in our lives. The Church is neither a theatre for comedians, a College Debate Club nor a museum for spiritual artefacts. The Church, understood as God’s people on a journey to salvation, needs to be strengthened with hope and create a just world marked by prosperity and a common concern that bears the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The message of Jesus the Christ is an invitation to transform the society; to be light to the nations, salt of the earth, and ‘piripiri’ in the soup. Christian mission is to comfort the discomforted and discomfort the comforted. A missionary, indeed any Christian of today, must be a bridge-builder and has to break any wall that divides people, let it be social, political, economic or gender. In Christ we are “Children of God”. Missionaries in Zambia need to rebrand themselves so as to respond to the situations that are contrary to the Gospel values such as corruption, tribalism, poverty, depletion of natural resources, neglect of the rural people in regard to better education and health facilities, and indeed other basic human rights.

The life of the first missionaries records ambassadors of peace, healing and development. The time at which the missionaries arrived in Zambia, the Ngoni warriors, Bemba warriors, the Mambwe and other bordering tribes were fighting. On their own, the Bemba warriors were the terror of their neighbour, especially the Mambwe. The missionaries negotiated for peace, stopped the situation and defended the weak. They did a lot to alleviate some ailments of people. They started some education and sparked-off development in Zambia. Zambia society came to be known and appreciated in other areas overseas. Bishop Joseph Dupont Motomoto for a time became a senior chief of the Bemba so as to prevent anarchy among the Bemba people after the death of their Chief Mwamba until the contentious issues were settled amicably. Therefore, negotiating for peace, intervening in social-cultural issues or participation in political matters needs to be part of evangelization. How are the missionaries of today responding to the new versions of war, corruption, oppression, corruption, social conflicts, deprivation, slavery, sickness and evil in Zambia?

Zambia after 125 years of Catholicity has reached a mature age given the present epoch. Theologians argue that the Church is not a democracy but rather a communion. Fine! This communion is warranted by the “Principle of Subsidiarity” as emphasized by the Second Vatican Council. The Church dreamt of shared responsibility in the life of the Church so that faith can grow & services are available to the people of God. Church Leaders, the consecrated people and the laity have to lay their hands on the affairs of the Church according to their responsibilities and capabilities. A platform needs to be created on which each member of the church has to own a stake and be responsible for the Church; so as to be a “we” rather than a “they” mentality. Such is a rebirth of creative imagination, more freedom of reflection and action and responsible leadership of listening to one another guided by reason and the spirit of Christ. “Uwaleeta pa nsaka: tonaula”, truly “Cinci wa babili: te cinci uli eka”. The church leadership needs to trust, encourage and consult the laity. Women and youths need to stand-out as great energies for Church life. The church is a family of the people of God.

The Zambia Church needs to reconsider promotion of vocation for the dioceses and missionary orders and congregations. “Mwana wa mupe: tafwa nsala”, validly “Akaboko: kakonka akabiye”. There seems to be less vocation promotion ministry for our various dioceses. Each diocese needs to have an active office in this regard; to explain to the faithful especially the youth, the need and the process for the vocation to religious and priesthood. The task of reviving the Church missionary-spirit and re-evangelizations needs new energies of well formed, trained and good-willed people. “Umunwe umo: tausala nda”. We observe crisis in religious and priestly vocations in Zambia. The root-cause could be partly the recruitment and formation policies. We need bigger numbers in which we can choose a few committed young people to take-up the vocation to religious and priestly ministry. We can count on the providence of God but God counts on our imagination informed by reason and faith in Him. “Lesa afwako: abayafwa”, conversely, “Muuba ukulila: ni pa mafito”.

Mambwe-Mwila 06-08-2016 19  JPEGThe above personal reflection is a petition to God for missionaries and for Zambia. God bless our mission, bless our people, bless our leaders and bless Zambia. May Christ guide us anew to tread the missionary path for the Gospel of Christ in Zambia! When we celebrate the Eucharist today, may the words of Jesus, “Do this in memory of me…”, be alive to us through the missionaries’ history so that we can make it our own story for today.

Venerato Deus Babaine, M.Afr, Lua-Luo, Kasama, Zambia. Sunday, 07 August 2016    –   PDF FILE: 125-anniversary

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Launching of the 125th anniversary of the Catholic Faith in Zambia.


Mambwe Mwala 2016 00By Lawrence Tukamushaba, M.Afr, Kasama- Zambia

Various activities have been foreseen commemorating the beginning of the Catholic faith in Zambia 125 years ago. The main celebration will be held on August 06 at Mambwe-Mwela situated in the Archdiocese of Kasama where the Missionaries of Africa were the first to settle for good in Zambia. It is important to note that they built this mission on their way from Mponda in Malawi to Tanzania as they took rest because of the illness of Fr Valentin Heurtebise (+1933), one of the pioneers. Fr Achille Van Oost (+1895) was buried in the same area.

The first major activity organised by the Archdiocese was a pilgrimage to Mambwe-Mwela where the first church was built. The ruins of that church are still visible. The pilgrimage started on Friday the 15th and ended up on Sunday the 17th July. Many Christians of Mambwe Parish walked 46 km to reach the site. Our Superior General, Fr Stanley Lubungo, together with Fr Lawrence Tukamushaba and Fr Nobert Nkingwa, joined Fr Edward Mutale, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Coordinator, and Fr Felix Chishamba, the Archdiocesan Communications Director.

Mwambe-Mwila Map2_modifié-2Three reflections were given on the way from Our Lady of Angels Kanamwene Centre, three Kilometres from the site, to the pilgrimage site. Fr Stanley Lubungo spoke about the values of pilgrimages while Fr Lawrence Tukamushaba gave a teaching about the sacraments and Fr Nobert Nkingwa spoke about the meaning of discipleship. Native of the place, Fr Patrick Simutowe, Rector of Mpima Major Seminary in Kabwe, animated the recollection.

It was a reenergising faith journey. Much attention was given to the first brave men who chose to leave everything for the sake of the Gospel. They walked long distances in unknown and hostile lands. However, their hard labour has produced abundant fruits. Fr Stanley reminded the pilgrims that the missionaries planted seeds the fruits of which are the Christians of today. As missionaries and Christians of today we are challenged by their deep faith, love of God and self-denial.

On Thursday 14th July, Fr Stanley was hosted on the Archdiocesan Radio Lutanda FM for an interview about the history of the Church in Zambia.

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