Message to the Catholic Parishioners of Namushakende, Mongu, Zambia.

Final Farewell for Fr. Robert Lavertu in St. Gabriel’s Parish, Namushakende

Alfred_AwogyaBy Alfred Awogya, M.Afr, Namushakende.

Sunday, February 5, 2017, was an emotional day in St. Gabriel’s Parish, Namushakende, as parishioners gathered to bid farewell to their veteran priest, Fr. Robert Lavertu. After 54 gallant years of zealous service in different parts of Zambia Fr. Robert has been called back home to Canada to continue to serve as a missionary. He made his last missionary journey to the Lozi land on Saturday 04/02/2017 to goodbye the people he loves so much. This was his final farewell because a big farewell was organised for him in 2014 both at the diocese and parish levels when he was transferred to work in FENZA, Lusaka.

Robert presided the Sunday Mass in Namushakende, accompanied by Fr. Alfred Awogya and later went to celebrate Mass in the nearest outstation, St. Theresa’s, Namboata. After a few years out of the Lozi milieu, it’s amazing how he managed to celebrate Mass in Silozi and gave inspiring words to the Christians in his homily on his own missionary vocation and experience in Zambia. People had time to express their sentiments of gratitude to him in dramas, poems and songs. They blessed him in the Lozi traditional way by spitting water on him and offering him profound words of thanks and good wishes for the future.

robert-lavertu-mariage-encounter-cupRobert was part of the pioneer Missionaries of Africa group (together with Frs. Charles Obanya and Henry Byamukama) to arrive in Mongu in 2001 to start Namushakende Parish. He worked as pastoral coordinator of the Diocese for 10 years and later served as Parish Priest in Namushakende for two years. In all these years he has been very close to the people of Namushakende. The people remember him for his zeal and passion for the mission, for his closeness to the people and his simplicity, for his push for self-sustainability and for his passion for the Marriage Encounter Program.

Later on Sunday evening, we organised a small “last supper” for him. The Bishop of the Diocese, Evans Chinyemba and a few priests, sisters and church members joined in the celebration. Again, it was marked by deep sense of gratitude for the selfless work of Robert and his dedication to duty. We will miss him dearly. We pray for him and wish him well in his ministry in Canada. He goes but his words and actions lives on in the hearts and lives of the people of Namushakende and Mongu Diocese at large. Mu zamaye hande mutanga’ Mulena. Mulena a mi etelele shangwe.

With a very limited time left, Robert travelled back to Lusaka on Monday after the celebrations. Upon arrival, he sent the following inspiring words in an email addressed to the parishioners of Namushakende.

robert-lavertu-2014By Fr. Robert Lavertu, M.Afr

Being 80 years old with some health problems, the Superiors of the White Fathers in Canada have asked me to go back home. They will offer me some easier kind of work though I would have liked to continue to remain for a few more years in Zambia. That is why I came this weekend from Lusaka to pray with you here in Namushakende for a last time and offer you my farewell.

I am grateful to you and the Catholics of Namboata with whom we celebrated Mass together yesterday February 1st and could offer my goodbye. I would have liked to visit all the Christian communities of this beautiful parish, but it is not possible for lack of time. Indeed, I must prepare my journey home which will be on 14th February. To you all, dear Catholic parishioners, I offer my farewell and assure you of my prayers. I will always remember you and the happy times I was blessed to spend twelve years with you. May our loving God continue to bless you and help you to grow and give Him witness as His beloved children.

old-resident-permit-bNote: Father Lavertu came to Zambia in 1963 and spent most of his missionary life in the Bemba land speaking Chibemba. But he went to Namushakende in 2002 up to 2014 and learn the Silozi language. To say to least, Father Lavertu accomplished a remarkable life as a missionary and learnt in death local cultures making then an important contribution to denounce the vices of witchcraft. He will also be remembered for his great generosity. We wish him a fruitful mission back home to Canada.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My language course experience and my cultural integration in Saint Gabriel Parish, Namushakende, Zambia.

“Nitabile hahulu kuli nakona kubulela silozi.”

“I am very happy to speak Silozi.”

« Je suis très content de parler le lozi. »

jean-marie-vianney-konda-2016-02_jpegBy Jean-Marie Vianney K. Cishugi, stagiaire.

I came to Zambia in July 2016 to follow the “Welcome to Zambia” introductory course in Lusaka. It was not easy for me to communicate efficiently in English. I made an effort to learn and to practise with people who were willing to help me to improve my English. In fact, I got some help from my brothers who were patient enough to correct my mistakes while speaking.

Then, I came in Barotse Land in Western Zambia on the third week of August 2016 in order to start my apostolic training in Saint Gabriel Parish. I was sent to learn the local language Silozi which is a beautiful one with all its grammatical formulations and verbal richness. While learning it, I was also getting acquainted with the Lozi culture. Amazingly, one must clap his hands (ku bulela niitumezi ni kukambelela) to say ‘thank you’. We were four learners to follow the language course at Limulunda for three months.

I came to realise that I have to humble myself if I want to learn a new language.  It took me few weeks to be able to speak a bit. I struggled a lot with my intonation and it took me a lot of courage. Once in a while, l would join my community at Namushakende on Sunday and visit an outstation of our Parish. Initially, l was afraid and shy to speak but I managed to communicate.

I went to Nanjuca, one of our outstations, for my immersion into the language and the culture. I was nicely welcomed in this village. Some people thought that I was there to interact only with Catholics. Slowly, they discovered that I was there for everyone. Children were happy to be with me. I was eating everything they offered me except tortoise (kubu).

I led the service prayer on Sundays. Everybody, children and parents alike, were praying with me though the majority belong to the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) and the New Apostolic Church. I had the trust of Parents who helped me to practise the Silozi language.

I seized this opportunity to deliver a message from Father Venerato Babaine encouraging parents to send their children to school and live together in peace and harmony with other religions.

I had a very fruitful experience and l owe the people a huge debt of gratitude. During my last days in the village, l was really touched by the generosity of the people who came to bid me farewell. Regardless who they are or where they come from, they offered me few presents. People were sad and some burst into tears when Father Christian Muhineza came to pick me up. I felt sad as I had to go.

I am happy to be with the Lozi people and they are pleased when I speak their language.

Niitumezi kaufela a mina (Thank you all) mi mulimu amitohonolofaze (and God bless you)!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Pilgrimage of Mercy: St. Gabriel Parish, Namushakende, Zambia.

pelgrimage-namushakende-06_modifie-1By K. C. Mukamba, Secretary, Namushakende Parish.

St. Gabriel’s Parish in Namushakende has not been left out in answering the Holy Father’s Pope Francis call to celebrate with joy the Jubilee Year of Mercy. On Saturday, 1st October, 2016, a total of 58 parishioners, male and female, young and old, accompanied by our Parish Priest, Alfred Awogya and Alain-Christian Muhineza, his Assistant, embarked on the long awaited spiritual journey. This pilgrimage took us to Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral in Mongu where the door of mercy has been opened for all Christians. The cathedral is about 25 km from our parish centre in Namushakende. The aim was to pass through the door of mercy; to encounter and celebrate the mercy of God so that to become the visible signs of God’s mercy to our brothers and sisters. The day was filled with prayers and fasting as well as talks and sharing.

Mr Mbikusita Lewanika led us in a deep reflection on God’s mercy and our Christian responsibility towards all people. He enlightened us on the seven corporal works of mercy being: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and burying the dead (Mt. 25: 35-40). He also talked about the seven spiritual works of mercy: to admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive all injuries and to pray for the living and the dead. This reflection was very touching and challenging. We still have a lot of work to do in our Christian journey! We pray for spiritual strength.

Father Francis, the Parish Priest of St. Lawrence, Limulunga, prepared us for the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation by helping us understand and meditate on Luke 15:11–32; the parable of the prodigal son. At the end of his inspiring and challenging reflection, we all felt that we have gone astray like. We all need to return to the merciful father who is always ready to receive us. Confessions lasted for two hours.

We concluded our pilgrimage of mercy with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist presided over by Father Francis and assisted by our Parish Priest.

We thank God for the wonderful experience of faith and his boundless love and mercy. We, the parishioners of St. Gabriel, Namushakende, feel that we have been charged with a responsibility; a mission to go and proclaim God’s mercy but above all to be visible instruments of mercy in places where we live and to be MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER.

We thank Pope Francis for awakening in us the fire of God’s mercy. We feel commissioned to spread the good news of the mercy of God. We left the cathedral happy and re-energised, glad to have had the privilege to celebrate the mercy of God in our lives. We returned home rejoicing!

PDF file of this article.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


What an enriching experience in Namushakende! – Zambia

Mathew W. Banseh in Namushakende

By Mathew W. Banseh

On the 22nd December, Romaric Bationo, Alain-Christian Muhineza and I left Lusaka for Namushakende, located in Mongu diocese. On the political map of Zambia, Namushakende is a district in the Western Province. This was my first time to visit this part of Zambia which coincided with Christmas and the New Year holidays.

We travelled very well and we got the pleasure to drive through the Kafue National Park but only saw few wild animals. We greeted Bishop Evans Chinyemba on our arrival in Mongu before proceeding on our journey to our destination. We were well received with a barbecue and I was touched by the joy that animated the community.

The Catholic population is very humbling. On Christmas Eve, I saw just a few lay faithful at Mass in the main parish church. I was wondering how it must be in outstations. Asking Alfred Awogya, the Parish Priest, about the few attendance of Christians, I came to realise that this was the usual number of faithful coming to pray.

Though few in number, the hospitality and the quality of relationship is remarkable. In outstations, we always have a meal before going back to Namushakende. Though I could not speak the local language, I was invited to visit homes. I was very touched by the simple lifestyle of the people. In cities, properties are protected with walls and iron gates. But most houses I visited have no fence. Many inside rooms have no proper doors but a simple piece of cloth to prevent people from seeing inside. Houses are made out of thatch roofs. Instinctively, contrary to my confreres, I was always locking the door of the car. “Don’t worry, they were telling me, nobody will steal anything here.”

I also got the opportunity to see the Queen of the Lozi land. Being a Catholic, she invited us to celebrate Mass at her palace since she cannot, by tradition, go to church. I also went to see the place where our confreres go learning silozi when they are appointed to that part of Zambia. I discovered that the Lozi people are proud of is the Zambezi River and I was privileged to touch its water.

I really enjoyed my short stay over there and I thank our confreres for everything. Luitumezi (Thank you)!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Visit to the Queen of the Lozi kingdom, Zambia

Mongu-Nov-2014-03St. Gabriel’s Parish, Namushakende, Mongu, Zambia

Wednesday the 19th of November was a memorable day for our Namushakende Parish. That was the day when we had organized a visit to the Queen of the Lozi kingdom, the female Litunga or as she is refereed to, the Litunga of the Southern Lozi land, at her palace in Nalolo, across the great Zambezi River. Litunga means the owner of the land. We the staff of St. Gabriel’s Parish, Namushakende, accompanied by Fr. Venerato Babaine who was visiting at that time, two religious Sisters working in the parish, a few leaders of the Parish, and a group of the Catholic Women’s League from some Parishes in Mongu and some from the Centres in our parish. We were all together 36 people.

We started off from Namushakende around 07:00 hours, drove to Machapa Centre just at the edge of the Zambezi plains, and from there drove 15 km through the Barotse flood plains to the bank of the Zambezi. The boat “driver” took us in 3 loads across the river, and from there we walked to Nalolo village and the palace of the Queen amidst great jubilations and excitement.

The Manduna (the traditional elders and council of the palace) and the staff of the palace received us well and organised the place where we could celebrate Mass with the Queen, in front of her royal palace. It is interesting to note that almost all elders (Manduna) and the court of the Queen are not Catholics. In the presence of the Queen, our choir was mainly made up of the Catholic Women’s League who offered us a good and prayerful liturgy. The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Robert Lavertu who was to offer his farewell greetings during the same visit, and he was accompanied by Fr. Alfred Awogya. We seized the opportunity of our visit to introduce to the Queen Fr Christian Muhineza and Joseph Kakule who have arrived to work in Namushakende,

After the Mass, we were allowed inside the palace to meet the Queen in two groups, first the Priests and the Sisters, then the CWL and the other lay people. It was a warm welcome that was offered to us, and the Queen offered us delicious snacks of her own. In our conversation, the Queen, who is a committed Catholic, emphasized how much she appreciates to be visited and to pray with groups like ours; she invited us to visit her again. After a long time at the Palace, we made our way back to the river to be taken across in 3 trips as previously.

The whole ceremony and visit was coloured by deep cultural reverence and display. For us as missionaries working here, it was a great lesson on culture and insertion in the rich and profound deposit of the Lozi cultural heritage. We had a great day, and all the participants expressed their joy and satisfaction, and their desire to repeat the visit some time later.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.