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.

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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.

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Namushakende – Home Coming for Frs Christian Muhineza and Alfred Awogya

Namusahakende, home coming for Christian and Alfred 03bGreat joy marked the Sunday celebration (5th Oct 2014) where the Christian community of St. Gabriel’s parish, Namushakende, warmly welcomed back Christian and Alfred.
Christian is newly appointed to Namushakende after his priestly ordination on 12th July in Burundi. He had his pastoral experience (Stage) here in Namushakende from 2009/2011. And so being appointed to Namushakende was a beautiful home coming for him. The Christians greeted him with great joy amidst singing and dancing. When Christian greeted the people at the end of Mass in Silozi, which he learnt during his period of stage, the Church cheered with joy and ululation. Christian will spend a short moment of re-introduction to the Silozi language and culture in Limulunga and then take full residence in Namushakende. We wish him a very fruitful and fulfilled ministry. Alfred, on his part, returned back to Namushakende after three months of home leave in Ghana.
Fr Robert Chipumbu presided at the Mass. It was a delight to have Fr. Oswald Mallya, the Delegate Superior of Zambia with us at Mass. We are grateful to Oswald for accompanying Christian and Alfred from Lusaka to Namushakende, ‘Western Power,’ he calls us. The liturgical celebration was also coloured by the celebration of the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumen, an initial step in the RCIA journey.
Namushakende community was started in 2002. It lies at the edge of the awesome Zambezi flood plains in the Western province of Zambia in Mongu Diocese. The community at the moment is composed of Robert Lavertu, Robert Chipumbu, Christian Muhineza, Joseph Kakule and Alfred Awogya.
Written by Alfred Awogya

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Visit of Jean-Guy Labrecque and Jean-Claude Robitaille to Zambia and farewell to Jules Roy

Jean-Guy-Jim-Robi-08Jean-Guy Labrecque and Jean-Claude Robitaille came back to Zambia for a short visit of two weeks after seven years absence for Jean-Guy and twenty-seven years for Jean-Claude. They travelled together to the North of the country that they knew very well. Jean-Claude could speak Chibemba without any problem as he has kept the language alive with a friend of him from Zambia who lives in the Unite-States. Both of them were impress by the economic progress of the country. Indeed, it was a great moment and an opportunity to discover a new reality, at least something different than what they knew. We hope to hear again from them soon.
Together with them, Jules Roy made his last farewell to Zambia after 51 years of missionary life. A large gathering took place yesterday night with the presence of the Archbishop Mpundu of Lusaka and close friends of Jules Roy. We wish him a nice retirement in Canada.
Below, some confreres wishing them a safe journey back home. Departure time from Woodlands: Thursday the 31st July 2014 at 14:30.

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