Missionaries of Africa
A valuable meeting at Bujumbura
2 - 15 March 2009
This year, ten stagiaires from the Province of Central Africa (PAC) met at Bujumbura, Burundi, for a retreat and to share. The continual hubbub of life sometimes exhausts us. At those times, a short break in our routine to come to Bujumbura can be beneficial. We were welcomed and accommodated at the Queen of Confidence Centre. We began on the 2nd March with a retreat preached by Father Roger Ouedraogo and finished on the 15th March with Father Dominic Apee, PAC Assistant Provincial.
Johnson Singarajan (Ind Kipaka), Denis Mbalazada (Mlw Lubumbashi), John Ssekwayama (Ugd Lubumbashi) , John Bukelembe (Tzn Kigali), Edison Akatuhurira (Ugd), Dominic Apee, Norbert Nkingwa (Tzn Buyenzi), Lowrent Kamwaza (Mlw Goma), Remis Nyengere (Mlw Kin), Frederick Limo (Tzn Mingana) et devant : Bernard Gachuru (Kenya)
The first week of our meeting was given over to this desert experience with Christ. I will lead you into the desert and will speak to your heart. Father Roger began this retreat telling us that Christ takes us as we are, with what dwells in us and what motivates us, with our joys and sorrows, our failures and successes. Our retreat was not primarily an examination of conscience, but to allow ourselves to be renewed in silence so that the face of Christ could radiate in our lives even more.
After this week of contemplation, we were ready to share our experiences and relax. In a climate of trust and respect, each of us took the time to express ourselves simply and well and reply to questions. We were all English-speaking, but the sharing and other communications were exclusively in French.
Our interchange was truly an occasion to listen attentively, enabling us to see how others proceed on their missionary journey. Everyone told his family history, the start of his vocation, his apostolic commitments, the challenges confronted and how he overcame them. The whole lot was centred on the location of the stage and its political and social situation, learning French and the other local languages, community, spiritual and apostolic life, the challenges faced and how we met them.
At the end, Father Dominic helped us to summarise all of this by highlighting the challenges that recurred. Amongst other things, there were hassles by the military and customs officers at airports and borders, insecurity, tribalism, witchcraft and language learning. A proverb says, An old women, seated, sees further than a young beginner. It was the opportunity for Father Dominic to listen to how we responded to these challenges. Based on his own missionary experience, he advised on various steps to take in case of difficulties. It was truly encouraging.
During the course of this week of sharing, we also visited three places to see what our confreres are doing and to learn something new from their dedication. These were the New Hope Centre, four villages for the Pygmy people, known as Batwa, and the Missionaries of Africa Centre for aspirants at Gitega. We were well received at the New Hope Centre by our confrere Armand Galay and his team. This Centre was founded by Father Ludwig Peschen, MAfr, MD, for people affected or infected by HIV-AIDS. From the outside, the Centre appears very small, but once inside and after a tour of all the projects undertaken, we were astonished at its dimensions. Accompanied by doctors, psychologists and other administrative staff members, the sick are well looked after. In addition, there is counselling, medicines, finance and even legal aid. We were amazed to see the projects they had begun for self-financing, for instance, making greetings cards.
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The second visit led us into the environment of the Pygmy, the Batwa. The Batwa are poor, marginalized, despised and even abandoned people. Our confrere Elias Mwebembezi showed us the activities he undertakes for and with the Batwa. We were able to visit the four villages of Muyange, Rugenga, Rugazi and Nyagatore. Before the visit, every one of us expected to see short people, but in reality, they are people like us. Thanks to our confreres, the Batwa now have a new life. This project has new house-building in view, as well as financing for livestock and agriculture; medical care and child education are already guaranteed. The mission at the fault lines is there. Personal determination and conviction are required to accomplish it.
The four second-year stagiaires, dressed in their gandourahs, renewed their Declaration of Intent at Gitega. This celebration took place in the chapel of the aspirants Centre. In the presence of Assistant Provincial Father Dominic Apee, other confreres and the aspirants, we renewed our Declaration of Intent. We thanked the staff as well as the aspirants for their welcome, a well-conducted celebration and the meal we took together. Just like children of the same father, we took the opportunity of this time at Gitega to visit the White Sisters and say hello.
We do not omit the great time we had on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, accompanied by music and a glass of good cheer. All these visits showed us how much confreres are involved in their apostolate towards youth, the poor, the sick and the marginalized. It is an encouragement for us to cultivate the same spirit of missionary enthusiasm.
In life, you have to know how to say thanks. It shows that our hearts are touched by anothers kindness. We firstly thank God for his protection during our journey and for our stay at Bujumbura; thanks to the Province and the confreres in Burundi for their warm-hearted welcome. Particular thanks go to Father Dominic Apee for his simplicity and dedication. Referring to one of the Invitatory Antiphons for Lent, Eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, let us begin our combat for God, he invited us to be missionaries who pray and work, (Ora et labora). It was a message sung out for us by the Gitega aspirants during recreation: I would like the people astonished seeing how you live to say, Look how they love one another, look at their joy. We left in joy, well-rested, ready to commit ourselves anew based on all we had seen, heard and shared.
(Stagiaire at Kimisagara, Kigali)
Photo & texte envoyés par Dominic Apee, Assistant Provincial