AFRICA-MADAGASCARMeeting of Africa-Madagascar Region’s Major Superiors
On March 5-11, the Major Superiors from the 16 Oblate Units of the Africa-Madagascar Region (AMR) gathered in Antananarivo, Madagascar, to study ways for more credible and new ways of doing mission. The theme of the meeting was "Strategic Integration Plans for OMI Missions in the Africa-Madagascar Region: Holistic Approach 2017-2022”. Their purpose was to put into the AMR context the Acts of the 2016 General Chapter.
The participants divided into four working groups: Mission and Interculturality; Formation and Interculturality; Finance for Mission; and Youth Ministry.
The Superior of the Madagascar Delegation, Fr. Mariusz KASPERSKY, welcomed the participants and invited them to enjoy the hospitality so characteristic of the Malagasy. The President of the Region, Fr. Edouard DAGAVOUNANSOU said that since this Conference was about the survival of the Missions of the Oblates in AMR as such, we must be audacious to leave our comfort zones and unite so that together, we will not perish. The General Councillor for AMR, Fr. Guillaume MUTHUNDA, gave a comprehensive report on the activities of the General Administration. He spoke passionately about the need to intensify our Mission with the Laity. He called this conference "timely” because the moment has come when we need to convert to our Charism, convert from our old practices of doing Mission and embrace the contemporary challenges which the world throws at us.
Member Units shared their respective experiences regarding these issues: Youth, Refugees, Migrants, Displaced Persons, Lay Associates, Islam, Sects etc. There was much sharing on how the Conference as such might respond to these challenges. There was also sharing on some aspects of Formation in the Region and concrete ways of collaboration were defined and adopted.
On the subject of Finance, the Conference was heard a presentation on self-sustainability by the Mission Superior of Angola, Fr. Adrien GESSE MOSANDA (former Director of Grants of the Province of Congo). His presentation was followed by recommendations which will lead the Region to adopt daring new ways (investments) towards self-sustainability.
The AMR representative on the General Committee for Lay Associates, Mr. Mahamat Dehoua, also made a presentation suggesting concrete ways to deepen collaboration with other Oblate Lay Groups. It was decided that will be a meeting of all chaplains and chairpersons of the Lay Associates on the sub-regional level. A data base was immediately created to maintain communication with the different Units.
The Brother representing AMR on the General Standing Committee for Brothers, Bro. Jean-Marie DIAKANOU, was also invited. He suggested to the Conference ways to promote Oblate Brothers Vocations. The Conference decided to convoke a Regional Assembly for Brothers to be held in Cameroon.
Fr. Mokone Joseph RATHOKOA, Provincial of the Central Province of South Africa, updated the Conference on the progress for restructuring of the three South African provinces to become one province.
Fr. Valerio EKO, Superior of Western Sahara Mission, took the Conference on a PowerPoint tour through the dunes of the Sahara Mission which presently has three members. (Fr. Emmanuel YOUNGTEN TEMSWANG, AMR Executive Secretary)
Fr. Emmanuel YOUNGTEN, the Executive Secretary of the Africa-Madagascar Region tells about a frightening moment during a meeting of the Regional Conference.
The Major Superiors of the Africa-Madagascar Region and other invited guests to the Regional Conference were basking in the joy of their gathering when some news of possible danger began to circulate.
We were getting into the second day of our Conference Meeting when we heard that two cyclones, one from the Indian Ocean and another one from the direction of the island of Mauritius, were just two days away from Antananarivo.
The atmosphere at the Conference after the announcement changed tone and many new questions arose.
Fr. Andries KIMANE, delegate of the Provincial of the Northern Province of South Africa, upon hearing this news said, "I knew I came here to either go back home a saint (having enjoyed the company of people who dialogue daily with the Holy Spirit before taking decisions) or I die a martyr (because by faith, I accepted to represent my Provincial)!” He also stated that people thought he was out of his mind when he told them he was traveling to Madagascar: walking to his "end”!
We were instructed not to go out: the whole of Antananarivo was advised to stay indoors the whole day of the 7th of March in order to avoid casualties. On that day, we were supposed have a visit from Archbishop Odon Razanakolona of Antananarivo, who was slated to celebrate Mass with us and join us for lunch. When he called to say he would not make it due to the directives of the government to stay indoors, we knew that it was serious. All telephone and internet service providers shut down, the lights went off. There was only the sound of the wind.
Thanks be to God, the cyclone came and continued on its way to the South of Madagascar. Although we were unharmed, other parts of the city suffered floods, downed trees and buildings destroyed. As of the 15th of March, 78 persons were confirmed as dead and the cyclones affected at least 400,000 persons.
Fr. Stanislaw OLLER writes about his "small mission”…
Volobe is a small mission located 55 km from Tamatave, toward the southwest. The name of this village in the local language means "Big Bamboo.” In the area of Volobe, we have 55 Christian communities spread over four municipalities, with about 4,000 faithful. The farthest community is about 90 km away. To visit these 55 Christian communities, one must walk over the mountains because there are no roads. The trek can last between three and four weeks to go to the farthest village, all the while visiting the communities along the way.
Since the month of December 2016, Father Elysé RATOLOJANAHARY has been working with me, a young Malagasy Oblate who finished his study of theology in Cameroon. It is a blessing for me and for my Christians to have him with us at Volobe.
In a word, I would like to say that I love Volobe and the mission I have been given to carry out, in spite of the fact that last year, I had to put up with some unpleasant surprises, such as the theft of the bells from our church. Unfortunately, that affair ended up in court.
But we had to recover our morale quickly, because, in the mission itself, we were busy with the preparations for the big regional gathering of youth, a small World Youth Day, before Palm Sunday. During that gathering, more than 2,000 youth came, in spite of the nasty weather conditions. This bad weather only strengthened and toughened the spirit of the youth who were there.
Fr. Gilbert RASAMIMANANA, who is in charge of formation at our scholasticate in Finarantsoa, came to preach a retreat of three days for us. Regardless of the rain, the youth listened closely to his teaching and prayed with fervor.
Another special event last year was the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the church in Horifatra. When I write "church,” I mean the Christian community. When the Malagasy say "church,” they always think first of all of the Christian community; then they think of the other meaning, the church as a house of prayer. There are many things which the people here see differently than the people of Europe. Here is an example: Europeans will ask, "Do you believe in God.” The Malagasy ask: "Do you pray?” And that is something very concrete because, "What is faith without prayer?”
I will also mention the assembly of the Eucharistic Crusade for children. There were about 600 children and their parents. For the children who arrive from the far off savanna, it is always an excellent sojourn and the possibility to see another world.
This year (2017), we will celebrate the feast of "Corpus Christi” with our archbishop. In our mission, this feast of "Corpus Christi” is always tied to the feast of the harvest or gathering, because it is at this time that they finish gathering the rice. This feast will last for three days.
Friday – the day of Divine Mercy, with the Mass of the Divine Mercy, the Way of the Cross on the grounds of the plantations and the fields, confessions and an all-night vigil.
Saturday – the day of Our Lady. The "mothers of the rosary” will lead a whole day of prayer. There will be catechism and Bible contests for different age groups, followed by the Mass of the Immaculate Conception.
Sunday – Corpus Christi. Solemn Mass and procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the fields and villages. A ceremony for bestowing contest prizes and the sale of agricultural products, the traditional way of making offerings.
I have written a lot of the details about this feast because in many diocesed of Madagascar, it is somewhat forgotten. It is a manifestation of the faith in the streets of the cities and on the country roads. So there you have some news about our mission in Volobe.