Burundi

Burundi
Burundi

The new Friars not only opted for pastoral activity, but also for creating the first indispensable structures: The new church of Kayongozi was built in 1980/81 and, in 1983, the convent at Gitega, in the centre of the country, was built especially for the vocations and formation of future Burundi Friars.

The first Franciscan presence in Burundi was begun in 1972 with the opening of the mission of the Province of Genoa. That year, Br. Tarcisio Bellaera arrived and stayed in the parish of Buhoro, in the diocese of Gitega, at the invitation of the Bishop, Mons. André Makarakiza. After a few months, he went to the parish of Kanisha (today Kayongozi), where the diocesan priest Ntawe was pastor.

The diocese of Ruyigi, where the parish of Kanisha was, was erected on the 14th April 1973 and Br. Gabriela Sabolla arrived from Italy in November. Br. Giacomo Massa arrived in December as a delegate of the Minister Provincial of Genoa to confirm the missionary commitment of the Friars and their presence in Kayongozi. This corresponded with the wishes of the new Bishop, Mons. Joachim Ruhuna, who wanted the presence of the Franciscan charism in his diocese.

Burundi Friars

Burundi Friars

Burundi Friars

The parish of Kayongozi was entrusted to Brs. Tarcisio and Gabriele who began their missionary work with the pastoral activities of evangelisation, social-humanitarian development of the people, especially through the care of lepers, and the animation of Franciscan vocations. During the years 1974/75 the Friars built the convent at Kayongozi. Br. Joseph-Maria Massana arrived in the country to teach in the Minor Seminary of Muyinga, towards the south. Here he met the seminarian Nicodème Kibuzehose and oriented him towards the Franciscan life. Br. Massana made contact with the Friars of Kayongozi soon afterwards.

The parish was officially inaugurated in 1975, the year in which the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of the Mount, of Genoa, arrived.

While waiting on reinforcements from the Province, Br. Tarcisio was helped in his mission by his friends don Bruno (Fidei Donum) and don Pazzetto (Combonian). A few months later, other Friars began to arrive in Burundi: Br. Valerio Berloffa at the end of 1975, Br. Aldo Gallo in 1976, Br. Lanfranco Tabarelli in 1978 and Br. Biagio Baldino in 1979.

The new Friars not only opted for pastoral activity, but also for creating the first indispensable structures: The new church of Kayongozi was built in 1980/81 and, in 1983, the convent at Gitega, in the centre of the country, was built especially for the vocations and formation of future Burundi Friars. In the meantime Nicodème Kuzehose had made his first year of Novitiate in Togo and in March 1984 returned to Burundi where, after a few months of pastoral experience, he made his first profession on the 7th October into the hands of Br. Gabriele Sabolla, in Kayongozi.

In the meantime a change of politics had begun in the country and in 1985 all foreign missionaries were expelled and so all our Friars were forced to leave Burundi. Only Br. Biagio Baldino would return later, while the others entered the “Africa Project”. During the religious persecution, Br.  Nicodème remained alone and he moved to the new house at Gitega, dedicating himself especially to vocational pastoral activity. He went every now and then to Kayongozi to accompany the Franciscan Sisters.

Br. Simone Arnaldi arrived in 1986 and dedicated himself totally to the care of lepers, for whom he built a small village in Kayongozi.

Br. Nicodème made his solemn profession into the hands of the Provincial of Genoa, Br. Giacomo Massa, on the 27th December 1987. At that time contacts with the Vice-Province in Nairobi began in order to look into the possibilities of the mission in Burundi being united to the “Africa Project”. Initially the Vice-Province accepted the novices of Burundi as guests in Rwanda (Kivumu) and later agreed to accept the mission of Burundi with a letter of the Provincial, Br. Paul Osborne, dated the 4th August 1989. The following year, Br. Nicodème was appointed Guardian of the House at Gitega, and from then on accepted young men from Burundi to the Franciscan life.

The House at Gitega was closed for a few years – from 1994 – as a consequence of inter-ethnic violence which involved Burundi also. It was reopened in 2003 with the first Burundi Friars.