General News from the Province
Due to the prolonged illness of our Br. Carmelo Giannone and his absence from the Province since the end of August this year, the November issue of the “Bulletin” was not published, as you have surely noticed. Instead of that I would like to share with you some news that, honestly speaking, might not be anymore news for you.
On 31st July I received to our Novitiate at Kakoba two Postulants: Julius Mugizi and Matiya Mulumba Musinguzi. Both of them are from Uganda. The ceremony took place in the Novitiate chapel during the Evening Prayer. Almost at the last moment we had to seek a permission from the Minister General to start a novitiate with only two novices. Two postulants from the Province of South Africa, who were already at Kakoba, were called back to their province just two days before the reception to the Novitiate.
On 2nd August, two Novices: Elcardo Muhereza from Uganda (Rushooka Parish) and Victor Orwa from Kenya, after finishing their canonical year in the Novitiate, made their First Profession in the Order of Friars Minor. The profession was made during a solemn Mass celebrated in front of the Novitiate’s chapel. Friars from Rushooka, some priests, religious men and women, the parents of Elcardo and Victor, their relatives and friends, and the people of Kakoba were there to witness the ceremony.
On 11th August, on the Solemnity of St. Clare, I had the honor to celebrate a Mass in the chapel of the Poor Clare Sisters at Nyamitanga. Other friars from Kakoba and Rushooka were present as well. After the Mass we met the Sisters and shared with them a cup of tea, and later on had a delicious lunch, but without their company.
Between 2nd and 17th August I did the canonical visitation in Rushooka and Kakoba.
On 17th August, together with Br. Fidelis Mwesigye and Sr. Vedrana, I travelled to Tanzania, to Bugene Parish in Kayanga Diocese, the parish where Br. Cyrianus comes from. We were warmly welcomed by the Parish Priest and some friars who had arrived earlier: Theonest Twahirwa, Festus, Michael, Theonest Kagenzi, Florentius and Pelagio. Later in the afternoon we went to see the Bishop, Rt. Rev. Almachius Rweyongeza at his house. The welcome was very cordial. The Bishop not only invited us for a cup of tea, but also showed us the Cathedral and helped us to choose albs and chasubles for the Ordination Mass next day. We also met our Br. Cyrianus who was invited by the Bishop to stay with him for few days in order to prepare himself well for the great day.
On 18th August Br. Cyrianus Balyaremwa was ordained to the Priesthood by Rt. Rev. Almachius Rweyongeza, the First Bishop of Kayanga Diocese, during a solemn and colorful Mass celebrated at Bugene Parish. The Bishop was joined at the altar by the friars and almost all priests belonging to the diocese, including the older brother of Cyrianus, Caius. The liturgy was well prepared and well conducted. The Bishop was calm and professional in administering the Sacrament of Priesthood.
During the Mass a traditional dance was performed by a youth group from Bunene Parish. The dance was so dynamic that I thought that it could be performed only by young people, but to my surprise even some elderly and fragile looking citizens joined in. The newly ordained priest also didn’t stay away. During this part of the program there were also countless speeches and Br. Cyrianus was showered with gifts. That part was closed by the Bishop whose speech was cut short due to a break down of the communication system. A festive meal concluded the day.
From 20th August to 5th September I did the canonical visitation in Ilemela, Butimba and Kongowe (Dar-es-Salaam). At that time there were 6 Postulants in Ilemela, in the second year. On 17th September they were joined by 9 first year Postulants. The number of friars increased as well since Br. Theoneste and Br. Festus were joined by Br. Cyrianus.
I paid a courtesy visit to the Archbishop of Mwanza, Most Rev. Thaddeus Rwa’ichi OFM Cap., and also visited the Poor Clares in Nyegezi.
For the first time in my life I travelled by bus from Mwanza to Dar. It was a tiring journey, but quite interesting since everything was new for me. I arrived to Dar on the day when our Moslem brothers and sisters were celebrating the end of Ramadan. Because of that I travelled 2 hours by taxi from the bus station to our house in Kongowe. The last 5 km were the worst – more than one hour. Then while sitting at the table in our house and eating late supper, we heard a loud bang and moments later a lorry hit our gate, removed it and stopped at the wall knocking down part of it. The gate ended under the lorry and stopped its movement, preventing it from rolling down and hitting our house, but under the gate there was the watchman. We thought that he was dead, but thanks be to God, after being taken to hospital, he recovered and is well again. There were no further tragic events while in Kongowe. There were however some good events such as the visits to the Cardinal and to the Minister Provincial of the Capuchin Friars.
From 14th to 28th September I did the canonical visitation in our two fraternities in Rwanda: Kivumu and Mbazi.
The three friars in Kivumu, namely: Joseph Ntahompagaze, Kizito and Ivica were joined by Br. Fidele Nsengiyumva who resigned as Guardian and Bursar of Dowa Fraternity and is now a member of Kivumu Fraternity. A big project of producing biogas was started at that time by Br. Ivica to supply the Vjeko Center’s kitchen where meals are prepared for the students. A much smaller project of producing biogas has been functioning for some months now in Mbazi. It supplies the kitchen of the friars. It is used only for preparing simple meals, but nevertheless it saves money that was being used for buying gas.
Another accident happened while I was in Mbazi. A fuel tanker from Tanzania carrying diesel overturned on a sharp bend near our house. After hearing some screams and seeing the girls from our tailoring school running away, I went out only to see a cloud of black smoke. I have never seen anything like that before. The diesel caught fire and burned completely together with the tanker and, as we were told later, also with two drivers who didn’t manage to escape. There was no chance of getting some of the diesel, although some desperate people tried to do so. For some people who had rice growing nearby it was a disaster, because the rice was burned together with the diesel. No further tragic events happened while I was in Rwanda.
On the morning of 30th September, and after spending only one day in Nairobi, I went, together with Br. Augustin Maniragaba, to Madagascar and Mauritius. It was a surprise to meet in the plane our Br. Elysée who conducted a seminar in Nairobi and was going back to Madagascar. The first two weeks that we spent in Madagascar were very busy (in fact Augustin had to stay another week in Madagascar, because he had a problem of getting a visa for Mauritius). We visited all four fraternities and listened to more than 50 friars, novices and postulants. Augustin helped me to understand them and to be understood by them. He was really very helpful. In the furthest fraternity in the town of Tsiroanomandidy we participated in the official opening of our new parish in the suburb of Androtra where the friars have been present since 2009.
A solemn Mass, with good participation of the parishioners and invited guests, was presided over by Rt. Rev. Gustavo Espino Bambin, the Bishop of Tsiroanomandidy. Br. Antoine Jacomy, who just the day before celebrated his 80th birthday, became the first Parish Priest of Distrika Androtra (Androtra Parish). He is helped by Br. Jean Charles who was ordained priest this year in January. Since their arrival to Tsiroanomandidy, the friars have been living in an old house that was occupied before by a catechist. There are only three rooms that are just enough for the Parish Priest, his assistant and two “Franciscan Year” temporary professed friars who are currently staying there. For that reason the friars, with some help from the Bishop, started to build a bigger house.
On 3rd October we went to the Poor Clares in Antananarivo to celebrate together with them the Transitus. It was a beautiful celebration, well prepared and carried out by the temporary professed friars and the postulants of the Poor Clares with the help of some of the Sisters and solemnly professed friars. After that we had supper together. On 4th October, the Solemnity of our Father St. Francis, we celebrated an early Mass (5:45am) in the friars’ chapel and in the evening we had a festive meal, also attended by Br. Jacques Tronchon. During the day the canonical visitation continued. There are now 4 solemnly professed friars – including the Custos – and 16 temporary professed friars staying in the Formation House in Antananarivo. After that visitation, we went to Antsirabe, to the Novitiate House in Andraikiba. There are now 7 Novices in the Novitiate and Br. Raymond-Pascal is their Master. The Novitiate was recently renovated and is really beautiful now.
The few days that we spent there passed very fast and we moved to the Postulancy House in Soavantanina. There we met the Guardian - Br. Jules, the Master of Postulants, Br - Hery and 14 Postulants (11 – first year, 3 – second year), the friar responsible for a carpentry workshop and a farm, some kilometers outside Antsirabe - Br. Emmanuel, and also the friars who work in two rural parishes: Mahaiza and Bemaha.
We also had a chance to pay a courtesy visit to the Bishop of Antsirabe and have a delicious Sunday lunch with the FMM Sisters in the same town. The Superior of the FMM Sisters in Antsirabe is Polish, Sr. Małgorzata. On our last day in Soavantanina I met the Custodial Council. The next day we returned to Antananarivo.
The visa for Augustin was not yet ready, so I had to go alone to Mauritius on 12th October. I was met at the airport by Br. Jean Claude. In spite of some difficulties, we somehow managed to understand one another: he spoke French and me – English. He was very much worried that he would not be able to communicate well with me because of the absence of Augustin. I shared the worries with him. On the same day, early in the morning, Br. Albin came back from his three months holiday in Poland. We really tried our best not to forget that Jean Claude was with us. Fortunately, one week later Augustin got the visa and could come to Mauritius. I think that he was very happy to be there.
I could continue with the canonical visitation. During the first week that I spent in Chemin Grenier, I was able to listen to Albin alone. Krisnah was very busy preparing rooms for us in the new house in Rose-Hill and the others preferred to speak French, not English.
Finally, we managed to stay also in our second fraternity in Mauritius. The rooms, self-contained, were really just finished when we entered them with Augustin. Br. René and Br. Gianni were happy to have the canonical visitation in French. I was also happy, because for the first time I could hear what René had to say to me. His main preoccupation has always been the small number of friars working in Mauritius and also the lack of vocations to our Order. Augustin had sometimes serious difficulties in understanding his French, but he managed well. The other times when I visited Mauritius, René would prepare few sentences in English and read them to me. I have really admired his fraternal approach and his French sense of humor.
We were invited by the Bishop of Port Louis, Rt. Rev. Maurice Piat, together with the priests working in Mauritius, to a supper in honor of three priests who were celebrating their Golden Jubilee of Priesthood this year. Our Br. René was among them. He has been in Mauritius for more than 30 years. Just before the supper, I had a short talk with the Bishop. He knows English very well. To sum up our visit to Mauritius, I would say that the life over there is maybe better than in other countries of our province, but it doesn’t mean that there are no problems. We know that even Adam and Eve sinned while staying in the Paradise. From Mauritius we went back to Antananarivo where we stayed another day and then returned to Nairobi on 28th October.
On 29th October, together with other friars from Westlands and Langata, I participated in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the “Spirit of Assisi”, the prayer meeting held in Assisi on 27th October 1986 to which the then Pope and now Blessed John Paul II invited the religious leaders from all over the world. The Kenyan celebrations prepared by the Franciscan Family were held at the Bomas of Kenya. The participation of the Franciscan Family was good, but of the religious leaders could be better. Nevertheless, it was a memorable and well prepared event.
Another memorable event was the regional retreat for the friars from Tanzania and Kenya held at the Mount Tabor Spirituality Centre near Nyahururu from November 2-7. Before proceeding to Nyahururu, we stopped at the cemetery in St. Austin’s Parish here in Nairobi, to pray at the tomb of Br. Kevin Lawlor. Praying at his tomb, we remembered all the deceased friars who worked in our Province. Then in Nyahururu, the preacher of the retreat, Br. Matthias Kule, led us through the theme of: “Go and rebuild my Church”. In spite of being one of us, he was well accepted and appreciated. It was also very encouraging to see the friars doing something together. Unfortunately, due to some earlier arranged commitments I couldn’t stay till the end of the retreat.
On 6th November, late in the afternoon, I met for little more than one hour Ms. Petra Schick from the Missionszentrale der Franziskaner in Bonn (MZF). She again declared her full support for our projects. She also expressed her gratitude to all friars, who received funds for different projects, for sending their reports to MZF.
The Report from our November Definitory meeting arrived to you some weeks ago, so there is no need to mention this event again.
Br. Viateur Uwamungu came to Nairobi at the beginning of November and stayed in the Provincial House for about two weeks. He came to see his doctor who performed the operation to replace his right hip. Initially, everything seemed to be fine, but for many months now Viateur has been complaining of pain in the leg and hasn’t been able to walk without crutches. After some visits to the doctor and after consulting another doctor, he was informed that probably another operation might be needed. We wish our sick Brothers: Viateur and Carmelo fast recovery and return to good health. Let us not forget to pray for them.
On Saturday, 19th November, together with Br. Oscar, we welcomed at the airport in Nairobi two high class visitors from our General Curia in Rome: the General Secretary for Formation and Studies – Br. Vidal Rodriguez Lopez, and the Vice-Secretary – Br. Sergiusz Baldyga. Directly from the airport we went to Langata where the visitors met the Temporary Professed Friars and the Formation Team.
After a nice supper we went to Westlands where the visitors spent their night. On Sunday they went to Arusha for the Formation Congress. On 28th November they were taken by Br. Augustinus for a safari in the Nairobi National Park. The next day they went back to Rome.
After the Definitory meeting, I went for one day to Arusha to preside over the opening Mass of the Formation Congress for the OFM African Conference’s formators who take care of aspirants or postulants and temporary professed friars – 2 from each entity. Our Province was represented by Br. Matthias Kule and Br. Theoneste Twahirwa. Br. Jacek Gorka did a very good job in taking care of the logistics.
On 22nd November we welcomed at Westlands our General Visitator, Br. Jesús Aguirre-Garza, and I had a meeting with him to organize his canonical visitation.
From 23rd to 30th November I did the canonical visitation in Subukia.
Thanks to good rains this year the whole valley was beautifully green, but the road has become a disaster. During the week of visitation it was raining every day. Together with Br. Miro, I visited twice our St. Francis Secondary School and the now former Headmaster, Mr. Sebastian Chacko. We also met the Deputy Headmaster who will run the school until we find a permanent headmaster or headmistress, because that possibility also exists. It is not going to be easy to run the school, to maintain it and to improve its education standards, but together we must do it, if we don’t want to become a laughing stock in the Diocese of Nakuru and in Kenya. Why? Didn’t we want the school to be ours?
I also visited a few other places, like the St. Anthony’s Small Home where a small and shallow (for security reasons) swimming pool was constructed for the children (the latest development at the Home); St. Jude’s church – the parish church – that was painted inside and outside in October; the new church in Ol’Manyatta (Polepole) out-station; and Suswa out-station where the foundation for a new church was almost completed. We used the time to visit the places when it was not raining. In the parish church we celebrated, together with Br. Augustin a Mass on the 1st Sunday of Advent.
I left Subukia 11 years ago, but I still felt at home, because most of the adults that were in the church were the same people that I had known at that time. Only that all of us became older. The friars, accompanied by three Little Sisters of St. Francis and some volunteers, live a good life, praising the Lord and thanking Him for all the good things that He created. It is a good place for prayer and meditation, and the cook is excellent.
The next fraternity to be visited was Westlands. “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house” (Mt 13, 57), but the visitation was rather a nice experience.
Thanks to the Guardian and the whole fraternity, all the rooms in the Provincial House were painted and the floor in the dining and sitting room was cleaned and painted again, and it really looks much better than before.
The last fraternity where I did the canonical visitation was Langata – St. Anthony’s Formation House.
The occupants of the House are: 9 temporary professed friars who study Theology at Tangaza College, 1 temporary professed friar from Madagascar who is learning English, and 5 solemnly professed friars, including Br. Clemens from Zimbabwe who is doing a Master’s Course in Business and Management at Tangaza College. Br Carilus is finishing his theological studies at Tangaza and will graduate on 28th January 2012. On 15th February he will go to Kongowe Parish in Dar-es-Salaam and stay there until 15th May.
We are very scattered and not many of us know all of the fraternities, so I thought that it would be good to share with you about what is going on in them. There is also some other news.
In the night of 26/27 November the House in Kayongozi was attacked by bandits, but thanks to a swift intervention of the Police they didn’t manage to enter the house. I am sure that all those of us who experienced such an attack sympathize with our Brothers in Kayongozi.
At the beginning of December, Br. Nicodeme Kibuzehose was appointed as an Assistant General Visitator for the Province of St. Benedict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He will assist Br. Richard Dzierzenga, a former Provincial of the Province of the Incarnate Word in West Africa. Let’s pray for Br. Nicodeme and wish him all the best that he will fulfill well his mandate.
a) It was already communicated by the Provincial Bursar, Br. Augustinus Wehrmeier, in a letter that he wrote to the Guardians and Local Bursars, that the construction of the students’ hostels at Langata has to be postponed due to the lack of adequate funds. Let’s continue to pray that one day we will be able to build the hostels as it was planned.
b) I remind you again of the importance of the Local Chapter, because I noticed during the canonical visitation that in some fraternities the Chapter is not celebrated regularly; decisions are being made without consultations; communication is limited or non-existent. I again remind the Guardians that they are the animators of the fraternities and that it is their responsibility to call the Local Chapter regularly. The celebration of the Local Chapter is “a structure which, if well used, can help to build up good fraternal relations by cultivating an atmosphere of confidence, dialogue and communion, as well as fostering collaboration and co-responsibility.”
c) I am very grateful to all friars-priests for heeding my request and celebrating 24 (or more) Masses during this year 2011 for the intentions of the Province in order to help it to meet its financial obligations, especially in formation and administration. It shows our solidarity with one another. Now, I am asking every friar-priest, please give the number of Masses that you celebrated, to your Guardian and he will send the total number of the Masses to the Provincial’s office via E-mail. Those of you who have been sending the number of Masses celebrated every month don’t have to repeat this exercise in order to avoid confusion. Just inform your Guardian about the fact.
d) This information is a repetition of what was already communicated to you: Dear Guardians and Local Bursars, please send to the Provincial Bursar, Br. Augustinus Wehrmeier the whole program of MFR 2011 not later than the 20th January 2012. That is also going to be a nice gift for the Minister Provincial on his Feast Day.
e) All friars who agreed to the proposal of paying 80 US$ per person per year to our internal Health Fund are requested to send the money to the Provincial Bursar’s office during the month of January 2012. It is understood that the friars who didn’t comment on this proposal will take care of their expenditures regarding health matters.
f). I have finished the Canonical Visitation in the Province on 20th December at Langata. On that day I conferred the Ministry of Lector to the following temporary professed friars: Jean Damascene, Francesko, Aphrodis, Paul, Benoît, Prosper and Carilus; and the Ministry of Acolyte to: Jean Damascene and Carilus.
My Dear Brothers, I hope that during the festive season of Christmas you will find time to read all what I had written or, at least, the last part of it. At the end, I want to thank you very much for your fraternal collaboration, for the good work you do in the different fraternities of our Province, for your concern, for your good ideas and projects, for understanding the situation in which we find ourselves now and for the witness of fraternal life, which could be and must be always improved. I am very grateful for the fraternal welcome and hospitality that I experienced everywhere during my visits to you this year. Thank you very much!
The Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is just around the corner, so it is an appropriate time to send you my best wishes and greetings for this joyful season of the Liturgical Year.
We are going to celebrate again the great and unimaginable mystery of the love that God had shown us in the Baby born in Bethlehem. His love for us has no end and is shared with us on Christmas Day and every day when we celebrate the Eucharist and God is born again on the altar and in our hearts. Allow this love to fill you totally: your body, your heart, your mind, your life, your ideas, your projects, indeed everything until it is overflowing and reaching others. Yes, let’s share this love with others this Christmas Season and throughout the New Year 2012.
A new canticle I hear,
To dry the tears of the afflicted!
I hear it begin with a piercing tone,
Whence it slowly descends several octaves,
For it celebrates the coming of the Word. Never was heard
A descending scale of such exquisite melody!
The joyous chorus is that of angels
Singing sweet songs around the manger
Before the Christ Child,
The Word Incarnate.
“Glory to God in the highest,” they sing,
“And peace on earth –
An end to war and to all evils;
Praise and bless the Infant adored!”
A Blessed and lovely Christmas, and a Peaceful New Year 2012!
Br. Sebastian Unsner, OFM