News from Rwanda

Baptism with Dancing and Drums

the believers bearing giftsThe Sunday after Christmas was supposed to be a casual day for me. The arrangement with Friar Kizito was very simple – I would conduct the mass at 7.30, and he would conduct the mass for baptism at 10 o’clock. And so it was arranged - at least that’s what I thought. So, after finishing the morning mass, I began doing some paperwork regarding school issues. But then I noticed the procession scene in front of the church and was impressed by it.  I even decided to take some photographs of the richly coloured parishioners lead by beautifully dressed dancers.



the procession scene in front of the church

Then I returned to my school obligations, but, unfortunately, not for long... Friar Kizito had not realized how many children there were to be baptized, so he panicked when he walked into the church and saw how many babies he had to baptize!!! He urgently called for me to help him. And there was a reason to ask for help.

baptismThere were as many as 90 children held in the arms of their mothers who were standing around the altar and in the four aisles between the benches along the entire church. Imagine how many people there were – all these children along with their parents, their godparents and family members! Almost the entire church was filled just with the guests. I thought I had met all my parishioners, but I did not know almost half the guests.

At least on this particular Sunday, Kivumu was the centre of Rwanda! People from all over the country had come here. The church was full, and there were even more people outside. Luckily it is dry season, so it was not raining. I cannot even think what it would look like under heavy rainfall which is usual for Rwanda.

the believers bearing giftsThe Baptism ceremony lasted over an hour and a half! The entire event was constantly accompanied by songs, drums, and rhythmic clapping of all the people in the church and outside. A fantastic feeling! Unique! And the fact that the parents of one boy managed to find the money and bought him a suit for the baptism is evidence enough of how much it means to my parishioners!

After the ceremony, the believers, who had organised a procession on their own, started approaching the altar bearing gifts. Women had baskets on their heads, and they brought several hundreds of them. Men, on the other hand, were carrying envelopes. We received many gifts: a sack and a half of beans (about 150 kilograms), cabbages, tomatoes, carrots, eggplants, zucchinis, pineapples, avocados, mangos, papayas, even one rabbit. Our well-meaning, but not-so-skilful altar boys emptied the contents of the baskets into huge sacks in order to return the precious baskets to women. But as they did so, they spilled a lot of beans all over the floor. It was the hardest for the dancers who danced on beans for the rest of the mass. But they did not complain...

singing and dancingThe Holy Sacrament of Communion followed, and the six of us were giving the Holy Sacrament for as much as fifteen minutes. After that the entire church sang and danced to the rhythm of drums. The only thing I personally mind is the insistence of my brothers that someone plays a few songs on the keyboard in the church for them. I find that this disturbs the beauty of the native songs and dances so much, that it is fortunate that only a few songs are played on the keyboard.

The Mass for Baptism lasted almost five hours. With these 90 newly baptised children, this brings a total of 291 children baptised in 2009. And here I come back again to the topic which I consider of utmost importance for their future. Where there are children there must be a school too! Our High School project is even more meaningful in this context. Did you know that in our parish 400-600 children get their elementary school education in our three Elementary Schools? So it is imperative to try to provide a high school education for as many as possible of the children who want it.

In our High School which we are building, there will be 24 classrooms and the school will be able to accept 960 students at most. I am not sure, that, after completing this high school, we won’t have to start building another one...