Oblate Voices is a JPIC blog that follows stories of hope and is about how Oblates and associates live and experience mission work in the spirit of the Oblate founder, St Eugene De Mazenod of responding to the needs of poor and most abandoned around the world.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Launch of University of De Mazenod - Democratic Republic of Congo

On May 21, 2019, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate - Province of Congo launched the University of De Mazenod in Kinshasa, Congo D.R
[Photo   - OMI Congo]

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

South African Oblates in the Periphery

By: Fr. Zweli  Mlotshwa, OMI
May 7, 2019

In less than 24 hours to my writing this reflection, South Africans will be heading to the polls to vote in the fifth general elections, 25 years since the end of apartheid and the dawn of democracy. I voted in the first democratic elections of 1994 and just as I was then, I am still proud to vote and consider it an honor and my civic duty. 

In the run up to the first general elections, a buzz phrase was that the country had to strike a balance between ‘calming White fears and balancing Black aspirations and hopes.’ Twenty-Five years later, Black aspirations and hopes are still not met and I dare say that White fears have increased due to, among other things, the fear of South Africa becoming a failed state like some other countries on the continent and now recently the problem of land expropriation without compensation policy that is called upon to be a government policy.
Pictured with Mfuleni Parish in the background are: (Front): Fr. Siyabonga Dube, OMI,
(Behind right)  Fr. Nkululeko Meyiwa, OMI, & (Behind left) Fr. Jeremiah Gama, OMI

Many South Africans from all spheres and races complain about the blatant corruption of government officials, especially those in the higher echelons of the administration.  For many it seems like the dawn of democracy brought to life the words of British journalist Michaela Wrong, ‘It is our time to eat’. Politicians and those connected to them seem to be on a self-enriching program using government resources meant for the population.

It does not take complicated scientific study to realize that not much has changed for the average Black person in South Africa. While others have benefited materially from the fruits of democracy, it would seem that for many the only gain is the privilege of marking a ballot every five years but continuing to live with broken dreams and unmet promises made by politicians.

It is easy to be cynical and powerless in this situation, for to solve the South African situation what is needed among other things are political and economic solutions and we Oblates belong to neither a political or economic space. I am however proud to say as an Oblate that our voice is heard and presence felt in the hidden corners and peripheral spaces of our country. We might not bring the political or economic solutions, but we are like the leaven in the dough, bringing hope and never allowing people to doze off lulled by the pain of their suffering.

Particular mention is made of the Oblate presence in the City of Cape Town. We are not present in the Cape Town of the glossy magazines and tourist vouchers, but rather in the shadow of the mountains that surround the city. I was fortunate to spend the Easter weekend in Cape Town where there are three Oblates, Frs. Siyabonga Dube, Jeremiah Gama and Nkululeko Meyiwa. Frs Dube and Gama serve in the Mitchell Plain and Lenteguer areas. These places only make it into newspapers and newsrooms because of their notoriety and high murder rate; it is this area which gives Cape Town the dishonor of being ranked the most dangerous city in Africa. It was at Lenteguer that all three Oblates had their crosses stolen in the sacristy while celebrating Mass in the church. A very small crime indeed for that area because most crimes there are highly physical and violent.

Fr. Meyiwa serves in the Mfuleni, Crossroads and Khayelitsha townships. I got to spend the Easter weekend at Mfuleni where the Crossroads and Khayalitsha communities gathered together to celebrate the Tridium. If Cape Town city is one of the most beautiful cities in Africa, and Mitchells Plain and Lenteguer are murder capitals, then the townships of Cape Town are the ‘informal settlements’ capital. There seems to be no end to the rows of corrugated iron sheets that make up these vast informal settlements, and it is easy to see them as just tin houses and forget that families raise children in that environment.

It is in this context that I celebrated a typically African worship; vibrant and alive with energy. The cynic in me reflected that after this vibrant worship some congregants would return to their shacks, some would cross the river that runs through Mfuleni. Mfuleni means ‘river’ in the Nguni languages of South Africa. This is a river that smells of animal and human excrement because there are no proper sanitation facilities in the area. Other people would walk through litter-strewn streets because it seems there is no proper waste management system to keep the Townships clean.

One could go on and on painting a gloomy picture of this region but the human spirit of drawing life from seemingly dead wood is amazing;  and it is the light and the spirit of the people who reside in this hopeless region that give light and hope.

I would like to say that Oblate presence in these seemingly hopeless places also gives light and hope. They act as the leaven in the dough, providing not political and economic solutions but promoting a spirit of life in the desert. The Oblates do not preach nor encourage a ‘pie in the sky’ spirituality, but rather share life giving messages that address the present day context of these communities. The preaching on Holy Thursday at Mfuleni called upon us to honor and not forget our past, to remember that we are children born in apartheid and man-made poverty. Thus, we should strive not to let our own children live in such a society and that in our areas of influence we should work to dismantle the cycle of prejudice and poverty. The Easter Vigil mass homily called on us to carry the joy and energy of our worship into our community, to work and pray to improve not just our relationship with God, but also our relationship with our immediate environment.

This is an ongoing message and a message of hope given not just through speech but also by living in the periphery, by being in the shadow of the mountain together with the people. We need to constantly remind ourselves and those we serve that although it might be beyond their means to have a home close to the mountain (living in close proximity to the mountains of Cape Town is the special reserve of the rich), the mountain is surmountable. The voice of the Oblates knows no politics nor economics but it reaches hundreds of South Africans in need of spiritual upliftment and hope.

As thousands of South Africans head to the polls, may they have hope and remember they may not enjoy the benefit of their "X " now, but must still stand firm in the knowledge that continual and consistent engagement with the country’s socio-political landscape, through the simple act of marking “Xs” on a paper, is preparation for a better future for their children. Much may not have changed for Black South Africans, yet much has changed and chief among these changes is the dignity of being included in the country’s electoral process, and the legitimacy that marking Xs on a ballot represent: recognition that they are legitimate citizens of the country of their birth. For many years Oblates have lived and moved with South African people and we will continue to promote the dignity and worth of those we are called to serve.

Friday, March 29, 2019

New Maternity Annex Now Open to the Public in the Catholic Diocese of Mongu, Zambia

Handover of maternity annex
By Sifuwe Mwangala
Mongu, Zambia  March 27
The Catholic Diocese of Mongu has constructed a maternity annex worth about 60, 000 USD at Nalwei Rural Health Centre in Mongu District that it has handed over to government.
Western Province Public Health Specialist Dr. Jacob Sakala received the maternity annex on behalf of government.
Speaking at the handover ceremony in Nalwei today, Dr. Sakala thanked the Catholic Church for supplementing government efforts in reducing maternal mortality by bringing health services closer to the community.
Dr. Sakala said the facility that will serve a population of about 8, 000 people is in line with Government’s policy of ensuring that no one dies during and after giving birth.
He has since called on the people of Nalwei who are the main beneficiaries of the maternity annex to guard it jealously for its sustainability.
The maternity annex that is powered by a solar system, also has a water tank.
And handing over the facility after blessing it, Mongu Diocese Bishop Evans Chinyemba-Oblate of Mary Immaculate (OMI) said the idea of constructing the maternity annex was arrived at after the then Parish Priest Father Pat Cashin saw the need of having the facility in Nalwei.
Bishop Chinyemba said the Church is in support of government’s initiative to have a conducive environment where women safely give birth, hence donors and well-wishers thought of putting resources together for the annex to be constructed.
The Bishop has since thanked government for always being available to give guidance whenever it is needed, saying projects become successful when people work together.
A female local resident, Masozi Ndandula also thanked Government and the Catholic Church for coming to the aid of the women of Nalwei who used to travel long distances to access maternity services, adding that other mothers used to give birth at homes and under trees.
Also attending the ceremony were, Parish Priest for St Peter the Rock , Fr. Patrick Fumbelo, the Pastoral Coordinator , Fr. Peter Kashina, Fr. Wilfred Hodari and Religious sisters.