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Monday, October 20, 2014

Missionaries spread over 720 km ... and beyond!

Missionaries spread over 720 km ... and beyond!

Today is the World Mission Sunday. The Church celebrates this fundamental dimension and mission of all Christians which is to proclaim the Good News to all Nations!

It is true that every Christian, moved by the beauty and joy of his/her own Baptism, is sent to bring the good news of a New Life in Jesus. But some among the people of God carry on this mandate in a special way: these are the missionaries!

It’s a bit like soldier.  All serve the homeland ... but some do it in the front line. And if they risk a little more, they feel also a bit' more proud!

Just this week I could realize one of my usual pastoral journeys: Bozoum - Bossemptele - Baoro - Bouar - Bocaranga - Ngaundaye - Ndim - Bozoum (720 km). In doing this I could enjoy, once again, the beauty of the gospel and the joy of the Missionaries.

Wednesday, October 15 I leave early morning. I meet in Bossemptele the Carmelite Sisters and Camilliani Fathers, all of them very busy in serving the Hospital Jean Paul II, which is the only decent one within 200 km ...

In Baoro I meet Fr. Renato, Fr. Dieudonné and Fr.Lionello. They were celebrating St. Teresa of Avila which has been a great missionary herself in spirit and heart!

I reached Bouar after seeing passing by our confreres living at St. Elias (where we have the Novitiate, with 6 Central African novices and one Cameroonian). Then I travel to Yolé, where we give a warm welcome to 8 young boys at their last year of the High School. They are preparing themselves to enter the Carmel.

This is Mission too: prepare and rooting the Church in this Country, with the young Central Africans.

My visit to Bouar is saddened, however, by a very bad news: Sunday, October 12 a dozen gunmen attacked the Mission Baboua (50 km from the border with Cameroon) and have kidnapped the priest, Fr. Mathieu (Mateusz Dziedzic) a young Polish priest. The kidnappers took him in the bush. It’s now a week that he’s kept there. With him other hostages are in the hands of the bandits for almost a month now.  The gunmen are demanding the release of their leader, a certain Miskine, detained in prison in Yaounde, Cameroon, because of the crimes committed in Cameroon and the Central Africa.

On Friday I drive on what should be a normal road. I’m directed toward the North. Instead of a normal road I found mud, grass, holes ... but I could go on anyway. In the evening I arrive in Ngaundaye, where I find the Capuchins Friars (Italian and Polish) and the Sisters. Among them there is Renata Dutto, from Vinadio, a village near mine. She is here since 1967 ... And despite the difficulties, her health problems and more, she continues in hope sowing the good seed!

On Saturday morning, after meeting the hard working Parish Caritas, a blessed reality that helps the poor of the parish and anyone who is in trouble, I go to Ndim. Here I find Fr. Robert, a Capuchin Friar. With him I discuss how to help people to repair a long ago abandoned road, and how to distribute PAM food. In Ndim I could meet also the beautiful Community of the Sisters of Mercy of Savona: Congolese, Rwandans, Cameronians: all of them very active in schools, dispensary, and kindergarten. It's nice to see how the Mission reaches everybody.

In the afternoon I go to Bocaranga, where I have a coffee with Fr. Robert, a Capuchin from Poland. Fr. Valentino and Fr. Cipriano, in Central Africa since 1962 and 1960, they live here too.

Finally around 18:30 I’m back in Bozoum, without being stuck in the muddy roads, enriched instead by the many testimonies shared by happy missionaries.

Un convoglio dell'ONU
un convoi des Nations Unies

Bouar: le strade diventano fiumi
Une route de Bouar, transformée en rivière

il Convento di Sant'Elia a Bouar
Notre couvent de Saint Elie à Bouar

è la strada... spero!
C'est la route, j'espère!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Five times a centenary and yet still young!

Five times a centenary and yet still young!
It’s not my 500 years birthday but St Teresa of Avila’s, the foundress of the Discalced Carmelites!
The whole world will soon celebrate the five hundred years anniversary of her birth (1515). A great woman, her heart and love belonged to God and to His Church. A woman for God, she was able to inspire and guide a multitude of people in the gift of self-discovery and in prayer.
She lived in an age of exploration (discovery of America) as well as political, social and religious turmoil. Confronted with the problems of her time, Teresa, instead of complaining or giving advises, decided to change herself and in doing so she became a Saint and a Doctor of the Church,
 Here in Bozoum, beside the Parish Church, there are 3 Chapels. The most beautiful is dedicated to St Teresa and it is here that we celebrate the fifth centenary of her birth. Everybody is busy and involved the altar boys, the dancers and the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites.
Today I succeeded to have Robert brought to Mass. A man paralyzed for years due to a bad fall, he is a simple person full of joy despite his many difficulties.
We celebrate with so much joy but also with some worries. Few weeks ago, in this same neighborhood, we had some persons accused of witchcraft, few risked their life and one had one ear cut off. Also the whole country is unsettled. It’s since few days ago that in Bangui the fighting had started again and the fear is that it could expand.
Teresa once said “The world is on fire!” It’s true!  May she teach us to take responsibility for it, may she teach us to be faithful in our prayer and work!


Alcuni dei terziari carmelitani
Quelques uns des membres du Tiers Ordre des carmes

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

From September to October

From September to October
Sunday, September 28th, we celebrated St. Michael, the patron saint of our parish! On Saturday we have had a short procession, followed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the day after we had our Sunday Mass, presided over by Fr.Dieudonné, who came from Baoro.
On Wednesday morning a large congregation met at the church: over a thousand children, pupils of our schools, from nursery to high school. Awesome participation in the songs and dances, but we gave ourselves also time for silence and prayer. In the Mass we prayed for teachers, students, benefactors, and also for Muslim pupils who have left for Bozoum and never came back ...
During these days were with us Fr. Pavel and Ludmila Böhmová, member of Siriri Association. With them, we visited some of the constructions made ​​with their support: the city's schools, the Centre for orphans, well, etc..
Speaking of visits, Wednesday and Thursday we welcomed a large delegation of the United Nations, with the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (Claire Bourgeois), and people of UNICEF, OCHA, UNHCR, WFP and so on. All these Meetings and visits encourage us in the work of reconstruction. On Friday came the Minister of Social Affairs (Eugénie Yarafa), with whom we went to visit the various sites of NGOs, schools (open and functioning). We had also time for a meeting with the Committee of Wise Men, trying to find a concrete answer to the various problems and tensions present in the city because of the absence of any Authorithies. Before leaving we could spend time greeting the Center for Orphans “Arc en Ciel”, that welcome more than 220 orphans every day.
And now at work during this month of October already began, the Missionary Month. Good job!

primi giorni di scuola: non sa bene se piangere o sorridere...
les premiers jours d'école: on ne sait pas trop si sourire ou pleurer...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

New Year

New Year
It's not the 1st of January, however many activities begin in September
Las Sunday, the 21St we had abig celebration for the Pastoral Year. All groups wearing their uniforms or their colorful scarves. There was singing and dancing just for the occasion, two offerings (one especially for the poors). I must say I was really impressed. These people aren't rich at all, nevertheless everyone one brought gifts, food and money for the less fortunate!
Also school began here in Bozoum, on Wednesday the 24th. Hundreds of kids are back for their studies. Our schools here are from pre-school to Secondary school and now host more than 1100 kids.  The good thing is also public schools are slowly reopening too, and this is really exceptional, as schools here usually reopen mid November early December. Thanks to our training and support (UNICEF and Czech Republic funding), teachers are back at work accepting this new challenge of an early start.
Maybe it's only one thing but it's very important that kids go to school so we can begin a normal life again.
Throughout this week we've kept busy preparing everything for our Patron's day, Saint Michael.

Confessions, doctrine and Mass: all is ready to celebrate our Lord protecting our community and city during such a trying year!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

I am, still alive

Here I am, still alive

I must thank Baby Jesus, Father Enrico for insisting that I'd leave Bozoum, Father Federico who miraculously found me an helicopter ride and the French military corps who brought me to bangui and took great care of me in their hospital, at the emergency room
Since last Monday, the 25th I fell ill with malaria. So I began treatment and it seemed not too bad, then it got worse, presenting vomit and blood traces in urine. By wednesday it was really bad so the doctor came by the following day, gave me an I.V. but things didn't improve at all.
Father Enrico looked for a plane but there were none. So Father Federico who is in Bouar contacted the French militaries who were ok to bring me to the capital with their helicopter. They left from Bossangoa at 4.30 pm, landed 45 minutes later in Bozoum and picked me up. The flight was really something, it feels like being on a truck on a dirt patch. Lots of noise and vibrations, however the nurses managed to give me more I.V.s 
In one hour and a half we were in Bangui, the military hospital is basically on the army base's runway. A French Colonel responsible for the Medical Team came by and spoke italian to me. His name was Lanteri, born in Briga, a border village. In the following day he kept an eye on me and we eventually ended up conversing in Piemontese.
The French have a great hospital camp, really well organised, with emergency room, O.R and stuff. They immediately took care of me, under observation. The first days I was really sick, low blood pressure and loss of blood. They attended me well, very professionally and with humanity. I couldn't eat (first time I managed to was on Tuesday) and only the following Monday I managed to stand up for few moments. I left the hospital on Wednesday and now I'm here at the Centre d'Accueil resting. I read, pray and get things in order.
Big thanks to everybodu for they good feelings, and for the prayers! The first days, when I was really sick and I was conked out (worse than usual!) I often saw or at least I think that's what happened - several people around me. Friends, acquaintances, people praying and being there for me.
So thank you all!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

In Between showers....

In Between showers....

On Friday the 15th we celebrated the Assumption Day, and we went for the traditional march to Doussa, 5 km from here and did Mass. Loads of people came on foot, time got better even if it had rained all night. We prayed for our parish and for our country, always on the ragged edge. We also prayed for the whole world, nowadays so threatened by wars folly. The following day a bad accident happened. In Bombalou, 45 km from Bangui, they stopped a car of a Ong working here for reconstruction. Thugs were Antibalakas, threatened to kill the Muslim driver, thankfully they were satisfied by just taking their money (150 euros) I wasn't sure what to do, nevertheless I went there on Sunday afternoon. It took more than an hour, even for 45 km. once I got there I met some head-villages and some people. Then I was determined to send my message across, make them understand there must be consequences, such an attack could put a stop to all attempt of reconstruction and send all ONGs away. Their reaction was good, they thanked me and told me they would have a meeting with those men the next a day. Some were actually present and told me they felt the right to assault the car as the Muslim driver helped on the defense for Muslim community. So I took that opportunity to think things over, to try and start fresh and build for a new life of peace and coexisting based on respect and forgiveness. As I was leaving I invited them to show their repentance with a  tangible gesture. Either surrender their weapons or give back the money. Few days later three men came in Bozoum and brought me some letters and half the stolen money. It was a good gesture. Hopefully this will show and help people to stop with violence and threats.  These days boring works for wells continue. So far they did 5 wells in Bozoum, 3 in Baoro and one in Bangui. Thanks to SIRIRI for the Bozoum school and thanks to mrs Angela for the others!!! Here is the link to a small video with people dancing in Marsaka for they were so happy about their new well.
Also we have novices here visiting with their teacher Father Voytech. Three are from Cameroon, one from Car. In few weeks they will go back to their first Profession, consecrating themselves to The Lord in the Carmel community.
Thanks to the help of some volunteers here  (Eleonora from San Possidonio, Marta and Alessandra form Savona) some kids are learning some skills. Shoemaking, leather tanning, and other crafts.

These are also steps towards the future.....

Pestando le corteccie per conciare le pelli
en écrasant l'éorce de certains arbres pour traiter des peaux, pour faire les chaussures