Letter of the Superior - African District 2017/03
Having traveled to a good number of our African and works in the southern islands, I am astonished at the work already accomplished.
Dear faithful and dear friends of Africa,
We look forward to contacting you through this district newsletter. Although we have already met and greeted many faithful through the visits to the priories and chapels of the Society, certainly too briefly, there are still many faces and unknown names. But that does not possible to know everyone in a few months, as you very well imagine. So I would like to write a few lines which may permit to share some aspects of the life of the Tradition, and allow us to make first contact.
Having traveled to a good number of our African and works in the southern islands, I am astonished at the work already accomplished. What a force of energy to answer the demands of Catholics who are distraught by the crisis and to start foundations in order to continue the missionary work as always practiced. In foreign countries, with scarcely any contacts, where the basics of life are somewhat complicated, nonetheless priories, schools, chapels or churches have been built. This may leave them somewhat embarrassed, but I must tip my hat to all those confreres who have worked under the gaze of the Good Master in the African continent.
If in Switzerland everything is not in order, we are quick to complain. Here on the contrary, one learns to grumble interiorly, because to show a discontent does not solve anything, on the contrary! The bureaucracy is demanding and a good part of the priests' time is lost. “TIA” one says here: this is Africa! Here the history is filled with so many similar stories: we think of buying land, except that it is not the owner who sells but someone who has found a good way to cheat. Or, again, we buy from the legal owner, but it must pass through the acceptance of the family, which of course has different requirements... This is the daily bread of the missionary. For buildings, it's the same. We can make the best arrangements possible, but here we go, the business is subcontracted with others and the latter will be underpaid, and so the work does not progress. As one is a Christian, one must always try to say alleluia, but it is not always easy.
Yes, it is for all these reasons and for many others that I praise heartily the work accomplished by my predecessors. With magnificent generosity and trust in God, they went ahead and built for the kingdom of God. Like St Paul, they underwent the painful journeys without number; With the dangers of mosquitoes and diseases; Their intestines scarcely rejoice in participating in the local delights, the terrible heats which fall; The beginnings without money and collections during their rest in the West; Rarely accepted by local pastors and placed in the ranks of sects, they have retained the pride of the Catholic priest; They have lost brothers and faithful; They preached under the burning sheet for less than ten souls; Then all those languages and dialects which never allow one to be well understood, and the one who has learned them finds himself moved into a new world; So many disappointed hopes, so many abortive initiatives ... yes, all that, and they remain there at the foot of the work. They do not want to be praised because their lives are built on a faith that looks at the first Man who was Poor. Nor does he appear to have succeeded. He preached to thousands, and only three women and one man stayed down the road! Without this confidence in God all this is impossible, but even with this, it remains difficult.
I would be unjust if I did not mention certain faithful, who are courageous supporters and devotees to their priests. Those who give what they can, when they do not have much! They want to be Catholics like the elders who tell them about the fathers before! I am thinking of a father who is living in real poverty but who has taken a week off to attend the offices of the priest passing through. He knows that his soul has only these short moments to be nourished. He knows that these children do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. And how many others... I imagine how much the priests could speak endlessly on magnificent examples which also allowed them to draw an extra courage and zeal to carry on with their hard task.
All these fine observations do not prevent the superior to analyze the situation, in order to try to improve certain aspects or to correct certain imperfections. For we are not in the land of Eden where everything is perfect. It therefore takes time and reflection but also to talk with the priests and the faithful. And I must admit that it is a wealth of information that has flown into my little slow brain! There is therefore a work of putting ideas in order, reflections on the perspectives and of different projects, always with the low proportion of priests for the whole of of the apostolate. I will so come back to you to take stock and also give a vision of the way we will try to go.
So for these years in which we must work together for the good of the district, allow me to ask your good prayers so that the Holy Spirit deigns to place every decision under the sign of the virtue of prudence. For it is He alone who can allow a thing not merely to be made, but especially to endure. And for someone who has to lead anything nothing is more important than it should last!
May the good Mother we will venerate this year in Fatima grant you to continue to be strong in faith and filled with charity for one another.
Fr. Henry Wuilloud, 7 March 2017