|The Provincial ofPoland invites all the Oblates in the world|
to the Beatification of Fr Jozef Cebula
It was with great joythat we received the news that a Polish OblateFather Jozef Cebulawouldbe numbered in the ranks of martyrs of the faith. Together with 107 otherServants of God and martyrs of the faith he will be beatified June 131999 in Warsaw during John Paul II's apostolic visit to Poland. The Churchin Polandin celebrating these martyrswants to insist on the pastoraland spiritual character of the event. It in no way desires to reopen thewounds suffered during the Second World Warbut only wishes to recalland show that unconditional attachment to Jesus Christ was a very crediblestyle of lifeespecially in difficult times.
When closing the DiocesanProcessArchbishop Henryk Muszynski of Gniezno said: "We are ablefor the first time to have a global view of the Second World War. We seeit not only as a time of terrorhorrordestruction and deathbut also from another perspectivefrom above as a time of a heroicharvest of Loveof holiness and goodthat bore fruit even in the hellof violence and death."
We invite all the Oblatesin the world who so desire to take part in the joy of the beatificationof our confrere. The stay in Poland provides a good occasion to visitthe places connected with the life and ministry of the Servant of Godas well as some of the more outstanding monuments of art and culture ofour countrynot to mention some Oblate houses.
We have prepared the followingfour day program for those who might be interested (13 to 16 June): Massof Beatification in Warsaw. Visit of Poland's capital. Thanksgiving gatheringof Oblates at the convent in Markowicewhere Fr Cebula was Superiorthen novice masterand from where he was arrested and deported to theconcentration camp. Visit to the National Marian Shrine at CzestochowaSwiety Krzyz (present novitiate)Lubliniec (where Fr Cebula studied atthe minor seminary and was Superior and teacher for 14 years)Malni (hisbirthplace)Wroclaw (Oblate parish)Obra (Polish Province's scholasticate)and Poznan (Provincial house).
Interested parties are asked to make their reservationswith the Provincial of Polandbefore May 101999
Pawel Latusek OMI
ul. Ostatnia 14
60 - 102 Poznan
Tel. (48) 61 830 76 34 Fax:(48) 61 830 55 13In the Regions
FRANCE: Another look at prisons and inmates
During his years as Superior at Aix-en-ProvenceFr Henri Lecontewas a chaplain at the prison in Luynesa few kilometers from Aix. Thisprison is mostly for people who are awaiting trial. In the pastHenrihad worked in Paris as a nurse in medical centers that cared for cancerpatients. He has written a few pages called: "Another look at prisonsand inmates" which also appeared in Pôle et Tropiques.Here are a few excerpts.
"A hospital? One feels lost in one. But everyoneknows a bit about themeither for having been sickor through visitsto the sick. In hospitalone is uprootedcut off from one's living environmentdisoriented. The patient does not understand the vocabularythe repeatedtests. One feels tossed around. But there are visitorsand you can leaveyour room. But imagine what the disorientation in a prison can be like....
"When I was asked to become a chaplainI firstsaid no.... YetI don't regret having finally accepted. The first impressionsof courseare harsh and vivideven when you know that you will get outa few hours later.... Waiting and waiting at the automatic doors not just oncebut nine times before arriving at the cellboth goingin and coming out this takes patience. It is easy to understandthe impatience of those who want to get to the visiting room but mustwait... wait....
"What was most striking right from the first weeksand even more so as the prisoners gradually came to trust mewas theirdesire to talkto tell their story.... At times I found myself saying'But I can't do anything for you.' 'Truebut you have listenedto me. Herethey don't listen to us.' Another said: 'I have the impressionof screaming. But the longer I'm herethe more I feel that my cry isnot going far: beforeit used to reach the end of the corridornow itdoesn't even get out of my cell.'
"For somethis desert (the prison) will be a timeto 'find themselves'. Bit by bit they come to accept not only their situationbut the reality that brought them thereto accept their share of theresponsibility.... Forgiveness comes when they recognize themselves asthey are.... To ask for pardonis already a great act of dignityofdignity rediscovered.... You cannot lead to forgiveness someone who doesnot want it.... With time the truth of life gets the upper hand. (It islike with sick peoplethere is a time of denialthen revoltthen resignationand then acceptance.) Only then is it possible to ask for forgiveness.They already have so little freedom that if we take away their freedomto take the time to work through itI fear we will miss some importantsteps by going too fast. They have enough judges. One of themwhen askingif he could come to Mass said'I think it will help me to ask for forgiveness.'At MassI often speak about the need to recognize oneself as a sinnerin order to be forgiven....
"The prison is a place where people pray a lot.This is another important aspect that helps them to accept their life.My predecessor used to give every one who came to Mass at Christmas acalendar (the block kind with a Scripture quotation and commentary foreach day). The chaplains' team has continued thisand we have added alittle bookPraying in prison. It is a collection of prayers byprisoners. One prisoner asked to come to Mass saying'My cell mate gaveme your calendar. I read the sayings every day.... You can't imagine howmuch they work on me.'
"Another had me read what he wrote about the Mass.Here are some samples: 'The Massit's a movement of self-discoverythanksto an encounter and a relation with God.... Each Mass has a crucial powerhidden in its textits gesturesand its silencea human sinceritya religious strengtha great richness.... The Mass always helps you todiscover and go deeper into yourself...." And I thought he was superficial....
"God is constantly seeking that which is lost (cf.the sheepthe drachma)he misses the sinner whom he has lost.... Theresponsibility of running after "those people"is not onlythe duty of the chaplains' teambut must be shared by the whole church.As Genevièvea volunteer chaplain wroteaddressing herself toChristians: 'We need you. To sustain our hopeto encourage us. To keepreminding us of the shared conviction that is the basis for our goingto the prisonas it is the basis for our fidelity to Christ: we cannotresign ourselves to abandoning certain peopleof leaving them to theirdespair or their revoltto their craving for vengeance or their denialof what they have done: Where is your brother? I don't know.But we also need you to be able to invite you to rejoice: Rejoice withmebecause I have found itmy lost sheep...."
FRANCE:Blessed Joseph Gérard parish
The diocese of Nancy is where Blessed Joseph Gérardwas born. One of the characteristics of this dioceselike several othersin eastern Francewas the proliferation of tiny rural parishes. Sincethe Middle Agesalmost every village has had its churchand for centuriesa resident priest. Thusthe Vézelise deanery at the foot of Notre-Damede Sion had sixty or so parishes for about ten thousand inhabitants. Some"parishes" had less than 200and others even less than 100....For some years nowdue to the initiative of two successive bishopsthediocese has been implementing a plan of restructuring. In each phase severaldozen of these ancient parishes are regrouped to form a "new parish."
North-east of Nancythe "new parish of BlessedJoseph Gérard of Amezule" groups together sixteen of theseand has a total of just over 7000 people. (The Amezule is a small riverthat flows into the Moselle.) The "seat" of the parish is atBouxières-aux-Chênesthe village where Father Gérardwas born in 1831. For their parish festival daythey have chosen May29his feast day.
To announce these changesa Letter to the Christiansof Amezule has Father Gérard speak: "I am very happy to comeback homewithout however having to leave my dear Lesothothe smallAfrican country that adopted mewhich I brought to life in Jesus Christand where my body rests since 1914. You invite me to be the one who gathersyou together in the name of Jesus Christ.... I recall the day the Africanking Moshesh died. Though he was my friendI had not been able to baptizehim.... That dayI tell youI was very upset. I probably needed allthat suffering to realize that my friend did not belong to me. And soI come to you todayand I know that you do not belong to mebecausewe all belong to the Lord...."
Last May 24together with the Oblates mainlyFr Antoine Debs Bouxières celebrated the tenth anniversaryof Father Gérard's beatification.
URUGUAY: "The Gospelthe guitar and the four-wheel drive"
From Fr Pippo Mammana (San Gregorio de Polanco)in MissioniOMIOctober 1998: "We are in Gaucho countrythe cowboys ofSouth America. Our missionary day begins at ten to eightwhen we giveour itinerary in the mountain communities to the announcer of the SanGregorio radio. About 1 p.m. we put the Gospelssome hymnalsthe planfor the community gathering and the announcements into our four-wheeldrive. There is Sistermyselfand also the catechist.... The road isquite bumpy and the four-wheel drive is bounced around. When there areheavy rainsthe road is sometimes washed out and we have to turn back....
"We reach Cerro de Claraa village of 19 families.We go to greet Don Gil who lets us use his house for the gatherings andceremonies. It is four years now since the old and sick parish priestcould come to Cerro de Clara. There are many children to baptize. We beginby visiting the families: the houses are very poordirt floors and littlefurniture. Getting to know each other takes time. At first they are reservedthen as they begin to have trustthey start to talk....
"A week laterwe are still there. Now there isan air of festivity. The mistress of the house prepares a table outsidein the shadewith a small basin of waterand a towel to wipe the children'sheads. We brought the rest. But the men don't seem to want to join thecelebration. Shyness? They certainly seem to be protecting themselvessmilingalmost as if conspiring together. They are at a table in thebar drinking winein their cowboy clothes: bootshatknife at the sidein a leather caseembroidered vest. I go over to tell them that I willnot do the baptisms without them. I raise my voice so that they will hearmeand notice that they have much respect for the priest. Heads bowedthey approach the altar. Afterwardsthey came to shake my hand.
"We encourage the people to organize the communityin order to live their faith togetherto take responsibility for itto care for the most needyto pray for the needs of all. We will meetevery 15 days to reflect on the Gospel and to organize the various activities:the ceremoniesthe feaststhe catechesis. We end the gathering withsongs: zampasrancheraspopular songs...."
URUGUAY:Calling young people
"Everything began when reading a message in which thePope asked the priests not to wait for young people to come to thembutto know how to ask themhow to suggest great things like a missionarystyle of life or even the possibility of committing their own lives toothers through consecration." This is how the Oblates of the UruguayDelegationin spite of their small numbercame to ask Mimmo Di Meo andJorge Albergati to give priority to this field of activity.
After some reflection"it occured to us to senda letter to a few young peoplewho had the makings of being radicalinviting them to come join us in following the Master. Of the 13 to whomwe wroteeight answered in the affirmative. We met once a month throughouta whole year."
The first timethere was a little bit of fear in theairsince all felt that this was not the usual summer camp.... Step bystepthe fearsthe mistrustthe shyness gave way to the joy of beingtogetherto serviceto opennessto listening to the voice of God inthe little things of one's personal life and in the events of daily life.
It was the road to Emmaus. "The one showing theway was neither of usbut Him. The most eloquent sign was that despiteour differences and the distances and difficulties in meeting (we are300 km from each other) we found that we thought alikethat the Spiritwas working in each of us in the same way...."
The young people know that the road does not end there.Two of them feel that God may be asking something more of themmaybeconsecration. Others don't want to turn back. The experiment will continuenext year with some of them and some new ones.... "We are movingforward and we have entrusted each of them to Mary so that she may protectthem as she did her Son."
PHILIPPINES: Bishop George Dion dies
On February 12Bishop George Dion died in Cotabato Citywherehe had retired. He had been Vicar Apostolic of Jolo (Philippines) from1980 to 1991. With his death goes the last of the first seven Oblateswho arrived in the Philippines in 1939.
The future bishop was born in the United States in CentralFallsRhode Islandon September 251911 into a family of three children.His brother became a diocesan priesthis sister a religioushe himselfentered the Oblate novitiate at Hudson. After his first vows on April21931 he was sent to the scholasticate in Natick (philosophy) then toOttawa (theology). In 1937 he received an obedience for his Province oforiginSt-Jean-Baptiste of Lowell. Two years laterthe Superior Generalasked him to be part of the first group of Oblate missionaries in thePhilippinesled by the future Bishop Gerard Mongeau.
He spent the first 18 years in the Sulu Archipelagoin the southwestern part of the Philippines where he learned some of thelocal languages and came to be known as the "Apostle of the Moros."Without overlooking the few Catholicshe was concerned for every onebuilding schools and clinicsearning respect and friendship. Many ofthese islands had never been visited by a priest. To better carry outhis mission he bought a small steamship"war surplus"thathe christened "Our Lady of Fatima." Two booklets published in1996 relate his "Adventures in Missionary Life" including thedifficulties of the Japanese occupation.
In 1957"he who had never even gone close to aradio station nor even spoken on the radio" was called to CotabatoCity by Bishop Mongeau to set up one. With much hardshiphe built stationsone after the other in Cotabato CityKidapawan and finally in Jolo in1986seeing to it also that the people were able to get transistor radiosat a good price. "We can't underestimate the importance of this meansof communication. We see it as a vehicle to promote peace and orderandto back up all the "programs" in the Vicariate for human developmentand good relations between Christians and Muslims." From 1975 to1980 he was even director of Radio Veritas in Manila.
"The need for religion teachers in the public schools"of Cotabato led him to found the Oblates of Notre Dame in 1956togetherwith Bishop Mongeau. This Institutewhich received pontifical approvalas a Society of Apostolic Life in 1984has 171 Sisters living in 49 communities.They have also been working in Papua New Guinea for more than fifteenyears.
In February 1980the Holy Father appointed him VicarApostolic of Jolo to succeed Bishop Philip Smith who had been appointedCoadjutor of Cotabato the preceeding year. He was 68. He was to fulfilthis charge for almost twelve yearsuntil October 1991 then 80years old when his Vicar GeneralBenjamin de Jesus was appointedas his successor. Let us just quote from his first pastoral letter inMay 1981: "Christians and Muslims Brothers in God." (Cf.OMI Documentation#105Dec. 1981). "It is not easy to freeourselves from the prejudices that lie so deep due to our reprehensiblepastbut a change of attitude is our first priority. This has alreadybegun among many of usboth Muslims and Christians. It must be pursuedtirelessly. Human decency calls for giving on both sides...."
LAOS: The Bishops' first ad limina visit
The Bishops of Laos and Cambodiawho form one Episcopal Conferencemade their joint ad limina visit during the week of February 7 14. For the first time the three Bishops of Laosone of whom isJean Khamsé Vithavongwere allowed to leave their country togetherto come to Rome. Bishop Alessandro Staccioliformer Vicar Apostolic ofLuang Prabang (Laos) and "assistant at the Service for the promotionof the apostolate among the Laotians" also took part in this visit.
Bishop Vithavong56has been Vicar Apostolic of Vientianesince 1984. He is also Apostolic Administrator of the Vicariate of LuangPrabang. We quote from an interview he granted to the Fides Agency:"When the foreign missionaries left in 1975 the Church found shehad shrunk: she had no bishops and only a few priests. We wondered ifwe would be able to find a way to survive. Like the missionaries a centuryearlierthe few remaining priests organised visits to the communitiesdispersed throughout the countrycelebrating Christmas or Easter in eachcommunitydozens of times. This was also a time of purification. Before1975 we had many highly esteemed institutions; after that we had nothing.This situation taught us how to live a ministry of presence: the Masscatechismliving among the people. On the one hand it was an impoverishmentbut on the other an enrichment. For the people the scarcity of priestswas a challenge to assume responsibility. Of course they still need tobe led to greater maturity and understanding of the faith. When thereare no priestsno missionariesno institutionsno foodit becomesmore evident that people are converting for Christ and not for any secondaryinterest."
And for yourselfwhat has changedin recent years?
"More personal was the discovery of our vocation: to be saltand leaven. Not preaching about the salt and the leavenbut being saltand leaven ourselves. And still today as Laos opens up to globalisationthe only way to capture the attention of a disinterested youth is to livethis vocation: to testify that faith gives taste to life. To be a bishopdoes not mean to be a great administratora great fund raiserbut ratherto live together and share what we are and what we have with our neighbour."
Why do they become Christians?
"This is a question we also ask ourselves. Most are convertsfrom Animism. One of the reasons they leave Animism is because it is sosuperstitious and costly: if you fall sick you have to go the the shamanwho orders you to sacrifice animals or things. The remedy is costly! Itis also a question of psychological liberation: If you are an Animistwhen you hunt you have to respect a certain mountaina forestor a river.For exampleI know people whoalthough in need of bamboowould notcut good stocks growing near the tomb of an ancestor for fear of disturbinghis spirit. I explained to them that in our devotion tombs are kept tidyand the spirits are pleased by this. So they went and took the bamboothey needed."
"The step to leaving Animism and embracing faithin the Lord takes a little longer. Some see the priest as a shaman; someadore spirits and Jesus. Unfortunately we are too fewwithout enoughpersonnel to give in-depth preparation to the catechumens. I myself carefor dozens of families in several different villagesbut we are unableto see to all the villages."
"It should be said that in this trend of conversionswe see the trace of the Spiritthe most mysterious member of the Trinity.We are amazed at His action and work patiently bringing it to completion.Despite threats and pressure our converts and catechumens remain firmin their faith."
There are 35000 Catholics in the whole of Laosabout0.7% of the 5 million or so population. There are 3 bishops16 priestsand about hundred Sisters. All are Laotian. The Apostolic Vicariate ofVientiane has 4 priests for 12000 Catholics; Luang Prabang2 priestsfor 2500. Therefore for the whole of the two Vicariates (140700 sq kmpopulation 2300000) there are in all six priests plus the Bishop foreverything.
NATAL(South Africa) : Bishop Dominic Khumalo resigns
L'Osservatore Romano (March 3) announced that "theHoly Father has accepted the resignation of Bishop Dominic J. Khumalothe Auxiliary Bishop of Durban." Now 81 born January 51918 Bishop Khumalo has been Auxiliary of Durban since 1978first withBishop Denis Hurleyand later with Bishop Wilfrid F. Napier.
CHAD: "Being missionary in another way"
Fr Joseph Thévenet has completed a 33 minute video cassetteon the Oblate Brothers in Cameroon-Chad"using the technical resourcesof the Bongor Radio Video Service" in the diocese of Pala (Chad)."These Brothers heard the call of Africa where the Church was yetto be established. They offered themselves with joywithout looking back.They did not preachbut without them the Gospel would not have been proclaimed."These words from Bishop Yves Plumey present the cassette. PAL system.Bongor Radio Video ServiceB.P. 13BongorChad.
CHAD: "The economy of salvation"
Under the title "The Economy of Salvation"the January'99 number of Eglise de Pala shares some thoughts from Bishop Jean-ClaudeBouchard that might be of help well beyond the borders of his diocese.
"There is a topic I have been wanting to take upfor some time nowbut the occasion never presented itself: it is thequestion of management. Some will think that it is not a fitting topicfor the season. On the contrarythe celebration of the Incarnation remindsus that God had no such scruples. He wanted his Son to be born in ourflesh. "We knowsays Saint Hippolytusthat he became manof thesame clay as ourselves." All that is humanexcept evilhas nowbecome divine.
"In the Gospel Jesus was not afraid to speak ofmanagement. "Which of youdesiring to build a towerdoes notfirst sit down and count the costwhether he has enough to complete it?Otherwisewhen he has laid a foundationand is not able to finishallwho see it will begin to mock him...." We must take this textin its deep meaning of the need to reflect before an important enterprisein this case to follow Jesus. But we can also be inspired by its concretesense as an invitation to good management. "Count the cost to seeif you have enough to complete it" is an invitation to make a projectedestimate.
"We are all agreed that there can be no developmentwithout strict management. At the last meeting of Caritas-Africa in Mauritiusit was strongly emphasized that the lack of good management was a catastrophefor Africa... and for the Church. Here in the Diocese of Pala at the Belacd(Diocesan Bureau for Development) we ourselves have chosen self-promotionas a priority objective of our development projects. Can there be self-promotionif the people do not know how to manage by themselves and with more carethat which they produce and have? Can a Church function normally and growif its goods are mismanaged by its pastors as well as by responsible laypeople?
"If we are logical with ourselveswe must makemanagement a priority: in our communities of religious or priestsinour parishesin the institutions we care forlike the schools and clinicsin all of our efforts for development.... And this will not happen ifwe are not willing to pay the price....
"Without a doubt the first thing to do is changeour mentality. Management is not rated highly in the mind of many. Whatis this due to? Probably to the lack of personal ability or even to incompetencebut there are certainly other reasons. Michel Dupouya well known expertin the fieldoften speaks of intellectual laziness. But mightwe not go further and ask if possibly we in the Church and in religiouslife are not too used to living without concern for material things? Ormight there not be on the part of some in the name of poverty! a leftover of a kind of contempt for money and anything relatedto itthat supposedly comes from the Gospel."
In a meeting of the Bishops and Major Superiors of Chad"it was pointed out that anything regarding material goodsadministrationor finances interested but a few people and institutions. They profitfrom the servicesand are even demandingbut they don't want to getinvolved in this domain. "I didn't come to Chad for that" or"That is not our charism" are phrases that we hear. Maybe sobut if it is an indispensable condition for being effective in our work?Who is going to do itsince it is a need felt by all?
For examplein the schools. What is the sense of teachingthe children to count if we don't show them what it's for? What stopsus from giving some kind of initiation to management in primary school:how to manage a budget? The harvest? How to foresee one's needs and theway to meet them? Is not the recent famine in many places a good incentiveto start?"* * * * *