Fr. Stanislaw OLLER writes about his “small mission”…
Volobe is a small mission located 55 km from Tamatave, toward the southwest. The name of this village in the local language means “Big Bamboo.” In the area of Volobe, we have 55 Christian communities spread over four municipalities, with about 4,000 faithful. The farthest community is about 90 km away. To visit these 55 Christian communities, one must walk over the mountains because there are no roads. The trek can last between three and four weeks to go to the farthest village, all the while visiting the communities along the way.
Since the month of December 2016, Father Elysé RATOLOJANAHARY has been working with me, a young Malagasy Oblate who finished his study of theology in Cameroon. It is a blessing for me and for my Christians to have him with us at Volobe.
In a word, I would like to say that I love Volobe and the mission I have been given to carry out, in spite of the fact that last year, I had to put up with some unpleasant surprises, such as the theft of the bells from our church. Unfortunately, that affair ended up in court.
But we had to recover our morale quickly, because, in the mission itself, we were busy with the preparations for the big regional gathering of youth, a small World Youth Day, before Palm Sunday. During that gathering, more than 2,000 youth came, in spite of the nasty weather conditions. This bad weather only strengthened and toughened the spirit of the youth who were there.
Fr. Gilbert RASAMIMANANA, who is in charge of formation at our scholasticate in Finarantsoa, came to preach a retreat of three days for us. Regardless of the rain, the youth listened closely to his teaching and prayed with fervor.
Another special event last year was the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the church in Horifatra. When I write “church,” I mean the Christian community. When the Malagasy say “church,” they always think first of all of the Christian community; then they think of the other meaning, the church as a house of prayer. There are many things which the people here see differently than the people of Europe. Here is an example: Europeans will ask, “Do you believe in God.” The Malagasy ask: “Do you pray?” And that is something very concrete because, “What is faith without prayer?”
I will also mention the assembly of the Eucharistic Crusade for children. There were about 600 children and their parents. For the children who arrive from the far off savanna, it is always an excellent sojourn and the possibility to see another world.
This year (2017), we will celebrate the feast of “Corpus Christi” with our archbishop. In our mission, this feast of “Corpus Christi” is always tied to the feast of the harvest or gathering, because it is at this time that they finish gathering the rice. This feast will last for three days.
Friday – the day of Divine Mercy, with the Mass of the Divine Mercy, the Way of the Cross on the grounds of the plantations and the fields, confessions and an all-night vigil.
Saturday – the day of Our Lady. The “mothers of the rosary” will lead a whole day of prayer. There will be catechism and Bible contests for different age groups, followed by the Mass of the Immaculate Conception.
Sunday – Corpus Christi. Solemn Mass and procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the fields and villages. A ceremony for bestowing contest prizes and the sale of agricultural products, the traditional way of making offerings.
I have written a lot of the details about this feast because in many diocesed of Madagascar, it is somewhat forgotten. It is a manifestation of the faith in the streets of the cities and on the country roads. So there you have some news about our mission in Volobe.