Relacja ks. Josepha Roescha MIC
In 1984, Fr. Eugeniusz Delikat, the Provincial at that time of the Divine Providence Province, sent Frs. Franciszek Filipiec, Zdisław Żywica and Tadeusz Wyszomierski to Rwanda. On the 25th Anniversary of that historic event in the history of our Congregation, a festive Jubilee was celebrated in Rwanda. Joining the Marians serving in Rwanda were: Fr. Filipiec, who is currently serving in Cameroon, Fr. Wyszomierski who came from Great Britain and Fr. Delikat who made the trip from Poland. In addition, Fr. General, Fr. Ryszard Górowski and Fr. Joe Roesch came from Rome. Poland was well represented by Fr. Provincial, Paul Naumowicz, as well as Frs. Wiktor Gumienny, Zbigniew Krochmal, Piotr Marchewka, Mrs. Ewa Lodkowska and Krzystof Bierzyński. Coming from the United States was Fr. Ireneusz Chodakowski representing St. Peter’s Parish in Kenosha, Wisconsin which has greatly aided the Rwandan Mission, and Br. Andrew Maczyński.
The Jubilee Celebrations took place from September 10-22, 2009. After arriving in Kigali and spending the night at a Foyer de Charite House, the group had an audience with the Apostolic Nuncio to Rwanda, Most Rev. Ivo Scapolo. Current problems and challenges facing the Church in Rwanda in the context of foreign missionaries was discussed. Fr. General thanked the Nuncio, on behalf of the Congregation for the help offered to our Missionaries during the Genocide by the Apostolic Nuncio at that time. We then drove by mini bus 3 hours south to the Cana Formation Center in Kibeho. The way varied from an asphalt road to a bumpy dirt road for the last hour of the trip. The Center currently consists of a small Marian residence, a well to supply water, a retreat house with 14 single rooms, a 150 seat chapel of the Mother of the Word, an 18 foot (5.5 meter) statue of the Divine Mercy, and 3 Conference Halls – 1 large and two small. Electricity is supplied on an as needed basis by a generator. (Dormitory apartments are being built for another 20 persons). Plans are in place to expand the retreat house and to build an evangelization and media center. The Center is about a mile (2 km.) from the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho which is administered by the Pallotines. In Kibeho, the Marians have also been able to build a new local public school for the many poor children of the area in honor of Blessed Stanislaus. Fr. Leszek Czeluśniak, Superior of the Mission in Rwanda and Delegate of the Superior General for Rwanda and Br. Łukasz Latawiec currently work here. Fr. Bogusław Gil is in Rome for two years to study Mariology.
The days in Kibeho featured testimonies from the original mission team and the inspirator of the Rwandan Mission. Fr. Delikat praised the character of the men that had been picked to start the mission as well as those who followed. He shared how a visit to South Africa many years before to see his brother and to recuperate from an accident had begun a path of spiritual searching for the will of the Lord, which ultimately led to the Marians coming to serve in Africa. Conferences on the mission and the Marian’s work in Africa were given by Frs. Filipiec and Czeluśniak. Fr. General offered his reflections at the start of the Jubilee celebrations. The participants also heard from Fr. Naumowicz on the Immaculate Conception and from Fr. Andrew Jakacki, SAC on the revelations in Kibeho. Nathalie Mukamazimpaka, one of the visionaries from Kibeho also gave her testimony. On the second anniversary of the beatification of our Founder, Fr. Naumowicz preached the homily at the Mass and presented the African missionaries with a copy of the bull of the beatification, a stole which had been specially made for the beatification ceremonies, and a beatification medal of Fr. Founder.
The highlight of the Jubilee Celebrations in Kibeho was a concelebrated Mass at the Shrine on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Most Rev. Augustine Misago, the Ordinary of the Gikongoro Diocese was the main celebrant. Concelebrating was the Apostolic Nuncio, as well as the Marians and many other religious and Diocesan priests. Both the Ordinary and the Nuncio thanked the Marians during the Mass for their work in Rwanda. After Communion, the Marians came before the altar and prayed a prayer of Consecration to the Divine Mercy through the Mother of the Word Commemorating 25 Years of Mission Work in Africa. After Mass, there was a festive lunch at Cana followed by a brief theatrical presentation in French (interspersed with a few Polish words) by the young Marians on the life of Fr. Founder. (There are currently 4 Marian seminarians studying philosophy in Kabgayi, Rwanda, 3 seminarians studying theology in Yaonde, Cameroon, 5 novices and 7 postulants. They come from Rwanda, Cameroon and the Congo.) The Mayor of Kibeho then spoke very favorably of the Marians especially regarding development in the region. While in Kibeho, there were also opportunities to visit a hospital for the blind run by Polish Franciscan Sisters, to visit with the Pallotine priests and sisters, to pray in the Parish Church in Kibeho where 5000 were killed during the Genocide, to view films on our work in Cameroon, on the apparitions in Kibeho and to have a lively discussion on Marian formation in Africa. Kibeho is become quite a well known place both in Rwanda and abroad.
On Thursday, September 17th, the group left Kibeho to drove north through Butare, where we visited a Museum on Rwandan history and culture, to Kigali. On Friday, we visited the Akagera National Park to see some wild animals. On Saturday, the 19th, we arrived to the northern part of the country in Nyakinama in the Diocese of Ruhengheri. Our Parish of Christ the King ministers to 15,000 souls. It is served by the pastor, Fr. Ryszard Kusy and by the parochial vicar, Fr. Gregorz Leszczyk, who also serves as the Vocation Director for the Mission. Here 2500 poor children in the parish are fed daily thanks to a Polish Foundation. The Formation House is located here which is staffed by the Novice Master, Fr. Marek Ciebień and by the Postulant Director, Fr. Andrzej Tokarczyk. Fr. General and Fr. Roesch conducted the canonical visitation during these days in Rwanda. The rest of the group stayed at the Foyer de Charite House where Fr. Żywica has served for 13 years as the spiritual father to the local community there. This beautiful center, set on a hill, has magnificent views of 5 volcanoes and a number of lakes. Fr. Żywica is also the spiritual father and confessor for our novices and postulants. He has agreed to be a member of the Marian Formation Commission and to accept the responsibility for helping in the formation of our Marian formators world-wide. He also stated during the Visitation that he is open and available to do the will of his superiors.
On Sunday, September 19th, the Jubilee was celebrated in the parish at a concelebrated Mass with His Excellency Kizito Bahujimihigo, the Administrator of the Diocese. A number of religious and Diocesan priests concelebrated along with the Marians. Many religious sisters were also in attendance along with a completely full Church. Mass was followed by a Jubilee Dance presentation for the guests and the parish. Before lunch, a formal presentation of symbolic gifts to the guests by the dancers to the accompaniment of African drums took place. At the festive lunch, the Local Councilor – a representative of the Local Government made some brief remarks speaking very favorably of the local Marian Community.
On Monday, September 20th,we celebrated Mass at a beautiful Lake area, Gisenyi/Kigufi. In his homily, by Fr. Ryszard Górowski gave a powerful testimony on his experience during the Genocide. He was visiting the spot for the first time in 15 years since he and Fr. Tokarczyk had experienced the trauma of those events. It was extremely moving for all who participated in the Mass that day. Lunch followed at the Benedictine Sisters’ Retreat Center there. A discussion on the Marian mission work and ways of supporting it by Fr. Górowski and Br. Andrew Maczyński was held after lunch. In the evening, Fr. General, Fr. Roesch, Fr. Żywica and Fr. Naumowicz met in Remera at the Foyer de Charite Center to discuss formation matters. All of the members of the group had an opportunity to tour the Formation house and to meet with the young Marians in formation.
The people of Rwanda speak Kinyarwanda and French. They now have to learn English by government mandate. This will present particular challenges for all of our Marians in Rwanda and for all in formation there.
All of the participants were moved by the trip and the many graces received. We prayed the breviary and Marian prayers daily in chapel with our young seminarians who chant beautifully in French. I came away from the visit incredibly edified by the hard work our men are doing there under difficult conditions. It is a blessing to see that God is sending us young African vocations. It was an unforgettable journey to a breathtakingly beautiful country which continues to stand in need of God’s mercy.
Fr. Joseph G. Roesch, MIC
Second General Councilor