Brian Holmes and John Bermingham, confreres from the Dublin Province of the Redemptorists, relate their experiences of their first four months investigating a new joint mission by the Dublin Province and the Vice-Province of Fortaleza (Brazil).
“We left Ireland four months ago, in the beginning of August. Our mission was to investigate where we might realise the dream of the Dublin and Fortaleza (vice) Provinces to journey in solidarity with the people of Africa. Following up on the previous visits, we came to Mozambique and Malawi, where we found the Chichewa people, living mainly in Malawi, but also in Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. Not to forget the thousands of Chichewa speakers who over the years have migrated to South Africa to work in the mines and on the farms there.
After four months of visits to different dioceses, meeting with different bishops, priests, religious and the people of God, we can present two mission stations to our provincial governments for their consideration and eventual decision. In Mozambique, in the diocese of Tete, one of the most ravaged regions during the two wars – the struggle for independence from the Portuguese, and the civil war between the Frelimo and the Frenamo, – we were welcomed by the newly consecrated bishop, Dom Inacio, with open arms, and offered the care of a totally abandoned district of Macanga, (6999km2) around the town of Furancungo. Furancungo is high up the mountains, 1300m above sea-level, a land of endless mountains, tobacco plantations and of course the basic food, maize. If we take this mission it will be made into a parish with about 30 out-stations. The place has a buzz about it with lots of students, a bank, a little hospital and a people calling out for pastoral care. We visited this place five times and spent a week going around several of the rural communities. Everywhere we felt welcomed and heard prayers and invitations “to come and walk with us.”
Our second discovery is in the Diocese of Dedza, in Malawi, on the border with Mozambique. Here the bishop and his priests welcomed us and showed us Kanyama, a mission station 20km from the town of Dedza. It is a beautiful place, high on the plateau, 1500 m above sea-level, full of life, secondary and primary schools, a fine church, and a deep longing of the people to have pastors. Here they speak English, but again, most of the people use and understand only Chichewa. We felt that of all the places we were offered in Malawi this would be the best for us. It is the heart of the potato growing in Malawi, where potatoes are called, even in Chichewa “Irishe Potatoes …”
A second task we got was to find out where we could study the Chichewa language. Certainly for English speakers the place is Malawi. There it is an official language, and we found an excellent teacher in the person of Sister Josefa, who patiently, for seven weeks took us through the basics of the language. Sometimes we stayed at her house, in a little village in the bush, and more times, as she was called to teach more students, we stayed at Mua, a well known Chichewa cultural center in Malawi. There we stayed with Malawi sisters, who were delighted to start their day with Mass in Chichewa, and at meals and during the day, spoke the language to us patiently putting up with our limitations. We felt that the fact that they mind 180 deaf children and have to communicate with them in sign language helped them to cope with us. We were privileged to have been able to share their lives and mission.
This week we welcome Frs. Eridian and Moésio, from the Fortaleza Vice-Province. Together we will visit the two places which will help them in their discernment, together with the Dublin Province. Then on the 23rd of December, we head for Furancungo, where we will spend the Christmas Octave, till the New Year. So we want to thank you all for your support, prayers, messages, and thoughts. We are very happy to be here, and are doing our best to prepare well for this mission. We have been blessed and welcomed by so many different groups, Redemptorists in the South Mozambique, Young Africa in Beira, the Bishop in Tete, the Bishop in Dedza, the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Lilongwe, Sister Josefa in Mganja, the Servants of the BVM in Mua, the people of Furancungo and Kanyama. “Tús maith, leath na hoibre.” Lord it is good for us to be here…