Mission Diary. DR Congo. Singing in the Rain

Despite the suffering, people see the church as a place of hope. Sr. Hakima Hanna Sefein Ecladios, a Comboni missionary, talks to us about her experience.

Among the many experiences I have had in recent years in Butembo, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the most interesting was seeing how the local Church is becoming increasingly missionary. The bishop of our diocese, Msgr. Melchizedek Sikuli Paluku has established a diocesan missionary animation commission and wants each parish to establish a parish commission to work in this specific pastoral area.

The diocesan commission meets once a month and the delegates from the various parishes transmit to their communities what is discussed there, as well as organizing activities at a local level. Our community of Comboni Sisters was asked to visit all the parishes of the diocese to raise missionary awareness and inspire missionary vocations.

The other day, we were in the village of Kipese, 3,000 meters above sea level, up in the mountains. It is a large village with many people, but very far from the centre of the diocese which is located in the city of Butembo. Reaching these places is very difficult and when it rains, it is literally impossible because there are no roads and the paths become muddy.

After a very warm welcome, we gathered people to explain to them the idea of the bishop and the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), and to get them to abandon the false idea that the PMS is exclusively dedicated to raising funds. People were very interested and wanted to be more involved as a parish.

While holding the meeting in an open, unwalled space, we were caught in a heavy downpour that soaked us from head to toe. Without making a fuss, the young people started singing, shouting and dancing in the rain. It was a sight to see so much joy in that downpour. All this surprised me and made me think about the simple faith of our people.

Despite the situation we have been experiencing for years, with continuous murders and many injustices, people are so generous that they disarm you and they give themselves to the Church with an open heart. I understood that for them the Church is the place where all suffering and worries are transformed into hope. I cannot describe what went through my mind and heart when I saw that festive sight amidst the ongoing violence in the area. If we have difficulties in our lives, we can be tempted to withdraw into ourselves and give up. However, these people, many of whom have lost brothers, sisters, and other family members, are transformed when they go to church.

The parish becomes the centre of their life for them. It’s a very beautiful thing. I clearly understood that amid so much pain and suffering, the house of God is always our hope. This missionary animation work, which helps them reflect on the life of faith, takes place in basic ecclesial communities.

It’s not about leaving the kids at home alone and spending all day in church praying. We try to find a balance because we need both spiritual and material care. In the meetings, we also dedicate a day to spending time with the children.

Through songs, dances and reflections, we help them discuss topics such as solidarity, commitment and respect for the elderly. It’s interesting to see how they grasp the message and discover what needs to change in their lives. We know how important it is to work with children because without education we will never have a just and peaceful society. The meetings always end before sunset because there is a lot of insecurity in the area and people have to return home before dark.

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