It seems to me that I have arrived in Sierra Leone only yesterday, and instead already 38 years have passed. They have flown. I remember that 38 years ago in my town, near Mantua, when I set off for the first time, people praised me: "How good you are! You are going to bring the Lord to Africa, you are going to help the poor and the sick, to promote social development... "
The establishment of Mongo Parish almost 4 years ago was a brave project of evangelisation in a quite large area of mostly Koranko tribe. Compared to other places like Limba tribe area, the few numbers of Catholic members in the parish after a long presence of missionaries in the area shows that Koranko people are not easy to be converted, especially from Islam religion. Even after some years as a Parish, there is no significant increase of number. Culturally and religiously, Mongo people seem to be influenced very much with Islam. This background seems to be the reason why people of Mongo are not easy to embrace Christianity. In this kind of situation, missionaries can be doubtful, questioning whether it is worthy enough spending time and energy for evangelisation in this place.
The Holy Father Pope Francis is inviting the consecrated people of today to be joyous and exultant of the experienced of the consolation of God – the comfort, tenderness, being loved, encouragement and bears witness to His mercy through love and deeds into the various cultures and locations of people in this world (Pope`s Letter Rejoice).
“No need to recall the past… See, I am doing a new deed…” (Is. 43,18) What I write here refers to a period of about two years I spent in Guinea with the refugees of Sierra Leone. There I lived an extraordinary experience, a human as well as a faith experience, that left a deep mark in me. Since then I never stopped thanking the Lord for it.
"Like a dear that yearns for running streams so my soul is longing for you my Lord”
On 30th March 2015 we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the birth of St.Guido Maria Conforti. That day we realised how much St. Conforti did and is still doing also in Sierra Leone, through the Xaverians and so many friends that in one way or another cooperate with them, without forgetting the many years the Missionary Sisters of Mary worked in this Country.
“You will be a gift to the ‘young church’ of the Diocese of Makeni in Sierra Leone”. These were the words uttered by one of the well-wishers during my sending-off party before leaving Philippines for Sierra Leone. As I’m writing this article, these words re-echo in my mind, strengthening my conviction that Religious are truly a blessing/gift to the community. By blessing/grace I mean, in this context, God’s loving presence to us. With this article I’d like to share how I look at my presence and my life of consecrated man: I consider myself a gift to the Christian communities and to the Xaverian communities of Sierra Leone.
No, I did not want to become a convent friar when I left my seminary of Cremona for the Xaverian novitiate. I just wanted to be a missionary, that is to go for the sake of Christ wherever poor souls were abandoned to hell destiny, so that I could save them. This was the mission in those days, and, if the words must be different today, the purpose of mission is not that far away from the past!
I am Fr. Louis BIRABALUGE, born in DRCongo (archdiocese of Bukavu). I studied in a secondary school run by religious, the Fathers Barnabites. I spent six years of secondary school in their boarding house. My wish to become a religious and missionary began there. I was impressed by the kindness and the zeal of those priests in their pastoral work. They really dedicated themselves to give us a deep and solid religious and human education.