Indeed, we were not prepared for what awaited us in Africa! Of course, we made an honest attempt to leave behind and to shed all our prejudices, images, hearsays, opinions about Africa as much as possible and to go there with an open mind. But we were pleasantly surprised and taken aback! It was indeed a great joy and privilege for me and to Fr. Provincial, to accompany our first missionaries, Fr. S. Soosai Raj and Bro. Winner, to our long-awaited African Mission immediately after Christmas. We embarked on our Journey on 28th December 2017 and reached safely on the same day in the evening around 5.45 at Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. We were received warmly by Fr. Robert Soosai Raj, the outgoing provincial Bursar of the East African Province and Fr. William.
Then we drove towards the outskirts of Dar Es Salaam and were received warmly by Fr. Pius. K. in the parish of Mkuza. After having spent that night in the parish and in the Novitiate Community at Kibaha, in the very morning, we were struck by the beauty of landscape, fertility of the land, lively liturgical celebration with various musical instruments and dance, hospitality and warmth of our confreres. From then on, until we left Nairobi, Kenya on 10th Jan 2018, we drove almost 3500 kilometres on road, at times around 150 kilometres on mud roads, visiting all the remotest mission units of East African province, both in Tanzania and Kenya; cherishing the beauty of the various types of landscapes; marvelling the cleanliness on the roads and villages; enjoying the friendly greetings of Tanzanians and Kenyans. Above all, we were impressed with the faith the people, their longing for the word of God, their reverence and respect towards the priests and loving acceptance of even the foreign priests and for their lively participation in the liturgy.
The tremendous hard work of our missionaries of the East African province is exemplary and worth emulating. They have developed each mission unit, from nil into a self-sufficient community. They have implanted not only faith among the people, but have made them self-reliant by providing them with education, medical care and vocational trainings. Thus, they have focussed on the integral and holistic growth of each mission. They have made all the attempts to utilize the natural energy and be eco-friendly, by installing solar panels, rain water harvesting almost on all the houses and planting trees as much as possible. In spite of such a hard work, their communities were marked with simplicity of lifestyle, warmth and cordial spirit in relationships and spent time together as community. There was no house without a parlour. The involvement of the whole community in the mission was something praiseworthy. In 30 years, what they have accomplished is the result of their total commitment to the cause of African mission. It sets us an example and nurtures hope as to what we can achieve, if only we can take the first step in Malawi and go forward with trust and confidence.
So, I would like to express our deep sentiments of gratitude to Rev. Fr. Mathew Thazhathukunnel, the Provincial of East African Province and to Rev. Fr. Johnson Kallidukil, the previous Provincial, for inviting us to visit the East African Province to get the first-hand impressions and information about the pastoral work in Africa. They have initiated the necessary openings for our new venture in Malawi and they are providing us with all the necessary information with fraternal care. Above all, they are spending so much of their time, energy and support for us. A special word of thanks to all the confreres in East Africa, who made our Mission Journey a memorable one, especially to Fr. Robert Soosai Raj, who spent so many days with us, taking us around cheerfully and helping us to get familiar with local customs and traditions. Thank you so much fathers! We look forward for a greater collaboration in the future too.
As per the recommendations and initial dialogues, we would like to open mission in Malawi, the neighbouring country of Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique, where our fathers from various provinces are already working. Through East African province, we have already received invitation to visit and to take up missions in Northern Malawi, especially, in the diocese Karonga, which lies on the shore of lake Malawi. As of now, we have only one confrere, who is already in Arusha, learning the language and the pastoral situation. We would be meeting the Bishop of Karonga on 4th of March, 2018 to initiate the process. Rev. Fr. Johnson Kallidukil, the previous Provincial will be accompanying us, when we meet the Bishop.
To start off with a mission, we would need at least another 4 to 5 confreres, so that eventually we could form two communities. We also need one or two senior confreres, who would provide leadership, and provide care and guidance for the junior confreres. It is indeed a God given opportunity. Courage, commitment and conviction are called for. If we are willing to fathom and venture into the mission, God will surely guide us and support us. Asante! Thank you
Fr. Kanikkai Nathan Daniel, MSFS, Pro. Councillor for Mission