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Our joyful African priests are true missionary gifts to us

FR PIUS DURING HOMILY
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The “bread cast upon waters” so long ago has not come back soggy; it has brought us many riches.

Last Trinity Sunday, our parish celebrated the 30th anniversary of the ordination of our parochial vicar, Fr. Ignatius Madumere, a former Provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph the Worker in Nigeria. It was a joyous occasion, and as the procession of Dominican priests and other celebrants left the sanctuary,  my wife whispered in my ear, “Bread cast upon the waters”.

This was my thought also, an insight from 15 years in which priests from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Vietnam and India have filled the vocation gap in our diocese. The bread cast by missionaries—Jesuits, Dominicans, Apostles of Jesus, Fransalians—who carried the Word to far countries has returned, multiplied into many loaves. And even more valuable than the priestly functions these African priests carry out is the invigorating spirit they bring to worship and liturgy.

I’m going to focus on the Dominicans from Nigeria and Ghana, and, rather than giving a ledger account of the many pastoral roles filled by these missionaries to our diocese, I’d like to tell how they have enriched my own Catholic spirituality. Before doing so, I want to issue a disclaimer. These priests from Africa are from a different culture from ours—not worse, and in fact, better suited for their missionary role. Their attitude to the world and to God seems to be one of overflowing joy, one in which each person is their true neighbor, the neighbor Jesus talks about. Their learning, which is considerable, is conveyed not to show their knowledge, but to illuminate the lesson of the day. I also want to emphasize that these missionaries have different personalities—some are quiet and shy, some are extroverted and full of fun, some are leaders, cardinals in the making.

Since my talents as a writer are limited, I’m going to let two videos convey what I would like to say.

This one is Father Ignatius — “Father Happy” — welcoming the congregation. Just see how full of joy his welcome is!

The second video shows the homily given by Father Pius, a former student of Father Ignatius. He had two things to say in this homily:

1) “God is Love.”
2) A joy-filled young priest had come to his village and led him to enter the Dominican Order and to become a priest.

Note: Fr. Pius is the pastor of a parish about 20 miles from mine—it serves a university community and he is also a chaplain for a nearby state supported facility for the mentally impaired.

If, as some would say, the Church in the West is withered, then our hope is from the seeds planted in Africa and Asia, the new, vital growth.

Previously published at Robert Kurland’s blog, Reflections of a Catholic Scientist

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