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Saturday, June 16, 2018

The end of the school year 1

The end of the school year 1
In Central Africa too, the month of June ends the school year.  
Back in Central Africa, Saturday morning I leave direction North with Father Davide Sollami (Head Administrator in Arenzano for our Mission) and Federico Materazzi (a guy from Tuscany visiting our missions). After a stop in Baoro, we continue towards Bouar, and after quick visit to the confreres of St. Elie and Yolé, we leave towards Bozoum, where we arrive around 6.30 pm after driving for a distance of about 600 km.
Sunday morning, after the Masses, they call me to pray for a sick person, in the neighborhood near the Mission. Walking towards the sick person house, I meet wo nice little twins, Luisella and Teresa: they were born during the 2013 war, when their mother was refugee at the Mission. They are fine and have grown up well! On Sunday afternoon there is the celebration of the Arc en Ciel (Rainbow) Center for Orphans: over 200 children go wild in dances and performances. In the next months they will be back with their families, who will also help with the work of the fields, which during the rainy season ensure the bulk of the food for the whole year.
On Tuesday begins the conclusion of the school year for the boys and girls of the Middle and High School of our St. Augustine’s school. The first act is the Council of Professors, in which we evaluate each student, also deciding promotions and failures... Thursday afternoon we deliver the report cards. For the boys and girls of St. Augustine’s it is an important moment. The long months of study, efforts and joys, they meet finally the crowning with the votes and the decisions of the teachers. For the best among them, thanks to some friends, we can offer scholarships. With these, the chosen students can come to school for free. This year another initiative started: the "pink" scholarships. The girls who rank in the top 6 of the class they too receive a scholarship, which covers the enrollment fees for the next year. It's a way to encourage girls to work and get involved.
For our girls, life is much harder (family jobs, responsibilities, etc.), and we try to help them getting the most out of school.


Luiselle et Thérèse, née en 2013 pendant la guerre...

le borse di studio "rosa"
les bourses d'étude pour les meilleures élèves

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dar es Salaam

la cattedrale di Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam
After a few days since returning to Bozoum, I am on the road again. June 3rd, I celebrated the Sunday Masses in the parish, and so I could meet "my" people. Returning to Bozoum also means enjoying again the beautiful liturgical celebrations, full of songs, dances, careful listening and intense participation.
At the end of the morning I leave, direction Bangui. The road (400 km) worsens continuously, and now it takes about 7 hours to get there.
Monday morning I take the flight for Tanzania: 3 hours flight to Nairobi. Here I need to change the aircraft landing around 9.00 pm in Dar es Salaam, the capital. I’m welcomed by the Indian sisters of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, the first female Congregation founded in India in 1800 by S. Cyriacos Chavara and the Italian Father Leopoldo Beccaro, a Discalced Carmelite, founder, later, of our Arenzano convent. We have been collaborating with the Indian sisters in Central Africa since 1991, and my visit is an act of gratitude for their presence in our Yolé Seminary, in the Dispensary and in Schools.
I am here because on Thursday, June 7th, three young girls (from Tanzania and Kenya) having finished the novitiate are celebrating their first religious profession: they promise God to live in chastity, poverty and obedience. At 8.00 am we meet in the chapel of the community, where the families of these three girls entrust them to God. All three of them are dressed as brides! At 9.30 am begins the celebration of the Mass in a nearby parish: there are about twenty priests, families and many sisters of the Congregation, coming from all the houses of the African countries where they work (Sudan, Central Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, and Malawi). After the homily, the three novices issue their Profession in the hands of the Mother General. Then they receive the new religious habit, as a sign of their new life as consecrated persons. The liturgy lasts about three hours, with songs and dances, all in Swahili, the language that unites many East African countries. The lunch follows, simple and well prepared.
In the evening I am invited to the party, in which all the communities of the Congregation bring some simple gifts, performing   dances and sketches. It is really enriching to see how women from different countries (India and Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Tanzania), of different ages and formations, can live their consecration joyfully. Swahili alternates with English and Malayalam (the language of Kerala-India), but the joy that shines on these faces is unique, shining like the joy coming from the Risen One.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Back home

Aeroporto di Parigi

Back home
Leaving is a constant for many, but for a missionary it is even more. After a few weeks in Italy, I am returning to Bozoum. Time has flown. Between trips, meetings, interviews, conference evenings (but also dinners and coffee or cappuccino), I have been able to meet many people, communities, parishes, associations, schools, universities, TV and newspapers. And I always discovered with joy great interest and a lot of sympathy for Central Africa, for the Mission, for Bozoum.
Receiving such amount of energy by many people is a commitment and an important gift! Gift because there is a lot of esteem and affection. Commitment because I don’t go back to Bozoum alone, but instead I’ll bring with me many people who support, work and pray for Bozoum.
Tuesday morning, May 29th, the alarm clock rings at 2.30 am: a half hour later I'm in the car with Paul, who accompanies me. We move on to take Marisa, my sister, and at 3.10 we leave from Cuneo, while raining, towards Turin. At 4.30 we are at the airport, and after embarking the luggage, it is time (never easy) of the “good byes”. At 6.05 am the flight take off for Paris, where, at 10.10 am, I continue towards Bangui. The flight, rarely happens, has no delay. Together with Mario Mazzali (precious handyman of our Missions) I land on Bangui just before 4.00 pm (local time, 5.00 pm in Italy). We recover easily our luggage (another miracle) and we go to the convent of Carmel, where we meet the Community.
I celebrate Mass around 7.00 pm. The Gospel of the day is another gift: "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields because of me and because of Gospel, which does not receive now, in this time, a hundred times as much in houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and sons and fields, together with persecutions, and eternal life in the time to come "(Mark 10, 29-31).
Wednesday morning I leave early at 4.30 am because I had forgotten to correct the hands of my watch. Anyhow we find closed the barriers at 12th km (the exit of Bangui), perhaps because of the tensions of recent weeks. At about 5.30 am the barriers are opened and we leave, arriving around noon in Bozoum, welcomed by the people, by Fathers Norberto and Matteo, and by the nuns Annita and Anne Marie.
May 31st is the feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. We close the month of May with a mass on the Talo hill, from where a statue of the Madonna watches over Bozoum protecting the city.
Welcome to Bozoum.

La veranda di Bozoum

Monday, May 28, 2018


I am ready to leave: this Tuesday coming, I return to Central Africa, a bit tired but overcomed by sympathy, prayer and encouragement that I received from all the people I met. Thank you!
In these weeks I have tried to meet as many people as possible, and to accept all invitations II received in order to talk about Central Africa. I couldn’t visit everyone, but pretty close!
The book "Courage!" has an excellent sales result. The first 1,000 copies are practically exhausted!
I did end the week in Liguria, visiting our Carmelite communities. I have had also the opportunity to meet the Bishop emeritus of Bouar, and many friends. I was also present on May 19th, at the party for the various anniversaries of the confreres: some remembering 70 years of priestly ordination, another 50 years of religious life. It was a nice moment of celebration and fraternity.
In the last week I held also some evening conferences on Central Africa: in Como, Cassina Amata and Milan. I also went to Rome for a short visit, where on Thursday morning I participated in a live TV broadcast on TV2000 (with a very warm welcome!). I accepted also a couple of interviews (on RAI3 and with "Aid to the Church in Need"):
Coming back from Rome I went, together with Federico Trinchero, to visit the Minoprio Foundation, to see if they can work with us for the Bangui School of Agriculture.
As I said, on Tuesday, I leave going back to Central Africa. It was nice to see and receive so much sympathy. I bring everyone with me: together, as for myself from Central Africa and you here in Italy, we continue to live, work, pray and act for Bozoum and for Central Africa Republic.
Thank you!


Fondazione Minoprio

Monday, May 21, 2018

Italy, Italy

Italy, Italy
These past days I have been a bit absent from my blog, focusing more about my being in Italy. I wanted to accomplish my plans, giving time in meeting my own family, the Discalced Carmelite family, and the many people who wish to learn more about Central Africa and Bozoum.
In my family I met my mother that also if 91 years old is still in good shape, apart some walking problems. My sister Marisa, with her family and Bar Barò (“baro’ “is the way how to greet people in Sango, the national language of Central Africa). My brother Giovanni. And then the Parish Community, and the many people I’m use to meet.
This week I'm in Liguria, where I meet our Carmelite communities. Warm reception, much fraternity, with the support of sympathy and prayer promised by convents and monasteries.
Last week (In 3 days I covered 1,500 km) I’m in Milan to meet friends working at “Popoli e Missioni”, “Famiglia Cristiana” and “Avvenire”. With them I have conversations about Central Africa, Church, and Bozoum ... The following day I'm in Pegognaga visiting Mario Mazzali, our unbeatable volunteer handyman, and his wife Luigina. Then I drive towards Ferrara and Lendinara (Rovigo), where I meet other Bozoum friends. The third day I go to Turin, at the Book Fair. Here I meet other friends, but also a special person: Grégoire Ahongbonon. Born in Benin, for years he has dedicated himself to the mentally ill in many African Countries, literally freeing them from the chains and taking care of them. An idea useful for Bozoum too. After a greeting to the daily newspaper “La Stampa”, I return to Cuneo.
And the journey goes on. I will stay in Italy until May 29th , but there is still a lot to do and many beautiful people to meet.

Grégoire Ahongbon