It Is The Little Communities Which Create Hope

By Fr. Melanio R. Viuya, Jr. CICM

Malaria Strikes

From December till April I was supposed to visit the 69 villages of the parish in order to animate their Basic Christian Communities. Looking at my list, there were still six villages left to be visited. But this present bout of malaria prevents me from going, for the moment. Since a coin always had two sides, this illness gives me much needed rest and opportunity to write some line about my experiences in the villages.

By Land and by Sea

The journeys are done either by vehicle or in a canoe. The trips by car take only an hour or two and, exceptionally, three when the road is really bad. I have to get through the forest and cross several bridges and pass by canoe can be wonderful and touristic when there is no rain and no scorching sun. It could however take a half day or even two days to reach a village. And there are 21 villages on the water route.

Four Categories

Upon my arrival in the village, the catechist and several Christians take their seats while serving me a cup of hot black coffee and some bananas. Then they begin asking me questions some of which I have already answered during my previous visits. Reflecting on their questions now I would classify them into four categories: personal, material, sacramental and apologetic, according to this order.

Personal Questions

They ask me, for example, the names of my father and my mother, those of my sisters and brothers. Where is the Philippines located? For how many years did St. Paul stay there (thinking that the Philippines and Philippi are one and the same country)? Are there also chickens and fish? What vegetables do you cultivate? Do you also eat cassava and palm oil? What is the favorite drink in the country? Do I also climb the palm tree to draw some wine? There are the personal questions.

Material Questions

The second category is less amusing.  How long will it take for a letter from the Philippines to arrive here in Zaire?  Do your parents reguarly send you some packages?  Can we, through your help, order some solar lamps, radios, sunglasses, sports shoes, cameras?  Is it possible to order sewing machines, carprentry tools and things like that?  One has to undrstand that when they say "order" that is almost tantamount to giving as a present.

Sacramental Questions

Noticing that I'm not particularly enthusiastic in answering these questions, they change the topic especially when I tell them that a solar lamp could cost them NZ 60,000,000.  now they narrate first a case of a certain woman married traditionally to a certain man.  They have but one child, and a girl at that.  The family of the man has obliged him to take another woman in order to have some more children and particularly boys so that the family lineage would not be erased from the face of the earth.  He took another wife and therefore become polygamous.  Question:  Could the first wife receive communion?  Another case:  there's this teenager who became pregnant but before she could give birth the would-be father left the village to escape from his responsiblities.  Could the child be baptized?  And several specific cases and questions related to sacraments.

Apologetic Questions

The fourth category is about the sects and new religious movements which continues to proliferate in the country. The members of these sects criticize my Catholic practices and teachings and the people cannot answer easily.

Political Questions

With present situation of the country, a fifth category is added. Where is Laurent Kabila now? It’s that thing they call democracy which causes all these troubles, isn’t it? Where will this lead our country?

Then the B. C. C’.s

It’s the last two categories of questions which interest me most because they can be a jumping board for the discussion of Basic Christian Community. The BCC becomes an instrument to understand and to make understood our Catholic faith. The BCC guides us to where we want to lead our village, our parish, our country. We frequently use the book of Exodus, the Acts of the Apostles and the gospel to reflect upon these questions. The people listen with much attention and raise more questions. And when the response pleases them they exclaim: Why did they keep all these secret from us? I consider this remark as an expression of their desire to know more about Bible. After each conversation, I notice the happiness of people and I cannot help but thank God for the making me an instrument of joy and hope. We celebrate Mass together and we thank God for the many blessing He gives us everyday.

Question to myself

Tired of the journey and now back in parish convent, it’s my turn to ask question. Why do I take all these pains and troubles? Why did I leave the Philippines and come here? Why do I need to spend the remaining years of my spring in this lost corner of the earth? With the present situation of the country what is the Good News for these people? During my ordination, some stampitas were distributed on which was printed Article 2 of our CICM Constitution: Like our founder, each of us heard the call of Christ: Go out to the world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation (Mk. 16:15)

We are sent to the nations to announce the Good New, wherever our missionary presence is mot needed, especially where the Gospel is not known to lived. We leave our country to proclaim salvation as the great gift of God which liberates from everything that oppresses and divides people. Following Jesus, we address ourselves preferentially to the poor as the privileged recipients of the Kingdom of God.

Religious missionaries of different races and cultures, we live and work together as brother. One heart and one soul. We witness to the Father’s will that all men and women be brothers and sister in Christ. We are a sign of solidarity among the particular Churches in their universal mission.

This article of our constitution is always a source of living water for me. Just like Bible. It answers my questions and gives rise to more questions about the things we already do and those we ought yet to do.

In this country besieged by tragedies and afflictions which make the people hopeless and resigned, one of the works. If not the work of a missionary is to announce joy and hope (Gaudium et Spes!) and work for their realization. Yes, hope and joy is the Good New which Zaire needs badly. Is this not too simplistic? And I tell myself: this joy and hope will be realized in animating the BCCs and in giving their leaders a relevant spiritual formation so that they will become adult, self-sufficient missionary churches and agents of their own liberation. This job doesn’t appear simple at all.