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Perpetual Profession of Frt. Philip Abilio Lenço, C.M.M.

At the service of the mission for one’s whole life:
Perpetual Profession of Frt. Philip Abilio Lenço, C.M.M.

Salamanca, January 6, 2017

On the evening of January 6, 2017, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, another young missionary of Mariannhill, Frt. Philip made his perpetual profession.
The celebration took place in the parish church of the patron of the city of Salamanca, Saint John of Sahagún.
Already five years ago, after his novitiate, Frt. Philip was transferred to Spain in order to begin the formative process for becoming a priest of Christ.
Wishing to move a step further in his religious and missionary commitment, Frt. Philip, on the evening of that solemn and missionary feast, consecrated himself to God for life, making public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Together with the missionary community of Mariannhill in Spain some other priests close to Mariannhill, as well as a large assembly of faithful, all friends of Mariannhill, were present at the celebration.
A choir composed of young people from the parish of Saint John of Sahagún and some Mariannhill missionaries in formation animated the whole celebration with song. The varied repertoire of songs performed in Spanish, Portuguese and Makua helped to make the celebration lively and meaningful.
Faithful to the liturgy of the day, the celebration had as a backdrop the story of those Wise Men coming from the East who, guided by a star, left their land and embarked on a risky journey in search of an unknown king. In their search they found the famous King Herod and the star disappeared. The star appeared again when they found Jesus, whom they recognized as the King they were looking for.
After the reading of the Gospel, Fr. Lino Herrero Prieto, C.M.M., regional superior of the Missionaries of Mariannhill in Spain, who presided over the celebration, gave the homily. In the first part of the homily he pointed out that the simplicity and charm of the event of the wise men of the East should not distract our attention from what lies behind it. This simple and charming event reveals to us, under the image of the star, that God wants all men to be saved; that Jesus was sent as a light to enlighten all nations; and that Mary is the Mother who has presented this light to all peoples. The light of God shone even in those distant regions, beyond the visible borders of Israel, and in this way revealed itself to all the peoples, represented in those mysterious persons coming from the East and guided by a star. Meanwhile and ever since, the great caravan of mankind is still on the move seeking the God-Man Savior. They are led by a guiding star, i.e. the intuition that only in Jesus will they find the desired salvation. Mankind loses its orientation and the star hides when Jesus is mixed up with any other of those who claim to be saviors. The star always tells us where the real and authentic things are and where the substitutes are.

Once the homily was finished, in accord with the ritual of perpetual profession, Frt. Philip, after being called by the deacon, was questioned about his willingness to assume the commitments connected with the step he was about to take.
As such a step can only be sustained and guaranteed by the help that comes from above, all of us, with the singing of the litany of the Saints, asked for the blessing of God on Frt. Philip while he remained prostrate before the altar.
At the end of this part of the ritual Frt. Philip, with a candle burning in his hand and kneeling before his superior, read the formula of profession which he himself had hand written.
Particularly significant and touching was the moment when, after finishing the reading of the formula and before signing it, Frt. Philip was approached by the other confreres, dressed in showy African clothes, who engaged him in a sung dialogue which expressed the generous surrender to God of Frt. Philip as a missionary of Mariannhill in the service of the mission of the Church.
Then followed the long and beautiful prayer over Frt. Philip who, in order to live in a radical way the consecration of his Baptism, had just consecrated himself to God for his whole life.
The rite of perpetual profession ended with the reception of Frt. Philip into the Congregation of Mariannhill as a full member. Then the celebration of the Eucharist continued.
Let us now turn to the words the regional superior addressed to Frt. Philip in the second part of the homily.
Dear Frt. Philip, the following words are specially meant for you this evening, as you consecrate yourself to God for life by making public vows of the three evangelical counsels in this missionary family of Mariannhill.
The undisputed protagonist of this day is the star. This special luminous body began to disturb the peaceful life of those wise studiers of the firmament. Once they discovered it in the sky, they understood that they had to complicate life and embark on a journey to find someone special, of whom the star was a sign. The star was for them the safe guide on the road.
Through human reasoning those sages got off track, for they came to believe that the capital, where the king lived, was the ultimate goal of their adventurous journey. Proof of their mistake is that the star disappeared. When they were again pointed in the right direction the star reappeared, filling their heart with joy. The star stood still at the place where the object of their quest was. After reaching their goal they no longer needed the guidance of the star in the sky, for the star was now shining in their inner sky. Therefore they returned to their land by another road.
Dear Frt. Philip, is not this perhaps the best parable of the journey that your vocation has taken and which is to continue in the future? Is not your vocation a path marked by stages, always new and unpublished?
We all need a star to live by. There are those stars that are fleeting: they shine brightly and are beautiful but they do not last. Then there are the authentic stars: they do not always shine; they are demanding; and they do not make life easy for us. Sometimes they hide themselves, but they lend us the great service of warning us of the falsehood of idols.
Dear Frt. Philip, who is supposed to be your guiding star? In the light of which star should you walk?
The star which has to shine in the firmament of your life is God Himself, is Christ, and is Mary. God tells you where the truth is and where the lie, where the true values and where the fleeting ones, where the idols and where He is who is the true God. Christ illuminates your conscience with his light. He guides you towards the goal to which you have been called, admonishing you against everything that impoverishes and degrades your human and Christian dignity.
Mary is the star of the morning whose mission is to warn you of the imminent appearance of that Sun who is born from on high, her Son and Lord. Mary makes you uneasy, inviting you to always look up so you do not settle for what is given to you on the ground level. Mary is the one who introduces you to the house of the Church, showing you Jesus so that you may adore him and offer him the best of your life without stinginess or pettiness. Mary is the one who urges you to share the joy of discovery as you return by that other path that is called conversion and new life to the normality of daily existence.
After congratulating the newly professed, all of us left that celebration with the determination to walk in the light of the star and, with missionary passion, to invite all to join the great caravan of the seekers of God.

Fr. Lino Herrero Prieto CMM

The Diocese of Lae Celebrates 50 Years. By Fr. Brian Nonde CMM

The Catholic Diocese of Lae in Morobe/Papua New Guinea celebrated its golden anniversary on Sunday November 13, 2016. This historical phenomenon was witnessed by the faithful of many cultures at St. Mary’s Primary School grounds.

The Apostolic Nuncio of Papua New and Solomon Islands, Archbishop Kurian Matthew Vayalunkal, in the company of Bishops and priests, celebrated Holy Mass to bless the diocese and to thank the missionaries for the fruits of their labour in Morobe Province.

“We are gathered here to remember the 50th anniversary of our Diocese of Lae. This is the right occasion to remember the history of the Church in our country, PNG. We rejoice, we give praise, and we go forth.” Said the Apostolic Nuncio, during the homily.

Lae’s Bishop, Christian Blouin gave thanks to the pioneers of the diocese saying, “four pioneers of the diocese of Lae must be acknowledged at this occasion. Fr. Anthony Mulderink, who is one of the pioneers foursome is here is present to witness this occasion. So we wish to take this opportunity to thank him and his fellow Mariannhill pioneer brothers for their work.” The local ordinary, Bishop Blouin, extended this gratitude to all the people of good will, the locals and friends overseas, for being helpful to the diocese.

He (Bishop Blouin) recalled the early years of their missionary activities in Lae and Siassi Islands. He remembered when they didn’t have modern means of transport or communication. “I know pretty well the hardships and challenges the priests and sisters encounter,” concluded Bishop Christian Blouin.

The Vicar General of the diocese, Fr. Arnold Schmitt, said, “The main work of the early missionaries was education and formation of Catholic Christian families. And we have continued to do this by reading the signs of the time. For instance he added, “The growing number of street kids is worrying and we are trying to find ways of addressing this and many new challenges.”

The existence of the Catholic Church in Morobe Province goes back to the time after the gold rush in Wau and Bulolo in 1927. However, the Diocese of Lae started off with the mandate of Pope John XXIII on 18 June 1959 when the newly erected Vicariate of Lae was entrusted to the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill (CMM).

In March 1960 the first four CMM priests arrived from the Netherlands. They were: the Fathers Gerard Hafmans, Bert Kempkes, Henry van Lieshout and Anthony Mulderink. By then the number of inhabitants in 1959 was about 187.000, and among them were approximately 1.750 Catholics. Over the period of 50 years the population of Morobe has increased to more than 616.263.

The four CMM missionaries began to explore the new mission fields in Morobe. They trekked for weeks over mountains and valleys, walked through rivers, forests and jungles looking for places to establish their mission station. Then they learned that the Lutheran Missionaries were already established everywhere, even among the smallest tribes. They also discovered that the MSC Missionaries from West New Britain had established a Catholic community, in Siassi Islands.

If 95% of the indigenous population was Lutheran, then mission work among pagan tribes was out of question. The firm idea grew that the primary task was the care for the Christians already present in then new mission territory that was initially evangelized by the Lutherans. The foundation of the Diocese of Lae is thus stamped with this ecumenical sensitivity.

Education was determined as the priority of the mission of the Catholic Church in the Lae Vicariate, all activities were focused on the project of building up St. Joseph’s Station and a technical school on a block of land at Lae/8-Mile. Thus the year 1964 became a year of constructions on the new station. A chapel was the last of 14 buildings erected in one year. Meanwhile St. Joseph’s Technical Training Centre was provisionally recognized by the Education Department. Other schools were St. Mary’s School in Lae and St. Martin’s School in the Papua Compound near the industrial centre and the harbour. On the Siassi Islands, a Primary School on Por Island next to Mandok Island. In Watut area, 30 km from Bulolo St. Paul’s School. St. Peter’s School in Bulolo in 1970 and Mariannhill School in Wau in the 1980ies.

In 1965 Fr. Henry van. Lieshout succeeded Fr. G. Hafmans as Vicar delegate and later as Vicar Apostolic of Lae. When the hierarchy was established in Papua New Guinea on November 15, 1966. Fr. Henry van Lieshout became the first bishop of Lae and was ordained bishop on March 5, 1967 in Lae. Bishop Christian Blouin, his successor, was ordained on May 5, 2007.

The first Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood arrived in June 1962. Other international congregations have since then come to Lae diocese: Little Sisters of Jesus, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Daughters of Mary Immaculate, Brothers of the Sacred Heart, Missionaries of Jesus; they are all very much involved in the fields of pastoral, social work and education. These missionaries are coming mainly from Germany. England, Ireland, Japan. Vietnam., Spain. Philippines, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa and Panama.

In the past years, lay-missionaries, from Australia and Europe have been very handy, their various skills substantially brought development in the Diocese.

The Diocese of Lae has grown from modest beginnings with less than 2,000 Catholics to more than 30, 000 at present. This work which was done by only missionaries 50 years ago, has also become the work of the local clergies and religious communities. Fr. Edward Suakau the first local clergy was ordained in 1988. More Primary and Technical Schools and a Vocational Training Centre for girls have been built, all staffed with P.N.G. teachers; the various departments of the Diocesan Offices are also managed by local staff. The same goes for the Centre of Mercy, and clinics for health care, which tries to eradicate the rapid growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS.

Over the past 50 years, Papua New Guinea, as whole, the diocese included, has undergone significant economic, social and political changes. The old tribal structure with its strong traditions, which had given the people support and stability in their environment, has for instance began to disintegrate. The Diocese of Lae will have to strive forward with new approaches of proclaiming, sanctifying and serving the Melanesian Missionary Church in Oceania.


Zambia Unit Celebrates Blessed Engelmar’s Beatification

After the joyous and beautiful celebration of the Beatification of Blessed Engelmar Unzeitig in Germany on September 24th 2016, the Confreres in the Zambia Unit took it upon themselves to bring Blessed Engelmar Unzeitig home, as it were. The rainy morning of Saturday 26th November 2016 turned out to be a joyous and solemn day for the confreres, for the CMM Associates and for those who work closely with them, when we celebrated a thanksgiving Holy Mass in honour of Blessed Engelmar Unzeitig at a venue prophetically chosen.

The event took place at Engelmar House of Formation in Lusaka, which is about 7km away south of the city centre. Blessed Engelmar House of Formation is currently the only House in the Congregation named after our beloved Martyr-of-Brotherly-love. In attendance were most of the Mariannhill Priests and Brothers working and living in Zambia, the Sisters of the Precious Blood, the local clergy and various Religious men and women from different orders, institutions and societies. The occasion was graced by the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Lusaka, Fr Oliver Mukunta who was the presider and homilist at the Eucharist.

In his homily, Fr Mukunta drew various aspects and qualities from the life, words, actions and attitudes of Blessed Engelmar Unzeitig which can help us as Mariannhillers and Christians as a whole to live our vocations and commitments faithfully and zealously. He also emphasized the need to embrace the spirit of Blessed Engelmar in our own time, place and situations, thus emulating him. During the same liturgical celebration, our eleven candidates currently living at Blessed Engelmar House of Formation and attending philosophical studies at Saint Bonaventure University college, were conferred with medals of Mariannhill Missionaries.

After the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, there was a festive get together lunch for all present. There was also an exhibition of pictures telling the life story of Blessed Engelmar Unzeitig. The documentary video was also shown and the confreres present answered questions and clarified some issues the attending guests had on this great servant of God. Entertainment (like a drama that showed the life of Engelmar) and other moments of interactions were provided for by the youths from the parishes our confreres work in or help out.

Indeed, Blessed Engelmar Unzeitig had arrived home!

Deacon Louis Mwange Chileshe, CMM

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Altar boys arrive in procession during a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI to commemorate cardinals and bishops who died this year, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 3, 2011. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Altar boys arrive in procession during a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI to commemorate cardinals and bishops who died this year, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican November 3, 2011. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (VATICAN – Tags: RELIGION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Graduates of St. Therese Vocational Centre

By Fr. Brian Nonde CMM

Fr. Roland Matoyi CMM, a Kenyan by nationality, celebrated the Friday Mass for the 29th Graduation ceremony of St. Therese Vocational Centre. During Mass, Fr. Matoyi told the students to make good choices in life. “There are many people who wanted to be where you are but they are not” said Fr. Matoyi in his homily. He then shared the following story with the young people that graduated on 25th November 2016:

“The head teacher at a certain high school once told me, that life is a journey of two roads. Every time one begins and completes an event in life, one finds himself or herself at a Y-junction road. There one has to make a decision on which road to take. One of the two roads to take is called ‘I don’t care’ and it leads to a big city called ‘I wish I knew’. Another road is named ‘I care’ and it leads to another city called ‘Here I am’. It all depends on an individual’s choice: you either follow the road that lead to the city called ‘I wish I knew’ and live a life of regrets or end up in the city ‘Here I am’ and live a life of contentment. ‘Here I am’, is a beautiful city that reached by following the ‘I care Road’ choices. And I tell you my dear friends, that ‘Here I am’, is a place which all desire to live in. So make good choices in life.”

Adding advice to this story, Fr. Matoyi told the graduands to make good choices in life. “Many want to study and to have the same opportunity as you have had” he said, “they wish to go through this form of education but due to various reasons they do not and they have not. Many envy you, so I urge you to be thankful and responsible as go out there in the society.”

St. Therese Vocation Centre started off as a training center for young girls who due to different circumstances could not go beyond grade 10 in 1986. It was established by the Missionaries of Mariannhill to provide skills such as catering, tailoring, office administration and computer skill. Today this center is recognized as a learning institution by the government of Papua New Guinea. It is currently providing vocational skills to 200 students every year.

St. Therese Vocational Centre is situated in Lae/Kamkumun suburb, next to it is a Mother & Child Health Centre called Centre of Mercy and St. Therese Parish.

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Diaconal ordination of Frt. Innocent Shava, C.M.M.

At the service of the Lord and his people

 Diaconal ordination of the missionary of Mariannhill Frt. Innocent Shava, C.M.M.

It was on the evening of September 10th, 2016, that the missionary of Mariannhill, Frt. Innocent Shava, C.M.M., was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Salamanca, Carlos López Hernández, in the parish church of Our Lady of Lourdes of that city. It is the very same new deacon who tells us here about the experience of that memorable afternoon:

“May Almighty God, from whom all grace comes ….” This is how the Ordination Prayer begins, as read by the Bishop of Salamanca, Carlos López Hernández, after having silently laid his hands on my head. With the central words of that prayer: “Send to him, Lord, your Holy Spirit so that, strengthened by your grace of the seven gifts, he may faithfully carry out the ministry”, I was ordained deacon of the Church.

I was long looking forward to this moment. Since childhood in Zimbabwe, where I was born, and then in Spain where I have been living for more than five years, I have witnessed various diaconal and presbyteral ordinations. On this occasion, however, I was no longer to witness the ordination of another but I was to live my own ordination as a deacon.

Many times I dreamed, both awake and asleep, to become a deacon/presbyter one day. I was convinced that it was the future that God had prepared for me as I was being formed humanly, academically and spiritually.

The night before my ordination I woke up three times thinking that it was time to get up. After the last time I said a little prayer of thanksgiving for all the people who came to my mind and who had helped and supported me in my vocation to be a deacon/priest one day. At the end I was able to fall asleep again.

After that long night of impatience September 10th dawned. At 7:00 pm on that Saturday my diaconal ordination took place in the church of the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes of Salamanca. All day before we had had time to arrange the many small details which were still pending.

I used the morning to prepare things in the parish church and rehearse the ceremony. My superior in Spain, Fr. Lino Herrero Prieto, C.M.M., and the parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Fr. Matías Prieto Espinosa, helped me to arrange the seats, mark the liturgical books, prepare the stole and the dalmatic, etc.

But I was not alone on that important day. From the distance and in spirit I felt myself accompanied by all those who saw me grow up in my family, in school, and in the seminary. I was fortunate to have at my side my father, who had come from Zimbabwe five days before to accompany me and to witness my diaconal ordination. I have to say that from the beginning my family had always supported me in my vocation and they feel very happy about the decision I have made.

Others were present and accompanied me as well: Fr Peter Nkomazana, C.M.M., provincial superior of Mariannhill in Zimbabwe, and Fr. Adrian Maqhawe Ndlovu, C.M.M., both of whom were then in Europe to participate in the beatification of Fr. Engelmar (Huber) Unzeitig, C.M.M., and in the sessions of the General Chapter of Mariannhill.

I also felt the community of the Missionaries of Mariannhill in Spain and the faithful of Salamanca very close to me. By this I knew that I would never be alone in this mission to which God has called me. Seeing myself surrounded by so many good people, my response to the call became even stronger.

Before the celebration, while the Bishop prayed in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, the priests vested in the baptistery, both of which spaces are located at the very entrance of the church.

The celebration began with a solemn chant in the Macua language [Mozambique] that invited the faithful, the priests, the bishop and me to put ourselves in the presence of God from the very beginning of the celebration. The rest of the repertoire of the celebration were songs in different languages: Spanish, English, Portuguese, Ndebele [Zimbabwe]. The wonderful interpretation of the repertoire was carried out by a choir composed of young people from the parishes of Saint John of Sahagún and Our Lady of Fatima, plus some Missionaries of Mariannhill.

After the entrance procession I stood next to my father to listen carefully to the biblical readings of the celebration. He, though he understood nothing, was not at all lost. I had already told him the readings that were to be proclaimed and he had read them previously at home.

In the homily, addressed to the whole assembly and to me in particular, the diocesan Bishop, drawing from the readings chosen for the celebration, stressed the gratuity of the call to the diaconal service. At the end of it the Bishop explained the meaning of the diaconate.

After the scrutiny or questioning that the Bishop addressed to me and, once I had made the promise of celibacy, I lay on the ground while the litanies were sung. While I lay prostrate, I thought of the Lord’s call and my surrender to Him. The invocation of the saints reminded me that only with the help of God’s grace could I fulfill what He asks of me.

Then the central moment of the celebration came when the Bishop laid hands on me in silence and invoked upon me the Holy Spirit with the Prayer of Ordination.

Now as deacon I was dressed with the stole and the dalmatic. It was no longer those clothes that I used to wear as a child when I dressed up as a priest, but true liturgical vestments that highlight the sacred function of the one who carries them. Another deacon and my father were in charge of putting the stole and dalmatic on me. Very happy was my father at that moment. Although we did not say anything at the time, his smile was speaking clearly.

Following the Ritual, the Bishop gave me the Book of the Gospels, telling me that I have to convert what I read into living faith, what I do in living faith I must teach, and I must fulfill what I teach.

While the Bishop gave me the kiss of peace the prayer of Abbot Francis Pfanner, the Founder of Mariannhill, was sung. With this prayer I was invited to understand what I am in the eyes of God, to know better the will of my God, to be united with God and to seek in all his glory.

Then I began to serve as a deacon, preparing the altar. I did everything with great enthusiasm, wondering if what had happened was real or was still a dream.

At the moment of sharing a sign of peace I went to greet each of the con-celebrants and I shared a strong and long embrace with my father. It was so emotional that I broke out in tears.

After Communion I gave a speech to express my gratitude to God and to all those who, in one way or another, had helped me during all formative stages.

After the blessing of the Bishop I dismissed the assembly with the words of the sending and the choir sang one of the typical Spanish versions of the “Salve Regina,” which brings me very close to the Virgin Mary.

I keep on thanking God for the gift of life and for everything he does for me, always trusting in the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Blessed Engelmar Unzeitig, C.M.M. So I will sing and preach the beauty of God’s love on the streets of my life.

 Frt. Innocent Shava, C.M.M.
Missionary of Mariannhill



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End of the 16th General Chapter of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill

On Saturday the 20th of October the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill concluded its 16th General Chapter in Rome. The Chapter started on the 1st of October and had participants coming from all the 13 provinces and regions of the Congregation. We had 27 participants representing 15 nationalities. During this Chapter the delegates evaluated the religious, missionary life and activities of the Congregation in the various parts of the world and through a process of discernment and reflection sought God’s will for the Congregation. This was indeed a time of grace and renewal for all the participants and there is great hope that this message and spirit of renewal will filter through the whole Congregation and spur us to renewal and rejuvenation. The theme of the General Chapter was “Faithful to my call.” At the end of the Chapter in the liturgy the new Superior General with his leadership team were installed and given the mandate of the Chapter. All the participants were commissioned to bring the mandate of the Chapter to all our communities.

We thank you dear friends and relations for your support, prayers and good wishes especially during this time. We count on your continued prayers and support and we strive to be more authentic witness, being faithful to our call as individuals and as a community.