The Background to Project Africa ss. Cc. (1931-1994)

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The Background to

Project Africa SS.CC.


by Edouard BRION
General Coordinator of the Missions

Translation: Derek Laverty sscc (London)

Matthias Shanley (Harlingen, Texas)

Printed and bound by:

Piet Hoedemaekers sscc

Maria Centofanti (Rome)

Rome – 1998

In memory of Martin Bolwerk


Since the 1994 General Chapters of the brothers and sisters, Project Africa has become a realised fact and a recognised name. The sisters speak of a “Missionary Project of the Congregation” and the brothers of a “Priority Missionary Project”. This is not to say that everything at this time is clear concerning what it is and what it means. Nor is it to say that the attitudes towards it are harmonious. The reality is that the move from an identification with one’s home province or missionary region (Kinshasa or Mozambique) to identifying with Project Africa does not happen overnight.

In order to stimulate this identification I propose this re-reading of the history of our presence in Africa from the viewpoint of Project Africa. For each one of us it is a case not only of being conscious of common elements present in diverse situations – beyond those which characterise our own situation – but of also recognising that the diverse situations are in some way ours. It is a question of an attitude of spirit, of looking at the situation, of wanting and finding a common way of looking at these situations. This work seeks to put such an attitude into practice.

By way of a start, it would be good, perhaps, to specify briefly what characterises this project. In the 1994 General Chapters of both the sisters and the brothers, three principal characteristics were distinguished: internationality, the dimension of sisters/ brothers; and the desire to implant the Congregation. In the first place, this project seeks, as the sisters say, to be a “project of the Congregation”. For the brothers, the international aspect expresses itself in the composition of the community, which, as such, has a significant and prophetic value for today’s world. It is a project that appeals for help from all the provinces, both in terms of personnel and finances. Moreover, Project Africa brings together the two African implantations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique. Secondly, the project involves the dimension of brothers/ sisters. The brothers say, “Let the sisters be involved in the project if possible”. The sisters, for their part, say, “Let there be a common apostolic project with sscc brothers” and “that the presence of the brothers be assured more or less long term.” Lastly, the project has in mind the implantation of the Congregation or charism of the Congregation. The dimension of sisters/ brothers is considered as a characteristic of the charism offered to the local church. The implantation of the Congregation and its charism notably implies the intervention of a new type of missionary, responsible for initial formation and not pastoral work as such, except as a place for formation of young Africans.

For the sisters, this project was already formulated in the General Chapter of 1988. For the brothers, it was necessary to wait until the enlarged General Council of Quito in 1992 and the General Chapter of 1994. These dates define the limit of this par­ticular study. Regarding the starting point, it is surely determined by the arrival date of the Congregation in Africa: 1931.

Having thus defined the limits of this work and having provided a few notions that both raise questions and would call for considerable development, we can now begin to take a look at the past, at the background and facts which constitute the roots of Project Africa.

I distinguish two stages in this past: if one considers the implantation of the congregation as a second stage, the earlier period could be placed under the heading of implantation of the church. Certainly, in contrast to the term “implantation of the Congregation”, which often reappears in all the writings, the other theme is implicitly present. It would be preferable to speak of mission and nothing else, but in reality, what one has in view is the implantation of the church (“plantatio Ecclesiae”). I realize that this concept will provoke objections in the light of current theology and missiology. However, it is this understanding which was the dominant missionary model in the missiology of that time. Therefore, historically it is correct. Besides, when one reads what missionaries have written, one can see that in fact it was this idea that they shared regarding the work to which they dedicated themselves. Accordingly, there are two phases in the theme of implantation: implantation of the church and implantation of the Congregation.

Chapter 1


CHURCH (1931-1984)

At the time the Congregation arrived in Africa, the principle aim of mission was the implantation of the church, realised in two stages. The first stage was concerned with gaining Christians through baptism and forming diocesan clergy, beginning with priests and later with bishops. This phase went hand in hand with colonisation. In the second stage, after colonisation, Congregations continued to send missionaries to Africa, but this time save to help the local church, which was still lacking sufficient apostolic personnel to reach its full stature.

I. MISSION “AD GENTES” (1931-1963)
1. Arrival in Africa

The Congregation arrived quite late in the continent of Afri­ca, 130 years after its foundation. On 3rd October 1931, two Flemish priests, Casimir Recko and Clement Van Billoen, and one Dutch brother, Bernard Hakvoort, landed on African soil, in Boma at the mouth of the River Congo. On the 23rd March 1932, they arrived at their mission territory that would soon cover an area of 70,000 square kilometres, more than twice the size of Belgium.1 This does not mean that the grand missionary movement, which by the end of the 19th Century had developed in the church towards Africa, had passed unnoticed by the “children of the Sacred Hearts consecrated to be at the service of the Missions” . 2 But they were content to support it through prayer.

In 1910 the Belgium Province thought about starting a mission in the Belgium Congo and initiated steps with the Scheut Fathers and the Ministry of Colonies .3

The project did not succeed. In 1911 Propaganda Fide asked the Congregation to go to a German colony in New Guinea. This turned out to be interesting in that it provided the opportunity to obtain a licence to establish oneself in Germany. In spite of the German defeat of 1918, which brought about the loss of German colonies and missions, including our own, it became possible to open the first houses in Germany. A little later, in 1923, the Congregation left its field of traditional work – the Pacific Ocean, and turned towards Asia to begin foundations in Indonesia, in the Bangka and Billiton islands, and in China. After having thought to open a school or college in Peking,4 the Congregation was entrusted with the island of Hainan.

In 1930 Africa knocked at the door of the Congregation. The Holy See, i.e. Propaganda Fide, asked the Congregation to found a mission in the Belgium Congo. This request was accepted with enthusiasm. The first missionaries arrived, on site, at the centre of the Country in 1932. In 1959, towards the end of the first period, the numbers of missionaries (priests and brothers) in Kole reached 37. Apart from two who were French speaking, everyone was Flemish. Five of them died prematurely.

The second group arrived in Africa in 1956 in Mozambique: 2 Dutch priests, José Verhoeven and Stephanus Driessen.5 Indeed, in order to receive permission to be in Portugal and obtain State subsidies, the Congregation, in this case the Dutch Province, was obliged to have a mission in one of the Portuguese colonies.6 They opted for Mozambique in preference to Eastern Timor. In Mozambique they entered into an agreement with the Bishop of Beira as these territories did not fall under Propaganda Fide.

However, the Holy See had entered into a Concordat and an agreement with the Portuguese Republic on 7th May 1940.7 These two factors favoured the arrival of missionary Congregations approved by the State with the aim of helping the majority diocesan clergy. Though few in number they were particularly concerned with attending to the pastoral needs of the Portuguese settlers. Our own missionaries were equally small in number, especially in relation to the size of the territory, as big as Holland. Starting with two, their numbers did not exceed 5 during this period. The focus was on the opening of apostolic schools in Portugal.

2. Missionary work

In both the missions of Congo and Mozambique it was a time of making the first steps: the number of Christians was still extremely limited and there was still a long way to go before one would see the first indigenous priestly ordination. First of all, it was necessary to begin to create conditions necessary for the survival of the missionaries: building temporary accommodation, finding a permanent site, building a mission house, building and running schools, carpentry shops, garages, brick-making, ...

Certainly, in Mozambique, there already existed Christian communities that had places of worship and accommodation for the priest, but these communities were mainly composed of Portuguese. This brought advantages to the missionaries, but at the same time it introduced a tension between two groups: to be with the Portuguese or with the Africans. Given that the missionaries were not Portuguese but Dutch, it is not surprising that they were drawn more towards the Africans and did not spontaneously identify with the colonial regime - especially when Holland had just lost Indonesia. This was not the case for the Congo missionaries whose Belgium nationality corresponded to that of the colonial power.

SS.CC. Mission in Mozambique scale 1 : 5.000.000

The two missions sought to extend the church through catechism and the administration of baptism, and used schools as the principle means to do so. However, one can note certain differences. In the Congo baptism was administered automatically at the end of primary education. In Mozambique they were more cautious. The school only had a role in pre-evangelization: it limited itself to putting the indigenous in contact with the church and giving them a certain Christian orientation .8 Whether for good or bad, the majority of missionary personnel were nevertheless caught up in pastoral work for the Portuguese.

3. The first idea of internationalisation

The “internationalisation of missions” was first proposed in the General Chapter of 1958. Until then, and especially since the end of the First World War - with the establishment of the German and Dutch provinces - each mission depended on a particular province which was responsible for it. It would seem that this new proposal was conditioned by a number of factors: the proclamation of de-colonisation; a loss of interest by the colonial countries in their mission which, at the same time, was their colony, as in the case of Belgium in regards to the Belgium Con­go. Or perhaps it was foreseen that the newly independent countries would obstruct missionaries of the old colonial powers from entering, as, for example, happened to the Dutch regarding Indonesia. In any case it became necessary for these missions to be brought to the attention of the other Provinces. For the Gene­ral Chapter this would mean the creation in the general house of a “missionary organism” in order to obtain missionaries and material resources from the Provinces not responsible for mission. They were already speaking of a “common fund of resources”,9 and a “mission secretary”. Elsewhere, the Chapter recalled that we are “an international Congregation”.10 In the face of these proposals, the Chapter decided to wait for the result of an experience in Indonesia, where some Flemish brothers would replace the Dutch. Later, the Superior General observed in the Council that instead of using the expression “internationalisation” it would be better and more correct to use the term “inter-provincial collaboration”.



1. Towards a new missionary model

The end of the 1950’s marked the time of de-colonisation in Africa. This led the Holy See to take away the responsibility of the local churches from the missionaries and confide them instead to indigenous bishops. Although the missions were handed over to the local churches this did not mean the end of the missionaries. They remained indispensable for supporting the growth of the “young churches”.

However, de-colonisation took place at different paces and our two missions encountered two extreme situations. In the Congo de-colonisation was sudden. In Mozambique it was the result of a prolonged and armed resistance by the Portuguese regime. In the space of one year, in 1960, everything was ready in the Congo. In Mozambique the regime tried to hold on to power for 14 years. Furthermore, during this time, the presence of the Congregation extended into two new countries: the Ivory Coast and for a short time in Tanzania.

In the Congo, mission initially came to a halt after the violent shocks that it had suffered in the course of de-colonisation, in particular as a result of the maltreatment which the missionaries suffered following the assassination of Lumumba in 1961. But little by little people recovered and a progressive local church emerged. The Apostolic Prefecture of Kole became a diocese in 1967 with Bishop Van Beurden, sscc, as titular. The first ordinations were in 1972 and the first local bishop was installed in 1980. Here, and also in Kinshasa, an appeal was made for more Walloon brothers. There would be ten during this period. One French brother from Tahiti, (Oceania), Michel Brusq, also worked there for some time.

Gradually the focus shifted towards the capital of the country, Kinshasa, or Léopoldville, as it was known until 1971. There it was no longer a question of mission posts in a pagan environment but of urban parishes attended to by priests from outside the country. In this way, from 1963, three parishes were entrusted by the bishop to the Congregation, in this case to the Belgium province. Those parishes, situated in Ndjili, a poor suburb, had to face a sudden increase of population after independence. The first “parish priests” came from Kole and from Belgium. Numbering 9 in 1965 they were 4 in 1977 and withdrew completely in 1980. In 1966 priests from the Spanish province arrived as reinforcements. Their presence was requested by a colleague, Fr. Etienne Glorieux, who was dean of Ndjili and a member of the Episcopal conference. Starting with 2 (Joa­quín Salinas and Alberto Pereda) the numbers grew to 7 in 1977. After a drop in numbers, the numbers again increased from 1981. There were 8 until the end of this period. In 1979 3 Polish priests came offering strong support (Jan Smaluch, Jozafat Szczepaniak, Stanislaw Zaremba). After a brief look at the Kole Mission they opted instead for the kind of work available in the capital where they replaced the Belgians.

In Mozambique various problems had to be confronted successively. The first came from the attitude of the missionaries regarding the Portuguese regime, both in Mozambique and in Portugal. Both Mozambique and Portugal were equally connected to the Congregation as the Mozambican mission de­pended on the Portuguese region. In Portugal, certain Dutch brothers expressed their opposition to the dictatorial and colo­nial regime. Four were expelled between 1969 and 1973. Similarly in Mozambique, since 1960, two brothers had to leave. Others decided to stay away from the problem and thereby continue to be involved in pastoral work. Two Portuguese brothers went with the Dutch: Manuel Dutra (1969) and João de Brito Almeida Atanásio (1972). From 1973 the liberation war, triggered off some ten years earlier in the north of the Country by FRELIMO, reached the mission territory, bringing to the indigenous population repression, torture and massacres. In the face of this situation, and despite the presentation of a united front, missionaries were divided. In 1974 the missionaries of Inhaminga, greatly influenced by the departure of the White Fathers in 1971, finally decided to leave so as not to be in solidarity with the regime. From Holland they brought to public attention the massacres which had been committed. The others preferred to stay where they were, close to the stricken African people.

The new regime that took over in 1975, after independence, did not make things easier, quite the opposite. The policy of opposition to the church, progressive nationalisation of its goods and the indoctrination and defamation campaigns, disappointed those who had been in solidarity in the anti-colonial fight and disheartened those who had wanted to keep out of it. Only a few “invincibles” remained where they were, hoping for better times and seeking to alleviate the people’s misery, victims of a civil war that exploded between the FRELIMO party in power and the guerrilla force, RENAMO. This war only ended in 1992 following a peace accord signed between the two parties.

Our arrival in Tanzania can be seen as a consequence of what happened in Mozambique. In the face of disappointment suffered by the turn of events and out of concern for a new understanding of mission and church resolutely turned towards the people and towards inculturation, two Dutch priests, José Martens and Mi­guel Verwey arrived in Tanzania in 1977. They remained there until 1982 and left because they were unable to accept the request of the bishop to return to a classic form of parish ministry - a request that came as a direct result of strong pressure from his own, indigenous, clergy.11

2. The arrival of SS.CC. sisters12

One of the characteristics of this phase of helping the young African churches consisted in the participation of our sisters. This can be explained by a change that the female branch underwent after the Second Vatican Council. At the time of the 1964 Gene­ral Chapters and especially in 1968, they redefined themselves as an Institute of Apostolic Life and affirmed their desire to work, like the brothers, in evangelization, and to do so from a clearly missionary perspective. So they changed the preliminary chapter of the Rule. This new orientation went hand in hand with other changes: passing from large houses to small communities; the decreasing number of sisters since the 1950’s. This decrease in numbers and the fact that they were getting older obliged them to abandon perpetual adoration by house, though they did pre­serve the individual obligation. All of these conditions facilitated their establishment in the young churches.

In 1969 the sisters founded two communities in Kinshasa, one consisting of 3 Belgium sisters (Emma Uytterhoeven, Lucienne Hardy, Paula Teck) and the other of 4 Spanish sisters (Maria del Carmen Arriaga, Leonor Pérez de Madrid, Isabel Garrido, Gregoria Arroyuelo). Their activities included catechism in the primary schools, teaching in State schools, “an apostolate of working closely with young girls to whom they taught sewing and childcare”, working in a laboratory or in maternity, and helping in the parishes, etc. ...

Some years later, in 1973, the French Province of the sisters began a foundation in the Ivory Coast, in Bangolo in the diocese of Man. This was in response to a request by an indigenous Bishop, Bernard Agre. The General Government unwillingly gave permission. They would have preferred to see them re-enforce the community in Kinshasa. The Bangolo team worked with the “Fathers of the Society of African Missions” (Lyon). They began with 3 sisters (Yvonne Denoual, Jeanne Cecile Deloustal and Cecile Duffey). Their numbers never exceeded more than 4,13 among them sisters from Canada, the Pacific and Spain who came to help.

Another aspect of change in the sisters’ experience involved redefining their relationship with the masculine branch. Until then, as the Very Rev. Fr. Euthyme Rouchouze describes after the crisis experienced during the generalate of Pierre-Dominique Bonamie, unity was lived but “each one staying in their own home, separated.”14 Once the sisters decided to participate, like the brothers, in evangelization, it was quite natural that they would want or accept to engage in it together. This was not the case in the Ivory Coast where the brothers were not present, nor in Mozambique where there was no question at that time of the sisters coming. It was the case in Kinshasa.

It was as a result of a request of the brothers, especially Gerard Vervloesem, that the sisters arrived to lend support. The brothers prepared or built somewhere for them to live. They considered in sharing the tasks: the sisters were concerned with freeing the priests for their specifically priestly functions. Moreover, a very close relationship was established between the male and female communities, albeit along the lines of nationalities: Belgians on the one side, Spanish on the other. This is understandable in a place where a small group of the same nationality found itself far away from home in a completely different culture, as well as the affinity that belonging to the same religious family offers.

3. The activities during this period

This time involves a period of renewal at two levels: the strictly pastoral level, with the launching of the Second Vatican Council and the social level, under the theme of development.

The general climate became optimistic. The number of missionaries again increased. In Kole the number rose from 17 in 1962 to 24 in 1971. In Mozambique the highest number reached was 15 in 1972. In all areas of pastoral work, it was a time for renewal of methods, a time for “africanisation”, not only of the programmes but also of liturgy celebrated in an African language and according to an African style. In Kole they used texts compiled by the neighbouring diocese of Tshumbe in Otetela. These were written in Lingala for Kinshasa resulting in the introduction of the famous rite of the Zairian mass. In Mozambique, in spite of the colonial situation persisting, renewal was felt. Fr. Pedro Cools undertook the editing of a missal in the Sena language, seeking to go beyond pre-evangelization in order to place the emphasis on direct evangelization.

Ivory Coast 1980As to the theme of development, it took its lead from that of Christian civilization, which typified the global objective of the colonial era. In fact “development” meant taking on anew that which had been undertaken by the colonial regime: (teaching and health care). Added to this was a series of other activities necessary because of the deficiencies of the newly founded States: agriculture, animal breeding, road works, etc. Meanwhile, rejecting the alienating paternalism that was typical of the colo­nial era, they wanted to set in motion a pedagogy that stimulated creativity and initiative.

From the 60’s in Mozambique and in the 70’s in Kole and the Ivory Coast, religious (men and women) and laity optimistically committed themselves to the work. In Kole, secondary teaching was developed so as to form leaders needed by the country. They set in motion different projects including cattle breeding and the marketing of rice. In Kinshasa they built a bridge and two dispensaries. In Mozambique a professional school was opened and agriculture was promoted. Sometimes the missionary was seen as a kind of Peace corps voluntary wearing a cassock. Thanks to the help of African sisters who had come from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), women’s development was promoted. In the Ivory Coast and in Kinshasa a great part of the activities of our sisters was in the areas of literacy classes, development and promotion of women, sewing and needle work, maternity work, etc.

In Mozambique during the civil war, which exploded shortly after independence (25 June 1975) and which only ended in 1992, the most urgent need of the population and the few brothers who remained at their posts, consisted no longer in development but in survival. One priest, Fr. João Mateus van Reijen was nominated the national co-ordinator for Caritas and developed an impressive work in providing food and the means of subsistence to a population battered by the war and by hunger. He died prematurely in 1991 and is buried in Dondo, beside Fr. Hugo van Eersel who had died in 1980.

Furthermore, at the end of 1987 when there was still no question of accepting Mozambican candidates in the Congregation, brothers started a project to help Mozambican refugees who were to be found in Zambia.15

Four brothers willingly worked there in conditions that were both precarious and prejudicial to their health. It became necessary to end this commitment earlier that had been foreseen, at the beginning of 1991.

4. The progress on internationalisation

At the time of the General Chapters held during this period, one can see how progress was made in the area of internationality.

All the Chapters deal with the figure of a “mission coordinator”, which was originally named “mission visitor”. However for fear of bestowing authority on its office-holder, they preferred to use the term “coordinator”. The first holder of this office, Fernando Ábalos, was appointed in 1971. The Chapter of 1970 had defined his role as principally “to help central government elaborate a plan for the bringing together of our missions” .16 For his part, he tried, without much success, to establish a network of coordinators by Provinces. In his report to the Chapter of 1976, he stressed the importance of defining in what our mission consisted: “a mission without frontiers”, because Christian countries have become “mission territories.” Also, that mission starts from the “charism of the Congregation”, understood as a “reading of the Gospel that our community makes today in light of the ‘signs of the times’, in continuity with the ‘first reading’ realised by the Founder and the historic community”.17

Another important aspect was the setting up of a General Secretariat of the Missions, formed by local coordinators in the Provinces, but especially concretised in a small group: the Permanent Commission of the Missions (CPM) which, since 1977, has met twice a year, under the presidency of the Mission Coordinator. Its special role was to sensitise the Provinces to mission and administer a fund of mutual assistance set up in 1977 with the voluntary contributions of some Provinces, Vice Province or Region and also of the General Government of the sisters.

The same concern similarly manifested itself in the new Constitutions of 1966. They envisaged, if necessary, cooperation in personnel at the level of Major superiors for the missions entrusted to the Congregation.18 Moreover, “it is left to the Su­perior General to take religious from any Province, having obtained the advice of the respective Provincial Superior.”19

The recommendations of the Chapter of 1982 regarding the missions were centered on the theme of “international responsibility for the Missions”, and “internationalisation of the Missions”, without really defining concretely what this meant at the level of structures and the existing government .20

Chapter II


CONGREGATION (1983-1994)

Theologians and Missiologists have determined how “plantatio Ecclesiae” should be understood. Could it be that one could equally explain the content of “plantatio Congregationis?” Often we speak of “offering our charism to the local church”, which presupposes that a real value is attached to this charism, that it would enrich the local church and would also contribute to its successful implantation. As the Decree Ad Gentes of Vatican II appears to insinuate, the foundation of religious life is a case in point: “Not only does it provide valuable and absolutely necessary help for missionary activity, but through the deeper consecration made to God in the Church it clearly shows and signifies the intimate nature of the Christian vocation. Religious institutes which are working for the implanting of the Church and which are deeply imbued with those mystical graces which are part of the Church's religious tradition, should strive to give them expression and to hand them on in a manner in keeping with the character and outlook of each nation.”21

Concretely, for us, this can be translated in two ways. On the one hand, once the diocesan clergy resume the work that is proper to them, we are then invited to develop our own works, not only directed by us, but especially characterised by our community life, our spirituality and the care of the poor. On the other hand, now that the essentials regarding recruitment of diocesan clergy or of the indigenous religious congregations are assured, we can set in action a network of activities that seek to welcome and form candidates. As the Constitutions state: “This universality of our mission normally includes the implantation of the Congregation in the places where we serve, and an openness to accepting local vocations.” (Art 60, 2).


1. Kinshasa (1983-1990)

In 1982 the General Chapter of the brothers decided to review the structure of the Congregation, notably, in suppressing Quasi-Provinces, which would become either a Province or a Region. The question was put before the Quasi-Province of Zaire. Moreover, in October, 1983, during a meeting of the General Council with the Provincial of Spain, José Luís Lozano and one of his councillors, Santiago López, the choice was: Do you want to stay in Africa or not?

Some weeks later, on 7 December, the General Council returned to the question and the theme of implantation was treated a number of times in the exchanges regarding the situation in Kinshasa. Curiously, this idea came from the desire, formulated by the General Chapter of 1982, to internationalise the Congregation, that is to say, to become less European. Implanting the Congregation was seen as the means, which in turn would require a “formation policy”. “It can be noted that the Congregations which were present in African and Asia had many vocations, which could be a sign for us.” In Zaire, in Kinshasa and not in Kole, our brothers appear to have taken this into account .22 For its part, the General Government opted for implantation, whenever possible. To see what the possibilities were, it waited for the results of the canonical visit that was to take place in March 1984 by Alban Le Gargean and Miguel Diaz and had as aim the future of our presence both in Kole and in Kinshasa and the implications for the status of the Quasi-Province. In February 1984 the General Government of the Sisters was informed of this.

This canonical visit made apparent that, unlike the brothers in Kole, the brothers of Kinshasa were open to the implantation of the Congregation and ready to face the difficulties that this would bring.23 As a matter of fact, following the retaking of one of their parishes by the Archbishop of Kinshasa, they themselves were conscious that they were looking for an alternative: either to face up to the fact that sooner or later they would have to leave, or to change their opinion and find another motive for remaining present. Consequently, the Quasi-Province of Zaire was abolished and the communities of the brothers in Zaire were restructured into two regions: Kole, as part of the Flanders Province, and Kinshasa, as part of the Spanish Province.

In this time one notes a change in the composition of the communities. Inter-provincial collaboration intensified. At the same time the Polish brothers were integrated into the Spanish communities, which, in turn, were similarly reinforced by the arrival of two brothers from the Andalucian Province: Frs. Román Elizade and Luís Felipe Soto. For their part, the contribution of the Spanish Province progressively reduced from a total of 8 to 5 by 1989. In this respect, we take into consideration two premature deaths: Carlos García Moratella in 1985 and Pedro Pérez in 1990. Among the sisters, after having hesitated briefly following a fa­tal accident in 1982 in which two sisters died (Rosa Martin and Maria Solar), they decided to continue and likewise their numbers increased. In 1986 they were 1 Belgium, 2 French and 7 Spanish.

After restructuring and an increase of personnel, they rolled up their sleeves in Kinshasa and systematically began to carry out the project of implantation. Statutes for the Region were put together in 1985. In 1986 brothers and sisters engaged in a joint session on the charism. In 1987 a project on apostolic religious life was drawn up with the sisters.24 The Spanish Provincial Chapter of 1987 decided for implantation and a regional house was built in 1988. Formators were prepared and new members arrived. A house was built for postulants and a novitiate constructed in 1990. In October 1989 the first pre-novices were welcomed, two young men (Camille Sapu and Paulin Kadumu) and a young girl, (Colette Buhangize).

During this time another aspect was evolving, the relationship between brothers and sisters. With the disappearance of the Belgium group, the Spanish majority found themselves on their own, which made things easier. If the increase in numbers resulted in an increase in meetings, it was together, as brothers and sisters, that the problem of implantation was confronted. A session in common was held on the charism, animated by Palo- ma Aguirre and Fernando Ábalos, with a common determination to implant the Congregation and its charism. They worked on a common plan of religious life, mutual help in formation, and in youth ministry.

9. Mozambique (1988-1990)

Similarly in Mozambique, progress was made in regards to the restructuring requested by the General Chapter of 1982. The Vice-Province of Portugal came to be a Region and the Region of Mozambique united with the Dutch Province. The ties between the Province and its Region strengthened. In April-May of 1987, the Provincial bursar and procurator of Missions, Frans Steenbrink visited the Region. In April-May of the following year it was the turn of the Provincial, Cor Rademaker.

In his report on this visit the Dutch Provincial confirmed the existence of candidates wishing to enter religious life with us. 25 Four were completing their secondary studies in the Minor Seminary in Beira where they were interns. Four others were in philosophy in the Major Seminary in Matola. They were also interns. From there, questions were raised concerning their formation (especially regards the novitiate) - something yet to be organised. In the first place it was necessary to decide what continuity would be given to these candidates. The situation was, in fact, extremely delicate. The civil war still prevailed and 5 brothers remained, cut off from their mission and almost refugees in the Jesuits’ house in Beira.

In spite of this, on the 9 August 1989, after a meeting with the Provincial Secreatriate of the Missions and three brothers (João Maria van den Bosch, José Martens and Teodoro van Zoggel (the latter recently returned from Brazil and open to going to Africa), the Provincial Council decided to organise initial formation for the Mozambican candidates. For their part, the other brothers in Mozambique were primarily concerned with guaranteeing our pastoral presence in our old missions. They counted on the arrival of brothers from other provinces to take on responsibility for formation. In these conditions and taking into account that they had not been consulted beforehand, they declared themselves in agreement with the decision concerning initial formation. By way of opposition, the Bishops of Mozambique created difficulties by not allowing our candidates to continue to board in the Major Seminary. Thus it was necessary to quickly open a Congregational house in Matola on 19th March1990. The sending of 2 postulants to Brazil for their novitiate proved to be a failure. Happily, in this same year, two new brothers arrived from Por­tugal to take on formation: Guilherme Breeuwer, who had worked in Mozambique from 1967 to 1977, and Martinho Bolwerk.

II. PROJECT AFRICA (1988-1994)

1. The first steps towards collaboration (1988-1990)

The brothers’ General Chapter in September 1988 was faced with the challenge of formation both in Kinshasa and in Mozambique. Because of this, the two respective Provincials organised a fringe meeting at the Chapter in order to sensitise the whole Congregation to the problem. A similar meeting had been held also in order to propose the Philippines as the place of formation for Asia. Even if this meeting on Africa was less successful than the one on the Philippines, the Chapter did vote on a proposal presented by the Permanent Commission of Missions (CPM). “The Chapter recommends to the General Government that it establishes, in collaboration with CPM, certain priorities (My emphasis) regarding the missionary projects already existing or about to begin, e.g. formation in Asia and in Africa.” In the final draft, the recommendation was formulated as follows: “The General Chapter asks that our missionary presence in Asia and in Africa be supported and promoted. This responsibility, which can belong directly to some Provinces, concerns the whole Congregation. In order to ensure their future, the General Government will give special importance to the Initial Formation of native vocations”.26 However, except from the Provinces who had already supplied personnel, this request remained unanswered.

By way of contrast, the sisters, at the time of their General Chapter of 1988 had already resolutely committed themselves as Provinces and Regions to supporting implantation both in terms of personnel and finances. The community in the Ivory Coast joined together with the communities of Kinshasa to form an African Region, dependent on the Spanish Province. In 1990, the first two Latin American sisters, (from Chile), arrived in Kinshasa: Claudia Pozo and Valentina Pérez. Others would follow them .27 In December, 1988 the Ivory Coast community sent a letter to the General Governments and to the Provincial Superiors renewing their “request that a community of brothers be set up without delay, and if it was possible why not a second community of sisters?”28 We know that this request did not find a positive response.

In November 1990 the brothers took a first and modest step towards African collaboration. The Regional Superior of Kinshasa, Roman Elizalde and Álvaro de Luxan, (formation), went to Mozambique in order to become familiar with it. Both were conscious that they were facing the same task and that together they would be stronger in facing new and impressive challenges. However, at that time, things did not go much further.

2. Towards a missionary policy of the Congregation (1991)

After the General Chapter of 1988, the General Government came together to elaborate a missionary policy for the Congregation. With this intention they carried out extensive consultation in the Congregation. In the document, the missionary policy of the Congregation is addressed only to Afri­ca and Asia and, less obviously to Oceania, and with particular regard to the welcome and formation of indigenous vocations. For this, it is necessary to anticipate, the document states, the collaboration of the entire Congregation: “The General Chapter (1988) has declared as priority projects our presence in Asia and Africa, which implies not only the commitment of all the provinces involved, but of the whole Congregation... But in the Congregation there are many other situations and places of mission to which it is not always possible to pay attention as we should, due to a lack of means and above all personnel”. In short, will the Congregation focus on formation in Africa, Asia (and Oceania) and how will such international collaboration be organised?

Fifteen major communities sent in their replies. Some were perplexed at the insistence on initial formation at a time when concern was for a missionary policy. They could not clearly see how the formation dimension and the missionary dimension went together. Similarly, they had the impression that mission had been relegated to second place, in deference to formation and the welcoming of local vocations. Moreover, it seemed that people envisaged the creation of missionary projects other than those that were proposed by the document. Rather, the way the questions had been put invited them to think in this direction. We are living in a dream world: at a time when there is already every imaginable difficulty in finding people for the priority project of Asia and Africa, we are dreaming of a host of other places in the diverse continents. In short, as far as the way to organise international collaboration is concerned, even if one declared oneself to be in favour and a number of propositions had been made in several directions, no clear line could be drawn from the consultation. Nevertheless, there was an insistence on an extended role of the General Government.

  1. The Enlarged General Council (1992)

The term “Project Africa” explicitly appeared in October 1992 in the Enlarged General Council of the brothers. In fact, it was there, in relation to each continent that the mission of the Congregation was dealt with. This clearly led to a consideration of Project Africa. This is not to say, however, that its content would be that clear. But the Regionals of Mozambique and Kinshasa knew how to evoke interest, enthusiasm and set a tone for the whole meeting. On the other side, a synthesis was presented to the language groups for discussion concerning the missionary policy. Even if there was no clear line, this still contributed towards making the participants more aware. Also, the brothers directly involved in Africa met together on 11 October and decided to organise a meeting within the space of one year to look at collaboration in formation. As in the case of the document concerning a missionary policy, initial formation in Africa was recognised as a primary concern.29

  1. The commitment of the Anglo/Irish Province (1993)

The Anglo/ Irish Province, brothers and sisters, had formulated a project to have a community in an English-speaking country. As this turned out to be impossible, the Provincial Chapter of the brothers decided to respond favourably to a request from Mozambique to offer assistance to this Region. In 1993 2 brothers headed for Mozambique, Frs. Eamon Aylward and Derek Laverty. A 3 year written contract was drawn up and agreed upon between the Province and the Region. During these three years of study and experience it was agreed that the two brothers would not work directly in formation, but in the mission of Inhaminga, where the young men in formation would be able to go for their pastoral experience. The arrival of these two brothers represented a step forward in internationalisation. Equally, it was seen to be good to have in each region not only formation communities but also communities that are more specifically “missionary”.

5. The Pan-African meeting of Kinshasa (1993)

This meeting, agreed to in Quito, took place in Kinshasa from 23-30 September.30 A group of 14 people were present: From Rome, Miguel Diaz, the Mission Coordinator. Representing Kinshasa were Álvaro de Luxan and Germán Fresán, (formators) and the Regional, Roman Elizalde. Teodoro van Zoggel (Regio­nal) and Guilherme Breeuwer (formator) were present on behalf of Mozambique.. Roger Candaele represented Kole. The Provincials of Spain (Santiago López), Holland (Gait Groot Zevert), Poland (Bruno Zuchowski) were also there. Paloma Aguirre, (Provincial of Spain), Paula Teck (Regional), Mercedes Paramo (formator) and Marie-Lucie Geniteau (General councillor) were present for some of the sessions.

Roger Candaele, a missionary from Kole was present, on the grounds that Kole could be an interesting placement for pasto­ral work for future Zairian religious.31 At this present time there remains no more than 6 brothers in this Region.

The following conclusions were reached:

Concerning collaboration in formation: for the two regions, theology in Kinshasa and pastoral placements in Mozambique.

Concerning formation structures and government.

  1. The group responsible for the continuation of collaboration will be formed by the Regional Provincials and the Coordinator of the Missions

  2. The means to arrive at this collaboration:

  • A visit together of the two Provincials;

  • Official meetings (and not just informal dialogues) to address Africa and follow the development of Project Africa and collaboration;

  • That decisions affecting Africa would be fundamentally taken on by the Provincials and by the Regional Superiors;

  • Periodic meetings of the formators of the two regions

  1. That a process begins geared towards one plan of formation for the two Regions and one Project (Plan) of Religious Apostolic Life (PVRA) for Africa.

  1. Present Project Africa to the General Chapter, especially in regards to collaboration in formation, asking for help from other Provinces, above all if the decision is taken to have formation in common in a third African country.

  1. Request that the first seminar on the missions after the General Chapter be held in Africa .32

One can observe the following: emphasis has been placed on collaboration in initial formation; on collaboration between the two regions of Africa in the field of one formation plan; and collaboration is expected from the other Provinces. A brief mention was also made of one Project of Religious Apostolic Life (PVRA) for the two regions. Does this imply orientating oneself towards one unique African identity, in statutes yet to be defined (Region, Vice-Province)? It’s not that clear.

  1. The General Chapters of 1994

It is a curious thing. While collaboration between brothers and sisters is an important characteristic of Project Africa, the two General Chapters treated this Project separately, without ever forming a common working group, even in regards to mutual information concerning the directions taken on both sides.

Regarding the Sisters’ Chapter, the only new fact for Africa is the use of the term “Missionary Project of the Congregation”. For the rest, concerning Africa, everything had already been decided during the previous Chapter. They were only concerned with the Philippine Project.

In the brothers’ Chapter the results of the reflection on missionary policy of the Congregation were presented and they focussed the debate on defining as priorities the projects of the Philippines and Africa.

Once again a lot of time was spent in listening to long expositions which described the communities of Japan, Indonesia, India, Mozambique, Zaire and the Philippines. Regarding the Philippines, certain points remained unclear in spite of the replies given to questions put forward by the capitulants. As a result, the Inter-provincial conferences were asked to pronounce on two points. Firstly, that the General Government has the power to “declare as a priority an international missionary project”. Secondly, “that the actual projects of the Philippines (Asia-Oceania) and Africa correspond to the conditions” in order to be declared priorities.

The European and English Speaking Conferences did not have any difficulty. The Latin-American Conference was more reserved and introduced some clarifications or modifications. It fell to the General Chapter, and not to the General Government, to declare a project a priority. This project dealt with formation (and not with the apostolate). Oceania was no longer mentioned, just as the term “Asia” was the only one kept, and not the term “Philippines”. But still the term “priority” created difficulties (after all, it could appear that this term devalued other projects) and the term “urgent” was preferred in its place, a term which accentuated that the priority could be transitory. From then on the priority of projects is established only until the next Chapter, during which it will be necessary to review the question.

As to the question of how to organise international collaboration for the priority projects and the type of structure and finances which need to be considered, the document on missionary policy did not contain any concrete proposal and the Chapter once again referred the matter to the next General Government.

By concentrating on information already given in Quito and treating the Philippines and Kinshasa-Mozambique in a defensive way, the Chapter missed, in my humble view, the opportunity to clarify a whole series of points. In relation to what are projects to be considered as priorities? In relation to a Province’s own projects or in relation to other “international” projects? What is the role of the Mission Co-ordinator and the Secretary General of the Missions? What financial system does the Chapter give its authority to? What kind of person is intended to serve in formation? How do we find these people? Who should nominate them? And concerning Africa, is it a case of one single project or two projects collaborating together? Is it necessary to journey towards one single identity that brings together the two regions? What role should the Mission Coordinator play? What are the conditions to be fulfilled for someone to be able to work in the regions (e.g. knowledge of languages)? Is it possible to promote other international projects, such as that in the Andes? These are all questions that the Chapter instead of concentrating on information could have better dealt with. So the General Government will have to deal with those questions.

We have, accordingly, reached the end of the period that this present study treats.

7. The situation in 1994

We finish with a vision of the situation at the end of August 1994.33 In Kinshasa there are three communities of sisters with 12 members and three communities of brothers together with 15 professed, 11 of whom are in final vows. These communities include a “Regional House” where the Regional Superior lives, a parish based community and a formation community, namely, “Père Coudrin”, in which there are 4 temporary professed brothers (2 Zairians and 2 Mozambicans), 5 postulants and 2 novices. One can see how initial formation is setting the tone. This is not to say that we have abandoned pastoral work since at this time the brothers are still unable to withdraw from 6 parishes for which they are still responsible.

The 3 communities of the sisters in Kinshasa are the novitiate, called “Père Damien”, and two other communities which take their name from the parishes in which they are located - “Mama wa Boboto” (Our Lady of Peace) and St. Francis Xavier where there are 2 temporary professed Zairians. In Bangolo in the Ivory Coast, which forms part of the African Region, there are only 2 sisters, one French and one Spanish.

There are 8 brothers in Mozambique: 2 are from the Anglo/ Irish Province and 6 are from Holland (2 of them have come from the Region of Portugal). They are divided into 4 communities. Two of the communities are in Beira, respectively the pre-postulancy, “Lar dos Sagrados Corações” (Sacred Hearts Home) with 12 young men, and a “missionary residence” in Macuti. In Inhaminga there is one “missionary community” while in Matola there is a “postulancy and novitiate” with two postulants and no novices.


What can we learn from this long history? In the first place we can appreciate the scope of the work completed, so much suffering and so much joy present in the thread of historical events, the lives given, even sacrificed_

One can further appreciate both the advances made and the questions that still remain to be clarified: internationality, collaboration of brothers and sisters, inculturation, formation and even “Project Africa”.

Taking into account its global aspect, what is it that the Congregation truly wants? What are the fears and the real possibilities in the face of a decrease in numbers and the older Provinces becoming older?

What system should it follow so as to take responsibility for the missionary projects? What restructuring will it attempt to undertake? Or will it, instead, become immobilised through fear?

What role should the General Government play? People insist that the General Government should become more involved, but the question is to know how. As to the missionary policy of the Congregation, it seems to me that the Government should not content itself with presenting a synthesis of the replies received from the Provinces. Rather it should allow itself to be inspired by them in order to elaborate a coherent proposal for the next General Chapter.

Rome, 10 May 1998.


1 See Edouard BRION, Le diocèse de Kole hier et ajourd’hui (1931-1981), Kole, 1981; and also by the same author, “Aux origines du diocèse de Kole, Zaire (1880-1935), Brussels, Les Cahiers du CEDAF, 1988, 1-2.

2 Les missionnaires d’Alger et l’esclavage africain in Annals, 1880, p.520. In 1879 and 1880 the Annals published two articles on African missions.

3 Belgium Provincial Council Meeting, 23 June 1910. See also Simon GOOVAERTS, Semeurs d ’Évangile, 1947, p.179.

4 Acts of the General Council, 16 July and 5 August, 1913.

5 See Edmund Blommaert, Mozambique: A Hopeful Return?, (1993)

6 General Council, sscc, 14.08.1956

7 Text in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1940, pp. 230-232, 235-245

8 Report of Fr. Hugo van Eersel, 1966

9 Acts of the Chapter, pp. 56, 65-66

10 Ibid, p.22

11 See Edmund BLOMMAERT, Impressions of a visit to our brothers in TANZANIA, in Evangelisation, Jan-Feb 1982, pp.28-31

12 See Marie-Lucie GENITEAU, The Mission of the Sisters in Africa, in Evangelisation, 1990-4, pp.200-206. See also Edouard BRION, Les Irmãs des Sacrés-Coeurs, nouvelles initiatives missionnaires et mutations ins­titutionnelles, (1948-1979), as they appear in the 1997 Acts of the Ses­sion of CREDIC .

13 See Horizon Blancs, October 1974, Evangelisation, March-April 1980 and January-February 1982, Info sscc, May 1988

14 Letter to the 1854 General Chapter of the Sisters. Cfr. Annals sscc, 1963, pp. 9-10

15 See Mozambican Refugees in Zambia in Evangelisation, 1989-1

16 Decision 19,2.

17 Report of the General Coordinator of the Missions to the 1976 General Chapter, p.12.

18 Art. 99, 2

19 Art. 147, 3

20 Recommendations 41-49

21 Ad Gentes, 18

22 An initiative, both improvised and transitory, had been taken in Kole during the preceding period: Pascal Kalema and Albert Ohenyi had taken the habit in 1964 in Kole and had taken their vows as lay brothers after their novitiate in Waudrez, (Belgium) in 1966. Both of them left by 1968. Other candidates who presented themselves to us were directed to other Congregations.

23 Cfr. Miguel DIAZ, Visit to Zaire, in Info sscc, September, 1984

24 See SSCC in Kinshasa: Evangelisation, 187-2. See also Community Project of brothers and sisters, sscc, in Kinshasa, ibid. pp. 8-13 and Apostolic Plan, brothers and sisters in Kinshasa, ibid. 1990-2, pp.17-22

25 Cor RADEMAKER, Bezoek aan Mocambique, in INTER NOS, 1988, pp.128-129

26 Resolution 22.

27 See Maria Beatriz MONTANER, The Sisters of Latin America and their presence in Africa, in Evangelisation, 12/1996, pp.42-46

28 Info sscc, December, 1988, p.151

29 At the beginning of 1993 an edition of Evangelisation appeared on Project Africa sscc 1993-2 with an article by Álvaro de LUXAN entitled “PROJECT AFRICA”

30 See Álvaro de LUXAN, Towards a common African Project, in Info sscc., March 1994, pp.185-191

31 General Council 13.9.93

32 Minutes of the Meeting (29th September)

33 Index fratrum et sororum of 1995 and Acts of the General Chapter of the Brothers (Annex 9).


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