Tuesday, 9 October 2018

My first stint with Mill Hill Missionaries was three years beginning in 1991. I taught would-be Mill Hill candidates English and about the wider world outside the forest, in preparation for their entry to the seminary in Uganda.

Mill Hill have been present in Basankusu Diocese since 1905. Hundreds of our missionaries have been here to build Christian communities over the years. Even in the 1990s, there were about twenty five of us. I found only two members left in Basankusu in 2014 ... with me added, that made three of us in the whole country.
The isolation of Basankusu has made it more and more difficult for Fr. Stan and myself to select and teach students to the priesthood. We had a visit from, Andrew Mukulu, from our General Council, two years ago. He suggested that we move the teaching programme to Kinshasa, the capital city.

“The candidates would learn a lot in the city – there are more possibilities there,” he said. “Not only that, but we can extend the programme to include a degree in philosophy, the first cycle of studying to become a priest.” He continued with obvious enthusiasm, “We wouldn’t have to restrict ourselves to Basankusu Diocese for our candidates ... we have the whole country to recruit from.”

We stopped teaching in Basankusu two years ago with the idea of moving it to Kinshasa. That has freed me up to spend more time on my projects for malnutrition and wheelchairs, of course, but we’ve been waiting to see whether we would be teaching our candidates again.

This month we saw a development. Fr Otto Bambokela, who is Congolese himself, like Fr. Stan, arrived in Kinshasa to start looking for suitable accommodation for our students to live and to study. We’re all very excited about it.

However, our first glitch has been that Fr. John Kirwan, suddenly got a problem with his back, ended up walking with a stick and has swiftly sought medical assistance in England.

Fr. Stan and I were planning to travel up to Basankusu this week, but Stan’s doctor has asked him to stay another ten days in Kinshasa to have some tests for a minor problem. So, I’ll be travelling alone to my malnutrition centres.

Well, so far, so good – we now total four Mill Hillers in the Congo and with a brand new project to give us national presence. We just have to pray for the speedy return to good health of Fr. John and Fr. Stan.

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