The Xaverian Missionaries have been working in Sierra Leone, West Africa since the early 1950’s. In recent times we have moved to the peripheral area of Mongo Bodugu. The mission of Mongo Bendugu is settled by the Koranko Tribe, traditional Muslims who migrated from the nearby borders of Guinea in the last century. Fr. Carlo Di Sopra shared the fourth anniversary of our presence there.
On Sunday, 22nd February 2015, Mongo Parish reached the age of 4 years. We celebrated the fourth anniversary of its establishment by Bishop George Biguzzi in 2011. Looking at the better situation of the country, we agreed to have a simple feast on this occasion. It is also a kind of compensation for the ban of Christmas celebration last year because of ebola. The presence of Fr. Carlo di Sopra and Fr. Louis Birabaluge, who just arrived in Sierra Leone from Republic Democratic of Congo on January this year, was also a blessing for the community.
In this anniversary we tried to strengthen the family spirit of the parish. Sometimes we feel that we have not been familiar enough to each other, especially with the communities in the surrounding villages. This unfamiliar relationship is a barrier for building a Church as a family. So we invited some members and prayer leaders of the outstations in the surrounding villages which have started building their small Christian communities. They came not just to join the celebration, but also to experience living together with the Mongo community as their mother Church. They came on Saturday, joined the preparation of songs and penitential service in the evening, watched film of Jesus, then stayed together with the Christian families of Mongo town in their houses. This was an effort to develop our parish to be “really in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or self-absorbed cluster made up of a chosen few.” (EG no. 28.)
During the mass, Fr. Carlo reminded us that when Bishop George Biguzzi opened Mongo Parish he
said in a parable that he was like throwing a ball so that the parishioners of Mongo could start playing it. Therefore, like a game, parishioners of Mongo with the fathers and brothers have been playing the ball for 4 years. Some fathers could come and go, even the parishioners could come and go, but the game continues. As in any kind of games, success and failure, happiness and sorrow are inevitable, so in the life of Mongo parish.
The game is going on and will go on continuously, because, as Fr. Carlo reminded us, the establishment of a parish in Mongo means that Jesus is here present in the parish permanently. The activity of mission in this parish is based on that presence of Jesus. As God the Father said about Jesus, ‘This is my own dear Son, listen to him’ (Mark 9:7), so the parishioners have to listen to Jesus through the fathers, brothers and the community who are present here to work in the parish.
During the reception in the Parish Hall, we were reminded that Mongo parish is not just for the Christian community. It is also for the society in general. Especially in this Muslim dominated area, we are obliged to nurture a good religious tolerance with Islam. The presence of the Paramount Chief and elders of the town also reminded us about the important of this religious tolerance. Fr. Carlo even asked us not only to practice the religious tolerance, but have to go beyond it by building a sincere and honest friendship where we can love each other and work together. With this attitude, we can avoid bad experience in other places where there is conflict between Christian and Muslim, even killing each other. Furthermore, we even should practice the mission through interreligious dialogue.
Beside speeches, the parishioners and guests also enjoyed the entertainment from our youth who performed cultural dance and songs. Their beautiful performance was a reminder that it is part of our responsibility to keep the local culture, to learn and develop it as our precious heritage with whom we need to open ourselves for dialogue.
We could see how enthusiastic we were when Mr. John K Kamara offered quiz which helped the parishioners to be aware of some practical knowledge about our church, the xaverian and the environment of Mongo society. At the end, with Salon music accompaniment, we had lunch together with a delicious local menu, namely rice produced by Mongo farmers with soup of goat beef also reared by them.