Sierra Leone bishop thanks OLV for continued support of poor African parish

Recently, Bishop George Biguzzi, a Xaverian Missionary who has been Bishop of the Diocese of Makeni, Sierra Leone, West Africa, stopped by our Provincial House to take care of a number of matters for his Diocese. We include some recent articles in the newspaper of the Diocese of Paterson on Bishop Biguzzi and the work of Catholic mission in West Africa. This article is dated a couple of years but speaks well to the reality today.

Since 2001, Our Lady of the Valley (OLV) Parish in the Diocese of Paterson here has been reaching across the Atlantic Ocean with generous hearts and wallets to help an impoverished neighbor a world away – Christ the King Parish of Binkolo in the West African nation of Sierra Leone. OLV has paid for chapels, schools and even “wheels,” like the pick-up truck the “mission-minded” African parish recently received.

So Bishop Biguzzi of the Makeni Diocese, where Christ the King is located, stopped at OLV recently for Mass to say “thanks” for the foreign-model truck. OLV has maintained its long-standing commitment to Christ the King, which along with other parishes in the northern Makeni Diocese, continues rebuilding in the wake of a 10-year civil war that devastated the region.

“I thanked Our Lady of the Valley for the support over the years,” said Bishop Biguzzi, a Xaverian Missionary priest, who visited OLV, while visiting in the U.S., which included a stop at the Xaverians’ Provincial House on Helene Court near the parish. “I am grateful to be back home with friends who have an interest in what we are doing.”

At the Mass, the 70-year-old Bishop Biguzzi updated OLV parishioners on Christ the King’s rebuilding efforts. During his stay in Wayne, one of several over the years, the bishop also celebrated Mass at St. Michael Parish, Paterson.

“The people of Our Lady of the Valley responded well,” said Father Daniel Murphy, pastor of the more than 2,300-family OLV, which has “tithed” almost $150,000 to Christ the King since 2001. “The bishop has so much enthusiasm for the missions.”

OLV’s commitment to Christ the King started in 2001, when it split the proceeds of its diocesan Prepare the Way campaign rebate with three beneficiaries, among them the nearby Xaverians, who have served as weekend assistants at the parish.

In turn Christ the King remains “mission minded” as it maintains 20 outlying chapels and 35 schools, provides for the area poor and donates to World Mission Sunday.

“Despite being poor themselves, our parishioners think of the poorer people,” Bishop Biguzzi said.

West African bishops collaborate on historic document on Christian-Muslim relations
When the Catholic bishops of western Africa held their historic plenary assembly on Christian and Muslim understanding in October, these forward-thinking religious leaders decided to meet in a perfect location – Sierra Leone, which serves as “model of religious tolerance” for the rest of the world, according Bishop George Biguzzi of the Makeni Diocese there.

The Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa gathered last month in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, to draft a groundbreaking communiqu} that explores many of the ways Christians and Muslims there can gain a better understanding of each other and can better work together. The bishops hailed from Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria.

“We want to open new doors in dialogue because we believe that this is the only way that we can truly cultivate respect for each other and together stand up for human dignity and peace,” they state in the communiqu}.

Fresh from the assembly, Bishop Biguzzi spoke during a visit to the Xaverian Missionaries’ Provincial House here about the communique, which also looks at conflicts between the two religions.

In the document, the bishops assert that the two religious communities can collaborate on important outreaches, such as protecting the environment, building schools and clinics and protecting the sacredness of human life.

The bishops’ discussions about inter-religious collaborations, which included Protestants and Muslims, felt comfortable in Sierra Leone, where Christians and Muslims have “easy relations.” Many Muslim families send their children to Christian schools and allow them to choose their religion, said Bishop Biguzzi.

“We have an export more precious than diamonds – our religious tolerance,” the bishop said.

Take a look at a video of one the schools in the Diocese of Makeni and the work they are doing.

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