“Here I am sending you some tidbits on mission life.” With these words our dear friend María Augusta embraces us and writes on what is going on in the mission of the CAR. Ana [CLM from Poland] had a problem with an elbow. X-rays were taken and then we went with her to the military medical center in Bangui. People there were very kind and helpful. God willing, we will have lunch with them tomorrow. Gratefully, the rest of us is doing well. We had news from Fr. Samuel, who is also doing well, taking advantage of his vacation to rest and to visit family and friends. This week a mother with twin girls came to us. She had already been here other times to ask for milk, because she did not have enough for both babies. They were already undernourished. We took care of them and they had returned home in good shape. Now she came with one of the babies being very skinny, and weighing only 2 Kg at 9 months… I was very stressed by it and immediately I went with the mother to the place where we treat those who are undernourished, to have her admitted. I do not know whether she is going to make it! May the Lord do what is best for her. Little Andrés, the orphan I met in November 2015 and to whom we gave milk, has Pott disease (vertebral tuberculosis). He was taken to the pediatrician in Bangui and now he is being treated for it. Later he will undergo surgery like Gervelais*, who up to this point was not able to walk, but after two months of this TB treatment, has already started to take a few steps and it is clear he has a lot of inner strength to make him want to learn how to walk in a hurry. At the school we have started two remedial classes** of 90 minutes each, twice a week. In the early years we concentrate on reading and writing. And then later we add Mathematics. May the Lord give our students strength and good will so as not to fail, but may improve their chances. By God’s grace we have some students with a lot of will power… this is what gives us the encouragement to continue. We are grateful to the Lord who gives us good health, happiness and the will to keep on with it. I wish all of you a Lent filled with Quiet and Growth in the love of God and our brothers and sisters. Always united in prayer and mission! Thanks for your prayers. María Augusta Pires, CLM in CAR * Gervelais is the name of a “little one” María Augusta referred to earlier on April 13 and June 11, 2018. ** Because the results of the students are not encouraging, as she explained in her last letter.
The CLM María Augusta writes from Mongoumba, CAR, for her parish paper – The Astrolabio.
Dear Fr. Orlando,
How are you? I hope the new year started very well and so it will be to the end. A happy 2019 to all the parishioners and to your family.
Last week I had malaria, but, by God’s help, I already recovered. The rest of the community is well.
Fr. Samuel left today for his vacation. We ask God that it be a good one and that he may return full of pep and courage to continue the mission entrusted to him.
On December 17 and 18 the Cardinal came to visit. The people of the parish were delighted! A large crowd gathered when he arrived… many people of other denominations also came. For the Eucharist the church was full, and lots of people were gathered outside as well. It lasted five hours! He spoke very eloquently on the problem of likundu* (witchcraft) and other problems.
Ana and Cristina were in Bangui and Simone was in Italy, and I was with the priests to receive him. With God’s help all went well! I hope people will put into practice what they heard. He visited the 10 parishes of the diocese. Ours was the one before the last. He ended his visitation in the cathedral of St. Jeanne of Arc, in Mbaiki. I know that he ended up being very tired, but happy with the participation he saw.
Last time we were in Bangui, at the supermarket we met a policeman from Janeiro da Cima (a place in Portugal). He said that he had already heard that there was around a missionary woman from Janeiro de Baixo (a neighboring place). It was great! He told us that there were soldiers stationed around the airport and yesterday we went to visit. They gave us a great and happy reception! They also gave us medical supplies and invited us to lunch. God willing, we will go tomorrow.
The results of our students are not encouraging and we hope they will improve during this quarter.
I know that you have seen and listened to many reports, none of them pleasant, about our poor country. By God’s grace, here we are at peace, but we mourn with our brothers who are being massacred!
We don’t know yet when we will return to Mongoumba…
Let us continue united in prayer.
A great missionary hug from all of us, to you and to all the readers of Astrolabio.
CLM Maria Augusta in Astrolabio
Year 5 – #139 – February 3, 2019
Parishes of Cabril, Dornelas do Zêzere, Fajão, Janeiro de Baixo, Machio, Pampilhosa da Serra, Portela do Fôjo, Unhais-o-Velho e Vidual
* The problem of likundu is that people are falsely accused of witchcraft and then they are brutally murdered.
I am André, a pygmy youngster, and I don’t know my age, perhaps between 7 and 9 years old, and I live in Ndobo, a camp in the forest of the Republic of Central Africa, near Mongoumba. My house, if you want to call it that, is like an igloo made of branches and dry leaves, with some boards as a bed. It has no bathroom, no kitchen, no TV or electricity, but fortunately it is close to a well a missionary dug some time ago, so I can drink and wash without having to walk for an hour through the forest.
Monday through Friday, together with my friends in the camp, I get up and go to school, walking about 4 km without shoes. Some days we get there a little late but, not having a watch, we do not know when it’s time to get up. Everything becomes more difficult during the rainy season, because the road turns into a swamp.
When we reach the parish of Mongoumba, we enter a room Cristina has prepared for us, where we all have a place with our name on it to wash up, put on our school uniform and, after having greeted Anna, Maria Augusta, Cristina and Simone, off we run to school. Often Maria Augusta comes to our class to help the teacher to “keep us under control,” since there are more than 50 of us, and to teach us French, even though we like to speak Sango, our language.
School ends around 12:30 noon, and we return to the St. Daniel Comboni room to change back into our tattered clothes and go to eat at the “DA TI NDOYE” (House of Charity/Love), where on any given day they give us rice and beans, manioc mush and fish, or Makongo (worms) and ngungia! We eat fast, then we go wait for Simone and Cristina at the payotte near the church to return together to the camp where we play ball, we color or watch movies until almost dark. Then Simone and Cristina say good-bye and remind us that tomorrow we need to be on time!
My day ends in the darkness of the camp, without lights and perhaps with some strange little creature trying to get inside, lulled to sleep by the Central African sky, with its tapestry of stars looking like precious jewels. Oh, I almost forgot… I do not exist! I am in the world… made of flesh and blood, I can run, jump, play… but I am not of the world!
In the CAR there are many other children like me! We are not only exploited, because the resources found in our land are exported to places we do not even know to produce, TV sets, phones, computers, weapons, bombs… but we are out of the world… I am excluded, without documents, without a birth certificate, without a public record… that is…
…IN THE WORLD but NOT OF THE WORLD! (John 17:15)
A warm good-bye
Kisses all around
A large hug
A small prayer
Paul, Pierre, Marie, Albert Dimanche, Pierre, François Albert, Philippe, Guy, Marie, Terese, Marcel, Gabriel…
(with Anna, Maria Augusta, Cristina e Simone)
From Bangui, the capital of uneasiness, where interests and their cohorts mix with the daily life of men and women, boys and girls, who constantly brighten with a smile and their sweet disposition the unpaved, potholed streets shaped by the disorganized traffic of cars, trucks, tanks, jeeps, motorbikes, etc.
I know that this is a time for speaking of love, even if there is no time to love, or to lose, or to count, or to register.
The truth is that – and I am not the only one – I am beginning to feel saturated with words! There is an urgency to live by this Love we so much talk about, to allow us to be transformed by Him, to breathe him in! We cannot continue to filter what our hearts do not want to see! I am currently experiencing a Love which is upside down, because it turns my innards upside down!
I am in mission, or better, we are all in mission, living is mission, called to be responsible for ourselves, for others, for all that surrounds us. We are the chosen people to carry the Breath of God. We cannot snuff the Breath that makes us live, because without it we die, or better yet, we are not even born!
This is a country shining like a gem because of its greed, and where children are the most precious wealth. They scream at us with their precious breath: “Allow us to live.”
With much love
Cristina Sousa, CLM
Hi to everyone. How are you? I have not written in 6 months and it is six months that I have not moved from Mongoumba. What can I tell you? I am well, as the Italian song says, it is difficult to find very serious words to pass on the emotion lived with the suffering humanity of the Central African Republic. I will try to reach your hearts on the strength of images from our pigmy children of Mongoumba…
Looking without speaking… to remain in your thoughts and prayers in this time of Advent.
Light blue like you, like the sky and like the sea
Golden like the light of the sun,
Red like the way you make me feel.
…I draw grass, green like HOPE… like unripen fruit
…and now some blue, like the night
…white like its stars, with shades of yellow
…the air of MONGOUMBA can only be breathed…
…I do not have a color for storms
and with what is left I draw a flower non that it is CHRISTMAS, now that it a time of love…
Paul, Pierre, Marie, Albert
Dimanche, Pierre, François
Albert, Andre, Philippe, Guy
Marie, Terese, Marcel, Gabriel
Simone Anna Cristina Augusta…
…Merry Christmas to all!
Simone Parimbelli, CLM in CAR