Mass in a central African village

“This is what I do in Central Africa”

Nicola, a retired teacher and former headmaster, tells us of his decision to leave for Africa. He talks about what he is discovering, today, in the Carmelite missions in and around Bangui.

Dear friends, here is some news from the Carmelite missions in Central Africa. How did I get here? I am now retired, after a life spent teaching and being a headmaster. In the last five years, I have faced the problem of finding a daily task that was not just being my wife’s driver. My children are married, and their families are not in any particular need of help. Due to the impossibility of finding any significant job in Italy, I asked myself if this was a sign that something could be sought in Africa.

When the Pope came to the Central African Republic to open the Holy Year of Mercy, an article in Traces illustrated the missionary activity of the Carmelites in this country. Since then, I have been in contact with them, following them through their bulletin of their Onlus, Amicizia Missionaria. I contacted them in May, and asked them to see if there was any room to collaborate in schools and in their social work. And now I'm here, and I'll be here for a while.

Initally, I was at the Carmelite monastery in Bimbo, near the capital Bangui; then, in the minor seminary of Bouar-Yolè and, lastly, in the parish of Bozoum, in the North. During the masses on Sunday, I am amazed and reminded of the people’s firm adherence to the feast day, testified by their singing and their care for their clothing, even in the poorest places, such as in the villages in the bush.

I am reminded that the proclamation of the Gospel travels on foot, by virtue of the feet of the missionaries. And there are still places where it should reach, and it's up to us to help with this.

I am astounded by the fact that certain fashions, through videos and songs, transcend the continents, so much so that the regulations of the minor seminary state that "low-waisted trousers are not allowed". It seems to me that in the cities, for example here in Bozoum, there are young people who urgently need the announcement of "the meaning of life", something that traditional society find hard to convey: what were those twenty boys and girls, whom I met last night, going to celebrate, elegantly dressed in the European style?

READ ALSO – Bucharest: The grace of a day with the poor

I am moved by the faces of these Carmelite fathers and by the many local seminarians, who are almost thrown there to communicate their love for Christ. It moves me to meet, here, those who, like me many years ago, participated in the departure of Pigi Bernareggi for Brazil. Mission has always been one of the main dimensions in the life of the movement. I hope that contact with the "geographical" circumstances of the mission will sharpen in me, and in those who meet me, the need to live this dimension to the full, according to the path that is entrusted to each of us.

Nicola, Central African Republic