The Mission of the Piarist Fathers in Central Africa

09-05-2021Weekly Reflection

Dear brothers and sisters,

After the Ebola pandemic that claimed thousands of lives in some Sub-Saharan African countries from 2013-2016, Judy Kuriansky, a psychologist, said that, “Education is a vital part in the redevelopment of affected countries and mitigation against negative impacts of future crisis.” I think we can all agree with that statement. In 1648, our Religious Order was founded in Rome by a Spanish priest called St. Joseph Calasanz (feastday = August 25th). He wanted our religious Order to be present where the human and spiritual welfare of the poor were threatened. He wanted us to respond to God’s call to work for social transformation and human integral development through education.

In the Central African region, the Piarist Fathers, following the example of their founder are responding to severe human and social crisis at all levels. In the English speaking part of Cameroon in particular, a civil war has been going on for four years. About 32.500 lives have been lost, 550 villages burned down, 3000 people imprisoned and the worst of it is that about 1 million children have not been to school for four long years. The negative consequences of this war are enormous: malnutrition and hunger, fear and trauma, violence begetting more violence, separated and displaced families with many orphans and widows. The only thing that is keeping the people alive is their faith. Despite all odds, the Church remains the only institution that is present to give hope to the people. It is therefore for the humanitarian, pastoral and educational needs of these people that we are making this mission appeal. The funds will be used to assist families who are barely managing to feed themselves. Also, we want to develop homeschooling by providing the educational material to children at home given that going to school in an environment of continuous gunshots is a great risk. Furthermore, given the bad economic situation of these families and coupled with the limited medical facilities, the health needs of these people cannot be met. The coronavirus pandemic has come to make a bad situation worse. Your generous donations will definitely help us provide the medication and the medical assistance that they so much need.

Mac-Randy Bongfen (a 13-year-old boy in Kumbo, one of the highly crisis-affected community) tells his story: On October 15, 2018 after several hours of gunshots and looting orchestrated by the military and arm-groups, I had to flee from our family home at 9 pm in the night accompanied by my kid-sisters for safety. We thought of regaining the bushes where many had fled the previous days but doubting its safety we directed ourselves to the Piarist Fathers Novitiate who are friendly to us and had once welcomed us at the unset of the crisis. On our arrival, we met with other children and families who got there earlier. We were given food and shelter for some days and later on introduced in a schooling program that permitted us to continue learning at home given that the schools are not operational. I am very thankful to them.

We are very grateful to Timothy Cardinal Dolan and the Propagation of faith Office for this opportunity given to us to share our mission story. May the Lord be your reward.

Thank you for your kind attention and for your generosity.