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SAINT IGNATIUS CELEBRATION IN KISANGANI, AS MAISHA CENTER IN DRC MARKS 20 YEARS ANNIVERSARY

As everywhere in the world, where there is a presence of a certain Ignatian family or at least a Jesuit, the day of July 31 (on the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola) was dedicated to the closing of the Ignatian Jubilee Year opened on May 21, 2021

In Kisangani, this day was also the day of thanksgiving to the Lord for the twentieth year of various services rendered to vulnerable people and young people by the Maïsha Center (Let’s Talk AIDS) and the African Jesuit Network against HIV/AIDS (AJAN).

Scheduled for 9:00 a.m., the Eucharistic celebration did not begin until around 9:45 a.m., just enough time to let Radio Maria complete the installation of their machines, because it wanted to make this triple event a wide echo (500 years of the conversion of Inigo de Loyola, 20 years of service of Maïsha and 20 years of African Jesuit Network against HIV!).

In the absence of the Archbishop of Kisangani, it was the Vicar General, Monsignor François Mwarabu who promptly accepted our invitation to preside over the Holy Mass sung by the Central Choir (fusion of all the choirs of the parish).

"Do as if everything depended on you, surrender as if nothing depended on you"

Being Sunday and in solidarity with the universal Church, the texts of the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time C nourished our souls and strengthened our faith. In his homily, the main celebrant castigated the attitude we have towards the goods of this world. We place our hope and security in material goods with the consequent loss of the sense of humanity. We do not hesitate to decimate an entire village to grab a mining square and ensure its future. Greed, the struggle for goods, the excessive attachment to money makes us forget the essential, life in fullness.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, he continues, understood after his conversion that everything must converge on God. That is why everything he undertook was aimed only at the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. He then paid tribute to the Maïsha Center for engagement with people living with HIV/AIDS for twenty years.

The Eucharistic celebration

6 priests concelebrated with Monsignor the Vicar General including 4 Jesuits (Nsibu Rigobert, Désiré Mukengere, Eugène Basonota and Séverin Mukoko).

Taking the floor, the Director of the Maïsha Center briefly outlined the life of Saint Ignatius and the genesis of the Center.

As a reminder, it was in June 2002 that the Society of Jesus decided to consider the fight against HIV/AIDS as an apostolic priority in Africa given the magnitude of the challenges caused by this scourge. Thus was born the African Jesuit Network against HIV/AIDS (AJAN). Parlons-SIDA, which became fifteen years after the Maïsha Center, is precisely the response without delay of the Jesuits of Kisangani to the invitation of the hierarchical bodies of the Society of Jesus. It was in September 2002 that the structure was born to supervise young people abandoned to their sad fate and to accompany people living with HIV/AIDS.

In twenty years of existence, the Maïsha Centre has carried out approximately 4427 awareness-raising activities in the city of Kisangani and its surroundings (especially in mining sites), reaching 3,466,916 people, including 1,632,331 women and 1,834,585 men.

325 orphans and vulnerable children, including 175 girls and 150 boys, benefited from the centre’s schooling and 41 obtained diplomas. We have welcomed 436 people living with the virus for psychosocial support and we have so far recorded 152 deaths: May God grant them eternal rest and pray for the Maisha Center.

Currently, we supervise around 76 people who are regular at the center and benefit from our accompaniment, and we have lost track of the 204 people, some because of travel and others for reasons of personal convenience. 192 people benefited from the support of the Maisha Center for some income-generating activities, not to mention 25 houses built for the sick and 30 others rehabilitated.

Since 2018, the Centre has acquired, in the Commune of Kabondo, buildings that are to house its offices, a maternity ward and a cultural center for young people. Unfortunately, we lack the means to make them operational. God will provide, Abraham said to his worried son!

Our great weakness clearly remains the dependence on the generosity of people of good will. While thanking all those who have contributed to this effort, especially the benefactors, collaborators and various directors who have succeeded each other until these days, honor and glory belong to God.

Before the final blessing, and following the invitation of Father General, the five Jesuits present at Mass renewed the Consecration of the Society to the Heart of Jesus.

After Mass, around 250 people (beneficiaries, friends, guests and collaborators) gathered in the large hall of the parish for a meal and some poems and sketches prepared by the children supervised by the center to enhance this unforgettable moment: jubilee 500! Jubilee 20 years. Deo gracias!

By Séverin Mukoko, SJ
Centre Maïsha/Kisangani

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