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In December Christian Brothers and friends have been celebrating 50 years presence in West Africa, beginning in Liberia in 1969.
The Brothers were joined in Makeni, Sierra Leone, by distinguished visitors from other parts of Africa - George Massay, John Holden, Chris Nhete, Michael de Klerk, and Conrad Cerejo have all travelled a long way to Makeni. Also present were Hugh O'Neill and Peter Dowling from the CLT and Jim Catterson from England.
The jubilee celebration started with a thanksgiving mass celebrated by His Lordship, Bishop Natalie Paganelli. The mass was at 10:00 am. The main attendants of this thanksgiving mass were the Bishop of Makeni and his priests, the brothers, sisters from different congregations in the diocese of Makeni, pupils of St. Francis, past brothers and associate members of the Christian Brothers in Sierra Leone. The key message of the Bishop’s homily was an invitation to us the Brothers to strive to be coherent in our living. The Bishop in his homily also spoke about the significance of the Brothers’ mission in his diocese. He unreservedly encouraged the Brothers to uphold their charism and to strive to contextualize it in the areas God has privileged them to minister. One ritual was the pouring of libation for Brothers who worked in the four countries and who have since died. Names such as Paul Noonan, Senan Kerrigan, Milton Lawrence, Joe Mosely, Jus O’Mara, Emmanuel Marrah, Benjamin Borneia, Titus Coffey, Liguori Gillespie, etc were called to mind and libations poured for their intercession.
On Monday (16th) the first activity was to visit the ministry sites of the Brothers in Makeni. We began in UNIMAK, the University of Makeni where Br Paul Luseni is lecturing. Next, we visited Mabureh village and had a rousing welcome by over hundred school children, their teachers and many adults from the community.
We were warmly welcomed by the community chief and elders. They appreciated the presence and work of the Brothers. This community was first adopted by Br. Ger O'Connell many years ago when the Brothers first came to Makeni. As part of the community hospitality, the Brothers were given gallons of palm wine and a billy goat.
On Tuesday afternoon (17th) we had an interesting soccer match with the old boys and girls of St. Francis Senior High School which is now been turned to a University. The Brothers were beaten 2 - 1 and were told to go and keep fit for a return match.
Wednesday (18th) started with a very inspiring video made by Brothers Ignatius Chincota and Dominic Sassi about their experience and fond memories of coming to West Africa. It brought many of the brothers home in their affirmation, invitations and general appreciation of the brotherhood they experienced..what more that in the end, the two brothers sang the famous "Tell am tenki" song.
On Thursday (19th) twelve Annnually Professed Brothers renewed their vows and all the finally professed brothers, including our sister brother of the Presentation, renewed their commitment to the vows forever. This spiritual exercise was facilitated by Peter Amara Kabia. Over one hundred family members and well -wishers of the approved FP brothers were present. Br. Noel received the vows and signed them on behalf of the Congregation Leader.
On Thursday also, one of the key opportunities to show Brotherhood was the welcome of the newly professed Brothers back into the District on their return from the Novitiate in Zambia. WAD is blessed to have five fine young men this year. Br. Charles Belmoh, the most senior brother of the West Africa District was invited to call out the newest members. L-R, is Brs. Philemon Sesay, Gabou Baldeh, Dominic Garduah, Michael DeKlerk (Province Leader), Edwin Alpha andBoniface Sambou.
Friday, December 20th, saw the Final Professions of five Brothers. This wonderful occasion was accompanied by Bishop Natale Paganelli, S.X, of Makeni. Peter Dowling made a very conscious searching reflection. Peter, in his reflection reminded the church that we are religious bothers within the Catholic Church whose mission it is to be of service to humanity in the respective areas we minister. Peter also told the church that we are not priests but religious brothers who strive to give our best to our vulnerable brothers and sisters. As the gospel reading of the celebration was centered on being salt and light, Peter invited the five brothers committing their lives forever in the congregation to be people of salt and light by their lives. He reminded the five brothers that the commitment they are going to make calls for profound reflection, as it is replete with challenges. He urged the five brothers to strive to remain faithful and committed to the evangelical vows they were going to profess. Brothers and family members of the five men were witnesses to a unique occasion, a celebration of the life of the Congregation in West Africa. The photo shows L-R Brs. Joseph Turay, Peter Kabia, leo Kamara, Jojo Karimu and Cornelius Pengnyin.