Brotherhood, learning, and surprises from God, all of these were part of a July visitation to Congo. Brother Daniel Skala, C.F.X., General Superior, and the General Council, Brothers Patrick Fumbisha, Dominique Olondo, Brian Davis, and Lawrence Harvey visited the Brothers, schools, communities, and social ministries. A warm welcome at Lubumbashi airport and wonderful hospitality at the scholasticate with a traditional Congolese dinner celebration inaugurated the first trip to the Congo since the pandemic closed travel.
The General Superior received the vows of the novices, the temporary professed, and Brother Ferdinand, who transferred into the community. The profession mass, filled to overflowing, was celebrated by Bishop Gaston Ruvezi with all the exuberance and joy of a Congolese liturgy. The celebration continued with family, friends, priests and religious from the local community.
Brother Dan and the Council also facilitated an assembly with nearly 50 Brothers in Lubumbashi.
A wonderful dialogue on mission and discernment of leadership was the agenda of the assembly.
Brother Dan met with each Brother individually, where he said he “encountered God” and was shown “the way to God’s love” in each man with whom he spent time.
In meetings, “We listened to each as he reflected on his life and vocation,” said Brother Dan. “I saw the passion and enthusiasm for mission, the fragility, vulnerability and the face of God in each as well as the abundant life of the Spirit in the region.”
“I felt God was calling me to remember to love the Brothers, so many of them new to me, to keep them in prayer, and to share with others their story and ministries, not well known to most of us in America,” Brother Brian Davis reflected. He was inspired by the faith of the Congolese people whose service he and the Council saw as an authentic sign of God’s care for the region.
“I was surprised by the depth of poverty of so many people,” stated Brother Brian. “I especially remember on our drive to Kasenga, much of it on a dirt road, looking out at little villages: homes without utilities often taken for granted in the West. There was also many young children and mothers.”
Brother Patrick Fumbisha shared a startling fact, that nearly 80% of the population of Congo lives in destitute poverty. However, amid this spiritual pilgrimage, Brother Dan meditated on what really matters in life: the ability to recognize Jesus.
At the regional assembly for all, Brother Dan encouraged the Brothers to live the Xaverian way by committing their lives to one another and the mission.
“The mission begins with knowing how to see grace, especially by seeing how God works in our lives, not only in life’s grand moments, but in the ordinary ways of our everyday lives.” Brother Dan stressed, “Our unique Xaverian mission is not what we do; it is what is done to us and how we are transformed by our everyday lives.”
Mission is about real people witnessing God’s love. The Brothers were reminded that they were chosen by God, selected for a special mission, for the sake of letting others know they are chosen, and beloved of God, too.
“When we live each day with an awareness of the present moment, that’s mission,” he declared.
Among the ministries visited was the nearly complete Complexe Scolaire Rijken, a private Catholic school that includes a primary and secondary school on a large property in Kipushi. Brother Jean Paulin will serve as the director of the primary school and Brother Vital as the secondary school’s director.
“We need to spread the good news of the school and ministries of our Congolese, and hope that some of our American donors will reach out to them,” urged Brother Brian. He hopes for more vocations to join the Congolese Brothers, who are already stretched thin trying to cover many needs.
While the schools need families who can pay at least some tuition, they serve many who simply cannot afford payment.
Before departing, the General Council affirmed the new regional council which had been chosen as a result of discernment at the regional assembly.
Being together deepened the bonds between the Brothers and was a reminder that multiculturality is a dynamic characteristic of today’s Xaverian Brothers congregation. This month, a visitation to Kenya is taking place.