Pictured above: In December, the Kipushi school community celebrated ‘World Tree Day’ where everyone brought a young plant and learned about collective responsibility.

She had reached the end of her rope. Not knowing where to turn, a young mother in Kipushi, Congo, approached Brothers Jean Paul and Vital Mwenge for assistance. The woman, with her children enrolled at the Brothers’ new Rijken school, asked for a $5 loan to help feed them. She had just given birth a few days prior.

“We were moved deeply, “stated Brother Vital, “and we simply helped her.”

Some of the poorest among the poor are the families of Kipushi who struggle daily to make ends meet. Faced with abhorrent destitution, many are unable to afford school fees, which are between are $7-12 per month and yearly rates ranging from $75-125. The new school, which managed to enroll 210 students in secondary, 198 in primary, and 21 in kindergarten, is still facing dwindling numbers because of a few cases of abandonment, mainly due to lack of means to afford school fees.

“We hope to find an NGO or benefactors who can help support us,” said Brother Vital.

The new school, which was inaugurated in November, employees 19, whose salaries vary between $75-125. Currently, the school’s income does not allow for more than that. Operation, upkeep, and maintenance are always a priority. For lack of electrical energy, the school spends $10-15 daily for fuel and to draw water from wells and reservoirs. Scarcity of electric current doesn’t allow the school to organize practical lessons for students, especially for computer scientists and electricians.

In December, the school community celebrated their first Feast of St. Francis Xavier with a rich Eucharistic celebration, cultural activities, and sharing a small meal. It was a moment of great conviviality, where directors, teachers, workers, and students set aside different roles and titles to share like brothers and sisters: “drawn by the ordinary; called to the common!”

Following Ryken, supported by the missionary model of St. Francis Xavier, the community of Brothers took courage at the call of the regional leaders to settle in their new home, despite many challenges. Brothers Daniel Ndjibu, Albert-Jospin Mwamb’u, Christian Mwewa, Vital-André Mwenge, and François Kilonda, community animator, expressed gratitude for the home which will allow them to be effective in their apostolate, school, and to dwell among the existential realities faced by their students. At the feast, the Brothers prayed and agreed unanimously to name their community after St. Francis Xavier.

“St. Francis Xavier’s missionary courage inspires us to the highest degree to go towards the unknown, despite uncertainties,” said Brother François.

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