Democratic Republic of Congo – Fr Owoudou on the situation in the eastern parts of the country: “No matter how dark the night may seem, dawn will inevitably come”

25 March 2024

(ANS - Goma) - During his latest phase of the Extraordinary Visit to the "Mary Most Holy Assumption" Province of Central Africa (AFC), Fr. Alphonse Owoudou, Councillor for the Africa Madagascar Region, conducted an interview with the magazine "JAMBO VIJANA," representing the youth engaged in the Salesian works of the Province's Eastern Delegation. Addressing the ongoing violence and conflicts in the region, Fr. Owoudou expressed hope, saying: "No matter the length of the night, dawn will inevitably come."

Fr Alphonse Owoudou, what is an Extraordinary Visitation and what does it entail?

I am currently engaged in an Extraordinary Visitation that commenced on October 1, 2023, within the Salesian Province AFC. Acting on behalf of the Rector Major, I have been appointed as the Visitor, entrusted with the responsibility of attentively listening to all the confreres and visiting every establishment to engage with the beneficiaries and collaborators. Considering the expansive scope of the AFC, I initiated this visitation by focusing on the projects in the southern region throughout October and November 2023. This March, I am progressing with my journey through the eastern territories of the Province. Subsequently, I will furnish a detailed report to the Rector Major, enabling him to establish the strategic directives for the forthcoming six years.

What is your assessment of the Salesian Delegation 'St. Joseph' of AFC-EST from its inception in 2021 to today?

I am pleased to announce that considerable advancements have been achieved, though there is still work ahead. A notable achievement is the establishment of canonically erected independent houses, each with its own Educational Pastoral Community, reflecting a sign of maturity. Initially, 'Boscolac' lacked canonical status, but through our efforts, it now meets all the necessary conditions and stands as a canonically erected institution. However, challenges persist, particularly with two remaining houses, including Shasha, where ongoing circumstances such as conflicts, population displacement, and insecurity may hinder the process of canonical erection.

Furthermore, I see that the works are trying to define themselves with the new sector imposed by the reception of war displaced persons.

What remains from the Kigali Team Visit?

Before completing his term, the Rector Major embarked on a journey to visit the seven Salesian Regions worldwide, assessing the progress made during the six-year period. Our gathering took place in Kigali, Rwanda, last February, following the previous meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2018. Together, we engaged in dialogue and contemplation, evaluating the experiences of the Region, mission, and community life. Encouragingly, the testimonies conveyed a positive outlook. The focal point of discussion revolved around leadership, specifically examining whether the Inspectors and their Councils effectively governed and animated their respective communities. Additionally, we seized the opportunity to propose dividing our vast region, currently spanning 41 nations, into two or three regions to enhance management efficiency. Further topics of discussion included fidelity, the imperative to remain attentive to emerging societal trends, particularly amidst Africa's challenges of conflict, turmoil, and political instability, and delineating the Salesian ethos within the African context.

What tasks await you as Moderator of the upcoming 29th General Chapter?

Upon hearing the news, I found myself both surprised and grateful to God for this remarkable display of trust. It was truly an unexpected and unimaginable moment. Notably, it was highlighted that this marks the first instance of an African being appointed as the Moderator of the General Chapter. However, I do not see myself solely as an African Salesian; rather, I consider myself a Salesian in the spirit of Don Bosco, a son of the Church. I am filled with confidence in the success of the Chapter, relying on God's guidance and the capable team assembled for its facilitation, comprising 240 capitulants with the presence of the Holy Spirit among them. While one might feel apprehensive about undertaking such a delicate mission, I am convinced that the General Chapter will fulfill its mandate to reflect on the themes of passion for Christ and devotion to the young, as well as the significant responsibility of electing a new Rector Major and General Council.

What are your impressions of the implementation of the Salesian mission in the last Salesian house you visited, the "Don Bosco" centre in Goma-Ngangi?

Within me, there exists a dual sentiment. Firstly, there's profound gratitude for the efforts of our confrers, sisters, collaborators, Salesian Family, parents, and young people involved in this noble mission. Secondly, I perceive the Salesian mission at Don Bosco Ngangi as a vast, weighty, and intricate apparatus. I sensed a necessity for enhanced organization and a redefined vision to propel it toward greater efficacy. To achieve this, it is imperative for Salesians to remain attuned to the voice of God, the prevailing societal dynamics, and the needs of the people, thereby discerning and addressing challenges more effectively. For instance, in response to the need for education, we must construct schools; in times of hunger, we must combat poverty and unemployment through literacy programs and vocational training initiatives. We continually implore God to guide us in His will, providing us with the necessary resources and benevolent individuals. May He consistently present us with fresh opportunities. Let us leverage social networks as platforms for advocating peace and promoting good governance. May the Salesians of Ngangi and their collaborators champion a new vision for Congo and foster harmonious relations with neighboring nations. Without engaging in politics, let us adopt a novel approach to nurturing upright Christians and responsible citizens, equipping them spiritually and culturally for the future.

Do you have a concluding message for your confreres, the young people, collaborators and the Salesian Family of the St. Joseph Delegation?

My message carries a twofold significance. Firstly, on a charismatic level: the Congregation places its trust in us. It entrusts the oldest Province in Black Africa, established in 1959. This underscores the responsibility for each individual to introspect within their respective spheres (be it parish, school, field, etc.) and evaluate what actions they are undertaking to merit the trust of both the Church and the Congregation. It is incumbent upon us to reflect on how we can further justify this trust, enabling us to amplify our efforts and impact for the betterment of young people in the days to come.

From a historical perspective, it is imperative to remind both the prominent figures and the ordinary individuals that no matter how prolonged the darkness may seem, dawn will inevitably break. In the midst of a bleak tunnel, let us persist in walking together, pushing forward, for stagnation or regression will only prolong our journey and hinder our progress. Even the most dreadful trials will eventually dissipate, while the promise of heaven endures eternally.

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