Excerpt from the diary of General Councillor, Fr Philip Adede MHM. on his first visit to DR Congo.
On Wednesday we left St. Anne guest house at 8 am to head to the airport hoping to catch a plane to Mbandaka. All seemed set until we reached the airport to be informed of changes that the flight might only leave the following day due to fuel crisis in the country. We decided to explore possible locations for the future basic formation houses.
In the evening we met Francis Hanaway with his wife Judith. Judith had secured a ticket to Basankusu and Patrick Lonkoy mhm having failed to find an alternative negotiated with them to grant me that opportunity. The evening was lovely and had discussions around Francis’s current works and also spent time listening to his largely positive experience of Mill Hill. I am impressed at the way Patrick Lonkoy mhm has kept in contact with him and kept that cordial relationship. He said he would be open to assisting in teaching English at the basic formation. Again, like last night, I go to bed in hope for a flight tomorrow.
We were the first to arrive at the airport and after going through the whole process of checking in luggage and security screening, we were later told the plane could not leave due to bad weather. We had to return with a promise that the following day it may be possible. We then visited the Basankusu Sisters (Thérésiennes) founded in 1975 by the late bishop Matondo. They have worked with many of our Mill Hillers and have wonderful memories of them. They see Mill Hill as their fathers and co-founder.
I write the initial reaction from the plane to Basankusu. What a great relief! I am glad to finally be on the way to Basankusu. On the way to the plane, I was scared for the first time when I saw the status of the plane; freshly welded wings and it was very old. However, after the initial feelings and the bumpy take-off, the flight was pleasant and very impressive. We were served a generous breakfast on the plane which really boosted my impression as I had not expected it. It is just nice to be able to work on the laptop as we cruise above the vast beautiful vast lands and forests of DRC.
We went for morning mass at the Basa II quasi-parish where Frederick Botaka mhm has been appointed. What I thought was a weekday mass actually turned out to be greater than my normal Sunday Masses. The Church was packed and the choir was just amazing. I did not mind the singing of gloria and creed for the weekday Mass. They brought plenty of gifts to assure me that our young and newly appointed member to them shall not starve in Basa II.
Mass at the cathedral. A warm welcome by Bishop Joseph Mokobe of the Diocese of Basankusu. We began by paying homage to the seven pioneer members to arrive in Congo. The bishop shared his deep admiration for the selfless dedication of Mill Hill missionaries to the mission in Congo. Even when one of the seven pioneers died within ten days of arrival, that did not deter Mill Hill from sending more missionaries to Congo. Currently, Stan Bondoko mhm and Frederick Botaka mhm are working in Ndeke and Basa II quasi-parishes in the diocese. The bishop hopes that the long-term collaboration between the diocese and Mill Hill will continue. He is proud of the Congolese who have accepted to join Mill Hill and are serving both in Congo and abroad as Mill Hill Missionaries. The Church in Basankusu still remains an area for mission because of its very many challenges. With vibrant liturgy and active participation of the laity, it is perhaps a noble example to be emulated by the rest of the Church in Africa.
Philip Adede MHM