With the aim of promoting an apostolate of proximity to the people, the diocese of Basankusu has embarked on carving up big parishes and creating smaller quasi-parishes. As the only Mill Hill Missionaries working here, Father Stanislaus Bondoko and I have been given two quasi-parishes to animate. I have been assigned Saint Matthieu Quasi-parish which was initially part of the cathedral parish in Basankusu. It now comprises of some part of the town and the whole of Nsongo village, nearly 40 kilometres altogether.
Saint Matthieu is comprised of nine chapels that make up four sub-centres. Only what we are using now as main centre is part of Basankusu suburb, the remaining three sub-centres are in the interior part of the Nsongo village. The majority of the people here are peasants and Nsongo is one of the main suppliers of the agricultural products to Basankusu town. The majority of the people are of the Mongo tribe, but there are also Ngombe, Mingando among others.
I was presented to the Christians of both Cathedral parish and Saint Matthieu on the 4th of September by the bishop, marking the official separation of the two pastoral entities. I started going there immediately for daily Masses and other initial activities. When we had a chance to be visited by Father Philip Adede, the councillor for Africa, we went there for morning mass which turned out to be like a Sunday Mass.
Even though I have lived in Basankusu town for quite long, I am not familiar with that part where our quasi-parish is. Thus, I have embarked on visiting the whole place, staying in villages for two or three days talking with people, with each Small Christian Community then we meet on Sunday as sub-parish for Mass. This, so far, has been enriching to me to know the people, the place and the pastoral dynamics: opportunities, needs and concerns of the place.
I was officially welcomed by the people on the 9th October within the liturgy that was celebrated by the dean of the area. It was a colourful and joyful celebration with many people, the majority of whom remained outside since t the church building was too small to accommodate all. It is a great joy for people and the whole diocese to witness the return of Mill Hill Missionaries to the parish ministry in the diocese of Basankusu; a great cause to celebrate.
So far I have not yet got a place to reside within the quasi-parish. I am currently staying at the Mill Hill house and going there every morning, a distance of around 15 minutes on a motorbike. As a newly ordained priest, it is not a small task to start a new place, but having Stan near and also many other priests within the town of Basankusu, I gain some confidence, encouragement and hope. Trusting in your prayers and support, I am as well encouraged by Saint Paul’s words to Timothy, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift conferred on you with prophetic words when the elders laid their hands upon you” (1Tim 4:14).
Frederick Botaka Yufela, MHM