East Africa: Journal of a Return. Part 2
For a long time I toyed with the idea of going to my beloved East Africa one more time. This year it happened; from mid-September to mid-October I was in Kenya and Uganda. Thanks to my Mill Hill colleagues it was possible to visit all the places where I have ever lived and worked. It has become a beautiful, educational and rewarding journey.
In Luanda, the basic formation year for the new Mill Hill candidates had just started. Sixteen young men (and 4 young women) have applied to become missionaries. What are their expectations, capabilities and qualities? This will be carefully monitored in the next 9 months in order to reach a decision whether or not to continue on the chosen path.
The academic year was opened with a festive celebration of the Eucharist, followed by a party. There were also some guests, such as members of the Friends of Mill Hill, some parishioners, etc.
Some of the candidates were clearly surprised that dancing was allowed and that a beer or other drink was served on this feast day. They thought that such a thing was taboo for candidates for the priesthood. They had apparently expected a more monastic environment, where you are not allowed to just leave the gate!.
I think it is healthier that they continue to taste the “normal” life in order to be able to make a more conscious choice later. It was a nice day and the next day the program started. However, during my stay in Luanda I saw the need for major maintenance of the buildings. That will be quite a job!
During my stay I visited the street children shelter in Luanda. Mill Hill sisters are in charge here. It seems that the children (and young people up to the age of 17, I think) were very satisfied and they are being prepared for a return to normal life.
A few days later I was at the Formation House in Jinja , Uganda. Here too a warm welcome from the rector and his colleague and, of course, from the students. Besides supervising the students, there is plenty of work: maintaining buildings, keeping the compound tidy, trying to get the new pig project to generate money, etc. I can see that it is not easy to get everything done within the available financial budget!
Corry van den Bosch MHM