In October the year 2003, I began my missionary journey at Luanda basic formation centre with the Mill Hill Missionaries. It was a great joy to me as I had really wanted to be a Mill Hill Missionary having been inspired by none other than Denis Treacy MHM himself, my vocations director. May his soul rest in peace. Before settling with the Mill Hill Missionaries, I had gone for ‘come and see’ seminars with three other congregations but never felt at home there as I was with the Mill Hills.
When I arrived at the centre, I was welcomed by Fr. Gerry Geraghty, another jovial Mill Hill Missionary. He showed me the room together with my brothers. In each room we were welcomed by a very focusing biblical verse from Hosea; ‘I will lure her, lead her to the wilderness and speak to her heart’ Hosea 2:16. On the morning of the following day, we were introduced to a few Mill Hill Missionaries who would be our companions; among them was the great missionary among the Abanyore people of Luanda Fr. Tom McGrath, Fr. Jim O’Connell, a very spiritual man and Sr. Noel, who was in charge of the postulants and whom we commonly called our mother. Sr. Anne Moore was our scripture teacher and spiritual director: Without forgetting Fr. Fred, a Philippino MHM missionary who became our pastoral coordinator.
This was a special year, as the year 2003-2004 marked the beginning of a joint formation programme between the MHMs and the FMSJs. To this day the adventure still grows and indeed has proved to be worth undertaking. We were 8 young men and 3 young ladies. Only 2 of the young men eventually became Mill Hill missionaries and 2 of the ladies Mill Hill sisters. I wish them well in their missionary outreach. 2003-4 was also the centenary year for the Mill Hill Missionaries in Kenya. This year 2021-2022, we expect 12 young men and 4 ladies. I wish them a discerning period in advance.
It was here at Luanda that I started making sense of the missionary life I had dreamt of but had no clue what it entails. The prayer life including recollection days slowly started to sink in; the social life and meeting people from different corners of the world was life-giving. The pastoral outreach on Wednesdays was so enriching. The community dynamics in areas such as meetings, games, cooking, gardening, washing, group discussion and liturgy helped a lot in shaping the person I would become.
I have always maintained that, of the four stages of my formation (basic, philosophy, MEP and theology), I hold my basic formation time at Luanda in high esteem. As I come back to a changed face of Luanda in terms of personnel, I hope to keep the spirit of this centre, ushering young men and women into a missionary discernment journey. My companions here will be Fr. John Baptist Tumusiime MHM, Fr. Nobert Odunga MHM and Sr. Dorcas Moraa FMSJ. It is also good meeting Mr. Valentine here, the only staff member who was around at my time in formation here. Everything here is new yet old.
I look forward to growing young as I journey with young people in formation. May the spirit of Christ, the model formator, be within me and guide me. Amen.
Francis Makuba mhm