“A number of developments have taken place in the recent past in Zambia. Last year, in September, there was a change of government. The ruling party lost the elections and there was a smooth transition of power. We are yet to see in which direction the Government will take the country”, Fr. Bernard Makadani Zulu, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) of Zambia, says.
How is your work as National Director of PMS going?
The mission office is a new reality and the work is going on well. We have our on-going animation work; while we are busy trying to reposition the Pontifical Mission Societies so that we able to partner with other groups in the Church. We believe this will help to intensify the understanding that promoting the mission of the Church is a common responsibility of the members in the Church.
Do you have a plan of action?
We have devised a plan of action, setting down a few goals. We wish all Christians to be aware of their missionary responsibility. We also want to promote a missionary spirituality and involve more people in celebrating evangelization. To achieve these goals, we are preparing printed material in local languages to support the work of our animators.
You came to Portugal for the Missionary Exposition in Fatima. How do you evaluate the missionary spirit of this country?
The missionary exposition in Fatima was a faith filled experience for me. I believe that this missionary initiative will help orienting the Church towards more missionary cooperation. I also felt it was an occasion to enhance the bond of missionaries in this country as evangelizers, share mission experiences, to reflect on the universal cooperation, widen the horizons beyond the local Church, and continue to feel part of the universal effort to bring the Good News to all Peoples. The missionary exposition was for me a global sign of the universal Church and her mission. I was gratified to meet missionaries from Africa and Asia serving the Church in Portugal. This is confirmation that in mission the interexchange of spiritual values, material and human resources makes a unique contribution to the growth and maturation of faith.
What is the role of the PMS in a local Church?
I have worked for the Pontifical Mission Societies as a national director for the 9 years now. It is has been an interesting task for me. Our primary task is to promote the missionary awareness, spirituality, to inform the people of God of the needs of the universal mission and to promote mutual support between Churches, exchange spiritual values, material resources and missionary personnel. This inevitably awakens a spirit of solidarity in carrying out the mandate of evangelize the whole world. Such solidarity promotes worldwide interest in evangelizing all sectors of the people of God. Therefore each person should see him/herself as an agent of the PMS with the ability and will to contribute to needs of the universal Church. This is by no means a mere option but a major responsibility by virtue of baptism.
The people of God can partner with the evangelizing mission in various ways like prayer, mission cooperation, service and financial support. It is in view of this that the Pontifical Mission Societies engage agents of evangelization to cooperate in bringing to fruition the mission mandate of Christ, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you”. In this way every Christian would become conscious of the need to become a useful partner in promoting missionary consciousness and would appropriate the conviction that no one is too poor to give or too rich to receive. Consequently every Christian would cooperate in responding to the mission mandate of Christ according to his or her capacity.
We Comboni Missionaries began our missionary service in Zambia in November 1977 with the arrival of Fr. Kizito Sesana in Chipata Diocese. Two parishes were assigned to us: Chadiza in 1978 and Vubwi in 1979. St. Mathias Mulumba Parish was opened in 1983. In 1983 we also took the parish of Chikowa. In time, some of the parishes were returned to the diocese, and new commitments were opened. In 2001 the novitiate was opened in Bauleni, Lusaka. It receives novices - young men who wish to become missionaries - from Malawi, Zambia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and South Africa.
At present, we have two distinct missionary experiences: urban and rural work. In Lusaka, the capital, we have one community in Lilanda. The missionaries there follow the parishes of St. Andrew Kaggwa and St. Kizito. These two Christian communities are in a slum area, and they were opened by the Jesuits. We took over from them in 1988. The laity in Lilanda is really committed. On Saturdays and Sundays, the churches' compounds are a beehive of activity. There are literally thousands of people praying, rehearsing songs and liturgies, following catechesis or formation courses. They devote a lot of time to the preparation of the Sunday's liturgy. Each small Christian community has a choir and they do their best to animate the Eucharistic celebrations. Most of these groups are proud of their uniform, which is a clear way to establish their identity and service within the Church. Our work there is to support Christian life, follow the formation of the laity, and animate the local Church to be open to missionary work.
Our second field of commitment is in the Luangwa Valley, in the diocese of Chipata. This area was evangelized in the past, but then it was left almost abandoned. In the 1980s, the Bishop of Chipata asked us to take responsibility of the area and revive the life of the Church. In his mind, we should be forming a team with diocesan clergy and other pastoral personnel. In reality this plan never worked. The area is too large and it would require much more personnel. We follow three parishes: Chama, Chikowa and Chipata. Our missionaries work in this vast expanse by visiting local communities and staying with them several days in a row. The distances and the poor infrastructure make everything more complicated. In the Luangwa Valley there are still areas of first evangelization, but there are also some communities already formed. People there are very generous. In June-July, when the main harvest is ready, each Christian community offers maize, potatoes, beans for the work of the Church. It is amazing to see small communities to offer so much. It is also important to keep up this tradition, for the local Church needs to grow in awareness and self support.
In this valley, we try to provide basic educational services, but also technical formation. In Chikowa, there are three Comboni Brothers who run the Chikowa Youth Development Centre, which offers two-year courses in construction, carpentry, and agriculture. Br. Jonas Dzinekou, from Togo, is the principal of the centre. The Centre was started as a response to the shortage of educational opportunities in the country, and exists not just to provide important technical skills to the students, but also to offer human formation. The human formation program at the centre is intended to provide an open space for students to share about their lives and their hopes, to learn skills and to become responsible adults who work for the improvement of society.
We are also involved in social projects, like digging bore-holes for clean water and working with prisoners. One of our fathers is a counsellor and visits prisoners every week. When there are special reasons for concern, he invites government officials to take action. Last year, because of the torrential rains, one of the prisons was flooded and he was able to mobilize the ministry to help with emergency, and also to look into the living space of prisoners, usually massed in crowded cells.