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Zambia – Service to the people

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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.

Enrico Colleoni

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