A note from Fr. Deogratias Bahizi, mission priest celebrating all Masses August 5 and 6
My brothers and sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church,
My name is Fr. Deogratias Bahizi, and I was ordained to Priesthood in 2011. I belong to the Diocese of Nyundo in the central part of Africa, between two famous landmarks: Lake Kivu, and Ibirunga Gorilla National Park which is home to millions of wild animals.
I am visiting Mary Mother on behalf of my brothers, sisters, and the missionaries from the Diocese of Nyundo, Rwanda, a fairly new diocese in Rwanda, being founded in 1959.
The pastoral ministry in Africa is very different from the US. Although through baptism we are all called to ministry, the same ministry differs from one place to another depending on the environment, culture, and location.
In the United State, some churches have closed, and bishops discuss uncertain futures of the parishes. There is a concern about the declining number of priests and nuns.
In Rwanda, discussion is different. In Rwanda, we lack financial resources to construct new Churches, new seminaries and new convents.
Some other challenges of our ministry in Rwanda is:
- The Diocese of Nyundo set a goal to build a Catholic Church of Nyange Parish. This Parish has a population of 79,286. There are 35,894 Baptized Catholics and 518 Catechumenates.
- Another challenge is the high degree of illiteracy. Since Rwanda is a third world country, many young people have no opportunity to go to school. The Church is making efforts to stand out with better services. The Catholic Diocese of Rwanda is involved in many education projects in order to promote education to the youth.
- There is a high level of poverty. Rwanda has many peasant farmers with a government burdened by foreign debt. The country is rich in natural resources, but we do not have modern machinery to cultivate the land like tractors, combine harvesters, etc. The majority of Rwandans farm by hand. We are also challenged to do ministry to people who are living below the poverty line.
- Our pastoral ministry is challenged with a great rise of the power Muslim extremists. There is a big tension between Muslims and Christians in Africa right now.
Brothers and sisters, you have every reason to praise and thank God as you have peace and freedom of worship in the US. In many countries of Africa, the situation is different. Churches are burnt down just because we differ in faith.
In spite of many challenges, the future of the Church in Rwanda is still promising. We have many vocations to priesthood and the number of Catholics is growing fast.
We are asking for your support next weekend, August 5-6. Your support will help us in many ways, from building new Catholic Churches, to supporting the Diocese of Nyundo’s young overcome illiteracy, and helping peasant farmers provide for their families and community with support for their farming. Support will also help with the challenges and tension between Christians and Muslims. I thank you for your help and look forward to speaking with and meeting with many of you next weekend.
Fr. Deogratias Bahizi