Ushetu, Kahama, Tanzania, April 11, 2016
Today, we were in the parish of Kabuhima. It was a historic day for this parish and for the diocese in general. We traveled the four hours that separate us from this extreme end of the diocese in order to assist with the consecration of a new church and a new altar for this parish. Today it was also established as an official parish, because until this point, it had been in a period of preparation.
It was a great celebration, really very grand….I never imagined how grand, and even if I imagined that it was going to have so much joy and that it would be such a beautiful celebration, I wouldn´t have erred. The parish is under the care of Father Salvatore who has written other chronicles. This priest is a native of Italy, more specifically from the diocese of Catania. He is a diocesan priest with a great missionary spirit. He arrived in this diocese fourteen years ago and has remained ever since.
I will briefly summarize the history of this man and of this place where we were today. When Fr. Salvatore arrived here in 2002, he began to celebrate the Mass in a chapel made up of tree trunks and clay with a straw roof. In a few years, he built a larger chapel with more dignified material and with a roof of zinc. At that time, it began to be too small for the celebrations, and there were plans to build a larger church. When Father Salvatore consulted with the bishop and told him that he would build a much larger church, he surprised himself, but he saw that it was the will of God and that it was a challenge. In 2008, he blessed the land, and placed the first cornerstone. And today, April 9, 2016, we have assisted in the consecration of this said church. There is still some work to be done, but it is already a church. It has begun to be used as a church, while everyone continues to work together in order to finish it.
It was a great celebration and I felt very happy for Father Salvatore, because he is a very good, devoted, and generous priest. And I say this not just for the sake of saying so; but rather, it was confirmed today by the affection that the people demonstrated for him, each time that they said his name.
But one image from today has remained with me. After they had announced that the parish was officially established and named “The Parish of the Holy Eucharist”, and Father Salvatore was named pastor, the first pastor of this parish, the people exploded with applause. Fr. Salvatore then began to sing a song that everyone knew, a sign of a true father. Father sang with a microphone in his hand before the altar, with his eyes closed and rejoicing in that moment…I imagine that the abnegations of those fourteen years, having left his homeland, the sacrifice of his native language, the humiliations, the poverty, and so many difficulties that he had to overcome by the grace of God, would to a great extent appear to be crowned on a day like today.
I will take this opportunity, therefore to share some reflections. Once I had gone to visit father and he allowed me to stay in his home. We were conversing a lot in spite of my “SpanItalian”…But the first thing he said to me was: “Diego, we are privileged to be here. We are blessed by God to be able to be where we are.” I completely shared this sentiment. And even though our conversation that afternoon had turned to many topics, I have held on to this phrase which he had greeted me with, and which had resounded so spontaneously.
I definitely believe that it is a great blessing to be where I am, meaning to say, to be a priest and a missionary, and a missionary in this place. It is an unmerited and priceless grace. Many of the people that read these chronicles write to me about how they would like to be here, that they are dying to be able to come here, even if just for a visit or to work for a short time. Others write to me that it was always their dream in life to come, but that due to their actual circumstances of family and work, they knew that they would never be able to realize that dream. They say that they pray for us and that they are happy to read what we write about the mission. For this reason it is a very great grace…we simply say, it is a grace from God.
In my case, it is a grace of God that I must thank my dear Congregation of the Incarnate Word. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been in a missionary congregation. I wouldn’t be here with these convictions, if I hadn’t received the formation which I had received. Formation that perhaps I hadn’t taken advantage of to the fullest, due to my own defects, but in the end, thanks to my superiors and formators, and our founder, I am who I am. The good that I have is what I had received from them. The missionaries would not bear much fruit if we were not part of a missionary institute. Last year, I shared with you how I was able to administer more than one thousand baptisms by my own hands without counting those which were administered in the parish by other priests. This is without naming many of other things, such as the Masses, confessions, communions, confirmations, attending to the sick, groups of altar servers, oratory, camps, popular missions, Spiritual Exercises, and a long list of etceteras.
I have the grace of being a priest and a missionary. And it is a grace that I have received because I belong to a Congregation that bears the name “of the Incarnate Word”. When I made my perpetual vows and signed them on the altar, I asked God for the grace( with the help of the prayers of my brothers and sisters of the Religious Family) to be able to be like “a new incarnation of the Word”, according to the words of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity. I must never forget it, and for this reason I ask you to pray for me that I may always try to imitate Christ in everything. As members of this Institute we must not work for any other “success” than that of the Cross, as St. Paul said: “…for I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (I Cor 2:2) This will be our greatest joy and it will be a resounding success, like the success of Christ on the Cross, invisible to the world. May our greatest desire, as members of the Incarnate Word, be to make ourselves more like Christ and Him crucified. And the more the better!
And in this way we will be able to rejoice…and not be sad. Because there is a beatitude that commands us to rejoice: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt 5:11-12)
I thank you Lord that I am a missionary and a priest. Let me be faithful to the end. Let me be more like you.
Stay firm in the breach!
P. Diego Cano, IVE