Mwanza, Tanzania, January 30, 2018.
This year we had the grace of being able to have our first Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius for priests here in Tanzania. For this occasion, we invited Fr. Carols Ferrero, IVE, missionary in Cyprus, to preach to us. I want to tell you about the Exercises and about the visit of Fr. Carlos, but I will have to do this in a separate chronicle, because to make a detailed account the activities of these past days will take some time.
For now, I would like to make a brief reflection in thanksgiving, because on the past 18th of January, I completed five years in this mission. We were halfway through the Exercises, and on this day, it was my turn to preside over the Mass. To have this day fall in the middle of these days of prayer, to be able to reflect upon all that I have experienced and to give thanks, was something special. It was also very good because one can look back, and make a self-examination, as St. Ignatius teaches, in order to gain experience, and to ask forgiveness and give thanks, and to make resolutions.
At the moment of the consecration, while I raised the Consecrated Host and then the Chalice of the Blood of Christ, I asked especially for the great grace of perseverance, the grace of all graces. The moment of the consecration in the Mass passes very quickly, it is only a few seconds, but this moment is nonetheless always very intense. It is impossible to say what passes through the priestly mind and heart at this instant. Even amid consolations or desolations, it is always -or ought to be always- something special, and for that reason effort has to be made in order to have the greatest concentration possible.
This day I was amazed at how many images and memories passed through my mind… My first trip to Tanzania, with so much anxiety and fear, but with so much joy also. The farewell to my family… the tears, the family members who I embraced for the last time… among them my father… My first experience, the astonishment, the arduous time learning the language… the disappointments and the “flops” that I passed through… How the mission has grown, the chapels, the villages, the camps, the catechists, the companions of the mission, the sisters, the vocations… the house of formation. Thank you, Lord! Graces, graces, graces… Thank you! And despite so many defects and sins, so many faults for which I ask pardon, I can only say with happiness and satisfaction: Here I am! I ask to continue, to be faithful until the end, through all the years that I may be here in Africa- ten, twenty, thirty or all my life… or if they change my assignment tomorrow. Here I am! Grant me the grace to continue always “standing firm in the breach”!
Can all this pass through my mind in such a short moment as the consecration? Yes. I don’t know how, but yes, and I say this with all sincerity. It is true that afterward one can profit from these graces in order to continue drawing fruit from them…and then I remembered the fear that I had upon arriving, about the illnesses, the language, if I would be able to make it, if my health would be strong enough…and for all this I asked God that he simply help me to trust, and then do what He wills. And this is where words fall short, because despite all this, the years that I had to be alone in the mission, Fr. Johntin’s accident, and many difficulties that I passed, among these several operations, and nevertheless being able to see all that God has done, the number of sacraments that have been administered, the camp for catechists, altar boys, and girls, in which we had more than 2,000 children this past year; the popular mission in Kangeme…. The vocations, the house of formation, the Postulancy and now the Novitiate, including the building which we have done at the Novitiate, “without money”, with generous aid from so many of you… I think of how many missionaries we are, now four priests and five sisters… plus the postulants of both institutes. These five years have been incredible.
And something that surprises and gladdens me- in these five years, I have made more than 200 publications or chronicles, as you call them. I never would have thought of it, but nevertheless, God desired it this way, because on several occasions I thought to cease writing so much, and then for some circumstance or another, it was you all who encouraged me to go ahead with this apostolate, and … here we are!
My God, I will have to dedicate another chronicle just to enumerate all the graces that we have received in the past year, also in the material-spiritual order, such as the purchase of land where to build chapels, the chapels which we have begun to build, and those which we have helped to roof, those which we are able to continue adorning from the inside, the gifts that we were able to give to the children, the construction of houses of formation… and what will be in the future.
I say ‘graces in the material-spiritual order’ because certainly this assistance in order to have a chapel or a house is a great accomplishment materially speaking, but it also makes the faithful and us happy, and it helps us to participate better, to pray better, to have a dignified place where to gather each week.
A thousand thanks for so many gifts, a thousand pardons for so many faults.
Steadfast in the breach!
Fr. Diego Cano, IVE.