The Priest in charge and the council of the mission of Ropi and its outstations decided to celebrate the feast of Our Lady Consolata, on the 28th June, Sunday.

Ropi is a small village lying some 20 Km south of Halaba Kulito, and is accessible through a gravel road that should have been graded some time ago. During the rainy season it looks wonderful with almost all of its fields covered with green especially maize, but during the dry season it’s another matter, and the clouds of dust in the area are proverbial. To satiate the thirst of its 5000 people and some animals, there are two pumps that work around 4 hours a day. One of them, sponsored some years ago by some donors through the mission, pumps from a bore hole 300 metres deep, with the pump sitting at 270 m. It fills 4 tanks of 10000 litres each, from which people get their daily water.

The main problem actually is that Ropi sits right in the middle of the Rift Valley, that split that runs from the Golan Heights in the north of Israel, through the Red Sea, through most of the Eastern Africa, and ending around the town of Beira, in Moçambique. Now, most of the water throughout the Rift Valley is salty, or having some undesirable chemicals. Here the bad component is “fluoride” and is found in such high concentration that it damages the teeth and the bones in general of those who drink it.

There is a school going up to standard 10. Most of the youngsters finish there, but many drop out before, so as to work in the fields, tend to cattle, etc. There is no industry whatsoever or other activities where to get some income.

Ropi was connected to the national power grid in 2014 but the supply lasted for a week or so. Interrupted for about two months then on for two days and that was all. Apparently there was something faulty with the insulators and an earth leakage led to a short circuit that has led to the indefinite closure of the line.

For the Consolata celebration several people from the 14 outstations of the mission had indicated their willingness to come and celebrate actively the feast of the Patroness. It had been decided to start the celebration by 9:30 so as to give ample time to the faithful to come from the several outstations since the roads during the rainy season become unpassable and it takes longer to reach one’s destination.

So by 9:30 a good crowd had gathered on the compound and the procession was started.

Presided Fr Tamene, the Parish Priest of the mission and concelebrated Fr Michael, assistant in Ropi, Fr Silvio, of the mission of Alava, Fr Oscar Clavijo, regional superior, Fr Carlos Domingos of Addis Ababa, and an Italian diocesan priest visiting Fr Silvio.

Slowly and led by the active choir made up of the singers from several outstations, and enrobed in their colourful dresses, we proceeded to the Hall where the celebration was to take place.

Definitely this is not Addis Ababa nor an area of Orthodox influence, otherwise it would be impossible to celebrate Mass outside a church / chapel, i.e. a “consecrated” place: in fact throughout the northern half of the country the orthodox influence prevents any such celebrations outside “sacred” places. This same belief divides environment, time and events in sacred / profane. The Old Testament is very much alive around here.

But definitely this is not Amahara territory. In fact we do find and the parish composition is a reflection of that, several tribes. Ropi is at the crossroads in between a number of tribes: Hadias, Kambaata, Wolaita and Oromo, that make up the lion’s share of the faithful, in that order.

The celebration was led by Fr Tamene in Amahric and one catechist was dutifully translating into Hadia. The Hymns were sung in all four languages of the place.

In his homily Fr Tamene stressed the role played by the Virgin Mary in our salvation and how we too are called to listen to God’s words as she did.

The choir led with vibrant hymns but the whole congregation participated actively, singing, clapping hands, jumping and ululating. After the communion the thanksgiving song lasted for 15 minutes and counting!

Fr Tamene took the occasion to have a collection also for the construction of the future Church building here at Ropi: in fact the existing one, although not old has become rather small and the termites have also eaten away part of its walls. Now that a huge church at one of the outstations – Kachachulo – is ready to be inaugurated, the numerous faithful of the area are expecting that at the centre of the mission they too will have a magnificent temple for their worship.

The ceremony ended with a procession with the Blessed Sacrament towards the church. After one round around the church and the final blessing the crowd dispersed, happy to have celebrated the feast of the Patroness of the mission. The day had been cloudy which actually was a blessing otherwise it would have been extremely hot inside the hall.

 

 On the 19th April 2015 the IMC community of Addis Abeba, together with the usual participants of our semi-public chapel, bid farewell to our two confreres, Fr Gabriel and Fr Kidane. They will depart shortly for their new missionary destination.

Fr Gabriel is returning to Colombia, having done his theological studies in Bogotá from 1993 to 1999. A native of the capital city, Addis Abeba, after his ordination on 24 Oct 1999 at S. Gabriel Parish, Addis Abeba, he stayed for one year in the country, helping out at Wongi, while he waited to go to his destination.

Thus from 2000 to 2007 and worked steadily in Colombia. Firstly he was deployed for 6 years to the mission of Cartagena de Chairá as assistant parish priest of S. Pedro Claver. There he worked mainly organising the parish activities, including the sacraments, and then visiting the more than 100 outstations scattered over a large area to follow up the campesinos from the countryside, the subsistence farmers, etc. The cultivation of cocaine is widespread, so the main problems are security or better their lack of, with endemic violence, several factions fighting each other or the military, and therefore many killings. One of the many activities of the priest is presiding over funerals! The priest has to be an agent of peace, promoting tolerance, understanding and mediating between factions.

Then he was deployed for one year to Maria la Baja, in the area of Cartagena de Indias, where he ministered mainly to the poor people of the area: especially Afro-American Blacks living from tourism. Also here the stress was on catechism, the preparation and celebration of sacraments, visiting the communities, etc. Throughout this time experiencing economic problems because they are poor, but running a number of social projects, organising womens’ associations, to counteract the inactivity of the men who do not want to get involved in parish activities. On the contrary women are very much involved in parish activities, besides being the bread-winners at home!

In 2007 he was appointed to his native Ethiopia and was dutifully dispatched to Gambo, where he was in charge of the Parish, the several schools scattered throughout the vast area of the parish, etc.

In 2009 he was redeployed to Addis Abeba to take charge of our semi-public chapel and the various activities connected to it. There are various activities that take place there and require the attention of the priest: the youth, the group of the Consolata mothers (they support each other, meet, pray together, visit the sick, visit at the time of a death in a family, etc), the administration of the sacraments, the catechism (in conjunction with the IMC seminarians). In all, much diplomacy is also required to form and then to work with the parish council.

Our chapel is part of the “Mary, helper of Christians” parish, run by the Salesians, about one Km from our place. At the parish level there are also several retreats, meetings, etc, that need to be properly planed and then implemented.

Now, he is thrilled to go back to Colombia, but at the same time he is keen on taking on new experiences, preferably in new areas. If given a chance he would like to deep himself in afro-pastoral activities hopefully in urban areas. His specialization was on Urban Pastoral – How to Evangelize the Towns. Now he would like to put into practise his studies and his own theories of some time ago, in urban and peri-urban areas, focusing also on students and people on formation. He would like to share his faith and his experience with others but he admits that he is also keen to learn and grow spiritually himself.

Also Fr Kidane is returning to South Africa, the place where he finished his theological studies in October last year. He has been a bit concerned given the situation in South Africa at the moment: the xenophobic wave of violence shows no signs of abating and the mood at the moment is rather sombre. Actually there are many foreigners in SA that are being repatriated or given shelter elsewhere. But there too the missionaries are called to give an example of tolerance and be peace builders rather than simply moan and complain about the situation.

Regarding our young missionaries we all hope that they may go to a foreign land and have a good experience, so that one day they may return, older, wiser and with lots of experience under their belt so as to revamp the IMC formation and pastoral care here in Ethiopia. If anything, they are Ethiopians, and at the moment we foreigners are finding it more difficult to obtain work permits to stay in the country.

Fr Kidane belongs to the first group of students that started at Meryvale their theology and now are ready to start their work. He will return not as a (formal) student but as an ordained priest. He already knows partially the environment, the Zulu language, and what is expected of him. That is an advantage, and the effort he put on during his four years there will now facilitate his adaptation to the pastoral field.

During the celebration Fr Kidane delivered the homily and reflected on the gospel of the second Sunday of Easter (remember that here in Ethiopia we are one week behind on the liturgical calendar – but it is not only that calendar that is behind…). The words of Jesus, “As the Father sent me so I am sending you” had a personal meaning that all applied to those about to depart.

Present at the celebration was Fr Endrias Shamena Keriba, a Comboni Missionary from Hossana in western Ethiopia. He did his philosophy studies at Gulele (Addis Abeba) and then was a colleague of Fr Kidane in Meryvale, South Africa, for the theological studies. He too has been given an assignment by his congregation – he will go to Colombia shortly. He wanted to be present at his former colleague farewell. To him too we extended our best wishes.

 

 

Il 25 di gennaio ha avuto luogo nella parrocchia de Kidane-Mihiret una celebrazione del centenário della erezione del Vicariato di Kaffa (Jimma-Bonga). La missione si trova circa 500 Km ad ovest di Addis.

Anche l'IMC è stato invitato perchè furono proprio i missionari della Consolata che si sono stabiliti in questi paragi cent'anni fa. In questo territorio del Kaffa prima c'era passato il celebre Card Massaia che ha ispirato fortemente il fondatore.

 Sabato pomeriggio una rappresentanza folte è andata all'incontro dei dignitari. Li hanno accolto circa 10 km prima del villaggio e li hanno ricevuti trionfalmente per proseguire in carovana fino ad uno spazio adeguato prima della missione dove si sono scambiati gli auguri e si sono tenuti i primi discorsi.

Era già note quando si è concluso l'incontro e ognuno è andato a riposare.

 Domenica verso le 8 si è iniziata la celebrazione tra canti e balli in Amarico e Kaffigna. Il presidente della celebrazione fu il Cardinale Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, accompagnato dal vescovo del Vicariato Markos Gebremedhin, dal Nunzio Luigi Bianco, dal vescovo emerito di Jimma-Bonga Theo Van Ruyven, dal vescovo ausiliare di Addis Lesanu-Christos Matheos, e dal padre Hagos Hayish, direttore del Segretariato Cattolico ad Addis. Erano anche presenti molti sacerdoti e religiosi che vollero associarsi a questa festa. Tra questi consacrati c'erano vari nipoti di persone che conobbero i missionari della Consolata che hanno lavorato lì, giacché furono varie le vocazioni venute da quelli posti e che quest'oggi fanno lavoro pastorale un pò dappertutto.

 Nella sua omelia (mi hanno detto dopo, giacché io non ho capito niente) il Cardinale ha sottolineato il lavoro faticoso dei missionari degli inizi e di tutti gli altri che si susseguirono e hanno continuato il lavoro di annaffiare e tenere conto della pianta che di un piccolo seme è diventato un albero.

 Parlando di alberi, questa regione dove si trova la missione ha un microclima che fa crescere molti alberi diversi sembrando proprio l'orla marittima nei tropici. Si dice che è originaria da queste parti la stirpe del caffé conosciuta “arabica”, che esportano parecchio.

 La storia della Chiesa in questi posti regista momenti tribolati: il Cardinale Massaia era stato espulso del territorio e i Cristiani perseguitati. C'è proprio un registro di circa 300 morti, 14 dei quali martiri, che la hierarquia piacerebbe di vedere riconosciuti come tali dalla Chiesa universale. Erano diversi gli ostacoli all'entrata e permanenza dei missionari Cattolici sia da parte delle autorità locali sia dall'invidia del potere centrale in Addis. Nei primi cinque anni i missionari della Consolata hanno dovuto dedicarsi al commercio aspettando giorni migliori per iniziare il lavoro missionario e più tardi – 1935, con la guerra Italo - etiope - dovranno lasciare il territorio. Nella sede del Vicariato di Jimma-Bonga, cioè Jimma, la cattedrale fu confiscata dal regime e più tardi trasformata in biblioteca della Università locale.

 Al offertorio i fedeli hanno presentato doni vari: prodotti locali che toccano il cibo e la vita della popolazione: caffé, frumento, mais, sorgo, malte, canna da zucchero, caçava, miele e altri dolci, un albero di banana, vari altri frutti e una capra. Fu un momento di folclore ma molto profondo.

Dopo la consacrazione la liturgia si prolunga ma sempre in un dialogo costante tra il presidente e tutti i fedeli così che non c'è mai monotonia. Sembra una litania ma molto armoniosa.

 Dopo la messa ci sono stati vari interventi, specialmente dagli invitati ufficiali, tra i quali si trovava il superiore dei missionari della Consolata, padre Oscar. Ha ringraziato l'invito per così solenne occasione e anche lui ha sottolineato la crescita della missione e la testimonianza che da in mezzo alla popolazione, specialmente Mussulmani e Ortodossi.

 Dopo si è fatta la processione solenne col Santissimo fino alla Chiesa. Saltavano alla vista i para pioggia colorati intessuti da un tessuto brillante di vari colori, per onorare il Santissimo, e un altro arnese, sconosciuto da me, che mi dissero dopo, fa parte di una tradizione antica, in verità è una reminiscenza della famosa Arca della Alleanza del Antico Testamento. Apparentemente quando c'è una processione solenne è sempre portato. Qui la Chiesa Cattolica avrà ereditato della Chiesa Ortodossa questa tradizione.

 Dopo di che si è seguito il pranzo, costituito da piati locali col pane locale, e vari tipi di carne, naturalmente tutti con delle spezie, secondo la tradizione locale, e accompagnati da due bevande fermentate locali. C'era anche il caffé, molto buono, eccetto una versione che mescolano burro col caffé, il che ha un sapore strano.

 Infine se susseguì un momento di diversione con canti i balli tradizionali. Guidava il gruppo il Cardinale, sempre pronto per lo scherzo e con una grinta di fare invidia ai più giovani. Sembra fratello del famoso Grebresselassie, corridore mitico di maratone. Ma anche gli altri vescovi e i preti presto si misero anche loro a cantare e a saltare come gli altri.

 

Ho potuto anche vedere dal di fuori due costruzione dal tempo del inizio dei missionari della Consolata, cioè circa 1915.

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