50 years of presence ot the Carmelites in Burundi and Rwanda
The Gift of the Jubilee for the locall Church
The jubilee is more than just a celebration and a thanksgiving Mass with the bishop. This is a multi-dimensional event. The Carmel in Burundi is experiencing a jubilee in its various dimensions.
· The first is gratitude expressed in joy (Gitega Youth Festival).
· The second is redeeming slaves from the burden of the past - we experience it in building houses for pygmies to break free from the instability of the past (Bujumbura project - 50 houses for the 50th anniversary of Carmel).
· The third dimension is also an effort to commemorate the years passed in various publishing forms (publications in Polish: album and books and in French, as well as radio broadcasts, both in Poland and in mission countries, as well as video montages on the history and current presence).
· In addition to the above-mentioned typical jubilee initiatives, something is being created that has a chance to leave a lasting positive mark on the Church in Burundi. It is the emerging Shrine of Our Lady of the Scapular in Musongati.
Musongati - The first child of the Carmelite mission
It was no accident that Musongati was chosen as the venue for the main anniversary celebrations. The choice was obvious. Musongati is the first child
of the missionary outburst. The brothers began their independent ministry in Mpinga. However, it was a mission taken over from the White Fathers, not
created from scratch. Musongati was an integral part of the Mpinga parish. Thus, the brothers served in Musongati from the very beginning commuting
to Musongati as one of the 11 commuting chapels. From 1974, they lived there in the created parish. Musongati was built almost from scratch, built by
Carmel, by the Carmelite Brothers and Sisters of the Child Jesus.
The history of 50 years of Carmel's presence in Burundi is inextricably linked with this mission. Except for a 5-year banishment (1985-1990), the brothers
have been there for 50 years. Attempts to resist the anti-church regime and attempts to defend the cross ended with the missionaries being expelled from
the parish. The 90's was a heroic endurance in the eye of the storm. Protected by the army, they did not leave the people during the war. During
the bloodiest period of the civil war, they welcomed into the parish thousands of refugees, military refugees.
By serving the sacraments in about 5 parishes where the local priests had to catapult by fleeing, they became an example of zealous pastors for the people.
It is in these circumstances that the beginnings of the pilgrimage movement to the Musongati parish should be seen.
Musongati - Nascent SanctuaryFrom the Queen of the Apostles to the Queen of the Holy Scapular. This is how you could sum up the spiritual development of this place. The parish
of the Queen of Apostles slowly became a place of influence of Carmelite spirituality. The first decades were marked by great efforts put into the first
evangelization - catechumenate, preparation for baptism, building infrastructure. Today, 50 years on, we are at a new stage.
It is a time to deepen your faith. Musongati, as a model of in-depth evangelization, adopted the Marian trait with
the mission of promoting a healthy and profound Marian devotion.
Musongati became a charismatic place during the war. When it was difficult to find priests for confession in the area, our confreres, despite the threat
to their lives, took people to confession. They also traveled around the area looking for believers. The first pilgrims are prodigal sons who seek
forgiveness and return to the community through confession. The second factor contributing to the spread of the spirit of Musongati was the refugees
returning to their localities. It was they who spread the news of a place like Musongati around the country, where priests hear confessions, talk about
Mary and admit to the Scapular, and the Sisters, through the service of mercy, save people's health. The news spread across the country. The pilgrimage
movement began to reach beyond the diocesan, regional, even nationwide range. And so began the first Friday and Saturday pilgrimages to Musongati.
The area was fertile because Burundi learned about the Scapular in the beginning of evangelization. The White Fathers spread this devotion,
but in the 1950s and 1960s it weakened considerably. Now is the chance for a renaissance of this centuries-old spiritual tradition.
With an expanding pilgrimage and a nascent sanctuary, this spiritual experience becomes a hub for Carmelite vocations in Burundi.
Musongati - Jubilee look ahead
For several years now, as the Carmelite Vicariate, we have been trying to capture this charismatic event in a permanent structure. It is a service to
perpetuate the nascent charismatic works. The nascent shrine is truly a grassroots initiative, not invented or planned by the Carmelites, but an
expression of stubborn popular piety. Now is the time to sanction it. The bishop of the diocese blesses us.
We started with water. Not holy, but drinkable. Thanks to benefactors from the diocese of Stockholm in Sweden, the Abana Baseka Foundation and
a family from Chicago, we managed to dig a deep well. Pilgrims have water. By the way, almost a thousand children at the parish school and fathers
at the monastery. At dusk, pilgrims are no longer forced to discreetly look for springs of water in the forest to be able to wash themselves after a few
days' walk. There is water in Musongati.
Last year, thanks to the help of Ad Gentes from Warsaw, a straight way of the cross was created so that pilgrims could follow the traces of the Passion
in the church forest, starting from the feet of the persecuted cross in front of the parish church. The stations are painted by local artists which adds
extra value to them.
There was also a figure of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus, carved by local artists from Gitega. This is not first-class finesse, but an expression of local
people's ability to actively participate in the creation of Catholic tradition. We want this sanctuary not to be an imported product, but the fruit of local
Time to continue ...
We want to be able to accommodate mothers with infants who travel tens of kilometers on foot for the night. Often, the all-night vigil under the cloud,
after a several-day walk, is beyond strength. A roof over your head and a mattress are essential. What is needed is a simple dormitory with bunk beds
for poor pilgrims. Perhaps in the future, several rooms will be needed for pilgrims who would be able to rent a room.
A conference room for pilgrimage groups also seems necessary. The parish also needs a space where it could organize large parish meetings. Let's not
forget this is a parish with 30,000 practicing Catholics.
This year, the construction of the so-called sanctuary, i.e. an extensive field altar dedicated to Our Lady of the Scapular. It is a liturgical space for Scapular
celebrations and meetings of the Scapular Confraternities. Father Fryderyk Jaworski was appointed responsible for this great project lasting several years.
In the next text, he will talk about the details of the above investment. Let us pray for every blessing for Him and for the openness of the hearts of many
believers wearing the Carmelite Scapular in Poland and in the world. That the faithful in Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world, have a chance
to make a pilgrimage to a beautiful place where the Carmel garden will be not only a symbol but also a reality. On behalf
of the Vicariate, I am asking you to support this major Vicariate project to date. Offerings may be submitted with the note: SANCTUARY MUSONGATI.
We would like to thank the Mission Office for the initiative to dedicate this year's fair in Czerna for the needs of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Scapular in
Queen of the Holy Scapular, pray for us!
Father Fryderyk Jaworski: mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; WhatsApp: +257 611 951 29Information about ongoing works you will find on the website of the OCD Regional Vicariate:
Fr Maciej Jaworski, Bujumbura
Responsible for projects in the Burundi-Rwanda Vicariate.