The Bagamoyo 2012 General Chapter opened at Bagamoyo in a very welcoming mood.
The day started with a welcoming Mass in the morning, an opening Chapter ceremony in the afternoon that began with the re-enacting of the arrival of the first missionaries to Bagamoyo from Zanzibar and finally the official registering of the presence of the Chapter Delegates. Finally the day ended with delegates deliberating on the timetable, documents for the chapter and accepting the rules and procedures to be followed at the chapter.
The welcoming Mass: A beautiful and well animated Solemn Mass set the tone and the mood of the Delegates to the 20th General Chapter at Bagamoyo Stella Maris grounds on 24th June 2012. The welcoming Solemn Mass on the feast of the birth John the Baptist, was presided over by His Eminence Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam. Concelebrating with him were the Papal Nuncio to Tanzania, H.E. Arch. Francisco Montecillo Padilla, twenty more bishops, over a hundred and eighty priests, religious men and women and about a thousand eight hundred people were in attendance. Students from our Spiritan Marian School in Bagamoyo namely Epiphany Primary School, Marian Girls Secondary School, Kerege Boys and Liberman Primary School were all in attendance. The Mass was very colourful and spiritually uplifting . Bagamoyo that looked hopeless and gloomy for years an end looked so welcoming and beckoning people to revisit it. That was the mood that looked so obvious on the morning of Sunday June 24, 2012 the opening day of the Bagamoyo 2012 General Chapter
In welcoming the Chapter Delegates, Bishop Telesphor Mkude the bishop of Morogoro Catholic Diocese in which Bagamoyo is found, expressed his profound gratitude to God and to the Spiritans for bring the Chapter to Africa and for that matter to Tanzania and especially so to Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo is a historic place and the cradle of Christianity in Tanzania and East Africa. He and the entire Morogoro diocesan community of clergy and faithful promised continued prayers for a successful and fruitful General Chapter. He hoped that the Delegates sitting at the Chapter and indeed the entire Congregation will take this opportunity to evaluate the past, asses the present and determine the way forward in the Spiritans’ call to be religious missionaries everywhere.
The cardinal gave a vivid homily during the Mass. He said the Feast of the birth of St. John the Baptist was a joyful day to celebrate the coming of the delegates to Bagamoyo to celebrate the 20th General Chapter. John Baptist’s birth brought joy to the family of his down trodden parents Zachariah and Elizabeth. His birth brought a new dawn in their lives. They gained their dignity in society and were valued by the society as husband and wife. Before the coming of John into their lives, they were nobodies. In comparison, the coming of Spiritans to Bagamoyo brought in a light of hope to the down trodden poor people, the enslaved and dehumanized. They brought the light that drove away darkness, enlightened minds and hearts and reassured people of their dignity. He urged Spiritans to be vigilant in fighting evils that challenge human dignity today. There are evil forces that a few powerful individuals crave for in order to use them to oppress the majority. The Gospel is our weapon that is powerful to overcome such. He urged the Delegates to read the signs of the time, and come up with practical resolutions during the Chapter that will enable the Spiritan family in world to stand firm as St. John the Baptist in combating evil. John did not spare his own life even when threatened. Spiritans of today like those gone before us should be firm and courageous to stand by the Gospel values for these values are divine and unconquerable by any other force. He wished the delegates a fruitful Chapter.
AN IMPRESSIVE OPENING CEREMONY FOR THE 2012 BAGAMOYO GENERAL CHAPTER
The opening ceremony of the Bagamoyo 2012 General Chapter was very moving and inspiring.
The ceremony started with re-enacting the arrival of the first Missionaries who sailed in a wind driven sail boat from Zanzibar to Bagamoyo 144 years ago. Our confrere Bishop Augustine Ndelyakiama Shao, C.S.Sp, the Bishop of Zanzibar, sailed out into the sea about one nautical mile from a nearby boat dock then his bought boat was blown by wind into Msalabani shore with some a lady representing the first Filles des Marie sisters and two men catechists accompanying him.
Alighting from the boat into the sea about 100 meters in the sea, where the water was about hip-deep, he and his companions walked through the water to Msalabani shore carrying a lantern lamp, a bible and a cross. The lantern lamp symbolizing the light of Christ, the Bible symbolizing the Good News brought by the First Missionaries and the Cross symbolizing liberation and arrival of freedom for all peoples on the mainland.
Msalabani is roughly the place where the first missionaries to Bagamoyo, Father A. Horner, accompanied by Father E. Baur, after they had got a plot of land, cleared and levelled it, built a house, planted a Cross on 16 July 1868 to entrust their mission into the hands of the Lord Jesus whose Death on the Cross and His Resurrection liberated the human person from bondage and dehumanization.
Bagamoyo was in the days of slavery a place of despair. All that came from the sea on to the shore was nothing other than traders hunting for slaves and ivory. And all the slaves who were brought to Bagamoyo saw no hope of survival for they were being led into the unknown – the sea and beyond it. The coming of the Missionaries ushered in a new era filled with hope and joy. They brought with them the Light of Christ.
All the delegates, Chapter functionaries, Spiritans from the Province of Tanzania and other people who had come to witness the event, enacting what the first people to meet the first missionaries did, met Bishop Augustine and his entourage at the shore where he announced the arrival of the Light to the Nations by singing Lumen Gentium and all responding Deo gratias. Then in a procession from the shore all filed up to Msalabani where the bishop sang Lumen Christi. This announced the arrival of the Light of Christ to mainlanders to dispel darkness, fear and worry from their hearts. To announce the ushering in of the Light of Christ that brings hope, restores human dignity and declares freedom from enslavement. After some Scripture reading in French, Portuguese and English, all proceeded to the Chapter Chapel where delegates where a letter from The Superior General Very Rev. Fr. Jean-Paul Hoch, C.S.Sp was read. He informed the delegates of his ill-health and inability to be at the Chapter and that according SRL he would be represented by the First General Assistant Very Rev. Fr. John Kwofie, C.S.Sp.
After that each delegate was called out by name by Rev. Fr. Philip Massawe, the Chapter Secretary. After each had lit a candle all sang the Magnificat to invoke Mary our Mother to pray for the success of the Chapter.
Having moved to the Chapter conference Hall deliberations on and approving of documents, list of delegates and functionaries, the timetable and finally rules and procedures that are to be followed during the Chapter were voted on and passed.
(Paul Chuwa, CSSp at Bagamoyo)
PHOTOS (by Firmino Cachada)