On Jan. 1, 2012, Spiritans in the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere in the world marked the 50th anniversary of the death of 20 Spiritan confreres–19 Belgians and one Dutch–in Kongolo, Congo, with prayer and remembrance.This sad and inspiring event occurred after the Congo gained independence on June 30, 1960. Soldiers of the central government were sent to suppress a rebellion against the new government in the Katanga Province. Entering the town of Kongolo on Dec. 31, 1961, the soldiers found that most inhabitants had fled. Only the Spiritan confreres stayed behind together with two diocesan priests, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Kongolo, two foreigners, and the elderly and sick who could not get away.
That night the soldiers imprisoned all the Spiritans, the sisters and several others in army barracks. On Jan. 1, 1962, the Spiritan priests were lined up and killed, falling while giving their blessings to their executioners.
The confreres knew they risked being killed when they decided to stay in Kongolo. They died remaining faithful to the poor who were in their care, as many others have done in Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo-Brazzaville and other countries where the Spiritans devote their lives to those they serve.
Events in Memory of the Martyrs
The present-day Kongolo diocese, Congo-Kinshasa Foundation, Belgium region, General Council in Rome and the whole Spiritan congregation joined in commemorating this event in late December and on Jan. 1, 2012 and on Pentecost Sunday 2012.
In Kongolo, Democratic Republic of Congo, on December 29th 2012, 200 pilgrims gathered at the Fraternity, the Spiritan house currently being used as a pre-postulancy. Mgr. Oscar NGOY WA MPANGA, Bishop of Kongolo, was present as well as all the Spiritans of the Eastern Region, along with the priests of the Diocese, the Spiritan pre-postulants, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Kongolo (Cimko), the Sisters of St. Joseph of Kalawe, the Franciscan Sisters of the Reign of Jesus of Sola, the parishioners of Saint-Joseph-Kangoy as well as some friends of the Spiritans.
Father Andre NSENGA, Superior of the Spiritan Eastern Province and the Director of the pre-Postulancy, conducted the pilgrims in the direction of the Procure. The Choir of Saint-Joseph-Kangoy sang a litany dedicated to the Spiritan martyrs. At the beginning of the stage, Father NSENGA gave a presentation on the lives of the confreres killed at Kongolo as well as that of a confrere who had been killed in 1961 at Kabolo. One of the pilgrims, Baba Thomas, a former Junior Seminarian, pointed out the places where the victims had lived and worked.
Later Fr. Andre KIZITO stressed the need to walk in the light of Christ by loving ones neighbour. “It is not enough just to know him. One must above all live in love.” The Principal Superior, Father Eric NGOY KAMATOMBE invited those gathered to learn the lessons of the different forms of witness highlighted at the end of the pilgrimage in order to reply to two questions : “How did they die? Why did they die?” On Friday, December 30th, 2012, the second day of the pilgrimage, the walk which had begun at the Procure ended at the new Cathedral of the Diocese of Kongolo.
By Fr. Eric NGOY KAMATOMBE.