(Congo) On Saturday 5th of September 2020, the Vice-Province of Matadi in the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrated the silver jubilee of priesthood with of Fathers Jean-Richard Makasi Mbelekelevo and André Musinga Bobantisa Makaya and the profession of perpetual vows of brother Jean-Baptiste Trésor Nlemo Bavueza (who will be ordained a deacon on 19 September 2020 in Kinshasa). This celebration took place during the beautiful and solemn Eucharist presided over by the Reverend Father Jean-Robert Diyabanza, vice-provincial superior of Matadi, at open stretched ground between the San Giovanni Neumann house and the San Gerardo Center in Kola. Animated by the JeuCath choir (Jeunes Catholiques) of our Sacred Heart parish of Mbanza-Ngungu, and the Holy Mass was attended by several people from Kinshasa and from all areas of Congo-Central. In addition to the family members of the Jubilee and the confreres of the Vice-Province, we noted the presence of religious and diocesan priests, including the dean of Mbanza-Ngungu, the parish priest of Santa Maria di Loma and the diocesan coordinator of the Catholic schools. At the end of the Mass, a festive meal was offered to all, obviously enriched by the beautiful melodies produced by the Redemption Orchestra. Everything was preceded by a spiritual retreat of all the confreres in Kola.
As a very brief history, the Jubilarians were ordained to the priesthood on July 30, 1995 in Kinshasa by His Excellency Monsignor G. Kembo, then bishop of Matadi, of happy memory, together with Father Felix Ulabilako Jakwawu (for the time being in Belgium). Since their ordination, Fathers Jean-Richard and André have always distinguished themselves as tireless missionaries and careful organizers of community life.
Fr Makasi, now 54, will be part of the first group of confreres who was on mission to Mbamou in the diocese of Kinkala in Congo / Brazza-Ville immediately after his ordination. He worked there as superior and parish priest until the 1998 war forced him to return to Congo-Kinshasa. He spent a few months in the community of Sacred Heart in Mbanza-Ngungu and also in Santa Maria in Kimpese. And in 1999, on the eve of the celebration of the centenary of the missionary presence of the Redemptorists in the Congolese land, he was appointed superior of the community and pastor of the parish of the Sacred Heart in Miyamba. He remained there until 2003, when he was appointed pastor of the parish of San Camillo located in a poor area of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa, residing in the San Clemente house of formation in Kintambo where at the same time he devoted himself with accuracy in the service of the treasurer. While residing in that house, Father went to his new parish every day, leaving the house at 5:00 in the morning and returned in the evening. He organized his parish community in its structures. He dedicated himself to the construction of the Residence. So he was the first resident pastor of this parish. In 2007, Father Makasi was forced to leave his parish due to a sudden and serious health problem that happened on Holy Tuesday of that year. After receiving the first treatment in Kinshasa to stabilize the situation, the Father was sent to South Africa for an adequate treatment. Thank God! After his very successful stay in that country due to his health, even with the benevolent presence of the South African Redemptorist confreres, the confrere returned to his native country (DRC) and was assigned to the community of St. John Neumann of Kola for his convalescence and at the same time to provide some service at the St. Gerard Center, Kola. He remained there for 8 years from 2010 to 2018. Currently he is a member of the Sacred Heart community of Mbanza-Ngungu, deputy director of Radio Vuvu-Kieto and an assistant parish priest.
Father André Musinga Bobantisa (Bob), now 58 years old, after his ordination, was made a member of the team of preachers of the popular missions, residing in the community of St. John Neumann of Kola. In 1998 he was appointed to the community of Our Lady of Fatima in Luozi as the superior and the parish priest. He is therefore the first Congolese parish priest since the founding of this parish in 1948. He is the immediate successor of Father Hugo Gotink (whom we affectionately call Tata Hugo), who remained there for 20 years. In December 1999, Father was chosen to be part of the first Congolese Redemptorist missionary group in Belgium. He resided in the Namur community until 2005, when he returned to the DRC. Immediately, he was assigned to be in charge of popular missions. During this time the novitiate was transferred to Burkina-Faso, in line with the collaboration between the Redemptorist units in Africa. Father Bob has been entrusted with the task of undertaking initiatives for the conversion of the use of the buildings which was then a Novitiate house in Kola into a structure for spiritual formation. He performed his task with dexterity by laying the foundations of what has become today the St Gerard Center of Kola. In 2008 he was appointed the superior of the community and the parish priest in Miyamba. In 2013 he was transferred to Matadi in the community of San Gerardo, where he was superior, parish priest and promoter of the San Gerardo School Complex. He remained in Matadi for a short time due to an unexpected health problem, as in the case of Father Jean-Richard Makasi. This forced him to reside in Kinshasa for treatment. Since 2018, Fr André resided in the community of Kola.
The two confreres, as they celebrate their jubilee, are known to be very sociable, which occurs in their good sense of humor. With their silver jubilee of priesthood, they have just added to the list of jubilees of the vice-province of Matadi. They preceded them: Charles Kusika, Nestor Basunga, Clément Makiobo, Victor Mampuya, Antoine Tusamba (jubilees of 2014); Athanase Nsiamina (jubilee of 2015); Daniel Maneka (jubilee of 2017); Luyila (jubilee of 2018).
Our give thanks to the Lord who continues to hold our vice-province with His mighty hands and to look upon our members and missionary activities with kindness. Our gratitude to you, our elders that is to all our Jubilarians for this testimony of work in perseverance (we too remember those who were ordained with you but have left the congregation and are incardinated in the dioceses: Jean- Pierre Nlandu, Antoine Makaya, Auguste Moanda, Julien Mavinga). Twenty-five years of priesthood is certainly not the culmination of a journey, but it is the happy horizon that can be seen in order to continue this journey; it is the hope that exults and imposes itself in the face of all the structures that generate doubt and defeatism. With this silver jubilee, (Mt 19, 26). Yes! You are true pioneers. In this sense, the Silver Jubilee will by now be a resounding appeal to all the members of the vice-province to “walk” always with and towards Christ. There is no more time to waste. Inspired by Phil 3:16, the great Doctor Hilary of Poitiers exhorts us in these terms: “So let’s get into the line where we hurried. And if walking down the wrong path has delayed our haste, once we have returned through divine revelation in the direction in which we had hurried, we will not change the line of our haste”. (De Trinitate XI, 24-Sources chrétiennes 462, 340-341).
May this silver jubilee of Fathers Jean-Richard Makasi and André Musinga Bobantisa Makaya as well as the other jubilees already celebrated, and the profession of perpetual vows of our brother Jean-Baptiste Trésor Nlemo, are a kairos in such a way that it stimulates all the members of the vice-province of Matadi to commit ourselves more to the spirit of our Father Alphonsus de Liguori and to imitate with dignity the zeal of St. Clement. Thus we will be present through the journey of the Congregation and of the Church in the face of the urgent appeals of our societies.
May the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help always bring us her maternal help.
Father Joseph Mukondua Zungulua, C.Ss.R
Collegio Maggiore, Rome