Redemptorists all over the world are in mourning. We have lost a much-loved confrere, Fr. Zephirin Ndongala Luyila. Fr. Zephirin was the Coordinator of the Redemptorist Conference for Africa and Madagascar, known as COREAM.
Our heartfelt sympathies abound in abundance to Zephirin’s brothers and sisters in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Luyila Makengo Patrice, Luyila Madilu Edouard, Luyila Lusikila Jacqueline, Luyila-Lua-Kanda Bernadette, Luyila Masala Agnes.
Biography of Rev. Fr. Zéphirin LUYILA NDONGALA, CSsR.
Father Zéphirin LUYILA NDONGALA, Congolese nationality, born on 29 January 1965 in NDEMBO, was originally from the Sector of KIVULU, MBANZA-NGUNGU Territory, Province of KONGO-CENTRAL, in the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (hereafter DRC). He was baptized Catholic as a child.
His Father Edouard LUYILA LUAKANDA, a teacher, originally from the village of KIKIADI, in the KIVULU sector of KONGO-CENTRAL, had died on 7 May 2006. Her mother, Hélène LUSIKILA from the village KIPASI, KIVULU Sector, KONGO-CENTRAL, had died on 26 May 2015. Her parents were Catholics, well involved in the Legio Mariae. Father Zéphirin was the fifth of a family of 8 children, 3 boys, and 5 girls. Of the girls, 2 have already died.
- From 1971 to 1977, he did his primary studies at the PRIMARY SCHOOL NDEMBO in the area of BOKO, Territory of MBANZA-NGUNGU, Province of Kongo-Central in DRC, at the end of which he obtained the Certificate of End of Primary Studies.
- From 1977 to 1979, he attended the orientation cycle of the 20 May Establishment in Mbanza-Ngungu, where he obtained a certificate of the Orientation Cycle.
- From 1979 to 1983, he attended the KIMVUKA INSTITUTE in Mbanza-Ngungu, where he obtained the State Diploma in General Pedagogy.
- While preparing to enter the Redemptorist Postulancy, he taught at the Tuzolana Primary School.
- From September 1984 to July 1985, he was at the Postulancy of the Redemptorists in the Saint Clement Parish of KINZUNDU.
- From 28th September 1985 to 29th September 1986, he did his Novitiate year in KIONZO in the Lower River, at the end of which he made his first religious profession.
- From 1986 to 1989, Zéphirin LUYILA did the Cycle de Philosophie at the Saint Augustin Philosophy School in Kinshasa, where he obtained the Graduate Diploma in Philosophy.
- From 1989 to 1993, he studied theology at the Saint Eugene de Mazenod Institute in Kinshasa, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology.
- After having made his perpetual vows in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on September 19, 1992, in Kisantu, Brother Zéphirin LUYILA was ordained a deacon in Kisantu (Emmaus Centre) on May 4, 1993, by Monsignor Gabriel KEMBO MAMPUTU and Priest on July 25, 1993, in Kinshasa by His Eminence Cardinal Frédéric ETSOU.
- From 1993 to 1996, he was vicar at the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Luozi and was in charge of Youth and Village Pastoral.
- From 1996 to 1998, he was the first Congolese parish priest in the parish of Saint Mary of Kimpese.
- From 1998 to 2002, he was the first Congolese parish priest of the Sacred Heart Parish of Mbanza Ngungu.
- From 1999 to 2005, he was the Treasurer of the Redemptorist Vice-Province of Congo.
- From 2005 to 2007, he was a student at the Lumen Vitae International Institute in Brussels, Belgium, where he obtained the Licentiate Diploma in Catechesis and Pastoral Care.
- From 2007 to 2009, he was Dominical Vicar in the pastoral sector in Namur Nord in Belgium.
- From 2009 to 2010, he was Vicar of the Saint Gerard Parish in Matadi/ DRC.
- From December 2010 to 31 December 2017, he was Vice-Provincial Superior and Legal Representative of the Congregation of Redemptorists in the DRC.
- From 2013 to 2017, he is President of the National Assembly of Major Superiors (ASUMA) of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- From 2014 to 2017, he is the Moderator of the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Matadi.
- January 2018 to 11 November 2020: Coordinator for the Conference of Redemptorists of Africa and Madagascar (COREAM).
What we can learn from him
Father Zéphirin LUYILA NDONGALA was:
- A man of faith and prayer;
- A quiet man, full of patience, gentleness, and love for his confreres, his parishioners, and for all the people with whom he had a working relationship or collaboration ;
- A prudent and balanced man in his language, in his judgments, and in his decision making with a sense of leadership;
- A man disciplined, orderly, and organized in his ordinary life as well as in his administrative responsibilities and in the management of personnel and property;
- A serious and discreet religious priest.
He returns to the Father’s House in the total discretion on 11/11/2020, at the age of 55, after 34 years of religious life and 27 years of very well accomplished priestly ministry.
Father Zéphirin Luyila sought that the presence of God is found in his life, that the lamp of Christ is kept lit, and that the choice of his life is that of living in the trust of the Lord.
Biography rendered by Brother Léon MASIALA PHUATI, CSsR
Kinshasa/RD Congo, 16 November 2020
The following timeline captures the sadness and emotion of Fr. Zephirin’s last day as a treasured Redemptorist and wonderful human Being. This account was shared with us by the Redemptorist Kenya mission.
Today, 11th November 2020, around 11.00 am, I got a frantic call from Fr. Toppo. Very disturbed, he was saying, ‘I think Zephirin is gone.’ Soon I called Cornel, who was sobbing said that Zephirin is no more. It all happened all of a sudden this morning.
Fr, Zephirin was not keeping good health for the past one month. He had blood sugar and BP. He was also under treatment for pneumonia at St. Odilia’s Dispensary at Karen. For the past week, he was being taken to the dispensary for treatment. At times, Sr. nurses came to our house to give him insulin. On the 9th, he had a Covid-19 test, and the result came out on the 10th, saying that it was negative. Zephirin was happy to know that result because he was much worried about it.
On 11th (Wednesday), at 9.00 am, Fr Cornel met Zephirin in his room. For the past few days, Cornel was offering Mass in Zephrin’s room. Today he said, that he would offer Mass on his own. Cornel made arrangements for the Mass. At 9.30 our cook, Helen, came with breakfast. Meanwhile, Toppo also came to Zephirin’s room and said that he would take him to the hospital once he had breakfast.
After 10.00, Toppo came and knocked at Zephirin’s room. There was no response. Again he knocked loudly. But since there was no response, he opened the door, and then Toppo found Zephirin leaning on a pillow with his legs crossed. Since there was no response from him, Toppo touched him and found very cold. Immediately he called Cornel, and when they realized what has happened, Cornel rushed to Odilia’s dispensary to get the medical officer what was treating Zephirin. He came immediately with Cornel and examined Zephirin. The pupils were bilateral unresponsive to light, cold to touch, and negative gag reflex. There was no chest movements. He was pronounced dead at 11.20 am by Nester Sila, the clinician.
Hearing the news, Fr. Raphael, who was preaching a retreat at Benedictine sisters, rushed to our house. Fr. Paul also was brought back to the house from another retreat place. Meanwhile, our neighboring sisters came to the house. Toppo and Cornel went to the police station. With the medical report, the police also gave a report. But later, the police said that it would be safe if we take the body for autopsy since he died in his room. We had to wait a couple of agonizing hours waiting for the police forensic surgeon. He came around 3.00 pm and examined the body and the room, took some pictures, and gave clearance to take the body to the mortuary. By 4.00, the body was shifted to St. Mary’s hospital.
Meanwhile, Fr General in Rome was informed of the tragic death of Zephirin. He contacted the Vice-provincial in DRC, Fr Jean Robert. Also, our provincial in India was informed of this tragedy. The Vice-provincial was of the opinion if possible to send the body to Congo. Immediately Raphael got in touch with the embassy and a travel agent. Embassy officials gave an appointment for Friday. We can have an autopsy only when we come to know when the flights will be available.
At 6.00 pm, we had a Mass for Zephirin in our chapel, in the presence of a number of sisters and brothers and eight Redemptorists.