From 16 to 28 June 2023, the Coordinator of the COREAM Conference, Fr. Noel Sottima, C.Ss.R. and the Chairperson of the Commission for Shared Mission, COREAM, Lady Judith Agu, spent time with the confreres and lay partners in Tiebissou, Bouake and Abidjan, all in the Redemptorist Vice-Province of West Africa. Spending time in some villages was a wonderful missionary experience and an amazing testimony of the Shared Mission. The joy of the locals was marvellous, and one could sense their genuine love for God and one another. Everything was done with such great love that one could imagine what the early Christians shared.
Spending these moments with our lay partners in the most remote areas and accompanying them in leadership training was very instructive. We understand better why our Founder, Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, spent so much time with the poor and most abandoned. We also had the rare opportunity to be witnesses of hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer.
During our stay, we saw how hard the confreres, Fr. Blaise Savadogo, Fr. Jonas Gali, Fr. Jean-Luc Adieu and the Pastoral students, Augustine and Monfort, worked among the poor and abandoned in the villages, tending to their pastoral needs.
The 9-day Novena in honour of the Mother of Perpetual Help truly reflects the shared mission. While the confreres preached, Lady Judith shared practical experiences, which was a beautiful synergy.
The parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Tiebissou, was full of lay faithful who turned up in large numbers every day for the Novena. The feast day was celebrated with much enthusiasm and excitement, starting with the procession of the icon around the community.
The culmination of the Feast Day celebration was the renewal of vows of Brothers Ataroh Augustine Oghenekaro and Pius Iriegbe Monfort Chimezie, Redemptorist students from Nigeria, currently in a pastoral year in the Vice-Province of West Africa. The enrollment and consecration of the Redemptorist lay associates of Abidjan and Tiebissou also made this year’s Feast celebration very memorable.
The training was also held for some lay associates at the parish of Mother of Perpetual Help in Treichville, Abidjan, on Redemptorist charism and spirituality. It was another memorable experience with the young and vibrant lay associates.
One thing resonates in this visit: our call to be missionaries of hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer. Spending time in the villages and listening to the locals share their experiences made me realize how wounded our world is today and the need for us Redemptorists to be missionaries of hope even in our frailty.
Another aspect that struck me during this visit was the disinterested service of the confreres. How could they be so joyful amid so much discomfort? For me, all of this comes from a genuine love for the people to whom they are sent, a sincere commitment to their apostolic and missionary priorities, and their willingness to go wherever they are sent for mission work.
We paid a courtesy visit to the Bishop of Yamoussoukro, Msgr. Joseph Aka Kacou, and took advantage of his great pastoral experience. We also prayed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro—a magnificent work.
As a lay missionary of the Most Holy Redeemer, I am very grateful for this missionary experience. The joy on people’s faces will remain indelible in my heart.
Lady Judith Agu, LSM
Chair of the Commission for Partnership in Mission, COREAM