October 12, 2012
For Everything There is a Season (Read More)
According to Scripture, there is a time for everything under heaven. For the Marianists in Eastern Africa, there was a time to plant. Starting with their arrival in 1957, they began to grow a Marianist presence in Kenya, Zambia and Malawi. But the signing of the Lusaka Declaration in 1979 — a document formally declaring their intention to recruit African Marianists in the Society of Mary — gave their work greater focus and direction.
Now, more than 30 years later, it is time to reap the rewards of that work. In a celebration in May, Marianists from around the globe gathered in Nairobi to witness the handing over of leadership responsibility to African Marianists and the newly formed independent Region of Eastern Africa. It also was an occasion to honor the legacy of those who made this possible.
Says Marianist Brother Valentine Chola Mulenga, 45, the new regional superior of Eastern Africa: “What was planted many years ago as a small seed has grown into a big tree bearing fruit. The brothers of the Region are challenged by the faith of our founders. We will respond now with faith and hope.”
More than 100 U.S. Marianists have served in English-speaking Africa since 1957 when they were first invited there to help administer Catholic secondary schools.
“The time has come for African Marianists to take responsibility for Marianist life and ministries here,” says Marianist Father Marty Solma, who served in Africa for 27 years. “This leadership change recognizes their maturity and acknowledges that the Marianist presence — both lay and religious — is solid and growing.”
The gifts of many
Although the focus of Marianist work in Africa began with education, it soon grew to include recruitment and formation because of the guiding influence of Fathers Stephen Tutas, Jack McGrath and Bill Behringer. Their work in articulating the Lusaka Declaration paved the way for vocations in the Region.
The Marianists also acknowledge former Marianist Peter Daino and Brother Timothy Phillips for their efforts to assist the poor, a work that African Marianists now direct. “The ministries they initiated helped us assist those in desperate need,” says Father Marty.
The late Marianist Father Joe Davis, who served as superior of Eastern Africa, also was instrumental in helping the Marianists think as a team and foster a collegial spirit among Marianists in Zambia, Malawi and Kenya. Nor would this stage of maturity and independence been possible without the wise financial planning of Brothers Frank Damm and Bernie Ploeger.
Yet one of the greatest gifts has come from the Africans themselves. “To have the Society of Mary expressed within African cultures is a gift to all Marianists and the Marianist Family,” says Father Marty. “We are a global church. Their presence reminds us to broaden our thinking, make room for different cultural perspectives and open our hearts. They are role models in goodness and hospitality. We have much to learn from them.”