First things first – hello!! I realized the last time that I posted was almost a month ago! Yes I’m still alive. Thanks for your patience everyone! To make up for it I have an extra long post today. Enjoy!
The month of May is Mary’s month and the Salesians have not forgotten! Don Bosco who founded the Salesians was a huge fan of Mary and instilled that same love in those who followed him.
“When in danger or in need, have recourse to Mary. The Blessed Virgin has always helped me and will always do so!” – Don Bosco
I was fortunate enough to take part in many different Marian festivities during the month. The first was a pilgrimage organised by the Salesians that started not far from the center of town where I live. I was in the truck with the statue of Mary and Br. Apollinaire who lives and works at a house for university students. We drove to the starting point along with one guy on the back holding Mary on the truck bed.
We walked with the statue of Mary, Help of Christians for 5 miles (8km) in a huge procession of people. There were probably about 300 when we started but others joined along the way and there were at least 1000 when we arrived at the church for mass. Along the way we prayed three rosaries, singing songs after each decade. A rosary is made up of 5 decades – each a meditation on some part of the life of Jesus or Mary and each decade consists of an Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, and a Glory Be. These were all said in French so I got plenty of practice saying the prayers. I’ve got the Hail Mary and Glory Be down but I still mumble a bit of the Our Father during mass. Or I just say it in English, depends on the day. Below on the left you can see the priests leading the prayers as we were starting out and on the right is the insane number of people as we were climbing a hill to the church at the very end.
After our pilgrimage we had mass at Cité Mariale which is the same church as this post. It was in Swahili and almost three hours long. I’m not going to lie the homily was difficult to stay awake during, but thankfully I wasn’t the only one having a hard time focusing. At least three young men near me had their heads on their arms and were sleeping. During mass I saw some of the kids from one of our children’s centers so after mass I was mobbed with hugs and requests for selfies. I took some pictures and then wandered around, saying hello to other people I knew there.
The man in the green shirt on the bottom right corner is Br. Jonathon, he is in training to be a priest and runs the library on Thursdays with me (see this post for some shenanigans at his center). He’s great and the one week I had to run the library alone was completely nuts. So I’m very grateful he’s there!
I guess I should explain my outfit… As you can tell there are roses, pictures of Don Bosco and of Mary, Help of Christians. You might have also noticed I’m not the only one sporting this fabric. Here in the Congo, it is very popular to have special fabrics made for specific occasions. It would be similar to having t-shirts made in America but here it’s a 12 yard long piece of fabric. This fabric was a gift from the priests in my community and I received it about a week and a half before the pilgrimage. One of the women who works for the marketing/graphic design department for the Salesians knows a good tailor (atelier in French) and was able to set up a meeting to get the dress made in 5 days. It was impressive and she did a really good job. There is a row of buttons down the top half and she covered each button in a rose from the fabric.
As the afternoon went on we had a picnic (each group brought their own food or there were vendors selling food as well) and I basically played with the various kids or said hi to friends. One of the guys from the Salesian radio station was dj-ing so there was a huge dance party as well. Try and stop Congolese from dancing… as my co-worker told me “It’s in our blood.”
I’ve taught the kids from one center how to merengue which basically consists of me spinning them until they fall over. As evidenced below:
It was a great day and a beautiful example of the faith and love of so many. Quick recaps on the two other Marian festivities: May 24th is the feast of Mary, Help of Christians so our office was closed and there was a mass at Bakanja Centre for three of the centers: BC, Bakanja Ville and Magone (a technical school that teaches construction, agriculture, welding and artisanal design as well). The kids from Bakanja Ville sang during the mass and did a great job.
One of my favorite parts of this photo is the kid on the left looking at us like we are completely insane… 🙂
The other very cool Marian thing I was able to take part in this month was another procession to celebrate the end of the month of Mary. We walked from the church where I go to mass in English to the cathedral – about 5 or 6 blocks – and prayed a rosary along the way with some songs as well. I was towards the back for this one so I was able to take a cool video as we were approaching the cathedral to help you get a feel for what it’s like. Don’t forget to turn your sound on. The singing is the best part!
Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into what I’ve been up to for the past few weeks!