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A visit to Friar Ivica in Rwanda (2/2)
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 Written by fra Iko Skoko

father Iko Skoko, father Ivica Peric and provintiate Sebastijan Unsner

Day 4, Friday, 14. August 2009

I celebrated the holy mass in the parochial church with Friar Ivica and the Provincial Friar Sebastian. There were about 120 devotees. Each morning the altar boys are different. After breakfast, Friar Ivica gave me the computer to write about my experience in Rwanda. After lunch, Magdalena, Timmy and I went shopping in Gitarama with the cook Oswaldo. There is a small cemetery by the main road. The only one I saw. The Rwandans bury their dead behind the family house. For them it is a great shame to bury their dead in someone else’s land. They are simply buried on their land behind the house, with no markings. The burial ceremony is usually conducted by catechists. The government ordered them to bury the dead in the cemeteries.

hair cut on the streetI went into two shops with Oswaldo. One of them was rather nice. Similar to what we could have found in our country some forty years ago. It even had a refrigerator filled with juice and cheese. One young man bought a cold Fanta. After the shop I went to the central market with Oswaldo. They have concrete tables, but nothing’s organised. There are fruit and vegetables everywhere, on the tables, as well as between the tables. It is impossible to move around the market because of the crowd. When I appeared, and I was the only white person there, many approached Oswaldo and asked him who I was. We purchased some other things for the kitchen, and a prepaid card for Firar Ivica’s cellular. We bought it in the mobile operator’s shop. Even here it is evident that operators are well off. This is one of the best furnished houses in Gitarama. There are even some flowers in front of it.

Rwandans are poor and lack water, but they are extremely clean and tidy. Houses, which cannot be poorer, mostly built of dry earth blocks, are still clean, just like the gardens.

At about 14.30 many guests arrived from Uganda for the holy vows of Friar Viateura.

the nunsAt 15.40, the Provincial and I went to visit the Clarissa nuns in Kamonya with Magdalena. The pope John Paul II visited this nunnery on his journey through Rwanda in September of 1990. There are 36 nuns at that nunnery at present. It was founded by the Clarissa nuns from Assisi. The nunnery is called St. Clara. We greeted the lady principal nun Giuseppina and another nun whose name I forgot. A new nunnery originated from this one two years ago. It is only about ten kilometres distant, in the direction of Gitarama. There are ten nuns in this new nunnery now.

KivumuThe dinner was organised in the cloister because of many guests. There were forty of us at dinner. It was a great festivity for them, as there was meat and beer and juice to drink. The most famous and best beer here is PRIMUS. It has been produced for 50 years. One mother from Uganda brought her son who is 11 months old. He is dressed as a girl. Friar Ivica asked her why she dressed him in female clothes. She said proudly: “My older children are girls, and all I have is girl clothes they wore”.

I had a short conversation with the Italians, Matteo and Giulio, who reside here in the mission. They are volunteers. They live with the nuns in the nunnery, and they help out in the health centre. He speaks a few words of Croatian, as he was a volunteer in Plehan, near Derventa.

The guests from Uganda went to sleep at 21.30. Conversations ended by looking at the sky. It was supposed to rain that night. The firs rain which usually falls on the 15th of August announces the rainy period. There are only two seasons in these parts: dry and rainy. In Uganda, Catholics celebrate especially if it rains on 15th of August. They thank the Lady for that gift and tease Protestants who do not celebrate the Mother of God. And if the rain does not fall, Protestants celebrate, and tease the Catholics.

Day 5, Saturday, 15. August 2009

It started raining during the night. This is the most important news and event. There were small puddles on the dirt roads. This is sign that the rain was abundant. We got up before 6 in the morning. Faces lit by smiles because of the rain. You could feel the scent of water in the air. There is great joy in the entire region. The rain is the greatest gift people could have received those days.

father Iko SkokoFriar Ivica, Magdalena, Matteo and I escorted the Canadian family to Kigali. We left 7 hours ago in the nuns’ car. The Canadians are sorry they have to go back. Mrs Jayne felt especially good here since Rwanda reminds her of her native New Zealand. She met her husband on a trip in Kenya, and although she has been living in Canada for 25 years she still didn’t get used to their winters. We arrived at the bust station before 8 o’clock. It is very crowded. People go into hundreds of small vans, taxis. The transport in such a taxi costs about 1$ for 50 km.  Motorcyclists and bicyclists are also taxi drivers. They drive to nearby places. We put their cases in the trunk of the big bus. We said goodbye to them and waited for them to take their places. They went to Uganda.

the holy massThe holy mass was supposed to begin at 10 o’clock in our parochial church. The Provincial Friar Sebastian Unsner, Friar Ivica and I were ready ten minutes before 10 o’clock – Europeans. It was obvious that the mass was not going to begin at 10 o’clock as there were no other priests nor guests of honour who were taking the holy vows. They appeared shortly. A large procession formed: altar boys, singers, dancers, guests, nuns, friars, priests. We entered the church at 10.15. Celebratory singing. Singers sing accompanied by drums and a synthesiser, and dancer dance in front of the altar. All the other participated in the song, and in other parts of the mass. The programme was conducted by the new pastor of Kivumu Friar Kizito Ngomanzungu. He is very short and is barely seen behind the tall ambon and the altar.

the holy massThe holy mass, with 12 concelebrators, was conducted by now already former abbot and pastor, and the newly appointed educator of philosophy students in Zambia, Friar Matthias Kule. His sermon lasted for only 25 minutes. The Provincial received the holy vows of Friar Viateura Uwamungu. It was especially solemn during offering of gits. The dancers went first, followed by those carrying gifts for the church. The gifts are usually carried on the head, and among them there were bananas, beans, flour, avocado, soap... And then there was an especially solemn song after the sacred communion. The liturgy lasted for two and a half hours.

singers and dancersA celebration programme was organised in the school playground after the mass. Two thousand people set on the benches around the playground. A group of singers and dancers participated in the programme. It was very solemn. There were speeches between various acts. The penultimate speech was held by the guest of honour Friar Viateura. He thanked God for the gift of his vocation, and everyone who helped him on this path. Then there were gifts for the guest of honour. The people came to him, one by one, with dignity and great respect. The official programme finished with the Provincial’s speech. The dancers performed another act.

The meal for the guests started in the large hall at 15.30. There were about 180 guests at lunch. They set on the benches. After the prayer the servers brought food on plates and gave it to everyone present because there were no tables. There was a piece of bread, an egg, some meat – like a kebab – a baked banana and a piece of leafy pie on the plate. It was a very rich meal. A special part was cutting the cake. The guest of honour cut it accompanied by the applause of everyone preset. The servants distributed pieces of cake. Everyone took a piece of the cake in the hand and ate it. The guests from Uganda got up in front of everyone and danced their three tribal dances. The Rwandans could not remain still they immediately showed them that their dances were not far behind. The father of the guest of honour, who is about seventy years old, was especially happy in the dance. The meal finished at 5 o’clock. Friar Ivica said everything went very fast, because it finished earlier than usual.

Dinner was again in the cloister, out in the open. There were 38 of us. After dinner, the Ugandans served us their schnapps “Uganda Waragi” which is made of bananas and baked peanuts. What followed next were the Ugandan tribal dances followed by four drums until the aggregate shut down. Claudine, the assistant cook in the nunnery showed that the Rwandan women also dance beautifully, maybe even better than the guests. When children are born, they are named after a certain characteristic. So before being baptised, Claudine’s name was Ugirumurera, which means “the one with good parents”. Now it is her last name, the way we understand the concept. The cook Oswald was called Ngendahimana before baptism; this means “I walk the paths of God”.

Day 7, Sunday, 16. August 2009

center Father VjekoLife in Rwanda begins at day break at 6 in the morning and it ends at 6 in the evening, with the sunset. This Sunday began with clouds. It was a nice sign. The solemn mass for the people was at 7.30. It was also the farewell for the old pastor, and the introduction of the new pastor and abbot. At 7 o’clock there were only about twenty of us in the church. Until the beginning of the mass, about 800 devotees gathered. However, devotees kept arriving until 8 o’clock. I think there were about 1500 devotees at the mass. The introductive part of the mass lasted for exactly half an hour. The mass was lead and preached by Friar Matthias Kule. The sermon, just like the day earlier, lasted only 25 minutes. The rhythm on the drum was given by a girl. It seems the girls are better drum players, and men better dancers.

After the mass, Friar Matthias thanked the parishioners for their cooperation and introduced the new pastor Friar Kizit and the new abbot Friar Joseph. The people applauded for a long time to thank the old pastor and welcome the new friars. After the mass some people remained in the church to sing, others greeted in front of the church and talked shortly.

baptismThe second mass started at 10 o’clock. I went to take pictures of the church. Ten children gathered around me. They begged me to take their pictures. I taught one boy how to take photographs. He was overjoyed and proud. The mass was lead by the pastor and two guest priests. The church was filled to the last spot. Many people were outside. There was a baptism. The parents brought 16 children for baptism – four boys and twelve girls. They say that the ratio in Rwanda is 17 to 1 for the girls. That is why men are “prised”. They are aware of it, and they act like it. After baptism, four groups of about thirty devotees left the church with candles in their hands to renew their faith in Jesus Christ and their belonging to the Catholic Church.

It started raining at 11.51. When they heard the rain, smiles immediately appeared on the faces of everyone present. Father Sebastian stopped by in the evening. He was coming back from Butare. The Salesians had a festivity. One Salesian was taking his first monastic vows, and 12 of them prolonged theirs by one year.

Bosnian Franciscans in the Province of St. Francis in Africa

There are seven Franciscan provinces in Africa, one independent custody, one federation, three foundations, and about 800 friars. One of these is called the province of St. Francis in Africa, Madagascar, and Mauritius. The province encompasses the countries: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, Malavi, Madagascar and Mauritius. It is of an area almost as large as the entire Europe. The province has 122 members, 79 of them in the province, and 43 in the custody Madagascar. The province has 18 houses.

The noviciate is in Mbarara in Uganda. Students studying the first three years of philosophy are in Lusaka in Zambia. When they complete the three years they go to theology in Kenya, to Nairobi. The seat of the province is in Nairobi. The today’s Provincial is the Polish Friar Sebastian Unsner. It is commendable how well they know each other although they are thousands of kilometres apart. They communicate by way of the “provincial bulletin”, which is issued monthly, by mail and by electronic mail. They all have electronic mail addresses. The letter travels about two weeks around the country’s border, which is also commendable.

The members of this province are three friars-priests of the Bosnia Srebrena province: Friar Ivica Perić, Friar Miro Babić and Friar Juro Tokalić. Friar Ivica was born in Cubreno, the parish of Lepenica near Kiseljak. He has been a missionary in Africa since 1989. He was on service in Uganda, and now he is the director of the “Educational centre Friar Vjeko” in Kivumu in Rwanda. There is the Franciscan monastery of the Lady of Angels in Kivumu, built in 1983. Friar Ivica has been here for six years. In the last provincial capitulate held between 12th and 19th July 2009, his project of constructing the new school centre was approved and confirmed. It will be the technical high school. It will have 24 classrooms. The land is already purchased and levelled for construction. It is 800 m away from the mission in Kivumu. State permits are only expected for the construction to begin.

Friar Miro and Friar Juro are in Kenya in the settlement Subukia. Friar Miro was also approved his project for the school in Subukia on the same capitulate.

Translated by:
Edited by: Valerie K. K.

Father Vjeko Center

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