AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - Xaverian Missionaries spread the Good News in schools, at all levels (2)
Freetown (Agenzia Fides) – We publish below the second and final part of the contribution from Fr. Gerardo Caglioni on the activity of the Xaverian Missionaries in Sierra Leone (see Fides 12/11/2010) and the 60 years since their first arrival in the African country (see Fides 7/7/2010; 21/7/2010).
“Since around 1824, there was a set rule in the Colony: the group that would come first would have the exclusive rights over that territory. The Xaverians used a method that time later proved to be effective: personal contact with the leaders and local authorities. They spared no effort, I do not speak in terms of money or material resources as they were very limited, but with personal energies, sacrifices, their way of life, etc.. and they multiplied their availability as much as possible in order to be present first and for everyone.
Two significant examples from Bishop Azzolini, "Fr. Calza is laying new foundations for new stations near Makeni, where he is much appreciated and admired and he has, in fact, managed to obtain permission for the construction of the house and school from the leaders of the city, while the Father who was with us thought it almost impossible. I am very busy with the school and visits to the families of Makeni ... I feel the duty to inform you that our position is such that if we lose a place, we will never regain it. The first who come to start a school have taken over the location forever and no one else has more chances [to occupy]. Here the school represents the future of the Church and Christianity. So, we've tried to take key positions in order to control the schools already built and keep an eye on other possibilities and avoid Protestant schools and government schools that would have prevented or could prevent our entry. Our presence also gives a lot of confidence to the authorities and gives the people the impression of an effective school, and everything is for their benefit."
In this regard, I think it particularly significant a photo from the 1960s that shows Bishop Azzolini with a large delegation of Paramount Chiefs in Makeni to plead the cause of education and the construction of schools in their chiefdoms. This presence and action of the Xaverians, particularly effective, changed the educational parameters of the country. The north, in 60 years, has reached the same level of development as other more developed parts of the country and can now compete - at the same level - with every other area of Sierra Leone.
Makeni today boasts of having a Polytechnic University, which evolved from the school founded by Bishop Azzolini and Fr. Romano Rolli. There is also a university, the Fatima Institute, strongly desired by Azzolini's successor, Bishop Biguzzi. Finally, to celebrate the 60 years of their presence in Sierra Leone, the Xaverians are opening in the mountains on the border with Guinea, the last mission among the Fula and Koranko: Mongo Bendugu. There, where a young Fr. Calza would travel on his motorcycle in the 1950s, and after him many other Xaverian, the population now sees a dream come true. Thus begins the new Xaverian mission of Mongo Bendugu, the most recent Xaverian bastion. The people are convinced that this is the path to true development." (Part 2 - end) (Fr. Gerardo Caglioni, SX) (Agenzia Fides 13/11/2010)
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