Maputo (Agenzia Fides) - "His dynamism, energy, entrepreneurship, liveliness and sense of humor were always a joy that infected and fascinated those who met him", writes to Agenzia Fides, Fr. Pedro José da Silva Louro, Secretary of the Consolata Missions Institute (IMC), in remembering His Exc. Mgr. Francisco Lerma Martinez, Consolata missionary, Bishop of Gurué, who died in Maputo on April 24th.
Born in El Palmar, Murcia, Spain, on 4 May 1944, Mgr. Francisco Lerma spent almost all his missionary life in Mozambique, which he went in 1971, after being ordained a priest. From 1971 to 1974 he was first assistant priest and then parish priest in Maúa, then from 1974 and for two years Director of the School for Catechists in Correia. After the Mozambique independence years, from 1976 to 1979 he is parish priest in Cuamba, where he closes his first decade of mission in the Province of Niassa, northwest of Mozambique.
Destined for the diocese of Inhambane, on 4 October 1979, he was appointed Director of the Secretariat for the pastoral action of the diocese of Inhambane. After a valuable contribution at the Secretariat for Pastoral Action and the Catechetical Center of Guiúa, in October 1985 he left for Spain for health and study reasons.
He then obtained his doctorate in Missiology at the Gregorian University of Rome (1987) on the peoples of Macua and their culture. On 1 September 1987 he returned to Mozambique, to the diocese of Inhambane, as parish priest of Massinga, Muvamba and Funhalouro. He experienced very difficult situations in the context of the civil war that deeply devastated the districts of Massinga and Funhalouro. He invested in the formation of catechists and in the dynamization of Christian communities through frequent visits and training activities. He mobilized resources and people to help war refugees, especially those who had no home or food.
After a period in Rome, at the General Secretariat for the Mission, in 2007 he returned to Mozambique and for a year he was entrusted with the role of Superior of the regional House in Maputo, and was then elected Regional Superior the following year, a role he held for two years, until March 24, 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Bishop of Gurué.
On the following May 30 he was consecrated Bishop by Mgr. Lucio Andrice Muandula, in Maputo, and fifteen days later he took possession of the diocesan community entrusted to him, where he remained for almost nine years until he died. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 6/5/2019)