Makeni (Agenzia Fides) - This year marks the 70th anniversary of the presence of the Xaverian Missionaries in Sierra Leone (see Fides, 10/12/2019). For the occasion Fr. Gerardo Caglioni, a Xaverian missionary with a long experience of mission in Sierra Leone, sent Agenzia Fides the following reflections:
"The Bible often tells us about numbers, which often have symbolic or didactic value. Other times they show us the path or limits of our life and being.
In this regard, I have always been intrigued by the prayer of psalm 90: "Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away". I would like to start from this quotation.
Our Xaverian mission in Sierra Leone greatly wishes to celebrate the "70th Foundation" with a year-long celebration, a special year that we should call "jubilee!". A period of time to make the joyful memory of a journey, perhaps long in time, accomplished in a few decades by certain men, who – by generously giving their lives - gave birth and raised a new African church: the Church of Makeni.
Walking through history, we have thus reached the "Seventieth Year", that year which - according to the psalm - tells us that we have completed the project entrusted to us by the Lord in that time frame placed at our disposal.
Those tiring years, of course, have passed quickly. The men and women who have worked there have been so many!
But disappointment has never prevailed, indeed hope and optimism have always won, which are the characteristics of the four Pioneers and Founders: Augusto Fermo Azzolini, Pietro Serafino Calza, Camillo Olivani and Attilio Stefani.
These, departed from the port of Liverpool on 29 June on the Apapa boat, landed in Freetown on 8 July 1950, greeted by two Fathers of the Holy Spirit with a Catholic "Dominus vobiscum".
In the 70 years of the Xaverian mission of Makeni, these four pioneers never remained alone. Almost every year, regularly, small expeditions have always enriched the first original founding expedition, and little by little contemporary presences have well exceeded 40 units.
But alongside them, many sisters and numerous committed lay people have always accompanied them in their missionary life. And since they had come ... to found a Church, they also made it grow with the local clergy, which is now gradually replacing the Fathers and Founders of this new African church.
It seems nice to close this page with a prayer of the liturgy. In fact, when we present the Eucharistic offerings to the Lord we say that they are the "fruit of the earth and of the work of man, we present them to you so that they become food of eternal life". Here, Lord, our seventy years of mission in Sierra Leone, are our work and our effort, but also all our joy. We present them to you so that you may bless them and thus become life for this portion of Africa so dear to us". (Agenzia Fides, 14/12/2019)