Kongolo: 50th Anniversary

Kongolo: 50th Anniversary

Kongolo: Martyrs of Spiritan Missionary Fidelity.

“Since the 20th century, at least thirty-five Spiritan confreres have suffered a violent death in the countries where they were ministering.”

“The faith of these martyrs has given rise to many Christian vocations which have flourished in the diocese of Kongolo...”

Since the 20th century, at least thirty-five Spiritan confreres have suffered a violent death in the countries where they were ministering, the majority in war zones. They all shared a wish to serve the people to whom they had been sent. They did not run away even though they were aware of the risks they ran by staying in places where their safety could not be guaranteed. They did this in order to be faithful to their commitment to follow Jesus in our Congregation and to give their lives for the people to whom they had been sent. Even if not all were “martyrs for the faith” in the strict sense, they were certainly martyrs of missionary fidelity – just like so many of our confreres who, like the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10: 11-12), do not abandon their sheep when the wolf comes.

“They all shared a wish to serve the people to whom they had been sent. They did not run away even though they were aware of the risks they ran by staying in ..”

This most certainly was the case of our 20 confreres who died at Kongolo (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on January 1st 1962. 19 were from the Province of Belgium and one from the Province of Holland. We remember too, a Belgian confrere who died on April 8th 1961, near Kabolo, during the course of the same war, killed while taking care of an injured soldier.

According to many witness statements, our confreres took the decision to remain in the town of Kongolo while the Katangan soldiers fled to the other side of the river. Our confreres were fully aware that they were in danger. They spent time thinking about death and preparing themselves for it. The Junior Seminarians who saw them die were deeply impressed by their courage. One of their number recalls: “All the Fathers were calm and happy to shed their blood for a good cause.” Some of these Fathers encouraged them to pray much. At least one of them turned towards his executioners and gave them his blessing.

OPEN HANDEN: A commemorative sculpture in front of the memorial chapel in Gentinnes, Brussels. Engraved on the wall of the chapel are the names of 217 missionaries, in the years 1962-1966, who had been faithful unto death. The chapel is a sign of hope.

It is, thus, very fitting that we would celebrate the memory of their sacrifice fifty years on. They are worthy successors of the infant Church. This is proved by the fruits that have developed – the faith of these martyrs has given rise to many Christian vocations which have flourished in the diocese of Kongolo since their deaths. At that time, I myself was coming to the end of my secondary studies. I was being called to decide whether or not I would enter the Spiritan novitiate of the Province of France. The sacrifice of our twenty confreres played a major part in my discernment, just as it helped a young Congolese diocesan priest to decide to enter the Congregation in that same year.

My desire is that their example would be a stimulus for all the members of the Congregation. On the eve of the celebration of our 20th General Chapter, which will be held in Bagamoyo, they remind us that we are all called to give our lives, in one way or another, for the brothers and sisters whom we serve. They call us to be “fervent in the Spirit” (Rom 12:11).

- Culled from the ‘Christmas Letter 2011’ by Fr. Jean-Paul Hoch C.S.Sp., Superior General. Congregation of the Holy Spirit.

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