100 years of Capuchin life in the Congo
ANTWERP, Belgium – A hundred years have now passed since on December 1st 1910 the first Flemish Capuchin missionaries arrived in Congo.
A book remembers “A Hundred Years of Capuchin Life in the Congo: 1910-2010”. Written in four languages (Flemish, French, Italian and Lingala), under the direction of Br. Kamiel Teuns, the book traces the course of missionary evangelisation by Belgian and Italian Capuchins until the creation of the General Vice-Province of Congo.
Not only did the Capuchins implant the Order in Congo, they also set up missions, trained the local clergy, made great contributions to the development of the people through development and health- care projects, teaching, and putting the local languages into written form. They also trained catechists, translated the Bible into the vernacular languages and introduced a liturgical rite known as the Zaire rite. The implantation of the Order and the missions was made possible, in large part, thanks to the commitment and hard work of lay brothers.
After various previous attempts the formation of local brothers only began in 1977. It was in 1994 that the General Vice-Province of Congo was established, currently with 70 brothers, of whom 2 are Belgian and 2 Italian. The centenary is being celebrated in all the parishes of the Diocese of Molegbe (in the North-West of the Democratic Republic of Congo), where the first missionaries, with their hard-headed Flemish determination, braved wars, disease, snakes and imprisonment,… and sometimes even gave their lives to ensure that the charism of Francis would flourish and a young local Church be born with native bishops, priests and religious men and women.