Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Fr Clément Kazaku Bosh Bébé tells us about his parish experience on the outskirts of the Congolese capital Kinshasa. “Poverty affects the way our people live their faith. People suffer a lot and focus on meeting their temporal needs, so they turn to God to help them improve their situation, bless their marriages, give them a child, or find a job. If they receive any of these things, they immediately interpret it as a blessing from God and come to church”, says the missionary.
After ten years in South Africa, I returned to the land of my ancestors – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to continue being a missionary among my people. I thought everything would be easier and there wouldn’t be as many challenges as I had to face in South Africa but I found some new challenges in my native country.
I am in charge of the Comboni parish of Divine Mercy which, although it belongs to the diocese of Kisantu, is located in a suburb of the capital, Kinshasa. It is a booming area where many families from other parts of the country have settled.
In the parish, we have experienced this growth: whereas, in former times we used to celebrate two Masses on weekends, we now have to celebrate five and I think we will have to add more because the parish church is getting too small. Although walking through the neighbourhood you can see some large houses where rich people live, most of the population lives in obvious poverty, a poverty that affects all levels of life. This is our big challenge.
When I arrived at the parish, the Christians did nothing particular apart from coming to church. Attending Sunday Mass is very important but it isn’t enough. The apostolic challenge of going out of oneself to meet the sick, the prisoners and all those who suffer, the least of our parish community, was missing. So, I decided to insist on this aspect of being an outgoing Church emphasized so much by Pope Francis.
Poverty affects the way our people live their faith. People suffer a lot and focus on meeting their temporal needs, so they turn to God to help them improve their situation, bless their marriages, give them a child, or find a job. If they receive any of these things, they immediately interpret it as a blessing from God and come to church.
This is a very superficial and dangerous view of faith because it poses the question of whether or not even those who don’t get a job are blessed by God. Faith is not a market where you give to me and I give you back. This is why a thorough evangelization that seeks Christ for who he is and not for what he does or doesn’t do is important. We are the ones who have to work to improve social conditions and get out of the structural poverty in which we live.
We recently organized three parish assemblies in which we made a general evaluation of our parish life. I was very pleased to see how the parishioners themselves realized that, in addition to prayer, the missionary aspect and social commitment were missing.
The ecclesial experience that is lived in the 14 basic ecclesial communities of the parish helps us to live the Gospel in daily life and, from there, many Christians who hear and share the Word of God have engaged in various evangelization services. Both the leaders of the basic communities and we priests have renewed our commitment to all the parishioners to give ourselves totally and fully to the service of the people because we want to continue building an open and available community.