Here is an extract from the Christmas newsletter of Fr John Kirwan mhm. After an extended stay at home in the U.K. for medical reasons he returned to Basankusu, DR Congo, some months ago.
P A X
I spent longer in Europe than expected; but got back here well rested even though I tire more quickly than I did when I was younger. I arrived to find the rebuilding of our burnt-out house well underway. Many people see the new-look house as a sign of hope… For me too Mill Hill’s financing of the reconstruction is an encouraging sign that we intend to continue in Basankusu, no doubt finding new ways of expressing our missionary commitment (also long after I have moved on). We also intend to move the first stages of our training of Congolese missionaries to Kinshasa. We pray that the political tensions in the country don’t hamper our plans on that front.
One thing that keeps me going in these troubled times is the confident, positive and gentle (but not soft!) approach of a very human Pope Francis. His message came through clearly in his encyclical/ letter, “The Joy of the Gospel”… not condemning, but open to bring people back to love, peace and reconciliation. Love and Joy come together too in his letter ‘Amoris laetitia’. His literally down-to-earth approach is expressed in that other, environmental, letter, ‘Caring for our Common Home’, and in his challenging world journeys. All that is very appropriate for the compassionate message of Christmas.
I have shed most responsibilities, and am getting used to being the senior cleric in the diocese and the link with the century-long history of Mill Hill here. Happily, the white-haired old man in the background is well respected here in Africa. I am also learning not to feel guilty about dozing off and doing less. I am kept busy enough all the same – with a lot of time spent receiving people in my little office (over 550 visits between 26 August and 7 December….) They don’t all come with financial problems; just 95% of them. I keep telling these visitors that missionaries never came just to distribute funds and ‘solve’ people’s problems; and a new generation of missionaries from poorer countries won't have the funds anyway. We encourage people to work together to improve their own situations. However one can’t helped being moved by abject poverty. Destitution in a potentially rich country is a tragic scandal. Though, even if my means were not very limited, it would be impossible to cover all the real needs.
I hope to be back round March and April to marvel open-mouthed at the dental hospital.
John Kirwan mhm