Fr Albert Buijs mhm
In this 150 Year Jubilee of the Mill Hill Missionaries a Golden Jubilarian speaks of his personal growth in the missionary calling.
On Monday March 13, 2006, twelve Mill Hill members moved to Mombasa Likoni for their 85 days' annual retreat at the Consolata: several priests, a brother and some students. For two of us it was a special time of reflection on what the Lord had done for us the last 40 years since ordination. These two are Adolph Poll and I, Albert Buijs.
At the time of my ordination, the strict seminary regime began to loosen a bit, and there was even a 'dialogue' about placements. When asked where I would like to be sent to I mentioned Borneo. Having heard as a student fascinating stories from missionaries on holidays from Borneo about their work there, I thought it might be a good challenge and adventure for me. So the bosses listened very politely and then told me to go to Kisii Diocese in Kenya. That was the end of the 'dialogue'. I was surprised about this appointment because by then Mill Hill missionaries had been in that area for over 50 years and I thought that missionary work there was finished.
Albert Buijs mhm
I ended up in a large parish with plenty of outstations and I enjoyed myself, running around, dispensing sacraments and going for home visitations.
I was for ten years in Kisii land, with one year interruption of teaching in the minor seminary, and after that I was for 15 years in Luo land.
A new approach
Luckily at that time around 1977, the Amecea Bishops formulated a new approach for deepening the faith of Christians, namely 'Small Christian Communities', an enormous challenge which appealed to me very much. Lumko in South Africa was soon able to send out enough material on how to present this new approach to the faithful, forming such communities: showing them the need for change, size of communities for effectiveness, material for leadership training, etc. I lapped it all up and spent the next 15 years applying all that information in three different parishes. It was an enormous challenge for me and gave me great satisfaction.
Then out of the blue, during a retreat at the Dominicans in Kisumu, God told me in prayer: "Enough of that in this area; move on." I surely was not happy with this message.
Bishop Darmanin of Garissa Diocese had approached Mill Hill some time before, and asked for missionaries for his diocese; this had been made known to the members in this region. Initially the response was nil, but after half a year there were some positive responses. Mine was among them; and off I went, a bit heavy- hearted to leave the area and the people I loved, but ready to venture out into a completely new area, praying for guidance on how to approach this new situation, and be as effective as possible.
The change-over from 'doing' to 'being' was difficult. From a parish like Asumbi with thousands of Christians in 200 Communities, to a little Muslim village with 10 Catholics, is quite a change. Gradually more Christians were found who had moved into that area as squatters, and eventually 7 small communities started growing in the midst of Muslim surroundings.
Then 6 years ago a new Diocese was formed and the whole southern part of Garissa diocese joined Malindi diocese. The new bishop most probably thought that I had wasted enough time looking after a few lost sheep, and he hauled me over to Malindi to work there in the town and in the diocese at large. As a Mill Hill man I am in the service of the local Bishop, so I complied to his request. This move was made easier for me, knowing that I would leave Kipini erea in the hands of my classmate Adolf Poll.
Six years down the road here in Malindi I must say that I am happy where I am: a beautiful pastoral team in the Parish, and dedicated men and women in the Diocese: Priests, Brothers and Sisters, supported by many faith-filled Catholics. It is a continuous pleasure for me to be inspired by the example of so many good people, and I hope and pray that somehow I may also be a help and inspiration to them.
Albert Buijs mhm