St Augustine’s Parish is one of the parishes in Pretoria diocese, South Africa. Within the Parish is a community of two Comboni Missionaries: Fr Joseph Rebelo, the Superior and editor of the magazine, and Fr Robert Kinena, the Parish priest and administrator of the magazine. Three of us; Manuel Quembo Novais, Gloire Nsimba Makengo and Muyisa Mumbere Kapitula, had an experience in this community. Basically, our presence in this community was for learning English, but in the process we became involved in the entire life of the community.
Two of us are from DRC, a French speaking country, and the other from Mozambique, a Portuguese speaking country. Obviously, learning a language is not so easy. Everybody wants to remain in his own language because he finds security and assurance. Sometimes to change is a big challenge. As French and Portuguese speakers, we found our security in these languages. That is why at the beginning of our journey, it was a big challenge to us. However, our secret to overcoming the fear of learning English was in two ways: cultivating the spirit of humility so that we may accept with joy corrections, and cultivating the spirit of unity in order to study together, to correct each other.
One may ask, “how is it possible?” Firstly, we noticed that many people were available every time to help us. Firstly our confreres in the Scholasticate and the members of Silverton community, then the children and other people we encountered in the Parish. After a mistake, they couldn’t keep quiet. They were reacting immediately to correct our pronunciation, our reading and our writing. Although it was difficult in the beginning, with the spirit of humility we were slowly able to accept correction especially when it was done in public. Fr Harold Gomanjira, a priest we met during this experience, had told us, “My dear brothers; if you want to learn this language, accept that everybody corrects you, and speak a lot”. Another aspect that helped us to learn was unity. Where there is unity, everything goes easily. A French proverb will affirm: “L’Union fait la force”, which means “Union makes power”. This was the way that we took because we realized that alone none of us could do anything.
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PARISH
St Augustine’s parish is multicultural, comprising white and black South Africans and other people from Malawi, The DRC, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria etc. As missionaries and learners of English, this multiculturality helped us to understand the universality of our Church and the internationality of our Institute. We were pleased to see that many people from different countries were able to stay, to pray together and build the community of St Augustine. For us, it was a moment to enter into other people’s ways of thinking and approaching life, and sharing our own. Indeed it was a fulfillment of St Mark’s Gospel, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come” (Mark 10: 29-30).
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE COMMUNITY AND THE WORLDWIDE MAGAZINE
Every morning except Tuesdays and Saturdays (in which mass was in the evening), we had mass before going to school. Outside school, we shared our different experiences during meals, house cleaning and other activities through which we learnt that every person is important in the community and has something special to build the community. The worldwide magazine was also part of our interest. We collaborated with Fr Joseph to promote the magazine and arrange its publication. This experience helped us to enter more into the reality of South Africa.
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EXTERNAL WORLD
Our style of life as religious is often misunderstood by many. The common questions people asked us were, “How is it possible to live without a wife? And how do you find joy in this style of life?” With experience and the understanding we have about our vocation we tried to answer these questions and many people appreciated our life style. We built a good relationship with our schoolmates and sometimes, after school, they could invite us to stay with them. Other parishioners too showed us their love, inviting us to their homes and we welcomed it with freedom and responsibility.
With grateful hearts we thank God who has been with us during this experience and all the people we encountered and shared with. May God, the author of all vocations, enrich each one of us with the gift of faith as we continue discerning the different vocations through which he calls us to serve him.
BY SCH. MUYISA MUMBERE KAPITULA