Burundi: Waiting for hope...
It is only a few months since I settled at the bishopric of Burundi and Rwanda. We are grateful to Christ, our Governor, for everything that we receive and we hope to be proved His worthy servants.
Church and Primary schoolOur Church was given enough land to build a Holy Church and a Primary School. The holy church is quite big and is filled with a lot of faithful every Sunday. Catechism and gatherings take place within the church itself. We hope that some generous brothers will appear and conduce to the construction of a building that will serve as the priest’s office and as a place for the Sunday schools and all kinds of children’s activities.
Our school numbers approximately seven hundred children. However, the classroom cannot accommodate them all, therefore, they have to attend classes in shifts, half in the morning and half in the afternoon. Meanwhile, since September a New Education Reform policy has been implemented; as a result, Elementary Education is extended by two years. This practically means that it is necessary to have four more classrooms added to our school as well as toilet facilities proportionate to the number of the schoolchildren. It is months since we were notified that the school is at risk of closing down unless it adjusts to the requirements of the reform policy. It is easy to realize the size of the problem.
Staffing problemsMajor problem for the pastoral, catechetical and liturgical life of the parish is the shortage of people with true devotion and knowledge, the lack of infra structures and the commuting expenses. The vicar himself has to deal with this problem, as he has to commute to the Capital city, where he lives. As for the persons who could support our activities, which are mainly catechetical, we have some of our old students, friends and brothers in mind, whom we could invite and ask to contribute to our work. However, in this case, we would have no place to accommodate them, or ways to maintain them and help them move around. The best solution would be the construction of a presbytery, since there is plenty of land available.
Unfortunately, a big part of this land has been trespassed upon by landless peasantry. The authorities told us that the only solution to this problem would be the solid fencing. We ought to enclose the land with a wall. The truth is that the land covers a large area, but we lack the money required. As a result, we become easy prey.
School problemsIn addition, the land at St Alexius is rather dry. The large number of schoolchildren cannot have access to water. One good thought would be to have the rainwater collection system from the roofs of the buildings repaired and expanded, so that the needs of our pupils are met.
Moreover, a relatively fixed annual subsidy would relieve the children’s hunger. At present, all of them come to school hungry, they leave hungry in the afternoon and at home they are definitely undernourished. On the other hand, we think it is easy to understand that occasional soup kitchens can only cause problems.
We also regret to tell you that we only have a small number of desks at our disposal, so the majority of the children have to sit on the floor. All of them are barefoot, the “wealthier’ wear flip-flops and they are almost half-naked. One of our thoughts was to find a way to buy a couple of bolts of fabric so that we could make school uniforms for them. We apologize for mentioning such petty needs, but unfortunately all these are beyond our financial capability. Please forgive us for that.
We are not the only passengersWe did not want to write generalities or give you information that is of no practical value to our brothers who care about the missionary work and the needs of our little bishopric. Our predecessors worked hard and handed over enough to us. May the Lord bless them. We preferred to refer to matters that fill our mind and heart and share them with all of you. We laid them before you. We are not characterized either by haste or anxiety. We have absolute trust in the Lord of the vineyard. He is the one who assured us that we should not worry about material needs. May we be filled with His love and encouraged by the lives of the Fathers and Saints of our Church, lives of sacrifice and devotion to the sermon of actual love upon our brothers. We are not the only passengers on the boat of our Church, are we?
†Innocentios of Burundi and Rwanda