East Africa: The Word Made Flesh

It is beautiful to experience Christian faith in Africa! If one wonders about the state of faith in America and Europe, in may be helpful to realize that the conversion of central and southern Africa to Christianity, mostly in the 20th century, is one of the great miracles of evangelization in history!

Meeting of a Peyton Prayer Guild in Kampala

The Spirit is alive! I could see this when recently I had the opportunity, once again, to visit our Holy Cross Family Ministries mission in East Africa: in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. A Mass in East Africa is really a celebration! People pray dancing! It is not at all disrespectful. On the contrary, in dance people show they truly love the Eucharist. There is a deep sense of the Incarnation: the Word became flesh and faith is expressed very concretely. Warm-hearted love of Our Lady seems to come naturally there and people know that Mary really is their Mother. I could see this up close in the Rosary gatherings we celebrated in parishes, schools and prisons as I covered a lot of ground with our HCFM teams.

Fr Jim Phalan, CSC sharing Rosaries in Nairobi

The first Holy Cross missionaries went to Fort Portal, in the west of Uganda, in the 1950's, when Christianity was new in the area, and they had great success in bringing many to faith. Now the great majority are Christians. We found acceptance in the area partly due to our incarnational way of evangelizing: trying to be close to people in a personal way while also making Christian Faith concrete as we build schools and health clinics. The Real Presence of Christ we celebrate in the Eucharist is manifest in the living Christian community.

In Holy Cross perhaps we don't realize how fundamental the Incarnation was in the spirituality in which our Founder, Blessed Basil Moreau was formed, and which he passed on to us. What is known as the “French School” of Spirituality, took shape in the 17th century. The founder of this spiritual current, Cardinal Pierre Berulle (1575-1629), was praised by Pope Urban VIII as a great Apostle of the Incarnation. He fostered a concrete mysticism that leads to configuration and union with Christ, greatly appreciating the role that Our Lady plays in the Incarnation and in our spiritual lives. Father Moreau took this spirituality and made it a way of religious life for us.

Fr Constantine discussing family life

I thank the Lord that I have the opportunity to see so many, beautiful ways that Holy Cross religious continue to be faithful to this spirit of Father Moreau in places like East Africa! The diversity of our missions around the world is itself testimony to our ingrained sense of Incarnation. May Our Mother Mary, Our Lady of Holy Cross, continue to guide us to help give flesh to the Word with the people we serve in Africa!

Fr Jim Phalan, CSC

Fr. Jim Phalan, C.S.C., is the Director of Family Rosary International, which is a part of Holy Cross Family Ministries. HCFM was founded by Servant of God Patrick Peyton, a Holy Cross priest who had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and preached that the “family that prays together, stays together.” Fr. Phalan will be writing for the Spes Unica Blog each month to share with us the great work of Family Rosary International, yet Family Ministries is one of the creative ways that Holy Cross continues to reach across borders of every sort to spread hope. Learn more about the missionary work of Holy Cross.

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