By Honoré Onana Olah
“How does a Jesuit know who he is?” These are the words pronounced by Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ., President of JCAM* (*JESAM: Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar) during the Mass of this July 31, 2018 in the Hekima College Chapel in Nairobi, Kenya, marking the solemnity of St. Ignatius of Loyola. A Mass during which Fr. Bienvenu Matanzonga, SJ., professed his Final Vows and Fr. Gabriel Mmasi, SJ celebrated his Silver Jubilee in the Society of Jesus.
July 31: a celebration unlike any other
This year’s celebration of the Solemnity of St. Ignatius took on a special colour in the Jesuit community of Hekima with the celebration of the Final Vows of Fr. Bienvenu Matanzonga, SJ and the Silver Jubilee of Fr. Gabriel Mmasi, SJ.
Indeed it was around 17:30 hours (local time) that the Jesuits living in Nairobi gathered around Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ, President of JCAM who had several concelebrants at his side including the Jesuit Fathers Joseph Oduor Afulo, Provincial of Eastern Africa, Deogratias M. Rwezaura, Rector of Hekima and Zoundi Joachim, Spiritual Father of the Hekima Jesuit community; the lucky ones of the day including Fr. Bienvenu Matanzonga, SJ and Fr. Gabriel Mmasi, SJ.,…
“How does a Jesuit know who he is?”
In his homily, Fr. Orobator, SJ., insisted on the identity of the Jesuit. “How does Jesus know who he is?” Quoting the Decree 2 of the 35th General Congregation, the Jesuit, he affirmed, knows who he is “by looking at Christ”.
Commenting on the readings of the day (Dt. 30: 15-20, Eph. 1: 3-10, Lk 9: 18-25), Fr. Orobator, SJ., particularly emphasized that Peter’s response to Jesus regarding his identity as the “Messiah of God” is an answer that remains valid and that follows the question that Jesus addresses personally to all his followers: “you, toi, wewe … who do you say I am?”
The President of JCAM continued, “In the history of our Christian tradition and community, said, there have always been women and men whose only desire was knowing Jesus and following Christ. One of them is the one whom we celebrate today – Ignatius of Loyola.” “Ignatius’ message, he added, is clear: if you receive the grace of knowing Christ, you will love and follow Christ unreservedly”.
Fr. Matanzonga, SJ., a radical commitment to following Christ
Using both French and English during his homily, Fr. Orobator, SJ., said that “la déclaration des vœux de Bienvenu est à la fois un signe de sa connaissance du Christ et un désir de mieux le connaitre, le suivre de plus près, au point de perdre sa vie.”
Before the rite of Final Vows of Fr. Matanzonga, SJ., Fr. Orobator, SJ., concluded his homily by highlighting the 25 years Fr. Gabriel Mmasi, SJ., has spent in the Society of Jesus as a religious.
A fraternal agape marked by various African dishes followed the Eucharistic celebration.