July 28 – FIRST AFRICAN BROTHERS
FIRST AFRICAN BROTHERS
While our Brothers arrived in Egypt in 1890, in Gabon in 1900, in Ethiopia in 1901, in Madagascar in 1903, and in the Belgian Congo (the present DRC) in 1928, we had to wait until 8 September 1958 to have the first African Brother, a Gabonese. He pronounced his first vows at Boistissandeau (France). But he left the Institute two years later. Afterwards novitiates were opened in the Congo in 1959 and in Senegal in 1969. Four African Brothers died in the 20th century and all are buried in African soil.
Br. Jean-Claude Obiang died at age 47, in 1989, in Gabon his native country. He had made his novitiate at Boistissandeau. With bright intelligence and great literary, musical and philosophical (he had a Master’s in philosophy) acumen, he worked in Gabon as Prefect of studies and Director of the Bessieux school and as in charge of secondary school teaching on behalf of the Catholic Direction of the country.
Br. Charles-Charron Mamiakobo died at age 29 in 1997 at Bangui (Central Africa), his native town. He had finished his novitiate in Senegal two years earlier.
Br. Paul Kimpiriri and Br. Andre-Marie Nganga died the same year 1998 at Brazzaville. Both had first entered the same diocesan Congregation of the Brothers of St Joseph and then chose to be taken into St Gabriel after re-doing their novitiate at Brazzaville one after the other within an interval of one year. One was 50 years old and the other 41. They pronounced their vows on 12-12-1960 and 24-09-1961 respectively.
Br. Paul Kimpiriri, as a Brother of St Joseph, had started with teaching before taking to carpentry, gardening, driving and teaching catechism. Working with Missionary Fathers of the Holy Spirit of Kibouende-Baratier from 1945 to 1959, he discovered our Brothers who had come there in 1957. Becoming one of them he practically never left Notre-Dame d’Afrique. He taught catechism to children in the local language, propagated Marian devotion through the Legion of Mary and. proved himself to be a wonderful odd-job man, working in turn as carpenter, joiner, tailor, rope-maker, photographer, organist and rosary inaker. Venerated by the simple folk . who called him as Ma-Polo (Uncle Paul), this religious full of quiet wisdom, deep piety and angelic sweetness, stands as a great figure of the Church in Congo.
Br. Marie-Andre Nganga also had a pet name, Ya Marie, ‘ya’ being the short form for ‘yaya’ (big Brother). Rigorous, stubborn, demanding to himself and to others, and at the same time gifted with a sensitivity for listening to the others, he was really great by his initiatives and untiring dedication. Before and after his entree into St Gabriel, he was above all an educator: teacher, formator of teachers, founder of the first parents’ association f Congo (at Kibouende-Baratier), school Principal (at Bacongo), and founder of the first school for the deaf in the whole of Central Africa (at Brazzaville). In 1973, he settled in Notre-Dame d’Afrique and involved himself in many spiritual and social activities (Legion of Mary, ecumenical prayer groups). He visited prisoners and created the charitable group called “Outstretched hands”.