FROM AFRICA TO SEEK LAY HELPERS
"N0,I don't find the weather too unpleasant. It is the first time I have seen snow", 1 was told last week by the new bishop of Karema, Tanganyika, Mgr. Charles Msakila, who is at present visiting this country on his first trip to Europe.
The son and grandson of Catholics, Bishop Msakila was summoned to Rome only two and a half weeks after the surprise, last November, of being appointed bishop-elect of the diocese in which he was born.
There, in St. Peter's he was consecrated by the Holy Father on the feast of St. John the Evangelist, December 27, together with Cardinal Tardini, three archbishops, and three other bishops.
"My call to Rome was so sudden that I did not have time for the usual eight-day retreat before being consecrated." he said. "I arrived in Rome on Christmas Eve, and my retreat at the mother house of the White Fathers could only last for that one day." Once before it had been intended that he should go to Rome. That was in 1939, and he would have gone to study at the Propaganda College. But the war intervened, and Instead he was taught by the White Fathers at the regional seminary of Kipalapala, being ordained in 1947 by his predecessor as Bishop of Karema, Bishop Siedle, W.F.
Now he is in England looking for lay missionary helpers, especially those with a knowledge of Communism and its works, to go out and work in his diocese for a period of two to three years. Already he has a party of three from the Dutch Young Christian Workers, who receive their board and lodging and a hit of pocket money while they are out in Africa.
He is also looking for priests to go out and work in his part of Tanganyika to strengthen and deepen the Faith that has grown steadily, during the last 80 years or so, until there are now about 130,000 Catholics in his bishopric out of a total population of nearly 190,000—roughly 68 per cent.
At present he has 35 African clergy—all secular priests—together with 57 White Fathers. " I would like to see more vocations to the priesthood in my diocese," he says. He now has 12 students for the priesthood at the regional seminary at Kipalapala.
But the outlook for the Church is extremely hopeful. "In the Mission where I was born there are no Mohammedans," he told me.
"There are no Protestants either— except for foreigners who have settled there."
However, Protestant missions are beginning to come into the territoryfrom the south, and this is one reason why he would like to see more priests at work in his diocese to prevent any of the faithful falling into this snare.
Another danger, one that is a future threat rather than a present reality, is that of Communism, and hence Bishop Msakila would give an especial welcome to lay helpers from England who are equipped to combat this menace.
I asked him whether there were yet any contemplative foundations in his diocese. "No," he told me. "I am looking for contemplative nuns who would start a convent. At present, if a girl has a vocation, she has to go to the north of the country. where there are some possibilities for her, or to Uganda." But, before starting any contemplative foundations for men, he is keen to set up a postulate for African lay brothers who could help his African parish priests in their work; for the White Father lay brothers are naturally attached to missions served by the White Fathers.