In December, 2002 I was ordained to the deaconate in the
parish run by Maryknoll missionaries in Metangula, Mozambique — the very same
parish that took me in when I was a refugee from Burundi. My ordination was
celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm and expressed a beautiful mix of the
local Nyanja culture and my own Burundi culture.
One especially moving time occurred when my sponsors in
the ceremony, after giving me good counsel, placed a beautifully carved walking
stick in my right hand and placed a Bible upon my head. My godfather explained
that the walking stick was to help me to climb mountains and to cross valleys so
as to fulfill my duty to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. According
to our customs in Burundi, the responsibility of being a deacon is heavy
indeed. When my sponsors placed the Bible upon my head they put a tightly wound
clothe underneath it so that I could carry its "weight" and so that I would not
let it fall to the ground. Carrying the gospel is like carrying a heavy clay
pot filled with great treasure upon one’s head. Great care must be taken not to
let it fall to the ground and thus to break.
My godmother handed me a brightly decorated umbrella. In
this way she was telling me that no matter what I encounter, be it chilling rain
or scorching sun, that I must continue to carry out my responsibility to preach
the gospel. But the umbrella was a further reminder that I was being sent forth
showered by the prayers of all my family and friends so that I would be under
God’s protection. A touching moment was when my own blood brother, after a hard
three week trip from Burundi, arrived minutes before the ceremony began. I was
overjoyed since I had not seen him for some years.
Our bishop in his homily also made it clear that I was a
missionary to Africa. Even though I was ordained to his Lichinga Diocese I come
from another country to minister to a people and in a place that are not my
own. It is in this way that I am very proud to be both a missionary and a
diocesan priest at the same time.