Opening of the Jubilee to celebrate the Evangelization of Benin Republic
Sunday, 18 April 2010 the Catholic Church in Benin launched a year of celebration to mark the 150th anniversary of its birth. During the celebration, 4 young Beninois were ordained priests for the Society of African Missions (SMA). Read an eyewitness report on this wonderful Jubilee Day.
We celebrated, 18 April 2010, the beginning of the 150th Jubilee Year of the Church in Benin. It took place at Agoué, the first parish where Frs Francesco Borghero and Fernandez opened after arriving in Ouidah on 18 April 1861. Many very young SMA and OLA members are buried in Agoué.
The Bishop of Dassa-Zoumé and President of the Benin Episcopal Conference, presided at the Solemn Mass, which was transmitted on National TV. Assisting him were nearly all the Episcopal Confewrence as well as many priests, inlcuding SMA some of whom had travelled fromn Nigeria for the occasion. OLA Sisters were also in attendance, including one who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Religious Profession.
During the Mass, 4 young Beninois SMA members (pictured left), coming from four different dioceses, were ordained priests : Anselme Yonlonfoun (Lokossa), Désiré Salako (Porto-Novo), José-Florent Kakpo (Cotonou) and Valentin Fadegnon (Dassa-Zoumé).
In his homily, Bishop Ganye recalled the SMA history, begun by Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac, consolidated by Fr Augustin Planque, and countless missionaries, driven by a passion for mission in Africa, helped to found Christian communities especially in west Africa. Benin will always recognize this work of the SMA who founded the Church in Bénin and who continue to breath a missionary spirit in this young 150 years old Church. In remembering the SMA, the Church in Bénin does not forget the work accomplished by the OLA Sisters, particularly in the areas of education, health and the promotion of women.
The President of Bénin, H E Boni Yayi participated in the meeting, along with many of his Ministers. President Yayi paid tribute to the SMA and OLA who founded schools which then and now have helped to produce an educated class in Bénin. He encouraged the young to follow in their footsteps. Several times, during the celebration, mention was made of Fr Francis Aupiais SMA.
The Jubilee programme has many events in every diocese of the country. Two major events will mark the Jubilee : on 18 April 2011, the actual date of the 150th Anniversary, the Cardinal Archbishop of Lyons, France, His Eminence Philippe Barbarin will preside at a celebration. The close of the 150th Jubilee Year will take place during a National Pilgrimage to Dassa-Zoumé in August 2011.
Translated by Fr Martin Kavanagh SMA