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Interview with Léon Molonde sscc from the Province of Africa

“Consolidating and strengthening collaboration
with the laity in regards to subsidiarity,
synodality, communion and co-responsibility”


Tell us, Léon, as parish priest of the parish of Mama wa Boboto, can you describe it to us?

I answer this in my own name, having been parish priest of the parish of Mama wa boboto (Our Lady of Peace) since September 2018. The parish has had several SSCC parish priests since it was established in 1978, including Fathers Michel Del Castillo (1978-1979), Alvaro De Luxán (1979-1986), Germán Frezán (1986-1988) and André Smolka (1988-1992), Emmanuel Merino (1992-1993), Michel Del Castillo (1993-2000), Román Elizalde (2000-2008), Paulin Kadumu, the first Congolese parish priest (2008-2018) and myself - the 2nd Congolese parish priest from 2018 to the present day. The parish has also had several vicars, and I'll spare you the details.

The Mama wa Boboto parish is located in the district of Tshangu, in the eastern region of the city of Kinshasa, in the commune of Masina quartier II, 630m from Boulevard Lumumba - the main artery running from the city centre to N'djili airport, at the entrance to the BKTF road. This is an area of strong demographic growth.

The population is currently estimated at around 710,000. The population is mostly young, made up mainly of market gardeners, small traders, civil servants and, above all, the unemployed. The area has no industry, lacks reliable electricity, drinking water and adequate roads.

The outlying district of Kinshasa, where we have been working for several years, has become a shelter for destitute families from the villages. It is one of the most densely populated and poorly maintained areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a very dense population made up mainly of women and children, the unemployed and manual labourers.

Economically, poverty is fairly serious in the area and the population is made up of many poor people. There is no work, and the continuing devaluation of the currency is making it increasingly difficult to survive because of the staggering rise in prices ... Families are struggling to survive. They have to make do with small fields and small businesses to feed the family.

In terms of education, there are no nursery or primary schools worthy of the name for young children in the district. There are not many teachers trained to give young children a proper education. Unemployed parents struggle to support their grand-children's education, and find it extremely difficult to educate them properly, leading to delinquency and all the problems that comes with this. On the cultural front, there are no conditions for a proper education, and no entertainment or leisure activities for children.

We are a Roman Catholic parish, located in the Saint Kibuka deanery, Tshangu district, Masina commune, sharing borders with the parishes of Saint Kibuka, Saint Barthélemy, Immaculate Heart and Saint Boniface. Since its creation, the parish has been run by religious priests from the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, an Institute of French origin. We are dedicated to evangelisation and the integral development of the human person.

Founded in 1978, our parish's social objective is to live the love of Christ through social works, by building schools and other social infrastructures. In order to respond to the many problems of Christianity and to help eradicate the depravity of morals that still exists today, the parish has built a school whose premises are currently inadequate.

In answer to your question, the Mama wa Boboto parish is like a large family of God's children, made up of baptised and non-baptised members. We all recognise that we are members of one and the same family, called together by Christ Jesus.

How do all the pastoral workers in the parish live out their ecclesial co-responsibility?

The pastoral workers are very committed to the archdiocese of Kinshasa in general and to the parish of Mama wa Boboto in particular. Many are in charge of the various commissions and movements that make up the parish. They live out their co-responsibility by collaborating with the parish priest and his vicars, by taking an active part in the various meetings of the parish pastoral council, by assuming their tasks within the parish with dedication and love, and by following the directives and guidelines given by the parish priest after debates and harmonisation of views within the priestly and pastoral team.

To achieve this, each member of a commission meets once a month to draw up an annual pastoral plan to be presented to the parish priest and the pastoral team for discussion and approval. This plan presents the lines of action to be carried out during the year. Each month a report is given and each quarter an evaluation is required to take stock. The evaluation report is given to the parish secretariat.

Do you work as a team with other SSCC brothers and sisters and with other organisations? How can you continue to grow in this way?

Teamwork is our daily battleground, despite the difficulty of achieving it 100%. Certainly, in parish ministry, we count on the other SSCC brothers and sisters. At Mama wa Boboto, apart from the parish priest and the two vicars, we have three (3) brothers who come to help. They take care of the Eucharist on Sundays, and by giving some formation to the faithful of Mama wa Boboto. Our sisters are also active at weekends, providing catechesis, training for Catholic mothers, the Legion of Mary and youth groups, as well as looking after the altar. However, they are sometimes absent due to their other responsibilities in their own works. Above all, working alone is not welcome in a parish environment. Our daily effort is to involve everyone, brothers and sisters, in the life of the parish.

What traits of the charism can be more easily detected in your parish community?

The charismatic traits that are detected in the Mama wa Boboto parish community are, first of all, the experience of the Eucharist. During our Masses, there is a very good participation of the faithful. We experience the incarnate love of Jesus every day. The Eucharistic life leads us to live generously, to share our lives, to care for others. We also observe a life of prayer and adoration. Every Thursday and Saturday, adoration is organised in the parish, where the faithful learn to contemplate Christ and allow themselves to be challenged and touched by him. There is also a family spirit in which we recognise ourselves as members of the same family, where we grow in our sense of Christian identity so that our families and the parish become places where we evangelise ourselves through the Word of God lived out, and so that the Basic Living Ecclesial Communities (CEVB) promote the spread of human warmth and witness to charity, vitality and co-responsibility.

Tell us about a formation activity that is currently taking place in the parish.

At the moment, we've given ourselves a few priorities, firstly by organising basic Bible courses, the social doctrine of the Church, catechesis and liturgy, and we're following these up regularly. At the moment, we're focusing on the Bible course and formation in the social doctrine of the Church. We feel that there are serious gaps in these two subjects. Our concern is also to consolidate and strengthen collaboration with the laity in a spirit of subsidiarity, synodality, communion and co-responsibility.

Do you think that the Synod on synodality is helping everyone to become more aware of their involvement in Christian and parish life in a more active way?

Without a shadow of a doubt, I think so. The whole Church is now open to synodality. We have all become aware that the Christian life is not a solitary life, but one of solidarity; it is not a life lived alone, but a walk together, a joy lived together, a suffering endured together. And the church or parish can only hold together if we walk at a leisurely pace, taking greater account of the weak. From the time the synod on synodality was launched to the time it took place in Rome, our parish has been vibrating with this joy and making efforts to achieve Christian coherence that promotes living together and working as a team. Above all, I believe that the resolutions taken at the end of this synod and Pope Francis' letter on synodality will help us even more.