On Oct. 7, 1999, a team from the Clerics of Saint Viator, including one Haitian and four Canadians, took the plunge with boldness and determination towards a new missionary adventure in West Africa.
After a 24-hour trip, we arrived in Ouagadougou, the capital of the country, where we discovered a new culture, customs, costumes and a very different climate. One remembers the team’s statement: “In the name of Christ, let us open the ways of the Gospel!”
After 20 years of presence in this very welcoming and warm country, yes, we can say that the paths with the evangelical flavor are open before us and that, obviously, the Lord has preceded us. The Community currently has 28 religious, 26 of whom are Burkinabe, two novices and four postulants.
Thanks to the support of the Viatorians of Canada and other countries, several NGOs, parents, friends and benefactors, we now have the responsibility of two colleges that bring together nearly 5,000 students in Ouagadougou and Banfora. The Bishop of Banfora also entrusted us with the responsibility of a new parish in 2004 in the name of our patron saint. And in the suburbs of the capital he entrusted to us a novitiate and a modest retreat and entertainment center for the needs of the community and the inhabitants of the region, as well as a new residence for students in Saaba.
After only a century of evangelization, the Church is well established in this West African country. It is lively, dynamic and inculturated to local customs and habits. For example, in Burkina Faso, it is common to ask visitors who come to the site for “news” after offering the traditional glass of water. The news is given sitting down. This custom also applies to Eucharistic celebrations where, at the time of the reading of the Gospel, the audience is invited to sit down to hear the good news.
In Africa, it is important to celebrate our faith in beauty and joy. Time doesn’t matter. This is why, during the liturgy, there are often traditional dances, processions accompanied by rhythmic songs and supported by the sound of djembe, balafons, koras and xylophones. Often, there will be as many people outside the church as inside for lack of space.
Yes, in the name of Christ, the journey made gives reason to hope for the continuation of the Viatorian mission in the ”land of honest men.” Whether in the arid soil in the north of the country or in the green granary further south, the heart of this population remains receptive, welcoming and open to the word of God lived, deepened and celebrated. Undoubtedly, seeing the results of the vitality of the Church-Family in Burkina Faso with so many priestly vocations, male and female religious vocations and mothers, fathers as catechists, a certain sustainability is emerging for the future of the evangelization mission in Burkina Faso.