Chilubula Diary 1899-1904
Translated by Fr. M. Gruffat
OPENING: The Chilubula diary starts with the Act of Consecration of the Mission of the Ituna to Our Lady of Good Help, dated 6th January 1899 on the day of the Epiphany, and signed by Bishop Dupont and the first team of missionaries:
Our Lady of Good Help, Queen of Africa, we undersigned, the first missionaries appointed to work in the Ituna, consecrate our Mission and ourselves to Your Person. We are aware that millions of souls inhabiting this immense country are only awaiting the opportunity of coming to know You and Your Divine Son, in order to love and serve You.
Divine Providence has clearly manifested its intention of calling those populations to conversion through an extraordinary succession of events that can be looked upon as miraculous. We have been chosen to be the instruments of their conversion in spite of our limitations and unworthiness.
We have now reached a point where this work of evangelisation seems to be seriously compromised, partly through our own inadequacy, partly through the opposition that the Devil, the sworn enemy of all souls, is instigating with a view to thwarting God’s merciful design on this country.
We entrust this country to Your care. How can so many souls redeemed by Your Son Jesus-Christ and earmarked for salvation be lost forever because of our miseries and the Devil’s hatred? You are our good, loving Mother, come to our assistance, save those souls that deserve all Your maternal attention and Your protection, give your full support to the missionaries who are in danger of being overwhelmed by the complexity and the size of the task ahead of them, and who are ultimately responsible for the salvation of this multitude of souls.
On this day of the Feast of the Epiphany, in the year of the Lord 1899, we have decided to make this solemn act of consecration and sign it with our names. By so doing, we engage ourselves to honour You, and to bring our people to honour You, in a very special way in this Mission of the Ituna. Our people and we shall henceforward invoke you every day and in every circumstance as Our Lady of Good Help. This invocation shall henceforward be added to those already prescribed at the end of every Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and at the end of our night prayer in community.
Signed: Bishop Dupont, Fr Letort, Fr Boisselier, Bro Optat.
Soon after their arrival at Kayambi in 1895, the missionaries endeavoured to strike up acquaintance and establish regular relations with the neighbouring Chiefs. Around that time, Kitimkulu, the Chief of the Lubemba, died. There remained Chief Mwamba for us to win over, for he was the most powerful of the BaBemba. Bishop Dupont soon established good relations with him. Two Englishmen, Spencer and Young, had managed to penetrate into the fiefdom of Mwamba and come back unscathed. The missionaries stationed at Kayambi talked the situation over, and came to the conclusion that the time had come for them to attempt to set up a foundation in Mwamba’s country.
Around Easter 1897, Fr Dupont and Fr Letort set out for the Ituna. They found Mwamba busy building new headquarters for his court on the Lukupa River. The first meetings were conducted in a solemn way, according to the traditions of the land, but they were nevertheless satisfactory and promising. Mwamba looked upon the missionaries as another batch of traders and readily gave them permission to set up a station in his fiefdom. Just at that time, however, there turned up at the Chief’s place a caravan of Arab traders who set about spreading all sorts of calumnies on the missionaries, the long and short of it being that they had come to take over Mwamba’s country. The Chief turned suddenly hostile and ordered the Fathers to go back where they had come from. The missionaries did not make any fuss, they simply told Mwamba they would come back at another time.
On the following year, around May 1898, Fr Dupont and Fr Delamarche set out for the Bubisa in answer to a call of Chief Chikwanda to come and open a mission station on his territory. When he reached the place, he discovered that this country was really too thinly populated to justify the building of a mission station and came back into the Lubemba via the headquarters of the new Kitimkulu. The newly appointed head of the Lubemba was a decrepit old man devoid of all power and influence, who was probably glad to welcome the missionaries in his land and asked them to settle in it permanently. Bishop Dupont – for Fr Dupont had in the meantime been appointed Vicar Apostolic of the Nyasa Vicariate – had no reason to mistrust the old potentate and appointed Fr Letort, Fr Delamarche and Bro Optat for the new foundation to be set up on Kitimkulu’s territory. The caravan was due to leave Kayambi on September 8th 1898, but never did for various reasons. One was that the Fathers could not muster enough carriers for the caravan. The fact was that the name of Mwamba struck terror in the hearts of the people, and Mwamba was opposed to the penetration of his country by foreigners.
Bishop Dupont lost patience in the end and decided on the spur of the moment to set out with Fr Letort. The idea was to travel only with the bare essentials. They set out, but were soon joined by Fr Delamarche and Bro Optat who had at last managed to find porters.
Kitimkulu welcomed the missionaries politely, but did not send any provisions to the porters, as was the custom. The following day, he made it clear that he did not want us to settle down in his country. We could have ignored his wish and stay in the Lubemba, for he was not in a position to enforce his will by driving us away by force. But we chose to comply with his wishes and wait for other signs from Divine Providence. We were on our way back to Kayambi when the people suggested that we might as well go and start a settlement at Kipili, on the Chambezi River. We camped at Kwa Nkole, near the Kasunga in the Lubemba, and gathered together in formal council to talk the situation over. We finally came to a decision: we would build a permanent settlement at Kipili, although not a mission station, to see how the situation would eventually develop, and in the meantime we would start spreading the Good News in the Lubemba.
We had hardly pitched our camp at Kipili on the shore of the Chambezi when a deputation was sent to us by Chief Mwamba from the Ituna. The time fixed by Divine Providence must have come just then. Indeed Chief Mwamba, we were told, was seriously ill. Hearing we intended to open a mission station in Kitimkulu’s land, he was now asking us to come and settle down in the Ituna instead, for our presence would be a guarantee of peace for his people. We did not know what to think, for we were not aware at that moment that Mwamba’s state of health was very bad and fast deteriorating. Bishop Dupont was growing weary of all this travelling to and fro for apparently no result. Fr Letort was of the opinion that we could not trust Mwamba’s delegates. Fr Delamarche was all for staying at Kipili, which seemed to be an ideal place for a permanent foundation. It was finally decided that the delegates would be sent back to Mwamba with the message that, if he really wanted the missionaries to establish themselves near his capital, he was to send us a caravan of one hundred porters to fetch our baggage and us. This was an essential condition for our coming. We were really tempting Divine Providence, but God seemed to have approved of our stand, for Mwamba dispatched at once a whole army of carriers to escort us to his place. Fr Delamarche, however, was not to be part of the expedition, since he died on October 2nd 1898 at Kipili, but he was to be replaced by Fr Boisselier. Bishop Dupont and Bro Optat set out at once for Mwamba’s headquarters, leaving Fr Letort behind in charge of the base camp at Kipili with the bulk of our caravan.
Bishop Dupont and Bro Optat travelled to Mwamba’s place in a caravan of 150 men and reached his headquarters on October 11th 1898. The Chief and his court were at that time quartered at Chiponde on the Lukupa River, in what was known as the Ituna. The two missionaries found the Chief very seriously ill, only skin and bones, and to all appearances beyond cure. The members of the Chief’s entourage had persuaded him to call in the Bwana Shikofu, for they were convinced he had the means to bring him back to health. What they secretly hoped for was protection against the usual massacres that took place at the demise of a Chief, and their leader had in mind to grab the ivory of the dead Mwamba and sell it to Bishop Dupont. As for Mwamba, it was soon clear that he wanted the Bwana Shikofu to protect his people and the women in his harem from the dreadful consequences of his death. Not only did he allow the Shikofu to put up his camp near his capital, but he also begged him to stay close at hand. Bishop Dupont, however, had other ideas: he wanted to open a station more to the south, at some distance from this suspicious potentate whose reactions were unpredictable. The ‘filolo’, i.e. the main counsellors and courtiers, begged the Bishop to set up his camp nearby, for they knew that Chief Mwamba was to die soon, and they wanted a place to run to for refuge as soon as he had given up the ghost.
Thus it was that Bishop Dupont chose the site for his camp at the source of the Milungu River and started at once building a sort of station that could be lived in for some time, and which would give the missionaries good shelter for the rainy season, which was about to set in. Mwamba’s state of mind had changed for the better; he was definitely in favour of the missionaries. The Bishop sent at once a message to Fr Letort and Fr Boisselier to close their settlement at Kipili, pack up and join him on the Milungu River with all the baggage. The Ituna was definitely to see the beginning of the Mission among the BaBemba.
In the night of October 23rd to 24th 1898, Mwamba passed away without going through the pangs of a long agony. The people who had formed his entourage scattered at once in every direction, but not without plundering the few possessions of the defunct Chief. In fact most of the people, not to say the totality of the population, took refuge in and around Bishop Dupont’s settlement at Milungu, By the evening of October 24th, there were between 4,000 and 5,000 people milling around the settlement of the missionaries. The people fell at once to erecting temporary shelters with branches (nsakwe) and they all came to pay homage to the Bwana Shikofu as their liberator and the father of all the children of the late Chief Mwamba.
When Fr Letort and Fr Boisselier finally rejoined him at the camping site on the Milungu, the Bishop called up a formal council of the missionaries to decide on the policy to be followed in the present circumstances. The main decision was to refer the case to the Superior General of the White Fathers in Maison-Carrée near Algiers for information and advice. It was also decided to send word to the Governor General heading the British South Africa Company at Blantyre, for the missionaries were obviously not in a position to assume the ownership of the Ituna and the responsibilities implied therein After all, they were missionaries, they were not agents of a colonising power.
The trouble was that Mr McKinnon, an agent of the B.S.A.Co residing at Ikawa, had heard that Bishop Dupont had gone to open an establishment in Mwamba’s country. He resented this intrusion of the missionaries into Mwamba’s country very much, and on hearing of the fact, he made haste to come to the Ituna to give orders to Bishop Dupont and his personnel to clear out at once and go back to Kayambi. He was at Kitimkulu’s place when he was apprised of Chief Mwamba’s death. He continued his march to the Ituna, only to be faced on arrival with the situation that had developed as a result of the Chief’s demise: Bishop Dupont and the missionaries were solidly entrenched in their camp at the source of the Milungu, and all the people of Mwamba (thousands of them) had built temporary shelters all around. Mr McKinnon ordered the Bishop to withdraw at once, but the latter refused on the ground that he had moved into the Ituna with the full approval of the Central Administration at Blantyre. It turned out that Mr McKinnon had not been kept informed of this new development, and he had to yield, however reluctantly, and leave the missionaries alone.
Mr McKinnon was no fool. He realised at once that Mwamba’s death had removed the main obstacle that had prevented his Company from moving into the Ituna so far. He got down at once to building a Boma at Kasama (Old Kasama), on the Milima River, at a distance of one hour and a half from our new station on the Milungu. He was assisted in this work by Mr Young, the Assistant-Collector. Both men were still determined to force us out of the Ituna, but as they failed to convince the people to keep away from the missionaries, they tried to use high-handed ways to isolate the Catholic Mission from the rest of the country. They failed lamentably, for the harder the pressure brought to bear on the people to turn their backs on the Catholic missionaries, the louder they proclaim that they were the children of the Bishop, and that the Bishop was the real Chief of the Ituna.
In spite of this not too pleasant situation, the work of evangelisation was proceeding smoothly. The people had come into the habit of attending morning and evening prayer and the daily catechism class. They were eager to be present, even if they did not realise where it was all leading up to. One of the first things Bro Optat did was to construct a chapel, and it was officially opened on Christmas day. The way all the population rushed in and crashed through the door to find a place inside was a clear indication that they were quite content to pray with the missionaries, if nothing else.
On January 6th 1899, the missionaries took the official step of consecrating themselves and the new Mission to our Lady of Good Help. The relations between the Bishop and Mr Young were not improving, far from it. Mr McKinnon came from Itawa with a view to easing the situation somehow. That is when the Hunter-Rabeneck incident really upset the boat. The Mission was, at that time, playing host to a gentleman, a Mr Hunt, who was connected with the rubber industry, and received the visit of another gentleman, a Mr Rabeneck, who had come to see the Bishop for a matter of trading rights in the Ituna, the ruler of which, he had found out, was Bishop Dupont. The long and short of it is that the Bishop had been inveigled to write a document in the presence and with the approval of the official counsellors (filolo) of Chief Mwamba, to the effect that the late Chief Mwamba had effectively handed the ownership of his country over to Bwana Shikofu, with all the rights attached hereto. That was the last straw. The relations between the English agents and the missionaries were at their worst. At that time the Bishop was in a bad state of health. Mr McKinnon and Mr Young came to the Mission, with Mr Rabeneck as interpreter, to clarify the situation once and for all. Both parties explained their respective grievances. As neither the agents nor the missionaries were stubborn enough to stick to their guns and refuse to make concessions, they soon cleared all the past misunderstandings. On 18th January 1899, there was at last a peace treaty signed between the Administration and the Mission (each recognising the rights and duties of the other). From then on, the relations between the Civil Administration and the Catholic Missionaries were excellent.
It was also at that time that Bishop Dupont decided to carry out an idea that had been turning around in his head for some time: to choose another site for the new foundation. That is why he went to Cishimba on February 6h 1899, in the company of the ‘filolo’ and the Chief’s drummers and their instruments. He choice fell on a magnificent emplacement at Sanga, at the confluence of the Luombe River and the Lukulu River. On March 18th, the Bishop got from Mr McKinnon permission to settle down at Sanga on the Luombe. He summoned the ‘filolo’ to a formal meeting, and the decision was officially taken to build the Mission Station of the Ituna at Sanga. On March 20th 1899, a solemn mass was celebrated at Milungu in honour of St Joseph and in honour of the Bishop, whose Christian name was Joseph. The church at Milungu was absolutely packed for the occasion. After mass all hell broke loose around the church and in the mission compound, everybody was singing and dancing. The drummers and dancers ran riot. Beads were tossed to the women in the best tradition of popular rejoicing. The fat animals of the royal herd were slaughtered for the celebration, and all those with guns fired them repeatedly. It was the first great religious feast ever celebrated in the Ituna.
For the Easter celebrations, Bishop Dupont went to Kayambi, where he found Fr Louveau seriously ill. On April 13th he was back at Milungu with Bro Jacques and some of the less bulky supplies required for the building of the new mission station.
Everything was now ready to start CHILUBULA MISSION, the name under which the Mission of the Ituna would henceforward been known.
16th : Bishop Dupont leaves Milungu for Chilubula with Bro Optat and Bro Jacques. We are now all in a hurry to get the constructions under way: the residence of the missionaries and the church. It is going to be a long job, for there is absolutely no qualified labour available among the local people. Every single one of those that come for work must be shown what to do. We are in God’s hands!
17th: Work on the foundations of the buildings began this morning. The missionaries will in the meantime live in grass huts when they are at Chilubula. Their settlement looks even more rudimentary than the usual campsite!
18th: Fr Boisselier leaves Milungu, to be replaced later by Fr Louveau. In fact those two transfers are made necessary by the bad state of health of both Fathers: the Bishop is of the opinion that a change of air and environment may work wonders for their health.
3rd: Fr Louveau arrives at Milungu. He is very happy about the change. He seems to have recovered remarkably well and quickly from the illness that almost carried him off to greener pastures!
7th: Blessing of the corner stone of the new church at Chilubula
11th: Feast of Pentecost. Mr Young and Mr Raveneek (Rabeneck?) paid us a visit in the evening. They are on their way to meet Mr Codrington, the Governor, who is coming into this part of the Colony by following the south road and travelling over the Bangweolo Lake. They borrowed cloth material from us (used for paying, buying and bartering). It is the fifth, if not the sixth time that we are pulling them out of such a predicament.
23rd: The Bishop comes to stay at Milungu until he can meet the Governor at Kasama, whenever he arrives
26th: The Governor has at last reached Kasama
27th: Mr Leyer, who is accompanying the Governor, calls at our place in the morning to present his respects to the Bishop and to invite him to come and meet the Governor at Kasama in the evening. The Bishop answers the invitation in the company of Fr Letort. The latter goes from Kasama to Chilubula to celebrate the Sunday mass on the 28th.
29th: Fr Letort is back at Milungu. The Bishop makes his way once more to Kasama, where he is very well received by the Governor. Fupa, a nephew of Mwamba’s (through his sister), is appointed by the Colonial Administration as Chief of the Ituna. It is a poor choice, for the new Chief is very narrow-minded and is thoroughly disliked by the population.
31st: The Bishop returns to Chilubula.
6th: Fr Louveau goes to take up residence at Chilubula. Fr Letort is to remain alone at Milungu for the time being, to look after the stores and the gardens, and to continue the religious instruction of the local people who have been delayed by the work of harvesting the millet from their fields.
24th: Fupa, the new Chief Mwamba, pays us his first official visit. His presence in our midst is really embarrassing, for he is definitely a half-wit. On top of this, he chose as his counsellors and courtiers young people who can only give him the wrong type advice at the wrong moment.
25th: Chief Mwamba goes back to his residence. He promised he would set free a family of slaves on the request of the Fathers. He also promised he would recall Matipa from his self-imposed exile on the island where he took refuge. This Chief Matipa was forced to leave the continent to take residence on an island, but there is not enough arable land for his people to cultivate, and he has several times asked permission to come back on the main land. The new Mwamba is apparently determined to satisfy his request.
3rd: Lucembe, a son of Mwamba’s, and a minor chief in the south of the Bubisa, came to visit us. He seems to be quite clever and enjoys the respect of his subjects. He has the reputation of being a man of authority. We hope to be soon able to go and open a new mission station in that part of the country. May God bless this project!
29th: We hear that six new missionaries have arrived at Kayambi. May God be blessed for sending us those reinforcements. The Bishop has sent instructions for four of them to come to Chilubula: Fr Guillemé, Fr Shaeffer, Fr Guyard, and Bro Lucien. But we are told that they won’t be here before three weeks, for they cannot find enough porters for their baggage.
14TH: We sent nine men to go and buy for us oxen in the Ilala, and two others to fetch goats around the Bangweolo Lake. There is no way of building up a herd here; we have to go far afield to find animals to start animal husbandry at Chilubula.
18th: Fr Letort is now back from Milungu. He is very happy to be back in his community, for he had grown tired of the life of hermit he had to live at Milungu.
21st: Our new confreres have at last arrived. They are most welcome!
28th Fr Letort and Fr Guillemé set out for a two weeks’ trip to the west of where we are just now to reconnoitre the land.
3rd: Fr Molinier and Fr Foulon also come from Kayambi.
4th The Bishop and Fr Molinier are making their way to Kasama today to attend the public audience scheduled to take place in honour of the Governor.
5th: The Governor distributes large quantities of cloth material to Fupa and the other important Chiefs. His goal is self-evident: he wants to win the loyalty of the Chiefs. Will he succeed? That is another point altogether.
7th: Fr Guillemé and Fr Letort are back from their exploratory journey to the west of Chilubula. The country they went through is very thinly populated, and it is definitely out of the question to open a mission station anywhere in that region .
8th: His Excellency the Governor, who had already extended a warm welcome to the Bishop and Fr Molinier when they paid him a visit at Kasama, was courteous enough to come and visit us at Chilubula. Two Englishmen, a captain and his personal secretary, accompany him on the trip. Those gentlemen seemed to be delighted with their visit and were certainly very courteous. In the course of this visit, Mr Codrington, who is Deputy-Governor of the British South Africa Company, was kind enough to inform us of the latest decisions. Those decisions would shortly afterwards be communicated to us in a written document. We are now fully acquainted with the real intentions and with the policy of the English Administration. Here is the gist of the Governor’s communication. The missionaries stationed at Chilubula, he said, shall henceforward be authorised to exercise the same authority as Native Chiefs on a territory not extending ten square miles in area around Chilubula. The exact boundaries of this territory shall be determined by the head of the district (the Company’s man). The missionaries shall have judicial power over the people living on their territory for all matters of relatively minor importance, and the missionaries shall be expected to give sentence, at least as far as it is humanly possible, in conformity with the English Common Law and with reference to the local customs that are acceptable to the European standards. But the missionaries shall never consider themselves entitled to throw a person into prison. They shall have the power to condemn a person to the cane, but the punishment must not exceed ten strokes. Nor can they impose a guilty person a fine exceeding ten shillings. All cases requiring a more sever punishment shall be taken to the court of the District Collector. The missionaries shall appoint two men to help them in their administrative duties. Those two appointees shall be recognised by the Company’s Administration as long as they don’t lose the confidence of their officials. The Collector shall be fully entitled to levy compulsory labour among the population living on the territory of Chilubula Mission, for they are submitted to the same obligations as the Natives who are living under the authority of the Natives Chiefs. In plain language, it means that the people cannot argue of their appurtenance to the Mission to escape the usual chores imposed by the local Chiefs or the Colonial Administration. The Superior of the Mission is permitted to send priests into the Senga to set up a mission station with the approval of the District Officer. It is taken for granted that the Catholic Mission is to renounce all intention of extending its influence in the direction of the Mpolokoso District or into any other direction where the London Mission Society has been established and where the same London Mission Society has had its presence and preponderance recognised by agreement with the local authorities.
9th: The Governor is leaving the district. We rejoice over the good relations we enjoy with the Civil Administration, and we hope they will only improve for the better.
10th: The decision has been taken: a new mission station is to be opened, and it will be in the fiefdom of Chief Luchembe, at least for the time being. Nothing has been definitely fixed, for the country is still a question mark to the missionaries.. The Fathers will have to find out for themselves the most suitable emplacement for the new foundation. The missionaries who have been selected for the new venture are Fr Molinier and Fr Foulon, and Bro Jacques is to follow sometime later, when his presence at Chilubula is no longer indispensable for all outstanding works.
12th: Fr Schoeffer is transferred to Kayambi.
14th: Fr Molinier and Foulon set out for their new appointment in the south. Fr Guillemé is to accompany them in order to explore the country.
17th: Visit of Chief Luchembe and Chief Kapoko, both ruling some sections of the district Fr Molinier and Fr Foulon are setting out to evangelise. Ion the south of the BuBisa. They are still relatively young, and they look very human. They seem happy to hear that Fathers are on their way to settle down in their country.
5th: Fr Guillemé is back from his trip to the south where he accompanied the new team. He is very reserved as to the choice of this field of apostolate. He found that the country was almost empty of population, and the possibilities for the missionaries to be self-supporting very limited.
15th: Blessing of the first building for public worship and first mass celebrated inside. Some eight hundred people managed to squeeze inside for the occasion.
16th: Bishop Dupont leaves Chilubula for Europe. Fr Guillemé assumes the leadership of the Vicariate in his absence. The Bishop will travel in the company of Fr Herrebault who is on his way to the General Chapter of the White Fathers at Maison-Carree near Algiers.
17th: Fr Letort is transferred to Kayambi, where he has been appointed Superior. The staff at Chilubula is made up of Fr Guillemé (Administrator), Fr Louveau, Fr Guyard, Bro Optat and Bro Lucien. Bro Jacques is still at Chilubula for the time being, but he has been appointed to the Mission of the Bubisa and he is now waiting to move to his new post.
23rd: A letter from Fr Molinier and Fr Foulon, dated from a place called Kibwa, certainly where the two Fathers have chosen to stay for the time being. They seem to have a hard time of it. They have no supply of any kind any more and they cannot find workers to proceed with the construction of their residence. They sound rather down at the mouth. We pray that their Angels may comfort them! We are doing our best to come to their assistance with the poor resources at our disposal.
8th: Bro Jacques leaves Chilubula to go and join Fr Molinier and Fr Foulon at Kibwa
25th: An official letter from Mr Leyer, Collector at Kasama, informs us that he will soon come to Chilubula in order to mark out the boarders of the land concession granted by the Governor on behalf of the Company to the Catholic Mission. He is most welcome. In order to buttress the authority of Fupa, the new Chief Mwamba, he demands that we put two of our ‘bakapitao’ at his disposal to be part of his official retinue when he goes around his fiefdom. They happen to be sons-in-law of the late Mwamba. They were informed of the request coming from the English Authorities.
3rd: It is Sunday today. The two sons-in-law of the late Mwamba went to Kasama last Monday 26th November, as requested by the Collector. From there they went to the court of Chief Fupa, the new Mwamba, who had them given six lashes with the sjambok as a sign of welcome! Those two men will have to stay at Fupa’s place. This incident filled us with apprehension, for it was evidently an attempt to force us to recognise publicly the authority of the new Chief Mwamba, and we dreaded that more people would be forced to leave Chilubula and go and settle down around Chief Fupa’s headquarters. Thank God, the Collector, Mr Leyer, came to Chilubula on Thursday November 30th, and on Friday December 1st he made public his decision: Timia Koni and Mwana Sombe, two sons-in-law of the late Mwamba, were asked to rejoin the new Chief, but there would not be any other transfer from Chilubula. In other words the villages already established within the boarders of the Chilubula Concession were not to be ordered out. Only villages outside the Concession were expected to go and settle down around Chief Fupa, whether they liked it or not, and the fact is they did not like it. One exception was made: ShiKikombola was allowed to move with his people on the territory of the Mission, and he did! We heaved a sigh of relief, for our village will not be emptied of its population, as we feared at one time. Here are the official limits of the Chilubula Concession:
in the south, the Lukupa River
in the east, the Kipenge River
in the north, the Cishimba Hills, from the source of the Kipenge to the water fall
in the west, the Lukulu River, and a straight line starting from the Kishimba and extending to the Lukulu at the dam or bridge of ShiKikombola
Father Superior went around the Concession with Mr Leyer. What are we to think of those arrangements? We are not very fond of the idea of forcing the small villages to go and settle down around Fupa’s headquarters. We are happy for the people who are now officially recognised as settlers on the Mission Concession. We shall be able to work better for the improvement of their living conditions. For example, it will be easier for us to compel the children to come to school. For the people living outside, they are in a sense taken away from the Mission. As for the traditional chiefs, they are given the impression that the Mission is competing with them to win over the allegiance of their people, and that is not going to foster good relations with the tribal chiefs. Let us hope, however, that we shall be able gradually to win them over to our cause by a policy of kindness, understanding, friendly behaviour, and readiness to help wherever we can. Let us hope that they won’t put insurmountable obstacles to our work of evangelisation of the local populations. From the point of view of public law and order, it was high time to restore a certain discipline among the local populations. For since the death of Mwamba, the people have been doing pretty much what they like. The country is in a state of total anarchy. The English Authorities are going to put everybody back to where they belong, and no non-sense! Now we shall know exactly where we stand as regards public law and order. There is no doubt that this firm attitude does credit to the English authorities and will ultimately win them the esteem and support of the tribal chiefs and of all people of good will and common sense. Mr Leyer went back to Kasama this morning Sunday 3rd, and left us a pleasant impression of his visit.
8th: Hearing that Mr McCunon (Kinnon?), Collector at Fife, came to Kasama on a tour of inspection, Father Superior went to meet him. This gentleman showed himself as well disposed as Mr Leyer, who is in fact under his orders. He has at heart the interests of the Natives, and he is certainly not a man to enforce a policy compelling the villagers to regroup in larger agglomerations. He is in no mind to let Chief Fupa compel the people scattered around the countryside to build their villages close to his capital. Fr Guillemé assured him that he could count on the loyalty and support of the missionaries. He asked us to report to him anybody dealing in ivory and who would not pay the tax levied on this commodity. Father Superior said he would comply with his wishes. Let us hope that the country will henceforward be at peace, and that we shall be able to carry out our work of evangelisation.
3rd: Our first task, we thought, was to make a census so as to have a rough idea of how many people and families are living at Chilubula and on the Mission Concession, and in the nearby villages. We were disappointed to find out that the population of Milungu had considerably dwindled in number.. We counted only 1,200 persons, 750 of whom are staying in the main village, some 250 are scattered in three villages on the left bank of the Luombe River, and another 250 in the villages on the right bank of the river. They say that many more people are living near their gardens scattered all over the bush, but we have no means to come into contact with them. The ideal solution would be to bring those people to live together in villages of a fair size instead of living in disseminated houses, but we have no authority to do so. If we were to try to use persuasion, we would lay ourselves wide open to accusations of unwarranted interference from the tribal authorities as well as the English Administration, and there would be no end of trouble.
7th: It was decided in council that Father Superior would teach catechism to the small girls, that Fr Guyard would give two classes every day to the small boys, while Fr Louveau would remain in charge of the catechesis of the grownups, men and women.
8th: We thought that we could perhaps inspire ourselves of this passage of the Gospel where the house master tells his servants ‘to force the people to come to his banquet’. We certainly made a strong general appeal to the whole population to come to religious instruction since we are resuming regular catechism classes. Our appeal seems to have been heard, since over 150 men are now coming to attend the instructions and some sixty young girls. The small boys seem to have been little impressed by our appeal, no doubt because they are scared at the idea of having to stay put for so long during the period of catechism. We hope our people will show some perseverance.
9th: Today there were more women present at the lesson of catechism than there were men yesterday. God be praised1
31st: Nothing happened in the course of this month, which really deserves a special mention in this Diary. The men proved to be assiduous in attending catechism classes, the women a bit less. The number of boys attending school remained steady, while the number of girls increased, to stand between 80 and 100. On the material side of things, the people living on the Concession are not too badly off. They have begun to take in maize and pumpkins (the earliest fruits of the rainy season). With stomachs that are no longer empty, and feeling their physical strength returning, they come to us for work. Unfortunately we cannot satisfy all the demands for employment. The danger is that those that are left out may well go far away from Chilubula to find piecework and miss all the regular religious instructions given during their absence. The crops do not look too bad, but we were hoping they would look much more plentiful. The rice and the wheat fields look promising for the time being. The potato crop is abundant enough for us to enjoy the luxury of at least one dish, if not two dishes of this precious vegetable every day.
1st: We got the visit of Mr Leyer, our Collector from Kasama. This young man, who is just back from a tour of inspection around his district, was his own charming self as usual. He brought us good news from our confreres in Kinama (N.B. the confreres were Fr Molinier, Fr Foulon, and Bro Jacques, who had moved from their first insalubrious settlement in the Kibwa Valley to a much healthier site on the Pandishanya Stream in the hills thirty miles further south of what is now Mpika; the new Mission in the Bubisa soon to be called Chilonga). Everything seems to go smoothly in the establishment of this new mission station. This district, which he travelled through north and south of the Chambezi, is thinly populated. He explained to us his project of opening a settlement two days’ march away from here in the Southwest.
15th: The Good Lord is putting us through a series of trials. First we lost several cows, and now our whole herd of goats has been annihilated. ‘Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit = the Lord has given, the Lord has taken back’. We have at least the consolation of eating the carcasses.
16th: The river has overflowed its embankment and submerged our rice field and most of the vegetable plots in the garden. The Lord seems to remind us that we should be imbued with a deeper spirit of poverty and detachment. We tried to take in what could still be salvaged from the disaster, and we are now preparing a new field and a new garden.
19th: Fupa, the new Chief Mwamba, turned up at the Mission. He simply came to greet us according to Bemba etiquette and did not stay long.
20th: The Chief comes to the Mission early in the morning. The general guess is that he has come to Chilubula to talk business. Most of our people followed him, because they want all affairs to be dealt with in our presence. We are in for lengthy palavers. Fupa seems to be anxious to convince the meeting that he is really the legal ruler of the Ituna since he has been appointed by the Europeans and he is simply carrying out their policy. Then he draws up a whole list of grievances. First, he complains, the people of the Mission are insulting the people of his retinue. We point out to him that the blame must be equally divided between the two sides. Father Superior adds that this situation is unavoidable, for the Chief is followed everywhere by a whole rabble of misbehaving attendants, who are continuously picking up quarrels with our people. His retinue is made up of a disorderly collection of lazy and starving louts who are ferreting everywhere for food with complete disregard for the right of private ownership and the needs of others. It is a matter of survival on both sides, and that makes for an ugly situation. The second grievance is that the Chief cannot muster a band of singers: he cannot force anybody to join since they are all free citizens, and nobody is prepared to leave Chilubula for the capital. The third grievance is Timia Moni and Mwana Sombe, whom he wants back in his service. Father Superior answers that those two sons-in-law of the late Mwamba’s belong by right to the Chief’s family and entourage, and that the Mission is not trying to keep them back, but that they are left entirely free to do what they like. A fourth grievance is the case of those people that ran away from the Chief’s capital and took refuge at Chilubula and on the territory of the Concession. Several of them are local people, who left behind their gardens to escape persecution and exploitation. As for the others, Father Superior points out, it is none of our business, the Chief is quite free to take them back. In the evening the Chief is back, this time evidently to receive the presents he thinks he is entitled to. Thank God, he was not too greedy for once, and we were able to make him happy with some gifts.
21st: Fupa leaves Chilubula to go back to his capital. He is somewhat disappointed, for nobody wanted to follow him. He repeatedly came back on the assurance that the people had no longer anything to fear from Chief Mwamba, that mutilation as a punishment or an expression of royal displeasure was a thing of the past. He may also have tried to entice some people with promises. It was all to no avail. The people may no longer live in fear of mutilation, but the threat of the sjambok is still only too real, and to be whipped with a sjambok is to be covered with shame in the eyes of the people. As they moved out of Chilubula, some members of the Chief’s escort fired their guns, presumably in the traditional farewell salute, but this act was interpreted by our people as another insult, quite unreasonably we think.
25th: Three Europeans went through Chilubula today, one of whom was Mr Culloch. They were another batch of those foreigners who are almost a daily sight in this country. They are adventurers on the lookout for rubber or ivory. It is sad to see so many souls deprived of the opportunity of making their way to salvation and so few people aware of their numbers. On the other hand the sight of explorers going through the land with a load of rubber they have tapped from rubber trees here and there seem to fill everybody with wonder and admiration. I wish we the missionaries would be more numerous in search of souls to save. I wish to God we would be as earnest in our quest for souls to save as those adventurers are in their bid to amass earthly possessions.
26th: We have plans to build houses of prayer at Congola’s village and at Kabense’s village, on the right bank of the Luombe River. The rising of the water has swept away the bridge, and the people can no longer come to prayer and religious instruction. We plan to go over to their place for both. For three weeks in a row, Fr Louveau has gone to give religious instruction to the villages of Kisutula and Mukamwa. From now on Father Superior is to go to Kankowe and Fr Guyard to ShiKikombola.
7th: The river flood is going down fast, let us hope that the rice crop has not been irremediably compromised. We are busy making roads, in the village as well as crisscrossing our fields. The Natives see the advantage of having permanent roads, even if we have at times pull down a house or go right across a garden under cultivation. The whole outlook of the Mission Compound will be considerably improved.
8th: Kalolo, one of our kapitaos, came to report that henchmen of Chief Fupa came to abduct the wives of his villagers. It was all a lie. A woman was seen having a chat with a messenger of the Collector, while her companions took to their heels and ran away. That was all there was to it. But this incident is a sign how deep is the distrust of the people for the new Chief Mwamba. On the same day, Fupa sent us two sheep to prove that the gunshots we heard as he was making his way out of our compound were not a sign of hostility of the part of his escort. Father Superior accepted the present, but was careful to send a gift in return covering the price of the sheep. It is the safest way of dealing with gifts from tribal chiefs and even with commoners. Something is always expected in return for a gift.
12th: Maluti, head kapitao of Chief Fupa, brought us a letter from Mr Leyer, in which the Collector apologizes for asking us once more to return subjects of Chief Mwamba who are illegally living in the Concession. Timia Moni and Mwana Sombe, as well as Kalolo’s people are nominally mentioned in the request. The demand is made on the ground that those people would have run away from Fupa’s compound and taken refuge on the territory of the Concession after it had been officially marked out by the Collector. One of the persons that are nominally mentioned is the first wife (‘mukolo’) of late Chief Mwamba. Father Superior made a careful inquiry on the incidents alluded to in the letter, and then sent Maluti back to his master with the following answer:
1. He regretted to inform him that the ‘mukolo’ was not here just now, and pointed out that it was not the work of the Superior of Chilubula Mission to put people in fetters and dispatch them to Chief Fupa at his own bidding; let Chief Fupa come and recover his lost property.
2. Among the people of Kalolo mentioned in the letter, some have been living here for the last ten months, while one of them was staying in the vicinity of Kasama
3. As for Timia Moni and Mwana Sombe, the Chief ought to know that they are here with his own consent to harvest their crops.
Maluti was delighted to receive a gift personally, and gladly set out for the capital to bring the answer of the Bwana Mukubwa (Father Superior) to the suggestions contained in the Collector’s official letter written on behalf of the Chief.
15th: Timia Moni and Mwana Sombe make it known once more all around that they have absolutely not intentions to make their home in the neighbourhood of Chief Fupa. They are prepared to go and settle down wherever they are told, but definitely not at the capital of the new Mwamba Chief. Father Superior managed to persuade them to go to the Chief’s headquarters and talk things over with him. If he allows them to stay at Chilubula, it will be all for the best in the best of worlds. If Fupa makes it clear that he absolutely wants them in his entourage, let them bow their heads. We shall always be their friends. They finally set out for the capital, accompanied by our Kapitao Paulo.
18th: Paulo and his companions are back in the night. They reached the capital all right, but they found the population in the grips of a terrible famine. They came back to Chilubula because they were starving. They were so spurred by hunger that they covered the distance in one single day. Fupa is really in no end of trouble. He has also picked up a quarrel with his brother Chief Mpepo on the subject of ivory, but the delegation he sent to Chief Mpepo was roughly manhandled by their hosts. The Collector stepped in at that moment and upbraided Chief Mwamba for upsetting public peace. His next prank is to steal a gun from his cousin Chief Lucembe, who lodged an official complain with the Collector in Kasama. Fupa had great ideas in his mind, according to what Paolo told us. He had plans to build an agglomeration several kilometres long, and in prevision of the future he scattered his people over a large area. But when he finally gave his subjects orders to start building the new town, most of them moved away lock, stock and barrel without leaving their address. Poor Fupa is left with a handful of dependants scattered left, right and centre. This failure seems to have taken the wind out of his sails. Finally he said to Timia Moni and Mwana Sombe: ‘What is the use of your staying here? Two people won’t make any difference, I am still left standing in a desert. Stay at Kilubula if you like, If the Basungu want me to build up an agglomeration, they will give me the people!” You are bound to feel pity for the poor fellow: he seems to be really at the end of his tether. Are we to rejoice at this turn of event? Not at all! Fear of Fupa was a strong incentive for many people to stay with us and behave themselves, even though they had not felt the need of coming to religious instruction yet. As soon as they see they have nothing to fear from Fupa, they will leave us and move away somewhere else. The most striking feature of the Bemba mentality is distrust of all authority. Mr Leyer, the English Collector, expressed it very nicely when he said: “A Chief will never be popular among the BaBemba!” I am tempted to say: “European authority will just as wholeheartedly be rejected by the BaBemba!”
31st: Last week, Father Superior had the great consolation to baptised two children, one of whom is already in heaven. In the course of the past three months, we were given the opportunity of baptising two others. Let us hope that the parents will eventually grow out of this habit of taking dying persons out of the village, so that they may breathe their last outside the village perimeter. They do it on the sly, which makes it practically impossible for us to attend people in agony, and in the case of children to administer baptism to them. In the course of the last months, Chilubula has gained a few improvements, more particularly several roads inside the Compound as well as outside. The place looks more like a human settlement than a glorified section of bush. The womenfolk have not got into the habit of coming to religious instruction yet, they stay at home (N.B. It would seem that, at the beginning, the Bemba women considered religious instruction in the religion of the Basungu as a fancy of their menfolks. It must also be said that the women were really treated like slaves and did most of the work around the field, and all the work in the house, and had not much time for anything else.)
This quarter was not marked by any event of particular interest. Four baptisms of children in danger of death were the only events that came to break the monotony of every day life. Certainly far more died, but we cannot expect to reach many of them as long as the people continue to take the dying members of their families to their ‘mitanda’, to those remote shelters near their gardens far away in the bush where they keep temporary shelters for the time of the sowing, weeding and harvesting. They are simply out of reach as far as we are concerned. One little girl died sometime ago in the village after being baptised Mary and was buried in the cemetery of the Mission.
In the course of May, Fr Louveau and Fr Boisselier went for a journey of exploration on the right bank of the Lwangwa River and in the Senga. They went in a south-south-east direction and reached the Chambezi on the fourth day, after spending one night in the country of Kangwa, one night in the fiefdom of Fupa, and one night in the territory of Kibuta. Up to this point, it was rather easy, for the road is well known. But on the other side of the Chambezi, it was another cup of tea altogether, the Fathers did not find any guide. The road they followed curved too far south and went over the Molililwa Mountains. They pitched their camp at five different places before reaching the Lishiba Nghandu and spending a day there. The first time they camped at Lunchindashi, the second time at Kasepa near the Kwibwe River, the third night in the bush gardens of Mukwikile, on a tributary of the Kimanabwe River, the fourth time at Mukwikile’s village, and finally a fifth time at a place east of the lake and at distance of two hours from it. The road we followed was in a south-south-east direction from the Chambezi (Tambe) until we reached Kasepa. Then we followed a direction curving almost due East to go from Kasepa to Mukwikile’s village. From there to the lake the road we tramped along was practically due south the whole way, if not south-south-west.
We left from Cishimba on May 9th and we reached the lake only on May 19th. The whole program was out of gear, for not only were we late, but we had not reached the Senga yet. The cause of all the delay was that we had not reliable guide. On May 20th we hit the road again, but this time going north-east, which was the true direction to reach the Senga. The same day we pitched camp at Molilabantu. On May 21st, we reached Kabwela’s village, still two days away from the Senga. Molilabantu and Kabwela are two chiefs of the BenaNghandu clan, just as Mukwikile himself, who is in fact a brother of Chief Makasa’s. They have their villages on the bank of the Mwambwa River, which is a tributary of the Lwangwa River. The watershed separating the Lwangwa Valley from the Chambezi runs in between the villages of Chief Mukwikile in the west and the villages of both Chiefs Molilabantu and Kabwela in the east.
We trudged two days through the flat lands before reaching Mwine Kipeta, in a general south-east direction. Then we pushed on for another day in a south-south-east direction to reach Mwila-wa-Ntengwe. This is a village of roughly 300 inhabitants, very pleasant and hospitable, and we are tempted to go further. Unfortunately the state of health of the travellers seemed to call for a halt: Fr Boisselier had not been too well during the first week of their peregrination, and now it was the turn of Fr Louveau to be brought down by fever. They thought it better to call it a day for the time being. It was a pity, for had they continued for another week, they would have come across a concentration of population larger than what they had met so far. The journey would have required another fifteen or twenty days of trampling through the bush, but the Fathers were wise enough to admit that they were not in a position to push further: their general state of health was crying for a rest, and they were running out of supplies. So they finally decided to make their way back to Chilubula. Their guides were now much more familiar with the geography of the land, and within seven days the travellers were back to the Chambezi, and four days later the expedition was back to Kishimba. It simply means that we are at a distance of fifteen days’ march from the Lwangwa Valley by the most direct route. And what is this route? To go steadily in a south-east direction, with the following timetable and geographical features as landmarks (the following numbers refer to the days: Day One, Day Two, etc)
1. Making for the source of the Milengwe River
2. Crossing the Lualuo River, the Mulilansolo River, passing at the source of the Kambwititi river to come to the abandoned village of Chibo
3. Crossing the Lukasha River to reach Kilongoshi Village
4. Crossing the Lunchindashi near Kilongoshi, and making for Chupa’s village on the left bank of the Chambezi
5. Making for the abandoned village (‘ciboria’) of Kikwanda
6. Crossing the Lufubu River before reaching the village of Mukwikile, a brother of Makasa’s, an agglomeration of some 300 inhabitants
7. Reaching Kabwela’s village
8. & 9. Trudging right across the flat lands until reaching Mwene Kipeta
10. Reaching Mwila-wa-Ntengwe
11. 12. 13. 14. : Reaching the Lwangwa Valley
When Fr Louveau and Boisselier were back from their expedition, Fr Guyard and Fr Guillemé left for the Luanda. Let us hope they will be more successful.
In the course of the last quarter, we had quite a few occasions to give assistance to Mr Leyer by sending him boards and workers. In return he provided us with game meat.
1st: For several months groups of people who have their bush gardens far away have manifested their intention to settle definitely on our territory. We don’t raise any objection, and they carry out their plans without further ado. We only hope that they will eventually join the group of catechumens under instruction.
15th: Visit of the villages in the Kipingwe. We put forward the idea that the people ought to build houses of prayer for meetings, community prayer and eventually religious instruction. The idea is welcomed enthusiastically. One headman said to us: “We shall now be married with God1”
9th: A letter coming from Mulilansolo asks one of us to make his way there, for Mr Leyer is seriously ill. Fr Louveau is sent to give whatever assistance he ca, but find the patient out of danger. All he needed to be back on his feet was rest, purgatives, and a treatment of quinine.
20th: Fr Guillemé and Fr Guyard are back from their journey of exploration, and they are delighted by what they saw. The country they travelled through is thickly populated, and the people live at one spot, they do not spend their time shifting their villages around as the BaBemba do.
22nd: Fr Louveau is appointed Superior of a new mission station to be founded in the fiefdom of Kasembe. May God and Mary Immaculate bless this new enterprise, for which we choose the name of Sancta Maria of the Lwapula.
The only fact of importance to note for this month is the opening of a new Mission on the north-western border of the Vicariate, away from the Lwapula, which has been set aside for the London Mission Society and is, therefore, out of bounds for the Catholic Church. This missionary Society has just received a gift equivalent to FF 210,000 (gold francs) for its apostolic work in the Lubemba.
SEPTEMBER 1900 No entry
Visit of Mr Codrington, Administrator of Northern Rhodesia. He points out to Father Superior that he, as the Governor, is not in a position to grant the White Fathers the authorisation to establish mission stations wherever it takes their fancy. The Governor has to take into consideration the fact that there are five other major Missionary Societies in British Central Africa that are clamouring for the best place in the sun.
Fr Guillemé goes to visit the mission of Kibwa (Cilonga), and from there he will make his way into the Lwangwa Valley for a journey of exploration.
Fr Guillemé is back to Kilubula after six weeks spent travelling around the Kinga, the Lwangwa Valley and the Senga. Nabwalya, where there is a post of the Colonial Administration, is the only place that is reasonably populated. The Lwangwa Valley is fertile and teeming with game, but is so low in altitude and so hot and sultry as to be unfit for European settlement. In December the Valley is turned into a furnace, and the water springs and streams are completely dried up. At this time of year (December), the Lwangwa river, which must be overflowing its embankments and spreading a deep sheet of water all over the Valley at the height of the rainy season, is reduced to a mere trickle of water. The mountains of the Senga (between the Kibwa and the Lwangwa Valley) are salubrious, with plenty of water available everywhere, is very thinly populated.
25th: Christmas Day: official admission of the first group of catechumens in the system of catechumenate, numbering 40. May the Lord our Divine Saviour grand them perseverance.
Small pox has put in an appearance in this part of the world. The cases are still very few and far between, but the population is dead scared. Those that are affected by this disease are hidden away, and we are obliged to crack down on the headmen who are solely responsible for this dreadful situation. The people do not want us to baptise the children who are in danger of death, for they say that baptism is the ultimate cause of their death. This prejudice is widespread, and carefully entertained by the old women on behalf of tradition. Those crones are in fact the instruments of the Devil. The fact is simply there, inescapable but terribly upsetting for us missionaries: the children are condemned to die without baptism, whatever we do or say. All we can do is to continue fighting, exhorting, and praying. When Fr Guyard was upbraiding one woman for her refusal to have her sick child baptised, she answered; “Baptism has killed my first child, and I am now afraid for the life of my second child!”
4th: Visit of Mr McKinnon and Young
7th: Mr Boyd comes for the second time to be treated at the Mission against fever.
10th: Mr Rabineck called on us at the Mission to greet us. He is one of those businessmen who are amassing a fortune in trading in Central Africa.
7th: Official admission of 34 new catechumens who received a small cross to mark their entry into the normal cycle of religious instruction in preparation for baptism. They ought to receive a medal, but we are forced to stop distributing medals, for a few were found among pagan amulets. Some catechumens handed them over to pagans in exchange for something else. We have to put an end to this traffic and stop handing out medals for a while.
MAY-JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 1901 No entry
20th: Fr Guillerme has been called by Fr Guillemé to leave his station on the borders of the Lubemba and Kisinga and come to Chilubula to assist and keep company to Fr Guyard, who happens to be alone at the Mission. Indeed Fr Boisselier has left for the new foundation in the direction of the Lwapula, and Fr Guillemé is on his way to the Kisinga for a voyage of exploration.
22nd: Father Superior, after consultation with the house council, decides that the new comer’s main task will be to teach catechism in the neighbouring villages that had been in the care of Fr Boisselier. He will also give assistance to Fr Guyard in the school and in the work of religious instruction at Kilubula itself. The catechism classes at Kilubula are regularly attended by more than 200 persons, and even 300 persons in some days, including men, women and children.
23rd: Fr Guillerme entered today upon his new duties at Kilubula. He gave his first catechism lesson to young men and children that are hardly more than beginners. He is struck by the way the people usually answer questions with common sense and assurance. “How old is God?” Father asked one of the kids who did not look particularly bright. The child was somewhat puzzled by this rather unusual question and turned it around in his head for a short time, and finally answered: “God must be very old, since he exists everyday!” – “Then God must be an old decrepit human wreck?” the Father objected. “No” the child replied, “because He is the master of the years and therefore he is always young!” The same day, a young man married to several wives, who was in the group of the more advanced catechumens listening to Fr Guyard explaining how it was impossible to be saved if we did not observe God’s Law, unexpectedly put the following question to the Father: “Do you mean I cannot be saved if I keep all my wives?” He had made the connection all right between his private life and God’s Law! This openness of mind is found in many Natives who are no longer indifferent to the truths of the Catholic Faith, and it clearly shows that God’s grace has already accomplished much in the souls of those people, for the revealed truths of Christianity do not seem to be inaccessible to them, as we thought at first.
25th: Fr Guillemé sets out for the visit of the newly opened mission station of Sancta Maria of the Kalungwishi. He will take this opportunity to go and pay a visit to Mr Warston, stationed three days further away, who is the Vice-consul for the Bangweolo District. He wants to ask him permission to open another mission station in his district north of the Bangweolo Lake, on the borders of the present Nyasa Vicariate. We wish our Superior success in his application for a new mission, for it is imperative for us to precede the Protestants in those districts that are thickly populated. They are already implanted in the Loanda and in the Kisinga, ahead of us. Wherever they are ahead of us, we are denied the right to establish a permanent mission station, according to the tenets of the Government’s policy. Let us try to be first in the field this time.
11th: Mr Young, Deputy Collector at Kasama, received from His Majesty’s High Commissioner at Zomba instructions to recruit 200 volunteers in the Lubemba for three years of military service. He was considerate enough to ask us whether we would have any objection to his recruiting some of the volunteers among the young men at Chilubula Mission. We are naturally not very keen in seeing some of our young men, the future of our Mission, leaving us to spend years in the barracks. On the other hand we are not naïve to the point of believing that we could really prevent the English Authorities from finding soldiers among our youth if they really wanted to, the more so since they have no human reason to make a distinction between Catholics and non-Catholics, the Natives are all citizens of the same country in the eyes of the Administration, whatever religious creed they belong to. We answered the Deputy Collector that we had no reason to oppose a move which the Government deemed to be in the interest of the country and that we were ready to accept any decision he would take in this matter.
12th: The Deputy-Collector sent one of his subordinates to Chilubula with instructions to go through all the villages and make sure that the mind of the Government was well understood by the population as regards the conditions of the military service. We tackled the situation very objectively and impartially. First we told our people to look upon this man as a true envoy of the Basungu even though he was in their eyes ‘only’ a ‘muntu’, one of them! Then we carefully explained to them the conditions of the military service, stressing the point that the English Authorities wanted only volunteers, that nobody must feel obliged to sign in if has no inclination for army life!
13th: Fr Guillemé is back from his lengthy journey, very pleased with the way everything went. He was delighted with the way the Mission of Santa Maria of Kalungwishi had progressed in just five months. The place, which was just a section of bush empty of all human habitation five months ago, is now peopled by over 200 persons grouped around the residence of the missionaries. The Superior did not need to go to Zomba to meet Mr Warston, for he found at Kalungwishi a letter from the High Commissioner in response to the letter he had sent ahead of him to expose his project. In this letter Mr Warston grants us permission to establish a mission station north of the Bangweolo Lake, provided the Collector of the district has no insurmountable objection. The permission is, therefore, conditional. The High Commissioner warns us that he has to make an inquiry from the local Collector before he can give us a definite answer. Let us hope that this definite answer will be favourable to our project.
14th: The African messenger sent by Mr Young to tour the villages ends up his mission rather dispirited, for he has not found one single young man willing to go to Kasama and sign up for the army. Everywhere he was told: “We are the soldiers of the Mission, we are very happy to live around the Fathers and we don’t feel like going far away to run the danger every day of been whipped with sjambok.” We had feared that quite a few of our young men would be tempted to sign up for the love of travelling to faraway countries and of going through unusual experience. Not one was attracted by the prospect of the army. We think it was a wise decision, and we are grateful to God for it.
17th: The whole wheat crop has been harvested, but the results are unfortunately very disappointing. The whole field was devastated by blight, and we just managed to recover the equivalent of the seeds. The garden is, on the contrary, in full production. We have vegetables in galore. The potato crop is superb, and the potatoes are delicious. We shall be able to sell a lot of them to the Europeans in the Administration, while we shall have more than enough to replace the bread that will be sadly missing from our table.
20th: Fr Guyard is called to visit a child sick with croup in the Mission’s village. The Father hastened to the house and found the child already at death’s door. The only thing for him to do was to baptise the child. He asked the mother to bring him some water. That is what she did after some hesitation, and shaking all over, as if she were condemning her offspring to death. Father comforted her as best he could and baptised the child. Back to the house, he told his story, rather displeased with the distrust he had been shown in the house. Just then Father Superior remembered a remedy that had proved repeatedly efficient against croup in the past. “ Give the child,” he suggested, “pawpaw juice to drink. If we could save this child, it would be all for the better, for it would be a clear indication baptism does not infallibly kill the ‘victim’!” Fr Guyard returned at once to the house of the sick child and made sure he was given pawpaw juice to drink. The following day we were told that the child had completely recovered. We all blessed the Lord together for having been able to show this woman and her companions that baptism is not a killer.
1st: A crocodile badly mangled, on the bank of the Lukupa, one of the best cows in our herd, the one that gave most milk. The animal had gone near the water to graze the green grass there and did not see a crocodile that was basking in the sun nearby. The crocodile made a sudden dash for the cow and bit it viciously on one leg. Bro Optat, who looks after the herd with almost maternal care for he knows how vitally important the herd is for maintaining the missionaries in reasonably good health, hastened to the place of the accident and did his best to dress the horrible gash. All in vain, however, for the wound was too deep and ghastly, and infection set in after eight days. Brother knew he could not stem the infection and had to kill his best cow. At least we had fresh meat for Father Superior’s feastday.
8th: On the eve of the feast of St Mathurin, we gathered together in community to wish our Superior a happy feastday. Fr Guyard said a few words on behalf of the community – and it is well known that Fr Guyard can be very eloquent and convincing . He certainly expressed very adequately what we all feel for our Superior, who is very capable and efficient in the discharge of his responsibilities, and who is at the same time very human and full of understanding, ever ready to encourage and advise. A most reliable leader to have around, and at the same time a most charming confrere. Father Superior thanked us warmly for our kindness and pointed out that he was very grateful to us for always doing our best to lighten his burden and to maintain a lively brotherly spirit in the community. He encouraged us to go on along the same line, for success of mission work mainly depends on brotherly love among the missionaries.
9th: We celebrate Father Superior’s feastday as best as we can, especially by praying for him during mass. At the same time we take the opportunity to pray for our Bishop away in Europe for health’s reasons. He seems to be kept there longer than expected, but we also know that he has his Nyasa Vicariate in mind the whole time and continues to watch over our interests. We pray that he may come back as soon as possible, for we know that he must be longing to see his BaBemba again and resume his activities among them. For lunch we had a rare treat: fresh beef, deliciously prepared by Bro Lucien whose culinary talents are beyond praise. It was a meal out of the ordinary, and very welcome indeed. The general opinion is that beef from cows reared in Africa is excellent, even if beef from cows reared in Europe is of higher quality.
20th: The rainy season has set in. The first tropical rain was a pleasant change from the oppressive heat of the dry season, which has been going on now for months. Nature starts reviving at once. We are particularly happy for all the small trees we planted along the avenues throughout the property, for they were withering through lack of water. We got down at once to preparing gardens and fields for sowing wheat and rice at the earliest possible moment. May God save this year’s wheat crop from the dreaded wheat blight.
28th: Fr Ducourant (a new comer) reaches Kilubula after being three months on the road. He is most welcome, of course, the more so since he can give us the news from Europe that have not reached us yet. We are once more, for a short time, while listening to him, back in thought among our confreres in Europe and elsewhere. On December 2nd, Fr Ducourant will leave for Santa Maria of Kalungwishi,
where he has been appointed, a journey of five or six days.
(DECEMBER 1901: No entry)
7th: We have resumed teaching in the school and giving the people the course of religious instruction, suspended for a fortnight for the Christmas celebrations. Our best pupils do not seem to like what we call school holidays, for they kept bothering us the whole time with such questions as “Why don’t you teach us today? We are in danger of forgetting all you taught us so far1” The incredible thing is that quite a few spent their days in the building we use as a classroom, practising reading and writing all by themselves. Useless to say they were delighted when they heard we were re-opening the school. The concourse of children was so great on the first day that the classroom turned out to be much too small to welcome them all. This affluence did not last, however, for work in the gardens and fields detain many young men in the villages. As for the children, they are fickle like children all over the world., and many have not the patience to come and sit still for twenty minutes every day, staring at a blackboard covered with cabalistic white signs. Yet, they show a certain perseverance as a social group, since the attendance is never below 60 every day, at least when work in the fields and gardens do not make their presence at home indispensable, and when their parents have no itching feet as is the case at certain times of the year and they have to accompany their parents on a journey. The number of catechumens attending the religious instructions given by Father Superior every morning is never below one hundred. The number of girls coming to his catechism class every day is turning around one hundred also, at least as soon as the millet has been sown, the groundnuts have been planted and the cassava roots have been buried in the mounds. The amount of patience and perseverance he needs is incredible, for it is no sinecure to maintain order among this naturally unruly crowd and to keep their attention alive and focussed while teaching them abstract ideas, and to force the religious truths into their thick skulls! When you ask them to repeat after you word for word the answers to the questions in the catechsim, it is not too bad, for they articulate the words in unison as loudly as they dare. But if you ask one or the other to repeat alone, they fall to whispering, and giggling, and whining. If you persist, they slip out one after the other, or in batches, so much so that after a while you are practically preaching in the desert. You need a tremendous amount of patience, and you must not expect results. You must simply plod along through the questions and answers with them. You must continuously bear in mind that it is already a tremendous achievement that those people, still steeped in pagan beliefs and practices, accept to come to your religious instructions at all! It will take time to make them accept the Christian truths and Christian morals, and with God’s grace to transform them into Christians.
20th: A torrential rain, which soon turned all the paths into rivers of mud, took the Fathers by surprise while they were on their way back from teaching catechism in the villages. They splashed their way back to the residence through pools and rivers of water. It took them a good hour to reach the house soaked to the bones, for an umbrella is a pretty cumbersome piece of equipment in the bush, since it gets caught every now and then in the low branches of the trees and shrubs, and you are likely to fold it up and fight your way through the sheets of water to reach the house as soon as possible, squelching through the mud in your wet boots. You don’t feel very proud of yourselves … or don’t you? After all, you are doing God’s work, you are just coming back from the villages where you have done your best to give your audience an intelligible version of the Good News. You may be shivering with cold, but you feel warm in your heart, because you are an apostle. You can be assured that some villagers, who watch you squelching your way past their houses from the relative dryness of their verandah, are bound to wonder about Christianity. “It must be the true religion,” they are likely to think, “since the BaBwana are prepared to face any inconvenience to teach it to complete strangers!”
25th: Our fast running Luombe River is overflowing its banks again after five days of almost continuous torrential rains, with the result that a whole section of our field of rice is now under water.
26th: The Kamunyangala, the small stream that is flowing through our garden, has suddenly swollen to the size of a real river, and the current became so strong that the water swept away the stays that were shoring up the embankment. The wooden poles floated down the stream, but came to rest against an obstacle in midstream, piling up into a sort of dam. The whole mass of water behind the dam spilled over the sides and flooded the whole garden. The damage could have been much worse, since we lost only three or four mango trees uprooted by the fast flowing flood and one plot of beans.
1st: We have been forced by circumstances to play hosts to a man with smallpox. He is originally from Kisinga, a district at a distance of sixteen days’ march from Kilubula. He was a carrier working in Kasama when he contracted the disease, but he did not find anybody willing to take care of him. He came straight to Kilubula to be attended to. We could not turn him away, of course, and we had at once a hut built for him ten minutes away from our residence. He was guided there by a child of our village, who was very careful to keep at a good distance from the sick man. You cannot blame our people for being so scared of this plague, which mows down countless numbers of grownups and children every year. To reach his hut, the stranger had to go through a village. At his sight, all the villagers hastened to put some distance between him and themselves, and they grumbled ominously against this stranger who was likely to bring Death into their homes. Throughout the day the people stayed shut in their houses without daring to put their noses outside. Those who were outside went back home in a roundabout way, avoiding the places wherever that man had set foot on his way to his hut. Fr Guyard has acquired a certain experience in attending smallpox patients in the course of his ministry and decided he would look after this one, who seemed to be completely abandoned. He took a mat, some flour and some meat to his hut, together with firewood, so that the sick man could cook food for himself. He was so exhausted that he fell on the mat, unable to move. This incident set the tongues wagging. “How admirably charitable the Fathers are,” some say at the sight of Fr Guyard passing every day through the village to go and take care of this sick stranger, “they risk their lives for a man they do not know!” –“Not so,’ others retort, “the Bwana is under the protection of his ‘mupashi = the spirit of the ancestor to whom he was entrusted at his birth!”
22nd: It took three weeks for this man struck down with smallpox to pull through and recover. When he felt strong enough to go back to his family in the Kisinga, from which he had been separated for two months, he came to say good bye to the Fathers, to whom he owed his life. He thanked them effusively for what they had done for him and said he would never forget the ‘BaBwana of the Ubemba’ nor the God in whose name they had cared for him. Let us hope that this act of charity – and the few words of instruction slipped in here and there in the course of casual conversations – made a lasting impression in his heart and awakened in him love for the Christian God, source of all charity.
24th: We come across cases of smallpox regularly at Kilubula, and the reason may be that Kilubula is on the way of the many caravans plying up and down the road from Lake Nyasa to the Congo, and back. They go through many places where smallpox is endemic, and they spread it all along the road they travel along. Today we heard of six new cases in the neighbourhood of the Mission. Thank God, we have just received from Kasama some vaccine against smallpox. Let us hope that this batch will be more efficient than the one we got last year.
1st: Today Sunday, Fr Guillemé was pleased to announce in church at the end of the Sunday service that he had just received samples of a new vaccine against smallpox, which had the reputation of being one-hundred per cent efficient, and which was not known in the country yet. Once the service was over, a large concourse of men and women mills around the missionaries to be inoculated. The men do not have too much apprehension of the scalpel the priest is wielding for making an incision on the arm in order to apply the vaccine. But for the women, it is a different story altogether: at the sight of the sharp blade cutting into the flesh, they disappear in the twinkling of an eye. In the following days, however, seeing that the tiny wound on the arm of those who were vaccinated does not look so terrible after all, they come back to be inoculated in their turn.
14th: In the space of a fortnight, Fr Guillemé managed to vaccinate some 1,500 persons, with no more than 50 cases where the vaccine did not cause any reaction. This remarkable success might well be due, for a large part, to the small dressing Fr Guillemé is applying on the incision to prevent the people from wiping the vaccine before it has dried, and therefore before it has had time to cause the proper reaction.
15th: This campaign of vaccination was very successful as long as the people co-operated with us. Once vaccinated, they are told to come back to the residence after some time. The Father, then, takes some of the blood discharge oozing out of the incision of a recently vaccinated person to inoculate it to another person in order to provoke the same reaction in his or her body. Nobody has turned up for a few days, and we can no longer continue to vaccinate others, for the real laboratory-produced vaccine is delivered only in very small quantities at a time, and we have no reserve. It is galling to see how people can be terribly selfish: once they have been rendered immune against smallpox, they do not care if others die of it through their own negligence.
16th: Mr Young, Deputy Collector at Kasama, published the statistics of the tax department in his Administration. The number of taxable people amounted to 15,000, and the amount of tax collected reached 45,000 rupees (shillings). That is quite a large amount of money for the first year, even in the opinion of the Administration. The other districts do not seem to have been as successful as Kasama, far from it. We know that one quarter of the taxable population escapes taxation. The Administration is up against the cunning of the Natives, who have means and ways of cheating the officials left, right, and centre. The tax is, basically, a hut tax: the owner must pay three shillings every year for each hut he owes. But the polygamists are clever enough to declare only one wife and one common hut, and to pay only three shillings. In fact the way the polygamists turn the law is very crafty. If a polygamist has three wives, he no longer builds a hut for each one, for he would have to pay nine shillings on taxation. He now constructs one long house divided into three rooms, one for each of his three ladies, and dutifully pays three shillings for his only one hut to the tax collector. This situation is bound to change, for the tax collectors are fully aware of what is done to turn the law and escape taxation. It is probable that next year they will impose a due of three shillings per sleeping room.
17th: On Fr Schoeffer’s request, and with the approval of Father Administrator, Fr Guyard is going to Kayambi to give the Christians of the Mission a Paschal Retreat of three days. Let us hope that this initiative will be crowned with success. The choice of the priest for this new experiment could not be better: Fr Guyard is fluent in Kibemba, and a very zealous missionary indeed!
23rd: It is the Holy Week. It was the week the Apostles were called to received the Lord for the first time in their hearts in he course of the Last Supper. It will be the week when our first batch of fully trained catechumens are to share with Christ his divinity and the Holy Spirit in baptism and to take part for the first part in the reception of Christ’s Body in Holy Communion. No wonder that Father Superior gives himself completely to the task of preparing them for this momentous occasion in their life and in the life of the Church in this Mission of Kilubula.
25th: To give greater solemnity to the feast of Easter, and also to turn our bare church into a dwelling somewhat worthier of Our Lord than it presently is, we decided to work together to embellish it, each one of us according to his natural talents and inspiration. Bro Optat, our great expert in building, plastered the walls and then managed to whitewashed them with a local kind of china-clay that turned out to be as good as lime for the job. The sparkling white of the walls fills the Natives with wonder. On this immaculate surface Father Superior made drawings and decorations, using figures and motives cut out of cardboard and a local red clay, the ‘nkula’ or red powder extracted from the ‘mukula’ tree. The windows of the sanctuary are soon bordered all around with smart red garlands. Bro Lucien puts up a superb wooden altar in the sanctuary to replace the poor-looking makeshift table we had been using up to now. This altar is a striking feature of the church: it is made of finally carved wooden columns incrusted with refine gilding . It is a real masterpiece of art that is arousing the curiosity and admiration, not only of the Natives, but also of passing Europeans who ask to be taken to the church to have a look at it. The crowning of those efforts of ours at beautifying our church is the installation of a statue of Our Lady, the patron saint of our parish, on top of the altar under a canopy of red velvet. This statue will remain covered until Easter, when it is solemnly unveiled before the congregation, eager to see a statue for the first time.
30th: Easter Sunday! It is the greatest day so far in the short history of Kilubula Mission. The first four adult catechumens who have successfully completed the four years of catechumenate are to be administered solemn baptism. We are comforted at the thought that the Church is today solidly and definitely implanted at Kilubula, for those four neophytes have shown, throughout those years of trial and instruction, that they are determined to turn their backs to the old pagan beliefs and practices. We know that they have also been solidly instructed in the tenets of our Faith by a man who has repeatedly shown what he was capable of doing, our Superior, Fr Guillemé. Early at dawn, large crowds of people began to converge on Kilubula from the four cardinal points, from the 20 or 25 villages within easy walking distance of the Mission. As soon as we opened the doors of the church, the people rushed through in the midst of unbelievable confusion and uproar. They are all vying with one another to stare at all the marvels now on continuous display in the church. Mary’s statue fills them with awe, and many a person in the church is wondering whether Mary has not, in fact, really come down from heaven to dwell bodily in their church. Father Superior took this opportunity to outline, once more, what is meant by the cult we render the Blessed Virgin Mary. They all listen in dead silence, as they always do when the talk is about Mary. Let us hope that the knowledge and veneration of Mary will slowly spread all over the land with the gradual increase in the number of Christians, for we are convinced that the universal veneration of Christ’s mother will mark the end of the Devil’s preponderance in this country. After their baptism, our four new Christians received a rosary. It is in fact the only prayer they are really trained to recite and that they really know. No wonder that they have come into the habit of coming to church every morning and praying the rosary together during the Eucharistic celebration. May the whole population of Kilubula come one day to follow in their footsteps. Then Our Lady will really be Queen of the Lubemba.
31st: We interrupt our teaching in the school and of catechism for a whole week, in order to recover from the strain we went through in order to prepare our Christians and our catechumens. We have hardly entered our holidays that Fr Guillemé is urgently called to Kasama to look after Mr MacNikol, an agent of the African Lakes Company, struck down by an attack of black water. As Father Superior is not able to answer this call personally, he dispatches Fr Davoust, just arrived from Kayambi, to replace him and attend to the needs of the patient. Fr Davoust applied the treatment invented by Fr Guillemé, and which has proved repeatedly efficacious. The patient is administered purges on purges to clean the stomach in order to prevent the bile from oozing into the blood stream and poisoning the whole system. This done the patient is given doses of diuretic to increase the flow of urine and eliminate all toxic elements. That is the treatment Fr Davoust put Mr MacNikol through, and on the following day Mr MacNikol was already out of danger.
1st: Today Father Superior is going to Kasama to see Mr MacNikol and have a look for himself. He finds the patient on the way to a fast recovery, but at the same time hears that the Collector, Mr Cookson, is also in the grips of an attack of black water. He goes at once to his house and submits him to the same treatment as described above for Mr MacNikol. Fr Guillemé has a strong confidence in this treatment, which he pieced together through repeated experiments. In the latter case it takes three days for the patient to be out of danger, for the stomach to be functioning normally again and for the urine to be pass freely and to be normal in colour. Those two cases are a clear indication that Fr Guillemé has developped a treatment that is certainly efficacious, and we think that all confreres ought to know how to apply it. Here are the outlines of the ‘Guillemé treatment’:
1. At the first symptoms of black water, stop all quinine administration
2. Administer a strong purge at once, preferably based on the consumption of salt: magnesium or magnesium citrate. The purge with magnesium citrate is the easier to prepare. All you need is 35 grams of citric acid, 10 grams of burnt magnesium, and two or three spoons of sugar to put in one litre of water. Shake very carefully to make sure that the whole mixture is properly dissolved and mixed.
3. On the second or third day, the whole body turns yellow in colour: it is a sign that the bile has oozed into the blood stream. It is now time to administer a second purge to deal with the jaundice.
4. Do not try to stop physical needs of vomiting (let the patient vomit), but do not give the patient anything to induce vomiting.
5. If the patient has difficulty in passing water, or if he does not feel the need to urinate, give the patient potassium nitrate: 2 grams in one litre of water, thoroughly shaken, and given in spoonfuls to the patient, one spoonful every half and hour
6. Abstain from giving any quinine as long as the urine is black
7. To bring down the high fever usually accompanying an attack of black water, give some veratrine, aconitine, digitaline or doci …(?)
8. In the week following the outburst of fever, give quinine in small doses; never more than 25 grams; too much quinine at this stage could start the outburst of black water again
9. If the patient is restless, give Gregory salt or morphine as tranquiliser
10. Convalescence: the patient must stay in bed for four or five days after the urine has become normal again. As for the diet: only light food, eggs, meat juice, wine in small quantity, cognac, stimulants. To keep out of drafts, for catching a cold would be lethal.
6th: Mr Cookson requests the favour of spending some days of convalescence at Kilubula. Father Superior graciously accepts. Mr Cookson asked how much he ought to pay for the attention and remedies he was given, but Fr Guillemé told him he was not in the habit of charging anything, that he considered the attention given to a seriously sick patient as part and parcel of his call to live a life of charity. Father knows very well that such an attitude, besides being truly Christian, can only endear us to the officials of the Government and improve our relations with the Authorities.
7th: Mr MacNikol wanted to give Fr 100 as payment for our treatment, but to make sure that his offer would not be turned down, he handed it over as a free gift to the Mission for our work.
8th: Fr Guyard is back from Kayambi, where he had gone to preach a paschal retreat to the Christians. On arriving at Kilubula, he is told by Fr Guillemé that he had been chosen to open a new mission station in Angoniland. The Father is delighted, because he knows that that part of the Nyasa is thickly populated, and that it is urgent to make a start in the work of evangelising them. We share his joy, for we understand his point of view, and we even have a drink to celebrate the occasion.
10th: The second priest who is to accompany Fr Guyard to the new mission station in Angoliland is Fr Perrot, presently on the staff of Kayambi Mission. It is a risk Fr Guillemé takes to send only two priests for a new foundation in a country that is still totally unknown to us. But there is good hope that reinforcements are on their way from Europe, and the Angoliland will probably be first served.
28th: Father Superior sets out for the Angoliland with a caravan of 30 men, via Kalonga and Domira Bay. The aim of this journey is to find a suitable site for the new foundation, and also to contact the local authorities in order to know how we can get land concessions for our purpose. Our best wishes and our prayers are accompanying Fr Guillemé, for we are fully aware that this project of his is of capital importance for the future, and will certainly be fraught with many difficulties and beset with problems.
10th: Fr Guillerme is the victim of a sudden attack of black water. In the morning, without being really ill to stay in bed, he did not feel too well and had an inkling that what he felt was not an ordinary, fleeting malaise. At lunch, he took a very light meal. At 14.00 hrs he noticed that he was passing urine that was suspiciously red, and thought it wiser to go to bed at once. In the evening, his urine had turned dramatically dark in colour, although it was still flowing very freely, which is a good sign in an other- wise worrying situation. Fr Guyard took Fr Guillerme through Fr Guillemé’s treatment at once: purges with magnesium citrate, doses of diuretic with potassium nitrate. Throughout the night, our confrere suffered terribly from stomach troubles, but the purging worked out wonders, and the following morning the patient felt already a lot better. The urine, however, was still the wrong colour.
11th: We continue to administer to our patient doses of potassium nitrate, with the result that the urine is getting lighter and lighter in colour. In the evening all traces of black water had disappeared.
12th: Fr Guillerme feels extremely weak owing to the enormous quantity of blood that went through the urine. He is burnt by unquenchable thirst, which we try to diminish by giving him lemonade to drink mixed with sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid.
14th: We think it safe for our confrere to eat some eggs and some toasted bread. From now on, Fr Guillerme is recovering very fast. Black water is only a bad memory.
20th: Fr Guillerme is now back on his feet and able to resume his normal activities. Deo gratias!
9th: Fr Guyard and Fr Perrot - who came to join his confrere here at Kilubula some days ago – set out for the new mission post of Angoliland, where Fr Guillemé went to smooth the way for them. May God give them the joy of a rich harvest of souls among those new tribes, more than the Protestants have already garnered in spite of the fact that they have already several mission stations in Angoliland.
10th: We got a letter from Fr Guillemé explaining that all his dealings with the English Authorities went very smoothly. Mr MacDonald, Collector at Dowo, the district where we aim at establishing a post, welcomed our Superior very kindly. He pointed out to him the four best sites for a mission station in the Angoliland. We had too many sites to choose from! Fr Guillemé went at once to visit two of those emplacements and chose two of them at once for the foundation of two stations this year. One is Kashindamoto, two days away from Fort-Jameson, a very thickly populated area that will require four or five missionaries engaged full-time in pastoral work to be properly evangelised. Fr Louveau is put in charge of this post. The second emplacement is Kiwamba, right in the geographical centre of the Angoliland and just as thickly populated, entrusted to the care of Fr Guyard. It looks as if we have a solid starting base in the Angoliland. There does not seem to be anything to prevent us from spreading out far and wide, with the possibility in the future to found another ten mission stations. We give glory to God who has certainly blessed the mission of our dear Superior beyond the wildest dreams. You must not draw the conclusion that everything went smoothly for Fr Guillemé. True, the British Administration, although in majority Protestant, extended a cordial welcome to him simply because he is known as a man who has always maintained excellent relations with the civil authorities. As one civil servant said to him at one time: “We have been waiting for you for quite a while!” But the Protestant Ministers are viewing the coming of the ‘Romans’ with a lot of misgiving, as was to be expected. Father Superior organised a meeting with them with a view to laying his cards on the table, but the meeting was definitely lacking in cordiality. He was made to understand that they, the Protestants, resented the intrusion of the Roman Catholics on what they looked to be their private domain, and that it was bad manners on the part of the Roman Catholics to come and build missions so close to theirs. The bulk of the Protestant missionaries are Boers, i.e. fanatic Calvinists, who are not much of a threat to us, and who are a pain in the neck to the Administration because they do not show the least respect and consideration for the civil authorities, (of which they are very critical). Hence the eagerness with which the Protestant civil servants are welcoming the Roman Catholic missionaries: they simply hate the sight of the Boer preachers! This situation is certainly a subtle arrangement of Divine Providence, for we shall profit from the fact that the Protestant Administration is not backing the Protestant Missions in the least.
11th: Bro Gabriel, appointed to the Nyasa Vicariate, began his apostolate with an attack of black water. We take care of him in the usual way, with the Guillemé treatment, and within four days he is totally out of danger and begins to eat some eggs. It is the fourth case in which the treatment inaugurated by Fr Guillemé proves to be efficacious. We do not pretend it is the only one in existence, and we do not pretend it is the best, because we never had a chance to compare results with other methods. In fact, as far we are concerned, it is a moot point whether there are better treatments. All we say is that the Guillemé treatment has worked wonders, and is worth trying out anywhere.
14th: Fr Guillemé sent a telegram urging Fr Louveau to leave at once for Angoliland in the company of Fr Boisselier, Superior of Kalungu Mission. By the same letter, Fr Guillemé appoints Fr Monneraye to Santa Maria of the Kalungwishi, and instructs Bro Wilfrid to join the caravan of Fr Louveau and Fr Boisselier for the Angoliland. The station of Lubwe is, therefore, closed down with one stroke of the pen. This sudden decision took us all by surprise, but it did not take us long to realise that it was very wise. The station at Lubwe is presently standing in a desert as far as populations are concerned: very few people have moved towards the mission station in the space of one year. In Angoliland, the whole land is teeming with people living a sedentary life, and therefore very easy to reach and to teach. It is urgent to occupy the place before the Boers – and other Protestants - are stirred into action. We are not surprised any more by the decision of Father Administrator.
1st: A second letter from Fr Guillemé informs us that he is presently staying with our confreres stationed at the Mission of Our Lady of Lourdes (Chilonga), and that he will be among us within eight days (from the date on the letter).
5th: We are happy to welcome Fr Guillemé, our dear Superior, back into the fold. He looks a bit tired of this very long journey, but still in excellent health. “I was never ill,” he told us, “except in the first days I was in Angoliland, after meeting with the Ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church. A meeting that was rather chilly! On that night, I was not able to sleep a wink, for I had gone through this unpleasant experience of coming face to face with implacable enemies!” Very strange coincidence: some days later, the Collector of Dowo, whom Fr Guillemé was meeting for business, told him that the Boer preachers had also lost much sleep lately at the thought that they were henceforward to live in the neighbourhood of the Roman Catholics!
16th: Fr Louveau and Bro Wilfrid are going through Kilubula on their way to Angoliland.
17th: Fr Monneraye calls also at Kilubula on his way from Lubwe to Santa Maria of the Kalungwishi. We are all very happy to be together again, for such occasions are very rare. That is when you really feel that we are brothers, and brothers find pleasure in being together.
18th: Mr Cookson, Collector at Kasama, and Mr Jones, Assistant-Commissioner, came to pay us a visit. On the very same day, we are informed by a telegram from the newspaper ‘Times’ of Blantyre that the new king of Great Britain has been crowned: Edward VII. Father Superior took this opportunity to propose a toast to His Imperial Majesty’s health. He adds a few words to the effect that we are very lucky to be under the protection of His British Majesty, and that the missionaries are very sincere when they wish the King a long and happy reign. Mr Cookson was pleased to answer this address with a few words of thanks.
24th: A historical date: the first four White Sisters reached Kilubula today in a caravan led by Fr Larue. The local population gave the Sisters a rousing welcome. The women are keener than anybody else to have a good look at the Sisters, for most of them have never seen a European woman yet. The whole afternoon, a crowd of women laid siege to the door of the convent. We were not surprised to hear quite a few husbands complaining that they had not eaten anything that day. Since their house is not ready yet, the Sisters were quartered in a series of tiny rooms, no better than hovels. They are given right from the very first day in the mission field an occasion to practise apostolic poverty.
30th: The house of the Sisters is at last finished after five months of hard work. It is a palace, with a cloister and a smart colonnade all around. The architect was Fr Guillemé, and the builder Bro Optat. It is unusually elegant.
31st: The Sisters take possession of their convent after it has been blessed by Fr Guillemé. This blessing made it clear to the Devil that he had no free entry into this house, as he has in so many other dwellings.
9th: It is Father Superior’s feastday, and perhaps on such an occasion it is good to remember that he is even more Apostolic Administrator of the Vicariate than the Superior of Kilubula Mission. We are happy to offer him our best wishes, in our names and on behalf of the confreres of the Vicariate. It is a real family feast, with a real banquet and even wine to rejoice our hearts
10th: Father Administrator is going to Kayambi for the usual canonical visit. Bro Gabriel will accompany him, since he has been appointed to Kayambi, now that the house of the Sisters is completed.
19th: Mr Mac Nikol, agent of the African Lakes Company, comes to bid us farewell, for he is going back to Scotland for health’s reason. His successor to the job at Kasama came with him to be introduced. Both gentlemen were most amiable.
20th: Surprise visit of Mr Yule, former agent of the African Lakes Company, former Collector of the B.S.A.C., and presently a professional hunter and a collector of curios and artifacts for the London Museum. This man has the reputation of being also a sort of professional braggart. He has travelled a lot around the countries bordering on Lake Nyasa, Lake Mweru, Lake Bangweolo, and Lake Tanganyika. It is certainly very interesting to listen to him, for he has a fairly extensive knowledge of all the people living in those lands, and the flora and fauna.
22nd: Father Guillemé is back to Kilubula at the end of the canonical visitation of Kayambi. He is very happy with what he saw. Everything seems to go smoothly in this mission station. We can only praise and thank God for it. This week Bro Optat had the rice and wheat crops sown, and then employed his workers to repair the bridge over the Luombe. Enormous tree trunks are brought from the Kishimba Hill. They are simply hauled along by a group of thirty sturdy men, going forwards slowly but surely. The group has to have a rest every few feet. Useless to say that appropriate rhythmical singing accompanies their exertion all the way. They always manage ultimately to reach the goal. The work will certainly proceed more quickly the day we have real roads and sturdy wagons and oxen carts.
27th: A violent storm broke over Kilubula and the surroundings around 14.00 hrs. It did not take anybody by surprise, for the thunder had been rumbling away for quite a while, ominously rolling around the sky from north to south, and from east to west. Suddenly a terrific clap of thunder shook the whole Luombe Valley, and all hell broke loose. The wind howled through the trees all around the residence with gale force. What followed was a nightmare. The thatch over the house was brutally blown off in an irresistible whirlwind. The roof on the eastern side was bared in the twinkling of an eye. Fr Guillemé’s room was wide open to the cataracts that were pouring down from the sky like an unbroken sheet of water, with a frightening effect within the close confine of the four walls. Everything in the room was soon drenched and soggy. The wind continued to howl around and through the house. The sheets of calico that blocked our windows were torn to shreds and the rain swept through all the rooms and flooded every corner of the house. Outside it was an apocalyptic vision. The rainwater swept down every slope and gathered in a multitude of gutters to tumble down the hillside towards the Luombe River with the devastating force of as many angry torrents. The level of the river rose alarmingly in no time, its bed filled to the brim. In the garden, the ‘munyangala’, i.e. the handmade canal bringing the water for irrigation, was suddenly filled up with an enormous quantity of water flowing into it from all sides and swelled into a large river flooding the whole garden and sweeping all props and stays and eroding the embankments around the various plots and uprooting tens of banana trees and pawpaw trees. The vegetable garden was soon under feet of water and buried under a heavy coat of mud and sand. Most of the vegetables were lost. The rice field was completely destroyed, and would have to be sown all over again.
29th: Visit of a certain Mr Goldsmith, engaged in the rubber trade.
6th-8th: Mr Cookson and the Deputy-Commissioner Mr Jones came to Kilubula to settle the question of the hut tax for the year 1902. We offered them hospitality, as is the custom. They showed themselves very friendly. The Collector informs Father Superior that he will follow the suggestions that Fr Guillemé has made to him for the collection of the hut tax. On December 7th, early in the morning, Mr Cookson amd Mr Jones are off to tour the villages around Kilubula and try to collect the tax. Every villager who has acquitted his due must display his receipt outside on the wall of his hut. All those who have not paid are ordered to do so at once. If they do not have the money, their names are taken down for forced labour on some official project to get the three shillings they need. If a hut has no owner, it is pulled down or set fire to. This way of collecting the hut tax is hard on the polygamists, for they have usually one hut for each one of their spouses. Could this be help in eliminating polygamy among our people? In the evening the Kilubula village and those in the immediate vicinity have all been visited by the Collector and his Assistant, and every single hut has been taxed. On leaving Kilubula, the Collector renewed his invitation to Father Administrator to come and share the Christmas party organised for the government officials and the European population at Kasama. Father had always politely declined such an invitation in the past, but he now thinks that he can no longer turn down such a kind invitation without offending his guests. The latter were delighted to hear that Fr Guillemé was at last prepared to join them in this social occasion. Their delight was so evident that we realised how sad and displeased they would have been, had Father declined the offer.
24th: Today we examined the candidates for the catechumenate. Only 46 men and women have been selected to start the formal course preparatory to baptism. Don’t be surprised at the small number, and don’t accuse us of excessive severity. Never forget that we are digging the foundations of the Church, we are aiming at building a new Christian community. We can have only solid Christians as the foundation stones if we are to build something solid and permanent. If we are too lax, the whole edifice will collapse at the first tremor.
25th: Christmas is a source of joy for the Christian world. For the missionaries of Kilubula, this joy is boundless, for it is on that day that they see the fruits of the hard work they performed in the course of the last six months. The assistance is numerous this morning, and even more joyful than usual. At 07.15 hrs, we begin the various ceremonies for the reception to the catechumenate, for completing the ceremonies of baptism, and for the confirmation of the new neophytes. Each catechumen approaches the sanctuary at the call of his or her name and is given a cross he or she will henceforward wear on his or her chest to show everybody that he or she is preparing for baptism. Immediately after the midday meal, Father Guillemé, Fr Guillerme, Bro Optat and Bro Lucien make their way to Kasama to take part in the Christmas party organised by the English community.
26th: Our confreres are back from the Christmas party at Kasama. The four of them say it was a magnificent feast. Mr Cookson proposed a toast to the White Fathers, in which he was full of praise for their work. Fr Guillemé answered the Collector with a toast of his own, first thanking him for his kindness, then giving him assurance that he would always find the missionaries to be reliable men, loyal to the English Authorities, and ever ready to co-operate with the officials in the work of promoting civilisation among the local populations. Before leaving Fr Guillemé invited all the officials present to come and visit the White Fathers at Kilubula. All feasts are bound to come to an end
27th: Our guests arrived in the evening around 16.00 hrs, very fortunately before the day’s rain. The toasts started flying around again. White Fathers and White Sisters got theirs in turn. Such social gatherings are a sign that there is good understanding between missionaries and officials. We all know where we stand, and there is no undercurrent of distrust or hostility. One of our guests, Mr Leyer, the Collector at Lwena, asks Fr Guillemé whether he would not be prepared to buy a certain number of sheep he got from the people in payment of their tax. The officials are not loath to collect the tax in natural products, for they usually gain. The value of a sheep is more than three shillings, which is the official amount of the hut tax. It so happened that Mr Leyer found himself with some one hundred sheep on his hands, which he was prepared to sell to the Mission for 3 shillings apiece, their nominal value in the tax register, but of a higher value on the market. A good buy for the Mission, there is no doubt about it. No wonder Fr Guillemé accepts the offer unhesitatingly.
28th: Before going back to Kasama, Mr Cookson wanted to inspect the bridge Bro Optat built over the Luombe. He went down the hill with the Brother and was quite impressed by the results obtained by the Brother. As a consequence, he asks Bro Optat whether he would supervise the building of a similar bridge over the Lukupa. The Administration is prepared to place sixty men at the Brother’s disposal. There we are now: Bro Optat is promoted to the rank of engineer in the Public Work Department of the British South Africa Company. Our guests bid us farewell at 11.00 hrs to go back to Kasama.
31st: Last day of the year 1902. The community of the White Fathers makes their way to the convent of the White Sisters, who are quite surprised to see them all together on the threshold of their house. They may have feared some bad news at first, for this is the very first time the Sisters see us all together at their door. They are delighted, of course, to hear that we simply want to wish them a Happy New Year 1903. We express the hope that the Sisters will soon be completely acclimatised, and that they will very quickly feel at ease with the people. All this with God’s blessings on each one of them, their community, their Congregation, and their apostolate! In the evening the Fathers and Brothers get together for a formal gathering, in the course of which they wish one another a happy and prosperous New Year 1903, and as a sign of brotherly love they give one another the accolade. It is a very joyful occasion, and we all pray the Lord that He may keep each one of us at Kilubula deeply anchored in the spirit of faith and love that has been so far the strength of the community.
We offer our best wishes of Happy and Holy Year to all White Fathers, young and old. Happy and Holy Year 1903 to those who are in the early twenties this year, and who are still preparing themselves to come and labour in the Lord’s vineyard. Happy and Holy Year 1903 to the veterans who are still in full activity, but who begin to feel the weight of the years and the hardships they went through in the course of their apostolic journeys, all those who begin to have silver hair showing on their heads and in their beards. We ask for every one of them, young and old, on the active list or on the roll call of the sick and disabled, that the Peace of the Lord may be deep in their hearts.
Nothing special to mention for the month of January. Bro Optat, with the men put at his disposal by the Administration at Kasama, managed to build over the Lukupa a bridge very similar to the one spanning the Luombe. He managed to complete the job in a fortnight, everything included, from the felling and the shifting of the enormous beams from the Kishimba Forest to the construction of the bridge itself.
1st: Fr Foulon, coming from Kayambi, reached Kilubula yesterday. He is on his way to Santa Maria of the Lwapula, where he has been appointed Superior. Father is in top form, and he tells us that all the confreres at Kayambi are in good health. While his caravan was crossing the Chambezi, one of his porters dropped the load he was carrying. All the contents of the trunk were spoiled.
8th- 13th: Torrential rains such as had not been seen within living memory caused the Luombe River to overflow its embankments and to spread over a huge area into a real lake. The bridge over the river is rendered totally useless, and we cannot cross over to the villages on the other side for teaching catechism. As for the Munyangala Stream across the garden, it is once more in full spate, turned into a fast flowing river, spilling over the embankments and eroding them, and causing serious damage to the vegetable plots, and to the banana plantation. This watercourse is so whimsical, and has already caused us so much trouble, that we have decided to build a new bed for it, half way between the Fathers’ residence and the garden. We have already made a land survey. The digging of the new river bed would start some 150 metres from the source, would be a fairly easy job, and certainly very costly. It will certainly be a very useful enterprise, for not only will the garden thereafter be spared seasonal floods, but we shall be able to water and irrigate a larger area by leading irrigation canals away from the new river bed to wherever there is something growing.
14th: Fr Boisselier arrived at Kilubula from Santa Maria of the Lwapula in good shape.
17th: Fr Boisselier leaves Kilubula on his way to Kayambi Mission. We were happy to have him among us for three or four days. We wish him ‘bon voyage’ and good luck, for he will badly need it at this time of year: the rainy season is extremely heavy. Every evening a steady rumbling sound travels around the sky, punctuated by blinding flashes of lightening and followed by an almost uninterrupted succession of terrifying thunderclaps, setting out waves of vibration so vicious that window panes would instantaneously explode to smithereens if there were any in our windows. We are glad to have only calico curtains to keep drafts and insects out. That is one thing you must get used to when you are fresh from Europe: those sudden changes in weather occurring every day at the height of the ‘mainsa’ or rainy season. In the morning the sky is clear, the air fresh and cool, and you would think you are in Europe in the month of May. In the afternoon the weather changes rapidly, the sky becomes overcast, the clouds darker and darker. Then brilliant lightning flashes repeatedly against the dark background of the clouds, and the thunder rumbles on and on. Then the wind picks up speed and strength and shakes
and bends the trees. Then comes one particularly deafening thunderclap following immediately on one blinding flash of lightning, and the sky opens up, and the rain comes down like a sheet of water. You are right at the centre of a terrifying tropical storm that may last as long as one and a half hour, two hours, and even more. All movement ceases while Nature is literally unleashed, the sky melts into a beating rain, the water runs wild all over the land, trying to find natural depressions to fill or rivers and streams to follow until this tremendous mass of liquid reaches a river like the Luombe and swells its course and eventually floods the lowlands around. No force in existence can control a flood. This year the Luombe River is in a state of perpetual flood, and the whole lowland area will remain under water for miles around for another month, for the rainy season is exceptionally heavy. The villages on the right bank are cut off. In order to reach them and be able to continue the religious instruction of the people, the bridge over the Luombe has been prolonged by a makeshift foot-bridge that ought to allow the zealous Fr Davoust to reach the people on the other side and continue the normal program of religious instruction. We owe this 200-metre long footbridge to the cleverness and expertise of Bro Optat, who managed to complete it in two days.
We got a message announcing the demise of Fr Monneraye at Santa Maria of the Lwapula. What a loss! He was thirty years of age, and had been active in the Nyasa Vicariate for three years. We are terribly upset by the loss of this good man, a hard worker, a devoted missionary, and an endearing confrere. May the Lord give him at once – a thing He certainly did – the reward that is Fr Monneraye’s by right in the Lord’s scheme of things. Fr Monneraye was overwhelmed in a record time by what must have been a vicious attack of black water.
The main event of the month was the successful completion of the new river bed for the Munyangala Stream running across the garden, a project that was decided upon the previous month. Bro Optat carried out the project with his usual competence and efficiency. The embankments seem to be solid work, built to last and to take a lot of pressure. It is the best the Brother cold do with the means at his disposal. We shall see next rainy season whether the new ‘munyangala’ can cope with the influx of water caused by sudden tropical downpours. The river divides into two separate branches: one branch, the longer, flows in the south at the foot of the hill on which our residence is built; the second in the north, which will be a sort of overflow to cope with any sudden surplus of water of the sort that caused so much damage in the last rainy season.
On March 25th, Mr Jones had called at the Mission to collect all the data we had noted down concerning the rain falls in the course of the rainy season..
From March 25th to April 4th, Father Administrator went to Santa Maria of the Lwapula for the canonical visitation of the mission station. The conclusion he came to is that the future of this Mission is very doubtful, because of the people’s bad will. There is no point in wasting personnel in a place where the people are simply not interested, and where the Fathers are in fact reduced to total inactivity, just sitting around and doing nothing. There are so many other places with plenty of well-disposed people around. In the course of his journey, Father Superior made a very strange discovery worth recording as a curiosity. When he passed through Kitoshi, he caught sight of a lot of water jugs piled at the door of a ‘mfumu ya mipashi’, a person supposed to be possessed by spirits. He was told that the spirit inside this possessed man had prescribed the villagers to observe one day’s fast: no eating, no drinking, and mot even relieving nature
4th: Father Superior is now back from Santa Maria of the Lwapula, which he visited in his quality of Apostolic Administrator. This mission station is to go on for a while. Let us hope that God will bless the work of our confreres.
5th: The blight has, once more, almost totally ruined the wheat field. We harvested the little that was left, and that is precious little, both in quantity and quality. Long live Her Ladyship the Potato! The humble potato is more reliable than wheat, and far less demanding.
11th: Today is Holy Saturday. We began the examination of the postulants for the catechumenate as early as 07.30 hrs. It is a long process, even if we have already made a very rough selection, i.e. even if we call to the test only those who have a chance to be accepted into the official catechumenate. There are two examination centres, one for the men, the other for the women. The day ends with the selection of 35 men and 20 women. We are surprised at the results, they are surprisingly good, for those tests to which the postulants are submitted in order to be admitted to the catechumenate are very thorough and searching.
12th: The feast of Easter was for us magnificent this year, because 55 men and women received the cross marking their admittance into the catechumenate. Moreover we supplemented the ceremonies of baptism for twenty children baptised in danger of death in the course of the last epidemic of croup. Fr Guillerme has started a church choir, and we were amazed at the way those Natives managed to sing liturgical pieces in Latin and in Kibemba. We think that Christ risen from the tomb after overcoming Satan and Death must have felt proud of being praised by those new voices from the heart of Africa. In any case the assistance was delighted by the ceremonies and must have wondered if they were given a foretaste of what they will hear and see in Heaven.
13th: We take the week off, for we also need a break from the daily routine of the apostolate. We take time off to rejoice over the good results obtained in the past months. There is a case of smallpox in a small village beyond Kukanwa. Fr Larue went at once to investigate.
15th: The child struck with smallpox has disappeared. That is what the villagers came to tell us. They had built a small hut for the child at a short distance from the village, to isolate the patient from the rest of the population. Unfortunately the family did not seem to have kept an eye on the child. Fr Davoust and Fr Larue had already noticed, in the course of their last visit, that the patient was inclined to wander around like a lost soul.
18th: The child with smallpox was found dead in the wood covering the Kishimba Hill. He was unfortunately not baptised. He was in fact a stranger. Fr Larue had begun to instruct him, but as he did not expect him to die so quickly, he thought it wiser to delay the baptism for a little while, to give us a chance to teach him some more. Such are the hazards of the apostolate, which are likely to fill us at time with sadness.
20th: Feast day of St Leo. We have a special thought in our prayers for the Superior General of the White Fathers. Fr Guillemé is preparing to leave us for the apostolic visitation of the mission stations in the Angoliland and for preparing the ground for the foundation of other mission stations. The people who are willing to be part of the Administrator’s caravan flock to Kilubula in large numbers.
21st: Fr Guillemé sets out today for the Angoliland, in the company of Bro Lucien. The latter is going to the Angoliland to give a hand in the construction of the new mission stations, for his expertise in carpentry work is badly needed. We are very sad to see Fr Guillemé going away for an indeterminate period of time. We have the feeling that he will not be back so soon, for he thinks that his presence as Administrator is urgently needed in Angoliland and in the Shire to face amd solve the many problems that unavoidably mark the foundation of new mission stations. We pray the Lord that He may accompany him with His blessings all along the way and assist him in overcoming all the difficulties that the Devil will no doubt multiply in his way to thwart God’s work.
22nd: We resume our normal routine after the Eater break: teaching in the classroom and teaching catechism. From Easter to September, the people are not so regular in attending the periods of religious instruction, for they are away in their gardens to harvest their crops. The point is that, according to traditional agriculture, the gardens of the year are always away from the villages where the people live. They are even so far away that the people set up temporary residence there. They live for weeks in what is called the ‘mitanda’ in Kibemba. The priests hardly find anybody in the villages when they go there for the planned periods of religious instruction. This way of life does not make our apostolate very easy, but there is nothing we can do about it. Besides harvesting their crops of the last rainy season, they also prepare the gardens of the following year. It is the time of what is called the ‘kutema’: the men spend days up trees to lop the branches. The women pile up the branches on one spot prior to burning them to ashes: it is in this coat of ashes that the millet will be sown for next year’s supply. It is also the time many men choose to sign in as porters in the caravans of the African Lakes Corporation that travel the length and breadth of the land, in order to collect enough money to pay their hut tax. No wonder that the villages are most of the time almost empty of population at this time of year, and that it is virtually impossible to conduct any course of religious instruction. The running of the Mission is considerably disturbed and put out of gear by the necessities of life. One way to palliate this inconvenience would be for us to go and hold catechism classes in the ‘mitanda’, but how? We are eagerly waiting from suggestions from Our Lady of Africa.
26th: Our Lady of Good Counsel! That is the first time Our Lady is feasted at Kilubula – and in the whole of Central Africa – under this name of Our Lady of Good Counsel. That is the name the White Sisters have chosen for their convent at Kilubula.
Nothing very special to write about. On the 4th, St Monica’s feat day, we feasted Mother Monica, Superior of the convent at Kilubula. It was a very good idea on our part, for we were regaled at table with some unusual delicacies coming from the convent!
2nd: Mr Cookson, from Kasama, called on us at Kilubula for a short visit. He was on his way for a last visit of the north-western part of his district to check on the hut tax.
10th: There were four more cases of smallpox in he neighbourhood, but they were fortunately mild cases
20th: Two of the carriers sent to Santa Maria of Lwapula with the supplies could not resist the temptation of pinching twelve boxes of matches. Fr Foulon noticed this act of pilfering, and the two men were condemned to five lashes of the sjambok when they were back at Kilubula. Moreover each guilty person was to pay a fine of ten hens and was deprived of his salary. Let us hope that the extreme severity of the punishment will make the others sit and think before indulging into pilfering the baggage they are paid to carry to their destination. A stranger broke into our cook’s hut and stole his axe and a piece of wear. Mikaeli, the cook, caught the thief red-handed and brought him to us. A few lashes of the sjambok teach him to keep his hands off other people’s property
10th: A Mr Johnston, who was at a time Collector for the B.S.A.C., left behind a child he had had from a local woman. The child’s name is William Kaito. The poor kid is now an orphan, for both his father and mother are dead. The Administration is very embarrassed with this situation and turned to the Mission for help. The missionaries who were first approached with the case were the Fathers at Santa Maria of the Lwapula, for the child was in fact born in the Lwapula. We were asked to assume the custody and education of the child, and we accepted, and that is how William Kaito finally landed at Kilubula at the beginning of this month. The Administration was prepared to hand over a herd of fifteen heads of cattle to defray the Mission of all expenses. Fr Foulon wrote to us from Santa Maria
that they have received only nine heads of cattle and two calves. The six missing animals have either died or have simply vanished. We were left free to look after the child the way we saw fit. We are free to give the child the education we think will benefit him best. We can even employ him at the service of the Mission according to his natural talents and ability. We are perfectly entitled to send him back to the Administration if he turns out to be intractable and a source of trouble to the community. For the time being, as the child is hardly six years old, the Sisters were kind enough to take charge of him and bring him up. The child does not look too healthy to us.
24th & 25th: Mr Cookson is back from his touring of the north-western part of the district and he is joined at Kilubula by his Assistant, Mr Jones. Both are going to check, for the last time this financial year, whether the people on the Kilubula Concession have paid their tax. A few houses were burnt down, including some belonging to polygamists. Mr Cookson was adversely impressed by the fact that the local people are living in the ‘mitanda’ for a greater and greater part of the year, and he is under the impression that the villages are soon to be completely abandoned. Hence the decision he took: whoever has built a durable house in the ‘mitanda’ will see this house burnt to the ground and the owner taken to Kasama to be judged and condemned in court. No householder is to keep his supply of food in granaries built in the ‘mitanda’, all the crops must be brought and stored in the villages. We are told that we shall be held responsible for the implementation of this decision. We must say that this decision is all to the advantage of our apostolate, for if the people continue to move away from the Mission, we shall soon have to stop all our activities. Another rule of Mr Cookson’s: the headmen are strictly forbidden to move their villages from one site to another without the express permission of the Boma. We hope that those regulations will force our people, who have itching feet by tradition, to settle down and live a more sedentary life. This change in their way of living will be well nigh impossible as long as the system of shifting cultivation is maintained alive. The trees are lopped or cut down for the gardens in such a wasteful way that they do not grow again very quickly. New sections of the bush must be mutilated every year, and the people are forced to go further and further away from their villages. The time comes when they have either to live in the ‘mitanda’ most of the year or to move the whole village to a new site. It is so easy to build up huts, since they are very rudimentary constructions anyway. Another point brought out by Mr Cookson to justify his policy: the Natives are getting increasingly unruly and hostile to all forms of authority, including the colonial government, of course! We must say that we had already noticed signs of this revolutionary spirit among the people. It is quite understandable, for they were rid, almost overnight, of the tyranny of the old chiefs (especially the Bena-Nghandu family). The people are now feeling totally safe from all invasion and plundering, and they want to live on their own in a multitude of hamlets scattered all over the vast Bush. As soon as the head of a family is somewhat influential and has got authority and drive, he wants to become headman of his own village. Our people have become terribly self-independent and self-sufficient.
Miscellaneous: As we received batches of vaccine against smallpox, our people come to be vaccinated, but unfortunately the reaction to the vaccine has so far been completely negative: not one positive reaction after the usual four days.
An enormous snake – the one that is called ‘lusato’ in Kibemba – very nearly succeeded in stifling to death a man who was on his way back from his garden. This cobra must have been lying in ambush hidden in the grass, and it must have been really starving to attack a human being. Anyhow it suddenly stood erect on its tail at the sight of the man, sprang on him and tried to coil itself around his body. The axe and spear the man was carrying along with him were knocked out of his hands, but he did not lose his head. Just as the snake was hitting him a hard blow on his back with its tail, the man grabbed his assailant by the neck and thrust it aside. He then ran away at full speed. He was very lucky to escape. The snake bit him on the hand and on the knee, but the wounds would heal quickly. Two days later this aggressive boa constrictor was killed while in the processing of digesting a whole dog it had swallowed. A group of men came upon it by chance, thrust their spears through its head and split it open.
2nd: We considerably depleted our flock of sheep by sending ten of them to Fr Molinier and twenty to Fr Foulon. We turned to Mr Leyer for a fresh supply to boost up our flock again, and he was kind enough to dispatch 25 animals to us. They reached Kilubula safely today.
8th: We sent two men to go around the ‘mitanda’ (the temporary residence of the villagers near their far away gardens, where they live when they have work to do there) and find out how many households live there away from the villages. The result of the inquiry was very revealing: many families live in the ‘mitanda’ almost permanently and do not follow religious instruction at all. They are in fact total strangers as far as the Mission is concerned.
9th: We have received a letter from Fr Guillemé, informing us that a mission station was opened at Buwa, at a distance of five hours’ walk from Fort Jameson. Moreover Father discovered another place that would be suitable for a mission station in the Lwangwa Valley, at Kambwili’s place, five days’ march from the Kinama and as many from Buwa, in other words half way between Kilonga and Buwa. Those parts are heavily populated.
19th: Informed of the fact that many people are actually living in the ‘mitanda’ away from their residential villages, the civil authority sent three policemen to have a look for themselves. - Br Optat is building a stable for our heard of cattle. – We have been given to see for the first time what is the ‘queen’ of an anthill of termites. Workers digging in an anthill called us to see what they call the ‘mfumu’ in Kibemba, the ‘queen’ in English. It is an enormous ant. Its head is identical to the head of an ordinary termite, but three times the size. The body is wingless and is followed by an appendix 10 centimeters long with a diametre of between two and three centimetres. It is just an amorphous cylindrical gelatinous mass, but within it are generated the countless white ants that are everywhere. In fact there were thousands of tiny little ants around this princely monstrosity, evidently just born to perpetuate the tribe.
20th: The construction of the stable goes forward very slowly. The porters who had taken Fr Guillemé to the region of Nyasa Lake come back with loads of supplies: bales of cotton material, sugar, coffee, soap, candles. Fr Guillemé bought those supplies at Paolucci’s wholesale at Blantyre.
From June 29th to July 7th we played hosts to Mr Otto Beringer, a surveyor sent by the Administration to draw up the boundaries of the land concession attributed to the Catholic Mission of the White Fathers at Kilubula by the British South Africa Company. When he had completed his survey, he showed us the results: our concession covers an area of exactly 2,237 acres (English system), i.e. roughly 1,100 hectares (metric system). In the north and west, the course of the Luombe River and the neighbouring villages are included within the concession. In the north the Kamunyangala Stream, which provides all the water for our garden and fields, is also included within the concession, which extends as far as Mulanga’s village. In the east, the boundary does not go much further than the present village of Kilubula. In the south our property almost reaches the confluence of the Luombe and Lukulu Rivers. This large area of land is made of poor soil, with a few exceptions here and there, and does not constitute a really princely gift. The only advantage is that we have an area large enough to welcome a good many families that would eventually choose to live in the dependency of the Mission. If this can be called an advantage! For the BaBemba are nomads and never settle down at the same spot for a long time.
Nothing really worth mentioning in the course of this month, which marks the end of the school year 1903. The school holidays start on August 25th. – Bro Optat is still busy supervising the construction of the stables for our herd of cattle, the sheep run for our flock of sheep and goats, and the pigsty. Baked tiles are replacing the makeshift slates and thatch on all the dependencies of the residence of the missionaries. The whole mission compound has taken a lordly appearance. – The wheat sown on the hill over the Munyangala Stream at the beginning of July does not seem to have been attacked by the blight, and that is almost miraculous. If we could reap some wheat on that spot every year, it would be marvellous. After so many disastrous trials, will this one be at last successful? And how permanently? – We received several circular letters from the Administration, enjoining us:
1) to pay the salaries of our workers as much as possible in actual coins
2) to tell our employees that they have to go to Kasama themselves to get their taxation receipt
3) to inform our people that they will have to handle their guns over to the Administration and will be given hoes in exchange !!!!
Bro Optat has now completed the headquarters of all our domestic animals. Cows, sheep and goats, and pigs are now royally accommodated. – One part of the church has been paved with bricks, which gives the place a better look. – The school holidays were uneventful. – Fr Guillerme and Fr Davoust tried their luck at hunting game in the bush, each one in turn. Fr Guillerme was surprised to down a magnificent wild boar and a puku antelope. When he came back, he described himself as a man drunk with blood and satiated with slaughter. As for Fr Davoust, in the course of his hunting expedition, he managed to kill time, and nothing else, and when he came back, a bout of fever was waiting for him if not the ‘congratulations’ of his fellow missionaries. We are now doubly convinced that success is a guarantee of strong health. – After a ten days’ retreat, Sr Alphonsine and Sr Genevieve took their perpetual vows as White Sisters in our poor church of Kilubula. There was none of the usual ‘pumps and circumstances’ surrounding such important events in the life of a person in our countries. The parents were not there, nor were the friends and relatives. There was no tapestry hanging down the walls, and there were not even flowers. Self-denial is hungry for sacrifices and, in the mission field, does not even wait for the final hour. May such acts of religion totally devoid of the least expectancy of any form of reward here on earth bring down on the pagan land around us a downpour of Christian spirit! – Mr Leyer, who replaced Mr Goodson at Kasama, was struck down by a vicious attack of black water, but thanks to the care of Fr Davoust is now slowly recovering. We are told that he will go to Fife for convalescence: a change of surroundings will do him a lot of good.
From October 4th (feast of the Rosary) onwards, we resume the normal routine for the ministry of preaching, for the course of religious instruction and for the school classes. - As a result of the paving of the church with bricks, the interior was much cooler than outside for some ten days. It was the more striking since October is very hot and sultry. This was caused, no doubt, by dampness, with some unpleasant consequences for the missionaries, both Fathers and Sisters. We all suffered from inflammation and irritation of the gums, the roof of the mouth, and even the throat, accompanied by tooth aches and fever. Nothing very serious. But as we could no longer chew any solid food – for chewing became really painful - we had to be satisfied with a diet of eggs and milk. We were brought back to the time we were still sucking and gradually taught to eat other food than milk. We felt very young again, but unfortunately rather weak also, for our bodies need more substantial food now that we are grown up. This strange situation lasted for a fortnight. We now feel normal again, we feel our own age again.
16th: Fr Shoeffer makes his appearance at Kilubula in the company of Fr Boisselier. We are rather surprised, for we were expecting Fr Bournez, not Fr Shoeffer. This Fr Bournez is one of the last batch of missionaries who reached East Africa, six all together. The other five stayed in the south of the vicariate, while Fr Bournez came up north on his way to join the station to which he has been appointed, Santa Maria of the Lwapula. Trouble is that the very existence of this mission station is once more up for discussion. That is the reason why Fr Shoeffer is on his way there to take a look around and decide what to do. He will also visit the islands in the Bangweolo Lake, where there is talk of founding a new mission station. On his way back from his inspection tour, Fr Schoeffer will pass through Kilubula and let us know what is in store for Santa Maria of the Lwapula and for the project of a post on one of the islands.
19th: Fr Boisselier leaves Kilubula this morning. He is on his way to his new appointment, Kilonga, where he will replace Fr Ducourant.
20th: Fr Shoeffer leaves Kilubula today to rejoin his post. Kilubula falls back into its normal routine. We wish our dear confreres ‘bon voyage’ and success in their apostolate.
21st: For everybody’s information: unpleasant changes were made in the granting of hunting licenses. I asked for a hunting license for a full year, from October 1903 to October 1904, but my request was turned down. I was told I could only buy a license from October to December 1903, and renew my demand for another license from January to December 1904. In other words I was fleeced of 50 shillings for only three months. That is a bit stiff!
22nd: Bro Optat has just finished the staircase built in bricks from the courtyard to the gallery of our residence. It was high time, for the old one made of wood was really rotten and had become a hazard. For the first time we have made use of the lime from the shells in the Chambezi River. Bro Optat is of the opinion that this lime is consistent and sticks well. He seems convinced that we have now a staircase that can withstand the worst downpours.
23rd: We received the visit of the illustrious Kitoshi, who stands in St Peter’s shoes for the English. We exchanged gifts according to the best tradition: he gave us a ewe and its lamb, and we offered him two dresses of striped cloth, some meat and tobacco. Then we made a deal with him: we paid 13 shillings for five animals (goats and sheep). May God bless your soul, old friend Kitoshi! In sign of great respect and honour, this good old St Peter had tainted his woolly hair with ‘nkula’ or red clay. This ‘nkula’ is very easy to obtain. You peel some bark from a ‘mulombwa’ tree, put it in the sun to dry, and reduce it to powder. You add a given quantity of water proportioned to the quantity of powder, and you boil the mixture. You obtain a paste that is dark red in colour. This ‘nkula’ is very much used in tainting the hair and in making tattoos.
24th: Fr Larue was summoned to appear in court in Kasama as the plaintiff in the case of two porters accused of having stolen 20 yards of cloth from a bale they were carrying in a caravan transporting goods for the Mission from Kilubula to Kayambi. Fr Larue was told to state the case of the Mission under oath before Mr McKinnon, the judge officially appointed to preside all court sessions involving disputes between Natives and aliens. This affair has already caused the Mission quite a lot of money, but we cannot let thieves and pilferers go scotch free, for the people would then be convinced they can get away with anything as long as their victims are the missionaries, for they do not run any danger of being taken to court and condemned. This is the reason why we are pressing our case forward in spite of the expenses. The sentence has been postponed, for the defendants are pleading not guilty, and the defendants cannot be condemned unless they are proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The case will be resumed when Fr Shoeffer is here, for he is the only one that can really bring evidence against the defendants, since he discovered the pilfering.
28th: A horrible murder has just been committed in the village of Kabembe. The corpse of a small girl was discovered with her head pushed down a hole full of muddy water and evidently kept there until she died of suffocation. Her body was also bearing marks of blows. This small girl was staying with her grandmother, BaNaKakuka. Who is responsible for this dastardly deed? We are conducting a very serious inquiry, which has so far yielded no result, not the least clue. We begin to suspect that we are facing one of those ritual murders connected with the growth of the first teeth in the lower jaw instead of the upper jaw. The belief that this is a bad omen and that the child must be drowned, is still very strong among our BaBemba.
5th: We received a message from Kilonga informing us that Fr Ducourant, when he was on his way from Kilonga to Kayambi to take up his new appointment there, fell seriously ill and had to be taken back to Kilonga in a state of uncontrollable madness. At the end of the first day of the journey, the Father felt the first alarming symptoms of the illness. On the second day, when he reached the village of ShiWiko where he was to spend the night, he was totally out of control: he was alternately laughing hysterically and flying into outbursts of violence. Fr Molinier rushed to ShiWiko to take charge and bring the poor Fr Ducourant back to Kilonga. We are anxiously waiting for further news.
8th: At the weekly house council, we looked into the few cases of catechumens that could be admitted to baptism next Christmas. Only eight were definitely selected. We were not surprised at the small number, for we are those that laid down extremely severe rules for admitting catechumens to baptism. What we want is a solid foundation for the new Church, we are not looking for mere numbers. It is worthwhile writing down (for posterity) the names of the first elects:
From Kilubula: Kakyembe, Paolo, Mwanangulu, Mutima, and Kasongo, all men aged between 35 and 40, and therefore mature people who know what they want
from Makubi’s village: Tambanianga and Maliotani, young men of between 20 and 25 years of age
from Kipompo’s village: Sabato, a young man.
9th: It is today the feast day of our Apostolic Administrator (Mathurin). May God bestow his blessings on him.
15th: One of our future Christians, Sabato, came to inform us that his wife had left him. Her sister, married to a pagan, died recently, and according to the local customs, Sabato’s wife was bound to marry her sister’s widower. This is a custom that is totally incompatible with Christian teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. We had regrettably to postpone Sabato’s baptism: we cannot in conscience baptise him before he has married another wife. We have to be strict, for traditional marriage is a very brittle institution, which can be broken at any time for any reason, simply for convenience’s sake. – An old woman, third wife of a certain Kingalika, was buried today. She was baptised on her deathbed on her own request and after showing that she knew the main teachings of the Christian Faith. She was renovated in the waters of baptism three hours before she breathed her last. One at least that is well provided for.
16th: Fr Shoeffer leaves Kilubula today after staying five days with us on his way back from Matipa. While he was here, Mr McKinnon came to visit us, and proved to be very amenable. Fr Shoeffer reveals that the mission station of Santa Maria of the Lwapula is closed down, and that Fr Foulon and Fr Salelles received instructions to go and settle down in the country of Matipa, somewhere in the Bangweolo islands. Santa Maria of Lwapula was not viable, for there were hardly five hundred people around the mission station. Where they are going now, the population is estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000, ready to receive the Good News. – News from Kilonga, dated November 14th, confirmed what we feared the whole time: Fr Ducourant is stark mad and extremely violent, and he must be kept under watch night and day. Five or six men are continuously standing or sitting around his room in readiness to interfere.
17th: The case we brought against the two porters who stole cloth while on duty, and in which Fr Larue testified in Kasama on 24th October, has finally been settled: the two men were found guilty and sentenced to four months’ hard labour. If you think that the sentence is rather stiff, bear in mind that public security is at stake in a country where all transportation is made by caravans of porters. If the porters ever got it into their minds that they could get away with all pilfering, you would have to forget about using porters.
25th: One of our very first catechumens, Kamungu, a man who came originally from Kayambi, took back the wife he had sent away as a condition for his admission into the catechumenate. That is the second time he defies the law. When he heard that we got wind of his relapse, he hastily sent her away again. We could not let him go unpunished. He was deprived of the catechumen cross and excluded from the group of the catechumens who have reached the stage of direct preparation to baptism. He must start all over again. We have a right to expect of him a true change of heart.
27th: Mr Stuart, agent of the African Lakes Corporation, came to Kilubula to bid us farewell. He is going back to Scotland for a few months of home leave. He introduced his successor in the job, a Mr Koss, from Karonga.
1st: Fr Ducourant, who has pulled through the worst of his bout of madness, has arrived at Kilubula where he will spend a week of convalescence before joining his new post, Kayambi. We hope that he will recover completely and will never go through such an unpleasant experience again.
8th: A certain Bwembya, a son of Mwamba’s, who had been chased away from Kilubula in the past by Fr Guillemé for misbehaviour, has come back to marry a small girl, called Maria, from Mukanwa’s village. The girl is hardly nine years old, and she was baptised in danger of death. The parents were given the strict order to give their daughter in marriage only to a good catechumen. Bwembya was once more expelled from the village. We cannot allow little girls baptised in danger of death to be given in marriage to anybody, to the first comer. We require guarantees for our Christian girls (religious practice, marriage stability). This Bwembya is a rogue, who has gone through three marriages already.
25th: Christmas Day! We solemnly baptised the first group of grownup catechumens who reached baptism after the four years of regular catechumenate. There were Christians at Kilubula before them, but either they had come with the Fathers from Kayambi or they had been baptised in danger of death. Today eight adults from Kilubula, who are all over twenty years of age, are baptised according to the normal rites of the Church after being normally prepared for this important step. The Kilubula Church is today truly founded. From now on, there shall be baptisms of adults twice a year, at Christmas and at Easter. The Christian community is called to grow up slowly on those humble, but strong foundations. We firmly believe that Divine Providence will watch over the slow growth of our Church. It is not going to be all smooth and rosy, for our people are still very much uncouth and attached to the practices and beliefs of the past, but we are convinced that Christ will bestow his blessings upon our work, and that this new Church in the Lubemba will eventually reflect the true light of the Gospel. In the meantime we can certainly be grateful to God for the excellent dispositions displayed by our neophytes. At the occasion of Christmas, we sent to Mr Leyer at Kasama one hindquarter of an ox we killed for the occasion and also proceeded to distribute some meat to the Christians and the elders of the villages around.
1st: Yesterday, on December 31st 1903, we exchanged our best wishes for a Happy New Year between missionaries, the White Fathers and the White Sisters. We are happy to take such opportunities to express the feelings of love and concern for one another that fill our hearts, to thank the Lord for all the graces he is bestowing on us every day of our life in the mission field, and to ask Him for the grace of being ever more faithful and prayerful in our vocation. – Nothing special to mention for this month of January 1904. We continue with our usual routine. We are right in the heart of the rainy season, and we are from time to time gratified with the sight of one of us coming back from an apostolic errand soaked to the bones, looking like Neptune coming out of the sea.
We had to deal with a few ‘milandu’ or affairs in the course of the month. Even though our Christians are gradually taking up a Christian mentality in their daily life, the old pagan superstitions are still very much alive around them. In a sense it is a blessing, because the Christians are compelled to strengthen their Faith by reacting against their past, and live their Faith in the details of their daily life. Of course, a few Christians are bound to fall out of the race here and there, to be cowardly enough to surrender to the pressure of their pagan milieu, but on the other hand the true Christians are given an occasion to show their mettle. Here are three cases to illustrate this point. The question of marriage is the most difficult to assimilate for our Christians. In fact lots of polygamists keep away from the true Faith for the simple reason that they cannot break away from their polygamy. They would be prepared to join the catechumenate and prepare themselves for baptism, but they refuse the basic condition: away with polygamy! If a catechumen happens to take a second wife, he is automatically crossed out of the list of the catechumens and his catechumen cross is taken away from him. The same fate awaits a catechumen girl who accepts to marry a polygamist.
That is exactly what happened to Mwape, a girl from Shikipala’s village, who let herself be married by a certain Mwantantamba, an inveterate polygamist. It must be said in all justice, and as a valid excuse, that those poor girls are submitted to a terrible pressure on the part of their parents and their would-be husbands. The girls are promised in marriage when they are between 10 and 12 years of age and they were brought up never to disagree with their parents. The suitor brings his gifts to the parents without bothering ever to ask the girl whether she is agreeable or not. The bargain – for it is a real bargain in what is in fact a sale – is concluded, and it would never cross the girl’s mind to raise the least objection to the deal she is the object of. Girls will recover some freedom in the choice of their husbands only when the English Law secures their independence and stands by them in case of conflict. That is not presently the case, since the general policy is, for the time being, ‘laisser faire’, in other words “Do not interfere in local customs”. As things stand presently, Mwape could only answer affirmatively when she was questioned in Kasama whether she wanted Mwatantamba as her husband. Everybody heard her answer, and the marriage act could only be registered as legal and free. The answer was in fact given by the parents, not by Mwape who was not in a position to speak out her mind on the question. She had been terrorised into answering ‘yes’. There is much talk about putting an end to slavery. What about suppressing the slavery in which girls – and women – are still maintained by the menfolks, or at least by the elders and parents?
Another case: a woman aged roughly 25, from the Kifunge area, suddenly declares herself possessed by the spirit of a chief’s spirit ('mfumu ya mipashi'). In other words one of the great spirits of the ancestors - one of the spirits the Natives consider as secondary divinities by the powers they attribute to them – has taken possession of her body and mind. She now gives orders to all around to bring her food and cloth. It is a real racket. We have her arrested for questioning, but all we can get out of her is: “Ni Shetani = it is Satan.” She pretended to be possessed by the Devil. After being condemned to pay five hens as a fine, she is booed by the crowd, for the people are in awe of those people turned instruments of the spirits, and they are very pleased to be rid of them. What is at the bottom of those so-called possessions by spirits? Most of the time, it is purely and simply a fraud, trickery, made possible by the credulity and superstition of the ordinary folks. It may be sometimes a case of hysteria. We must not exclude either the possibility of genuine cases of diabolical possession. The case of that woman mentioned above seemed to have been an attempt at a clever hoax, for the woman remained remarkably calm and composed under questioning.
Now let us see a case of ‘lubuko’, or invocation of the spirits. ‘Kubuka mipashi’ is Kibemba for ‘to invoke the spirits’, and it is a very common practice among the people. We have all the trouble in the world to prevent our catechumens from having recourse to the ‘lubuko’ or invocation of the spirits to solves some of their problems. The people turn to the spirits for consultation mainly in two cases: to find out the name they are expected to give a newly born baby, and to find out the name of the murderer responsible for the death of a person who has just died. The last case is of daily occurrence, for the BaBemba believe that nobody dies a natural death; a death is always the result of the evil intervention of a spirit or a human being with magical powers at his or her disposal. The case that was brought to the Mission concerned the ‘christening’ – so to speak – of a newly born baby. Two catechumens and a pagan from Kalolo’s village planned to consult the spirits in the traditional way to know what name they were to give the child. Thank God, other catechumens were on their guard and they got hold of the gazelle skin on which the invocation was to be performed with the help of an axe spun above it. That is the usual procedure: the witchdoctor spins the axe and utters one name at every turn. When the axe freezes in one given position, it is the last name pronounced in the course of the invocation that is to be given to the child. The catechumens got hold of the skin and rushed to the Mission to denounce the culprits. It was supper time when they burst into the house, and we dispatched people at once (it was full moon) to arrest them: Katele, a pagan and the main performer; Ntasama, father of the child, and NaMulenga, the grandmother, both of them catechumens. The catechumen cross was at once taken from them. Then the case was brought to our local court. Katele was sentenced to eight strokes of the sjambok to make him realise that it is madness to continue with those old traditions, and Ntasama to two strokes. The old crone was spared because of her age. Let us hope that this sentence will make our adherents sit and think before returning to those pagan practices.
20th: Mr Leyer, our Collector, was once more struck by an attack of black water after an exhausting hunting expedition. He had a lot of trouble to get better, but as he did not rest properly, he had a relapse and Fr Larue had to go to Kasama to look after him. When Father was back to Kilubula, he had to take care of Fr Davoust, also struck by an attack of black water.
MARCH 1904: We hear that the southern part of the Vicariate has been separated from the Nyasa Vicariate to be erected into an independent Apostolic Prefecture, entrusted to the care of the Montfortans, who will henceforward be on their own in the mission field. The boundaries of the new Prefecture are the borders of the British possessions in the east, the west and the south, and the southern part of Lake Nyasa in the north. The new territory will be known under the name of Shire Prefecture. The Protestants have been established in this region for a long time, and the Montfortans won’t find it easy to cut a place for themselves in the sun. May God assist them! Fr Guillemé is going to vacate the mission station of Ngulube, recently opened near Blantyre, and take up his headquarters in one of the mission stations in the Angoliland and in the north of the Vicariate.
3rd: Easter Sunday. Over one hundred BaBemba are admitted either to baptism or into the catechumenate after a severe examination. The results were, of course, unequal, from excellent to barely passable. Thirteen men and two women are solemnly administered the Sacrament of Baptism after successfully completing their time of catechumenate and satisfying the examiners as to their knowledge of catechism. Five other grownups baptised in danger of death have the ceremonies completed. Fifty-eight men and thirty-six women came to receive the catechumen cross, which they will certainly be very proud to display on their chests May this cross remind them constantly of their obligations!
10th: Part of the people in the village of Kasonso are going back to the Chambezi, where they came from originally and where most of their relatives are still living. A sort of homesickness difficult to overcome. There will be others in the future.
15th: The Flotilla Company winds up its business at Abercorn and moves into the Congo Free State. We got a prospectus inviting us to come and take the opportunity of buying goods at an interesting discount. We did, at least as far as our very limited liquidity allowed.
20th: We have started harvesting the rice crop. The yield seems to be above the average. Are we not in danger of becoming serious competitors to the Chinese?
Nothing special to mention this month. Our people are scattering to the four corners of the world, as they do every year at this time. Some sign in to carry loads and earn the money for the hut tax or for renewing their wardrobe. The largest number by far go to the ‘mitanda’ where they stay for weeks for harvesting and for lopping trees in preparation of next year’s garden. The children follow their parents to the ‘mitanda’. The women are those that garner the crops of millet, white sorghum, groundnuts, etc. The men are busy with cropping trees. When this is done, they do not give a thought to the crops, they sign in for carrying loads or for work at the Mission. They do not keep their noses on the grinding stone the whole time, they have long periods of leisure in between short periods of intensive work. Our BaBemba are great at sitting around talking, especially if there is a pot of beer parading right in the centre of their group. Then they live in a dream world of their own, they talk and let their imaginations build a world of fantasy, and they are really happy. This dream world of theirs is often shattered by arguments and fist fights, but all is forgotten the following morning. That is life as the BaBemba understand it, life at its best. Of course, our ministry of the Word has no place in this scheme of life. No wonder that the normal routine of religious instruction is rather put out of gear in the months of May, June and July. We wonder at times whether it would not be more profitable for the missionaries to take their own holidays at this time of year, when the people are not easily available, rather than at Easter, Christmas, or even September.
6th: Fr Davoust leaves Kilubula to go and start a new mission station at Kambwili, a big village situated some seven days’ march away from Kilonga, and at the same distance from Buwa, half way from the two existing posts. Kambwili is not far from the Administration’s Headquarters, eight days away, and only two days from Nawadya, where the Collector is staying. Fr Davoust’s departure is a loss for Kilubula Mission, for he was well known and loved by the people who greatly appreciated his total devotion to duty. We wish him ‘bon voyage’ to this new sector of our mission field and success in his apostolate; let us hope that the local people will welcome him wholeheartedly as the shepherd sent to them by the Lord. Before leaving Fr Davoust had the consolation of administering solemn baptism to twelve children from our Christian families. It is a consolation, for Fr Davoust leaves with the comforting certainty that the Christian community is slowly increasing in Kilubula. First the children are baptised, then the mothers who are not yet baptised follow their children in the Faith.
25th: After Fr Davoust’s departure, we are only two left to carry out the work that kept three of us busy the whole time. To make matters worse, Fr Guillerme is suddenly afflicted with serious eye troubles, so serious that he is obliged to keep to his room. An ugly abscess has begun to show at the back of his right eye and seems to be burrowing its way towards the orbit to burst out. Father’s face is covered with pustules, and his affected eye is all blood-shot and covered with a white speck. Pus is coming out of the eye in alarming quantity. We are trying to check the infection by applying camphor pomade, eye-lotion, poultice, and especially leeches as often as possible. It is a long, uphill struggle against this vicious infection, and Fr Guillerme is in pain the whole time. It will take at least two months for him to have a sound eye again. The White Sisters are also visited by ill health. One has been struck down by black water, while another is wrecked by a pernicious fever that has already alarmingly weakened her. Father Superior decided to suspend the normal period of religious instruction, so that the valid members in both communities can spend their time looking after their sick brother and sisters. When we say ‘valid members of both communities’, we close our eyes to the fact we are all dragging our feet and keep going out of sheer habit.
1st: Bishop Dupont is definitely on his way back to the Vicariate. Deo gratias! The sick people in both communities are on their way to full recovery. The White Sisters came back to normalcy remarkably well: Sr Seraphine is cured from her bout of black water, and Sr Alphonsine seems to be rebuilding her wasted frame and strength with a diet of milk and eggs. Fr Guillerme is the only one that is still a cause of worry and concern. We are afraid that a long pipe-like ulcer with a narrow opening (fistula) is breaking out through the orbit of the eye to let the pus out. Father’s right eye is not a pleasant sight.
20th: We received a letter from Fr Davoust giving us a few pieces of information on his new mission station. Kambwili, he writes, is the Paramount Chief of a multitude of small villages, each one with its headman, strung out along both banks of the Lukuzie River and its tributary the Katondolo River. The district is thickly populated, but the population is widely scattered. It will be extremely difficult for the missionaries to reach all those people in a very near future. We are in direct contact with some three thousand people. Kambwili’s capital is made up of some two hundred huts. We intend to start building just outside the Chief’s headquarters. The local population has the reputation of being made of hardheaded people, and we are expected to be just as tough and unrelenting as they are to get anywhere with them. They do not seem to be hostile to our presence among them, but are they really ready to welcome the Good News? That is another cup of tea altogether. The land is desperately flat and monotonous. Water is a precious commodity, and not too good at that. All victuals are very expensive. Hens and goats are sold at a price fifty-percent higher than in the Ubemba. We are really in God’s hands!
25th: A good piece of news: the manager of the stores of the African Lakes Corporation has given instructions to the Company’s agent to insure the delivery of English cloth material at Kasama at five pence two farthings a yard, and the American cloth material at five pence seven-eighths a yard, a special price for all the White Fathers who will buy their supplies at Kasama. The normal price at Kasama for those commodities is seven pence a yard
15th: Feast of the Assumption. We chose this great feast of Our Lady’s to complete the baptismal rites for ten children baptised in danger of death. We received a letter from Bishop Dupont asking for 40 porters to accompany him in the journey he is planning to make through the land west of the Bangweolo Lake. There followed another letter, from Fr Molinier, informing us that the Bishop has cancelled his journey of inspection west of the Lake on the ground that he is too tired, and that he is making his way directly to Kilubula.
22nd: We received a visit of courtesy from Mr Cookson, our Collector in Kasama. He is just back from his own leave, and is this time accompanied by his wife.
2nd: Another letter bringing news about Bishop Dupont, this time written by Fr Billieres, who is his travelling companion. He informs us that the Bishop is suffering from liver trouble and is travelling very slowly. Fr Larue went to meet the Bishop on the way, for the Bishop’s state of health is not without causing much concern among the missionaries. The two met at Lwalwa. Fr Larue was pleased to see that the Bishop’s condition had definitely taken a turn for the better. – In fact the Bishop reached Kilubula on Friday 9th September, which was good going.
9th: Bishop Dupont made a solemn entry into Kilubula. We planned to enhance the occasion by decorating the church inside and outside in order to show the people that it is only befitting for all of us at Kilubula to honour our Bishop, who is at the same time our liberator. We went to meet the Bishop at the crossing of the Lukupa River. Once in the village, the cortege advanced between the rows of huts lined with green palms and banana trees and cloth hangings. Once on the threshold of the church, the Bishop put on the surplice, the stole and the cope, and made his solemn entry into the church, his church since he watched over the building of it. Fr Guillerme had composed a song fitting the occasion, and the whole crowd sang it with gusto to greet their father and leader who was back among them after five years’ absence. The Bishop expressed his joy to be back home among his children, even if their number is still very small. At this time many people are in the ‘mitanda’, of course, where they are bus gathering their crops and preparing next year’s garden (‘citemene’). The welcoming ceremony ended with the episcopal blessing. We then moved to the residence, where the Bishop submitted to the ritual of the ‘ring kissing’, which seems to have become quite popular among the Christians. When you go right down to it, it is quite impressive to see those people coming by the dozens to bend the knee and rub their noses on the ring as a sign of endearment as well as respect. The Bishop seemed to perk up visibly as he remembered the past and the heroic beginnings. For the Bishop was also clearly at the end of his tether, and one wondered how he could put up with all this ceremonial. The more so since the welcoming is performed in the midst of the frenzied drumming and ululating and singing that are the usual way for the BaBemba to express their joy and approval. Happiness was evident on both sides: the happiness of people who welcomed in their midst the man who saved them from disaster and annihilation at the death of the old Chief Mwamba; the happiness of the liberator glad to be back among the people he saved, and whom he is quite entitled to call his children since they owe him their lives and survival
10th-13th: The Chiefs and headmen of the surrounding countryside came to pay their respects to the Bishop and to the one they still consider as their Chief.
14th: We sent a fast runner to Kayambi with a letter to Fr Shoeffer, and another fast runner to Chinsali with a letter to Mr Young, the Collector. What was the sudden hurry for? Quite simply the news imparted to us by Mr Young that a Minister of the L.M.S. and some teachers (catechists) of his had come to settle down on the east bank of the Chambezi. Mr Young was asking us in his letter whether this was part of the zone attributed to the Catholic Church. As a result, the Bishop sent an urgent letter to Fr Shoeffer enjoining him to go and make a pastoral visit of the district threatened with Protestant invasion, and a letter to Mr Young probably to tell him that this district was indeed within the sphere of influence of the White Fathers.
20th-23rd: Mr Cookson called on us quite unexpectedly on Saturday evening 24th September, while on his way to Misengo, where elephants had been sighted. He took this opportunity for presenting his respects to the Bishop and accepted our invitation to spend the night at our residence. He was on his way to Misengo early in the morning. He was lucky enough to down an enormous elephant, but unfortunately for him, a very young elephant with relatively still undeveloped tusks. When we met again on his way back from his hunting expedition, on Monday, the Bishop asked him permission for setting up a resident catechist at Kasama. Mr Cookson gave his approval on the spot. He was also asked for information how he would settle in court the case of a woman, a catechumen of ours, who wants to leave her husband who is a polygamist (obviously in order to be eventually baptised). Mr Cookson answered that she was perfectly entitled to leave her husband, provided she gives back the gifts exchanged at the occasion of her marriage to this man. The headmen and minor chiefs continue to come and pay their respects to the Bishop. Let us mention Kapoko, who was formerly at Kayambi. On Sunday 18th, the Bishop offered a beer party – a very modest one – to the Chiefs who were present at Kilubula on that day, with the usual lively accompaniment of drums and dancing and singing, and the people all giving their best. The Bishop did not take part in the public rejoicing, for he was forced to keep to his room. In fact his health was in a poor state for ten days following his arrival. He seems to be picking up slowly.
24th: Fr Foulon and Fr Bournez came to Kilubula to see the Bishop and talk over the conditions prevailing at the new foundation of Santa Maria of the Bangweolo.
1st: Fr Shoeffer arrived this morning at Kilubula after his visitation of the east bank of the Chambezi River, and his visit to Mr Young, Collector at Chinsali.
2nd: It is Sunday, and we meet in council to discuss the establishment of a mission station where the Protestants are threatening to settle down along the Chambezi. We decide to re-open the station of Lubwe, which had been opened in 1901 and occupied only for a few months. But the rainy season is imminent, and it is no question to go to Lubwe before April 1905. The main reason is the Protestant threat on the other side of the Chambezi. But there is also another reason: we have received new recruits, and therefore we have now the personnel to staff Lubwe. This mission was closed two years and a half ago, because the missionaries were more urgently needed for the new foundations in the Angoliland. In the meantime we are sending a reliable man to Lubwe to take possession of the site on behalf of the Fathers. He is to build a hut on the site of the residence and look after the banana plantation. His presence will prepare the people for the coming of the missionaries.
4th: Fr Shoeffer and Fr Billieres leave Kilubula, the first to go back to Kayambi, the other to the Angoliland via Karonga and the lake.
10th: The Bishop is now affected with eye trouble, which forces him to keep to his room and stay in the dark for several days. We applied leeches to him, and the inflammation began at once to regress. After a few days, he was totally cured and made plans at once to go and visit Kayambi. In the meantime there turned up at Kilubula two new recruits who came along in the last caravan, Fr Travers and Bro Walter. This reinforcement opens the possibility for us to radiate further away from Kilubula and eventually found other mission stations. In the meantime the newcomers pay their tribute to Lady Fever and get down to learning Kibemba. Fr Travers is very conscientious in the discharge of his obligations on both accounts, but he is a very orderly organiser: he started with fever, which he managed to check pretty fast, and then switched over to Kibemba, which he will soon master thoroughly by the look of things. As for Bro Walter, he was dispatched almost at once to Kilonga Mission to replace Bro Jacques. The latter is back to Kilubula, where his talents and expertise in carpentry are badly needed.
4th: The Bishop and Fr Larue set out for the canonical visitation of Kayambi. Uneventful journey. On their way they paid a formal visit to the Collector of Kasama, and they were very cordially received. The Bishop and his socius met Chief Makasa on the other side of the Chambezi, and it was a great pleasure on both sides to reminisce about the heroic times of the foundation of the Nyasa Vicariate. All those reminiscences were visibly perking up the Bishop. All in all, this journey to Kayambi was a great success, in spite of some heavy downpours. Fr Larue made his way back to Kilubula at once, for the Bishop is to stay at Kayambi for some time, up to December 12th to be precise. While the Bishop and Fr Larue were on their way to Kayambi, a very regrettable incident marred the routine of Kilubula Mission. The Collector sent some of his messengers to Kilubula to recruit workers for some public work (apparently those who had not paid their tax yet). Those that were summoned to follow the messengers refused to go to Kasama and insulted the messengers as well as the Boma. They argued that they had nothing to do with the authorities in Kasama, that their Chief was the Bwana Shikofu, and that they would pay their taxation to the Shikofu as their Chief (according to Bemba traditions). The Collector was properly incensed by this rebellious attitude and sent soldiers to arrest all the headmen on the Mission Concession. At Kasama they were treated to a whole lecture on the respective authorities they owed allegiance to. Bishop Dupont was their spiritual leader, and the Collector was their civil leader. They were told to teach their villagers thoroughly on their obligations towards the civil authority in Kasama, represented and headed by the Collector. They were reminded that any failure to comply with the wishes and regulations and orders of the Collector and his Administration would henceforward be severely dealt with. They were reminded that the annual hut tax was to be paid by each one of them at Kasama. Then the Collector sentenced two of the ringleaders to six weeks hard labour in chains. He then dismissed them. There is no need to make any comment on this regrettable incident. I shall simply point out that our people had indulged into open rebellion against the English authorities because they expected that the Bishop would support them. They clearly miscalculated the mood of the Bishop, who never had the intention to support their claim of exemption from taxation. The Collector did not hold this incident against the Bishop and the missionaries. We have still excellent relations. The incident is now forgotten.
8th: After a novena in which the Christians took an active part, we celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Conception as best as we could. The rain prevented our people from coming to the church in large numbers.
17th: The Bishop is back from Kayambi. Two new Fathers have reached Kilubula at the same time: Fr Godineau and Fr Welfele. We welcomed the new recruits the more warmly since they will allow us to extend the area of our apostolate. Are residing at Kilubula to date:
§ at the Fathers’ Residence: Bishop Dupont (Head of the Nyasa Vicariate), Fr Larue, Fr Travers, Fr Guillerme, Fr Welfele, Fr Godineau, Bro Optat and Bro Jacques
§ at the convent of the White Sisters: Sr Monique, Sr Alphonsine, Sr Genevieve, and Sr Seraphine.
18th-24th: We are in the week preceding Christmas, and it is now the established custom – even if it is only one year old – to test the knowledge of all the candidates to baptism and to the official inscription in the catechumenate.
25th: We are grateful to God: 52 adults are baptised, and 250 pagans are accepted into the official catechumenate. The baptism is administered by Fr Travers, but the Bishop is presiding over the ceremony at the throne with his usual sense of decorum. The church has been artistically decorated by the White Sisters, and the large congregation of people attending the ceremony is impressed and delighted by the display. The solemn rites of the Catholic liturgy are the most impressive visible signs of God’s invisible majesty. Liturgy is meant to teach all human beings, but more particularly those who have no literature of their own and learn everything by ear and sight and communicate by word of mouth and gestures. The same day, we received the visit of Mr Nijs, a Belgian lieutenant, on his way back home after completing the mission he had been entrusted with; very successfully, he said. He is travelling via Blantyre, the Shire, the Zambesi and Chinde. He is very surprised that grownups come to receive baptism (probably, in his mind, only babies are baptised, like in Belgium). In a sense he is right, it is quite a surprising fact, but he ought to be all the same aware of what the missionaries are doing.
26th-31st: The week following Christmas was relatively restful. It was the time the Bishop chose to make public the new appointments for the year 1905. An important decision was taken as regards the religious instruction to be given outside the boundaries of the Mission: to use catechists. This new system cannot be launched during the rainy season, and not before we have trained the catechists. Fr Guillerme was immediately appointed to the work of teaching, training and forming the catechists. A new impulse is given to Kilubula Mission, thanks to the initiatives taken by the Bishop, and the presence of young missionaries. We presented our best wishes of Happy New Year to the Bishop. In his answer he pointed out that he had been the first cannon ball fired by Divine Providence to make the first breach in the rampart of paganism stretching around the Ubemba. We were the assault troops pouring in through the gap on their way to conquer the whole Ubemba. The Bishop wished us success in our apostolate.