Albert Shuyaka celebrated his first Mass in his native village of Emungu on July 19.  Emungu is about a two hour drive from Wembo-Nyama, where we stopped to refuel.  After that, the road deteriorated.  At one point, we came to a bridge so rickety that the driver asked us to get out of the car before he drove across, just in case the bridge collapsed.

Albert's two sisters were busy preparing a meal which we would eat after the first Mass.

Things were bustling in preparation for the first Mass, and there were cooking fires to roast the chicken and the goat.  I met Albert’s sisters, who must have thought I looked out of place with my jacket and tie.  They gave me a blue and yellow shirt, just like the one that Albert is wearing in the photo on the right, so I would fit in.  The shirt is called kitengi and I was told that it is a kind of uniform for family members.  After putting it on, I blended right in.

Father Albert Shuyaka reverences the altar at the start of his first Mass.

There is no church in Emungu, so the Mass was held in an open square, flanked by palm-covered arcades.  The entrance procession began about 10:00, everyone walking and singing to the accompaniment of drums.  The choir was new, but I recognized the young male acolytes who had participated in the ordination.  After the opening prayer, the incense was lit.  Albert didn’t just incense the altar, he moved in a rhythmic procession with the boys who served as liturgical dancers.

The choir from Emungu performed to the accompaniment of two drummers.

It was really hot under the equatorial sun.  The perspiration was running down the faces of the singers, but they sang with strength and conviction.  One voice would start the group off and establish the pitch, then the others would join in, sometimes in a call-and-response type of singing, sometimes in polyphony.  The drummers, especially the one on the right, were confident and expressive.  At the Offertory, a basket was placed in the central square, and people walked forward, depositing coins and bills.

The village of Emungu presented Albert Shuyaka with a live goat.

After Mass, the altar was cleared away.  Peter Nugent, Albert and I, along with Abbé Pierre, the diocesan Procurator, had the seats of honor under the shade.  The chief of the village made a speech and gave Albert a number of gifts, including a squealing pig, a duck, and a goat.  He also presented a hatchet (I didn’t get the symbolism), a cowbell (to get people’s attention), and a Bible (in French).  There must be a Bible in Otetela, the language of the people, but I never saw one.  We left about 3:00, because we wanted to get back to Tshumbe by dark, for the next day was our scheduled departure.


Comments are closed.