Albert Shuyaka was ordained a priest on Sunday, July 17.  Bishop Djomo, Peter Nugent, and I crossed six bridges (some no more than two planks thrown over a stream) during the one-hour drive from Tshumbe to Wembo-Nyama, where the ordination took place.

Albert Shuyaka awaits the call to Holy Orders with his sister and two brothers at Wembo-Nyama.

There is no Catholic church building in Wembo-Nyama.  The church is an open square in the district of Ekenyi, surrounded on three sides by palm-covered arcades.  The liturgy began at 9:00: eight young male acolytes, eight girls with pom-poms, a mixed adult choir of about forty voices, and the priests of the diocese, all forming two long, parallel lines.  At 9:30, Bishop Djomo arrived at the altar and began to circle it with smoking incense to the accompaniment of drums and singing.

Newly ordained, Albert receives the blessing of one of the priests of Tshumbe.

The man on the left was an inspired poet, making up verses to the accompaniment of drums and bells.

During the Liturgy of the Word, the people sang the psalm and Gloria.  Women in the choir occasionally ululated in shrill voices.  Bishop Djomo gave a 20-minute homily, punctuated by shouted affirmations from the assembly.  After receiving the  call to Orders, Albert promised obedience to the bishop and received his blessing and that of the priests.  The Mass concluded at 12:30.  Albert expressed his thanks, we expressed our appreciation, and the people left the square, singing and dancing around him.

After the Mass, the altar was removed and seats arranged for us dignitaries.  There was entertainment, which included singing, dancing, drumming, a drama by the parish youth group of Albert’s vocation story, and even a skit by schoolchildren in which they warned of the dangers of AIDS by pretending to stab themselves with syringes.  An inspired poet improvised verses in which I heard the words “Shuyaka” and “Los Angeles.”  At about 3:00, the entertainment ended and invited guests retired to a covered area for refreshments.

We were offered fried grubs or larvae by a sister whose dress bears the face of Joseph Hagendorens, CP.

The splendid feast included cold pasta with tomatoes, eggs, and anchovies; chicken and rice, millet (a cooked dough), cooked banana, and fried cocoons or larvae.  Many a time I heard the word lusaka (“thank-you”).  It was a pleasure to see my old student, Father Rafael Okitafumba, who now serves as parochial vicar at the Ekenyi parish.  We left about 4:00 for the drive back to Tshumbe.  Bishop Djomo promised to show us the next day Tshumbe’s new University of Notre Dame.

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