Dear Friends –
Christmas greetings to you from Malawi! This is the first time in 22 years that one of my periodic letters “out of Africa” does not come from Zambia! Yes, I’ve moved to the country next door, to a new and challenging assignment: fundraiser for our new Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (LJSS) in Kasungu. Since April I’ve been living in Lilongwe – the article on the other side here tells what is keeping me busy and blessed.
I’m sure you can appreciate the fact that no real development is possible in a country like Malawi without well-educated Malawians. But right now less than 35% of young people have a chance to go to secondary school! Chinese investors can come in, European donors can pour money into government budgets, and North American volunteers can bring in technical skills. But without better educational opportunities for our youth, no real and sustainable progress will ever come to this beautiful country.
We Jesuits of the Zambia-Malawi have made this commitment to set up LJSS to form “persons for others.” My task is to be the fundraiser – which means spending a lot of time at my laptop composing proposals for church groups and foundations and writing appeal letters to individuals around the globe. To be honest, sometimes I get weary and discouraged (especially in these days of economic crises!). But then I bring to mind and heart the young women and men I’ve met who are eager to get a good secondary school and who can make a difference for their sisters and brothers here….
Malawi is much like Zambia in language, customs and friendliness. Besides the task of fundraising, I do some pastoral work in local parishes. And I pay attention to the directions from the “Second African Synod of Bishops” – the exciting programme I was part of in Rome in October 2009. How can the church in Africa really be at the service of peace, justice and reconciliation – that’s the challenge! A deeper inculturated spirituality and liturgy, a more creative role of laity, especially women, a stronger facing of the challenges of poverty, AIDS and environmental degradation – plenty of agenda to keep us busy!
I did miss being back in Zambia in September, when presidential elections occurred peacefully to bring a major change in leadership, generating widespread hope. Zambia really set a very positive example for the rest of Africa! (To get some of my pre-2011 reflections on Zambia, go to www.jctr.org.zm for columns that I wrote for a national newspaper.)
My friends, if after reading this letter and the reflections on the other side you would like to help in the work of setting up Loyola Jesuit Secondary School, here is the way. Contributions from the USA are tax exempt, and can be sent to Advancement Office, Wisconsin Province – Society of Jesus, 3400 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53208, with checks made payable to: “The Jesuit Partnership, Inc.” Indicate that the donation is for our Malawi school. Outside the USA, contributions can be sent to Jesuit Mission Office, P.O. Box 1034, Dublin 1, Ireland, with checks made payable to: “Jesuit Mission Office.” Indicate that the donation is for our Malawi school. On our new LJSS website (with pictures and updates!) you can also make on-line donations: www.loyola-malawi.org. Thank you for considering this help!
A phrase from our Christmas Mass says: “A light will shine on us this day, the Lord is born for us: he shall be called Wonderful God, Prince of Peace!” My prayer is that that light really does shine on all of us, with true peace here in Malawi and all around the world! God bless us!
Pete Henriot, S.J.