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Marist Bulletin - Number 30

 

Marist Brothers presence in Ivory Coast
16.10.2002

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All our brothers are safe, having been evacuated from Bouake and Korhogo. French and USA troops aided those in Korhogo, while our Ivorian brothers in Bouake fled on their own, walking about 60 miles through a jungle to find an area free of armed conflict. Our lay Marists, the husband and wife team of Ángel Ramos and María Ángeles Pardo, have also been safely evacuated. Likewise the children from the Adoption Center run by the brothers in Korhogo, along with the four women who work there. For the time being, the children are in the care of Mother Teresa’s Missionary Sisters of Charity at their “Oasis Center.” Right from the start, the Sisters have offered their home as a safe haven for the children for as long as necessary.

Our Ivorian brothers together with Brother José Antonio Ruiz Abeijón find themselves at present in Abidjan living in community with Marianists at Notre Dame d’Afrique High School, hoping for a brighter tomorrow in their beloved country.

We have two communities of brothers in Ivory Coast. One is in Bouake, the country’s second largest city, and is composed of three native brothers and two from other countries. They have just opened a new school, Champagnat, with plans to eventually offer a curriculum ranging from pre-school through high school. The pre-school and elementary levels were already in session. Besides their work in the school, the brothers have been teaching literacy classes to adults and assisting their parish community, helping out in catechumenate and leadership programs. They’ve also been working closely with the St. Camillus Association, which provides special care for the mentally ill. That service was started by an individual named Gregoire, who during his time off from work would round up, wash, and feed as many of these people as he came across in the streets. One of the brothers who became most involved in this apostolate was the late Brother Félix Santos Lombraña.

The second community is located in Korhogo, in the northern part of the country. It’s made up of two native brothers, two foreign brothers, and the married couple from Cartagena, Spain. Marcellin Champagnat Junior High School is a well-known educational center with 500 boys and girls. It opened its doors 14 years ago, and faithfully fulfills our Founder’s wish for us to work especially for the well-being of abandoned young people. The school’s first Principal was Brother Miguel Ángel Isla Lucio, who was later murdered with three other brothers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, on October 31, 1996. Just as in Bouake, aside from schoolwork, the community has been teaching literacy classes for adults and working with catechumenate groups in the local parish.

As previously noted, in Korhogo the Brothers run an adoption program for abandoned children. The site is named the “Brother Miguel Ángel Isla Lucio Adoption Center” in honor of the aforementioned brother, as he promoted this work from the very beginning. The Center works internationally, with children being adopted by families in Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, as well as locally in Ivory Coast. This program has been recognized by UNESCO, held in high esteem for its organization and accomplishments.

Unavoidably, all our activities in Ivory Coast have now been put on hold by the attempted coup d’état of last September 19th. This has led to a prolonged internal struggle which for the moment is dividing the country into two armed camps, North and South. We hope and pray that the strife will end as soon as possible so that our brothers can once more pursue all the good work they’ve been doing for the Lord. It’s worth noting that life is proceeding more or less normally in the southern half of the country, with hostilities taking place mostly in the area around Bouake these days.


Information received from Brother Francisco Javier Gallo, Ángel Ramos and Mª Ángeles Pardo.

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