A Church for Burundi Built of Living Stones
Corner Stone Laid for Future Pilgrims' Church in Mont Sion, Gikungu, Burundi at the Beginning of the Month of Mary
(Sr. M. Lisette, Burundi) Approximately 3,000 4,000 pilgrims joined in the pilgrimage to the Shrine in Gikungu, Bujumbura, for the opening of the month of May, the month of Mary, and the corner stone laying of the future Pilgrims' Church. It is meant to be a church built of living stones, a prophecy and sign of unity in diversity in this war-torn country in Central Africa.
The day of pilgrimage on April 29, 2001, was well prepared. Not only were flyers with the invitation in all of the churches and in many schools, also the city busses had posters with the invitation and the program. It was also announced in the radio. A week before, the land was prepared as well as the place for the church.
First a Visit to the Shrine
On Sunday morning the pilgrims arrived in groups or individually they literally came from all directions. Entering the place, they received a pilgrimage picture with a new prayer made for this day. Nobody counted the people approximately 3,000 4,000 were present. Most of them first made a visit to the Shrine, before they tried to find a place in the big tent. People were in prayer there. Short meditations, songs, and prayers, most of all the rosary made for an intense prayer atmosphere. The pilgrims were also grateful that five priests were available for confession.
Spiritual Gifts for the New Church
At 9:30 AM, the Bishop of Bujumbura, along with six priests and three deacons, processed from the Shrine to the tent, accompanied by the choir. Three choirs from different quarters of the town sang during Mass. These choirs had also brought groups of boy dancers and girl dancers, who took turns in liturgical dancing. In his sermon, the bishop spoke about David who wanted to build a temple for God, asking the faithful to build a temple for God at this place, but not one out of dead stones only but to be living stones for this new church. Representatives of the different quarters of the town said the petitions. During offering, people did not only bring their material gifts but also the spiritual gifts written on sheets of paper. These spiritual gifts were solemnly brought to the Shrine, where the bishop placed them in the fire bowl and lit the fire that consumed them. Only God knows the sacrifices and intentions given to him by adults and children alike in this moment.
Names Written Down And Placed in the Foundation
All the Easter joy and bliss of the moment broke forth when after Communion all rose to their feet and began to dance. A member of the preparatory committee explained the meaning and the different steps for the erection of the Pilgrims' Church. All want to join forces to build this church through spiritual and material gifts. Many members of the local Schoenstatt family already paid for "their brick" a contribution of at least 30 Burundi francs. The names of all of the donors were collected and written on tables later to be placed in the foundation of the church. Among them are 91 children, and prisoners of the Central jail in Bujumbura. It is to be and will be a Pilgrims' Church of living stones, a symbol of unity in diversity.
Unity of the Holy Places: Mugera Mutumba Gikungu
Afterwards, the bishop and the priests went to the construction site where the first three stones has already been erected: a stone from Mugera, the country's first place of pilgrimage, the "holy mountain" of Burundi, a stone from Mutumba, the place of the first Schoenstatt Shrine, and a stone from Gikungu.
The bishop, Father Zingg, and a representative of the committee inserted their stones into the small wall that as a sign for the future church, links these three stones. Just as this solemn act took place, the Apostolic Nuncio of Burundi, Father Michel, came he did not want to miss this important event.
Then, the priests returned to the tent, where one of the Schoenstatt Fathers' seminarians proclaimed the great deeds of the Blessed Mother. The choir sang a song made for this day, and got a wave of applause! Then, all processed to the Shrine, said a prayer, and received the bishop's blessing. The big drums placed in front of the Shrine resounded, and a group of men danced. Many of the pilgrims paid a final visit to the Shrine before slowly and often reluctantly leaving this holy place.
In the evening, the news about the corner stone laying was broadcast on TV, passing on the news into the entire country. What a beginning for the month of May!
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