Mtoni Parish

by John Waldrep

"Mambo iko huku!"

This is a new phrase in the slang of Dar es Salaam that one of our radio announcers has made popular. It is heard all over Dar these days and means roughly: This is where the action is.

I think that is certainly true with regard to Blessed Josephine Bakhita Catholic Church in Mtoni, Dar es Salaam: Mambo iko huku! There are a number of things I could point to, but I will mention just a few of the ways in which I think we have something special in Mtoni.

First off, ever since I began to minister in Mtoni in February of 1995, I've been impressed by. and proud of the way that people have responded to the sick and elderly. Rather than the priest walking around bringing Holy Communion to the sick of the parish, we have a whole group of people, mainly but not exclusively young people, who accompany us on these Thursday rounds. It means a lot to our elderly sick and shut-ins who are ministered to by them.

In addition to R.C.I.A., which is doing pretty well, we also have several other reflection groups that have sprung up just in the last year. One is a program of Mistagogia, a post-baptismal learning/formation experience for people who have already been initiated into the faith, perhaps many years ago, but who want the chance to reflect with others and to grow in an understanding of what it means to be a Catholic Christian in Mtoni today.

This is definitely NOT intended to be instruction, though a little of that goes on, rather it is a group of Christians considering together the implications of their faith for their lives.

We've become quite a reflective community at Mtoni, and not content with the R.C.I.A. and Mistagogia (oh, yes, we also have a Sunday School program for pre-schoolers), we have instituted a Saturday evening Bible reflection group for anyone who wants a chance to read the Sunday gospel and share their insights into what God might be saying to us through that particular reading. This started slowly but has gradually grown. I am continually amazed and humbled by the depth of perception, imagination and faith that these people bring to the Sacred Scriptures.

Turning to worship, the sine qua non, of parish life, there are good things to say here, too. At the very least, our liturgies have become livelier and more participatory. I hesitate to use the term inculturation of the liturgy for what we're doing, but there has definitely been a good deal of translation going on. More people join in the singing, there seems to be interaction between the choir and the faithful, and we even have liturgical dance.

Certainly, not everything is wonderful. We have our petty jealousies, in-fighting and bickering, as well, but we also have something very good. I can take precious little credit for the good things we have; that must go to our two well-nigh indefatigable catechists: Stanislaus Machege and Charles Mbaiamwezi, the choirs, the lectors, the Small Christian Communities, and most especially to God who makes all things possible.

So, if ever there has been a Maryknoller who is happy in his ministry, it I. It's not time to leave yet; I still have something to offer and quite a lot to learn! Karibuni, Mtoni! Mambo iko huku!

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