Several years ago, during a return visit to Madagascar, a highlight of the long trip for me from Antsirabe in the high plateau to Morondava on the coast was getting to see some Baobab trees. We stopped to see a particularly majestic one right at the edge of the road. When I saw the hollow trunk, I remembered a picture from a grammar school geography text with the comment that these trees sometimes offered shelter to the natives of the land. It must have been the same tree (almost)!
Along the way there were also many mangroves, along with cultivated plots of banana trees and tapioca root, with the terraced rice and wheat fields dominating the countryside. Some fields had pineapples growing. In deserted areas there were fields full of ant hills, like hundreds of teepees, two to three feet high, red earth against the pale brown of tough wild grass.
At towns and villages there were always people selling or carrying fuel, either bags of charcoal or bundles of sticks. Women carried the wash in baskets balanced on their heads, a child papoose style on their back, and maybe a pail of water in one hand. Though dress is predominantly western, there were some men wrapped in sheet-like garb that made them look especially tall and thin. They carried long thin sticks used to prod the zebu into obedience.
We arrived in Morondava dusty and tired. The water was just warm enough for a shower. The electricity went off three times in the span of a few hours.
A Catholic Church is often the tallest building in the small towns. In Morondava, a sign of the times is the presence of two big mosques.
Celebration of the La Salette Feast
On Sunday morning the main celebration for the Feast of La Salette in Morondava took place in the large parish yard, under the shade of some palm trees.
Mass started promptly at 8AM. As in my visit to Ivohibe, Mass here was full of song and symbols. It took about fifteen minutes just for the Bible to be carried in before the readings. It took another fifteen for the offertory gifts to reach the altar. And so on. The final blessing came two and half hours after Mass began, but that’s when the procession with the Blessed Sacrament got going, winding its way through the sandy streets of Morondava.
I wore a hat during the procession, as did a number of the locals, since we were in the scorching sun. By noon we were heading to the Parish Hall for a meal.
Dedicated Years of La Salette Ministry
This year marks 86 years of La Salette presence in Morondava, and 56 years since the arrival of Massachusetts Missionary, Donald Pelletier, M.S., afterward the Bishop of Morondava, now retired. Very much of the infrastructure of the diocese of Morondava is the fruit of our La Salette ministry in Madagascar to make Mary’s message known.
(Reprinted from the La Salette Publication, Vision and Mission, Oct., 2008)
Three Phases of La Salette Apparition in our parish in Antananarive,
Madagascar: (from left: Mary seated, weeping; Mary speaking with
children; Mary ascending and disappearing.