Untitled-1Editor: This is a republication of an article originally written in 1991, but which explains well the continuing efforts and challenges of our La Salettes ministering in Angola. In May, 2013, the La Salettes in Angola finally became a Province, a separate but connected part of the La Salette Mission worldwide. Their country has survived the long war and is working toward true peace.

The La Salette mission in Angola was begun by two La Salette Missionaries from Switzerland in 1946. Today, half the La Salettes there are Swiss and half native Angolans.

A Portuguese Colony

Angola was already a region of Africa occupied by the Portuguese at the time these same discovered Brazil. From Angola, they sent many slaves to Brazil. After World War II, the majority of the African Countries gained there independence, but the Portuguese resisted this trend, keeping their colonies until 1975.

 

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A banner picturing the Carnation
Revolution or Revolução dos Cravos
The Carnation Revolution or Revolução dos Cravos was a largely bloodless coup which occurred in Portugal on April 25, 1974. The result of the Carnation Revolution was the toppling of a dictatorship which had prevailed for almost 50 years. After the "Cravos Revolution", the Portuguese government granted independence to its colonies in Africa. The Angolan guerillas, who had fought against Portuguese domination for years, divided into two rival factions seeking power: UNITA (Union for the Total Independence of Angola) and MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola).

This last one, (MPLA) was favored by the ex-colony and assumed power whereas the UNITA still fights by guerilla warfare to wrestle power from the MPLA. That has brought about 15 years of war without hope that these two warring parties will seek peace.

A Terrible War

The consequences of this civil war are horrendous:

• Farmers were expelled from their lands.
• Factories were destroyed.
• Railroads and highways have been and continue to be blown up by guerillas. Some of our Missionaries, have been killed in ambushes. The people are starving and lack sufficient clothing. There are no doctors, no hospitals, no medicine. Simply stated: the situation is absolutely miserable. Remember the words of the Gospel: "They are like sheep without a Shepherd." It seems that no one holds any hope for tomorrow, nor any strength for today, nor any capacity to confront the present situation.

Missionary Heroes

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La Salette Sisters serve in
many ways in Angola
The La Salette Missionaries have organized their pastoral work in "Missions". These have a certain resemblance to the "Jesuit Groupings of indigenous people" during the time of the colonization in Brazil.

A "Mission" is divided into "Catechesis", with a catechist coordinator who prepares people for Baptism, Marriage, First Communion and Confirmation. Each group of 7 or 8 Catechists has a coordinator, called an "Evangelist", who is always a person with more extensive intellectual training. He animates and helps train the catechists.

The La Salette Missionary is a man of sacramental pastoral: Baptisms, Masses, Marriages and Anointing of the Sick. He is also a man of human solidarity who maintains contact with international organizations such as the "Red Cross", "Adveniat", "Bread for the World" and others in order to obtain food, clothing and medication needed to keep his people alive. The "missions" don't only focus on Sacraments and the Word of God, but also strengthen solidarity and fraternity in an effort to confront the terrible situations brought about by war.

The La Salette Missionaries of Angola ask themselves: “How long can we maintain the help of international solidarity to feed our Angolan people? Is this outside aid perhaps not enforcing a greater dependency rather than fostering true liberation?”

The Church — A Source of Hope

In a more positive view, the people of Angola believe in the word of the Church. The word of the missionaries is sincere and credible. In a unique way, the La Salette Missionaries are looked upon as heroes because they did not abandon the people at this time of war, at this time of provocation; they remained with their people, sharing their sufferings and anguishes.

Conversions to Christianity continue, while vocations to the religious life and to the priesthood grow constantly. Women Religious are considered "Angels from God" because of the care they give to this suffering people. On August 15 of last year, throwing in their lot with the La Salettes, five young Angolans made their religious profession. I had the privilege of being part of that ceremony.

I would like to ask you to remember the Angolan people in your prayers. Pray that God will help this people to find a way to put an end to this long war, and that Our Lady will help this people courageously to assume the responsibility for their liberation.

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In 2009 the members of the Region of Angola met;
their region today is a full-fledged Province with many
vocations, and presently counting a total of 94 members