On December 2-11, 2022, the General Delegate of the Militia of the Immaculata (M.I.) Friar Gilson Miguel NUNES, together with the M.I. International President, Miquel Bordas PRÓSZYNSKI, visited the local M.I. communities in Burkina Faso (December 2-6), Ivory Coast (December 7-9) and Gabon (December 10-11).
During this first ever visit, the international leaders of the M.I. were able to learn about the status of the M.I. in those places and the development of the Kolbean heritage there. They met with the pastors of the local Churches, the M.I. Spiritual Assistants and members of the M.I. in each country. In addition, they took part in moments of community prayer. This visit was also aimed at strengthening the cooperation between the M.I. of the three African countries and encouraging participation in the activities undertaken by the International M.I. Center.
The presences of the M.I. in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Gabon, while sharing the common cultural framework of French-speaking Africa, nevertheless have different origins and the institution of the M.I. in each state has its own peculiarities. Thus, the M.I. in Burkina Faso, founded earlier this century, is the only branch that is linked to the Order, because it coexists with the Provincial Delegation in Burkina Faso, which belongs to the Province of the Immaculate Mother of God in Poland (Warsaw) and the Province of St. Bernardine and St. Angelo in Italy (Abruzzo)
On the other hand, the M.I. arose in in Gabon and Ivory Coast in the 1980s, even without the presence of Conventual Franciscans. The M.I. has mainly developed as a lay presence, but it has also generated religious and priestly vocations, as well as marriages.
On their first day in Burkina Faso, the international leaders of the M.I. visited the Saint Antoine de Padoue Friary and Formation House in the capitol, Ouagadougou and were received by His Eminence, Cardinal Philippe Nakellentuba OUÉDRAOGO, Archbishop of Ouagadougou. After meeting with local M.I. members, the leaders went on to Sabou, home of the Saint Maximilien Kolbe Medical Center-Dispensary run by the friars. The medical center provides vital services to the local population, whether they are Christian, Muslim or animist. The leaders also visited the friary and parish in Sabou, where Friar Kossi M. Michel EGAH is buried. He was a Conventual Franciscan from Togo who is considered the founder of the M.I. in Burkina Faso. He died in a road accident in 2014.
In Abidjan, a coastal city, and the economic and cultural center of the Ivory Coast, the visiting leaders conducted various meetings with the local M.I. They stayed at the Sainte Claire Monastery of the Poor Clares in Abidjan and attended Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception at the local Church of Notre Dame de L’Incarnation. The Mass was particularly significant because new M.I. members were consecrated during the liturgy.
Finally, the international M.I. leaders visited Libreville, the capital of Gabon, and attended the main celebration of the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the local M.I. It was founded by a missionary from France, Father Emmanuel FRANÇOIS (†2021), who was a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, along with a consecrated laywoman from France, Estelle SATABIN (†1995). On December 10, the visiting leaders were received by the Most Reverend Jean-Patrick IBA-BA, Archbishop of Libreville, Gabon.
While in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Gabon, the visiting leaders were able to see that the M.I., despite its small presences there, is developing as a lively and dynamic association, one that is integrated into the local Church, and one that shares and promotes the love that the African people have for the Mother of God.
Friar Gilson Miguel NUNES
Miquel BORDAS PRÓSZYNSKI