When a charism meets with a people and a culture, things happen that had never been written before may happen. This is what happened for the Dehonian charism and the dehonians in Mozambique.
Arriving in 1947 (they are 75 years old) the first missionaries set to work starting the pastoral service of the first announcement. Missionary presences were quickly born in various areas of the interior of the province of Zambezia, which immediately were characterized by attention to the situation of the people. Next to the churches, schools and medical dispensaries arose, which characterized the Dehonian presence in all the missions. Certainly the collaboration of women’s Institutes was rich, which accompanied and provided personnel for service in these areas of social commitment.
With Independence (1975) and the “revolutionary” climate, all social and educational activities were absorbed by the state with the process of “nationalization”.
For many years the only possibility of being close to the people has been the difficult pastoral presence, with the invention of the dynamic of “small Christian ministerial communities”. And then came the hard and dangerous time of the civil war, which ended in 1992. These were years of suffering presence and difficult discernment: to stay or to retire? As far as possible, the choice was to remain close to the people, who (according to what was said at the time): “have the right to the Gospel and to a presence that is a sign that God does not abandon his people”.
After the war, some activities were resumed, which today are prominent realities in the commitment in the social field.
I mention first of all the recovery of the structure of what was then called “Escola de Artes e Ofícios” and which is now the Leon Dehon Multipurpose Center (CPLD) in Gurue. Over the years a multiple and truly “multi-purpose” reality has developed, which includes: a school (Middle Technical-Agricultural Institute), a productive sector (carpentry, mechanics, artistic objects, turning) that gives employment and wages to approximately 80 workers; a center for the hospitality of people passing through Gurue very sought after. The presence of the Dehonian community that manages the Center has as its purpose the technical-agricultural training of young people, and the help to workers by guaranteeing many families the necessary for their subsistence. It is a commitment that is now recognized and well valued at local and even national level.
Also in Gurue a project is taking hold for the construction of 4 primary schools that give a quality signal to the local educational sector. The project also includes the commitment to agricultural education for families, sustainable agriculture and attentive to the environment, in the wake of Laudato Sii.
Another center of social commitment is in Alto Molocue. This is the Fr. Dehon Youth Center, born to provide formation to young people. An association of the same name has been created, which deals with various activities that involve young people for a human-social-political formation and with courses in computer science and English, and offering a well-stocked library that gives many students the opportunity to have access to books, even in digital format. In addition, an educational initiative has arisen with a kindergarten and a primary school, which offer help and education both to children of families who can pay a small fee, as well as to poor children from the neighborhood.
In Nauela a small center has been created to welcome and accompany students from families far from secondary school and in need of a place to live and thus be able to study. There are difficulties to make it work as one would like, but we try to do everything possible so that it remains standing and can serve the need of young people for a place that welcomes them.
In Quelimane, in the provincial house, a project has developed over the years, which provides help to more than 300 people every month, thanks to the help and support of benefactors. Attention is especially given to lonely and abandoned people, who receive a little monetary help every month. In addition, other projects have been developed: the manufacture of wheelchairs for people with mobility difficulties; the supply of maternized milk to mothers in difficulty; the construction of houses in traditional material for homeless people in the city of Quelimane. We add to this the commitment to pay for medicines to many people who would not have the ability to purchase the necessary care when not provided by the hospital.
We can also mention the commitment in the parish of the Good Shepherd in Maputo, especially in the most peripheral district of the community of Mary Help of Christians: needy families are helped with a “food package” and a center of help for children has been created to support extracurricular lessons.
In Nampula the parish entrusted to us, St. Peter’s, has an educational institution, a kindergarten that provides a service to children in the neighborhood and beyond.
It seems to us that wherever we are present, there is no lack of attention to social reality, to situations of material, intellectual and spiritual poverty. In the wake of Fr. Dehon, the Dehonians in Mozambique do everything possible to remain part of the society that is in great development and is constantly changing. We would like to achieve what is proposed in the Programmatic Letter of the three-year period 2021-2023:
“To be a Province of Community-Gospel, critical and responsible protagonists on the side of the least; communities that instill hope with the offer of opportunities in education, human promotion, sustainable development; characterized in its being, and acting by the Dehonian style of love, mercy, and heart, placing itself primarily at the service of young people with creativity, as did our founder, who gave himself to the poor.”