Martino Bonazzetti, missionary in Angola: "In their eyes you can see the joy of being Christians".

Father Martino Bonazzetti, an Italian missionary of the Society of African Missions, carries out his pastoral work in Desvio da Barra do Dande, Angola.

Federico Piana-May 28, 2024-Reading time: 2 minutes

Father Martino Bonazzetti with some of his parishioners.

There is something extraordinary about the small domestic church that forms the Desvio da Barra do Dande community. First of all, it is located in Bengo, one of the eighteen provinces into which Angola, a country on the western coast of southern Africa, is divided.

Moreover, it is literally spread over a diameter of thirty kilometers around a construction site that hides a dream: the construction of a new port that, it is hoped, should lift the poor conditions of a population struggling with a low standard of living, bordering on poverty. In order not to let this dream slip away, thousands of people have decided to move in around the construction site and start working with the contractors. 

True community of faith

In a short time a true community of faith took shape, with a parish, the one dedicated to the Holy Family, and ten chapels scattered throughout the vast territory. Father Martino Bonazzetti, a missionary of Italian origin and member of the Society of African Missions (SMA), arrived here a few months ago. 

The religious, together with another religious, is in charge of animating the whole community and that there is no lack of sacraments and evangelization. "It is not easy, but we try with all our strength", confesses the missionary, who emphasizes how complicated it is to manage a parish and ten chapels separated even by a few hours of walking: "There are, on average, seven kilometers, four of asphalt and three of dirt. And here we can only count on a few common means or on the so-called "common means". San Francisco Horsethat is, our legs.

Father Martino Bonazzetti with some of his parishioners.

The joy of being a Christian

When the two priests cannot go to all the chapels, the catechists take over. "Each attached community has one. If there is no celebration, the catechist leads a simple prayer meditating on the Word of God," says Father Bonazzetti. And it is exciting to know from his words that the inhabitants of Desvio da Barra do Dande make every effort not to miss the Sunday service celebrated in the parish of the Holy Family: "It takes them up to an hour's walk to get there. And in their eyes you can see the joy of being Christians".  

This is also noticeable in the intensity with which they sing, adds the priest: "Even if there are only five of them at Mass, they sing just the same. And when you hear them sing, you can't help but exclaim: 'They are really happy!

Even more family

Although he has just arrived in Bengo, Father Bonazzetti has a desire in his heart: to bring this small domestic church even closer together by creating closer and more familiar relationships. "It is an attempt," he says, "to make it so that, in each house, in turn, we can all pray together. This means that, if there can be no Eucharistic celebration, on that Sunday the faithful can gather to pray and meditate in neighboring houses."

As in a big family, where vocations are increasing exponentially: "The candidates to the priesthood - says the missionary - are so many that we cannot admit all of them.

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