Catholic Free Press

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  • Nov
  • 8

Congolese man answers call; ordained for Assumptionists

Posted By November 8, 2012 | 1:19 pm | Lead Story #3
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By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – He made his first vows in 2004 in Democratic Republic of the Congo and his final vows in 2008 in Kenya. He was ordained a transitional deacon in 2011 in Tanzania.
Father Bernard Kambale Musondoli, a Congolese Augustinian of the Assumption studying at Assumption College, shared this personal journey Saturday. Bishop McManus had just ordained him a priest in the college’s chapel.
Speaking at his reception, Father Musondoli said he wanted to mention “the warm welcome I always experienced in all these places.” Recalling Jesus’ promise to faithful disciples he added, “I affirm to have found many fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. Today I’m honored to be ordained in the United States.”
“It’s always good to see our younger brothers coming after us,” said Father Mulumba Kambale Matsongani, another Congolese Assumptionist studying at Assumption College. “It’s a good sign of vocations in the Church and in our congregation.” Father Matsongani, said he knew Father Musondoli and his father in Congo.
“This is exactly what is happening in Africa,” John Maina, former president of the Kenyan community at St. Peter Parish and St. Andrew Mission, said. “Young men are responding to the call of Jesus: ‘Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ We are very happy that Father Bernard is going to serve here as a priest.”
That wasn’t Father Musondoli’s plan at all times, however. He told The Catholic Free Press his story this way.
He was born July 6, 1980 in Congo, where his parents, sister and five brothers live. None of them were able to come to his ordination, which he expected to take place with other men in his home parish, as is customary there, he said. But he said he talked with his family by telephone. They had gathered for a Mass there to pray for his ordination.
He said he didn’t know when he will be able to go home and celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving there. His first Mass here was Sunday at Assumption College.
He is scheduled to celebrate Mass at St. Anne and St. Patrick Parish in Sturbridge, where he served this summer, at 4 p.m. tomorrow, and with the African community at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fitchburg at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 25.
“I always think of it as a gift from God – my vocation,” Father Musondoli said. “I grew up in a very religious family. I have never thought of becoming a priest.”
That desire came to him suddenly in 2000, he said. At a youth Mass at his parish, Notre Dame de l’ Immaculée Conception in Kyondo, staffed by Assumptionists, he saw a transitional deacon who is now a priest.
“I admired him and immediately I said, ‘I want to be a priest,’” Father Musondoli recalled. “I didn’t know how to start. I didn’t know where to go to be a priest.”
He told his mother.
“If you want to be a priest, that’s good,” she responded. “Wait for your father.”
When his father came, he told him.
“You will not make it because priests want people who are quiet and calm,” his father told him.
He talked further with his mother, and diocesan seminarians. He also joined the vocational group in his parish, he said, explaining that each parish has one; it helps youth discuss vocations to priesthood, religious life and marriage. Since his parish was Assumptionist-staffed, he sought to become an Assumptionist.
“You write a letter and you ask for a kind of recommendation from your small Christian community where you live,” he said. “Then I joined in 2001. I was a pre-postulant. You are still at home, but you work with the Assumptionists. The year after, you become a postulant. Then you live with them.
“When I finished my postulancy, my dad asked, ‘Are you still going?’ I told him, ‘I want to be a priest.’” He said his father told him not to complain later that he didn’t offer to pay for college. He feared if his son didn’t make it to priesthood, he wouldn’t have the education needed to support himself.
The young man entered the novitiate, made first vows, and in 2007 got his bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
“Then my dad was almost convinced I will make it,” he said. “Then he started supporting me in everything, even sometimes sending me money.”
In 2007 Father Musondoli left his country for Arusha, Tanzania, where he spent a pastoral year teaching postulants French, music and about being an Assumptionist.
Then it was off to Nairobi, Kenya, to study theology. After his first semester, in December 2008, he made his final vows there.
But when he returned home for vacation after his first year of theology, he told his father he didn’t want to go back.
“You told me you want to be a priest,” his father responded, and sent him back for a second year of theology. If he still didn’t want to pursue the vocation after that, he could come home, his father said.
Father Musondoli said he didn’t know why this desire to leave came to him. But by the time he finished his theology degree, he had decided to pursue priesthood.
“I asked for studies in computer science,” Father Musondoli said. He said he was told he could study computer science at Assumption College after being ordained a priest, since there was not a formation program here for deacons.
He was accepted into the diaconate program in Kenya and another Assumptionist was in the program in Tanzania, so both were ordained deacons in Tanzania in 2011, he said.
Then he applied to Assumption College, was accepted and applied for his visa. Last May he got the visa, with the instructions to be here by June 6.
So instead of being ordained a priest in Congo in August, as planned, he came here.