Reaching Out To The “Poorest Of The Poor”, in Mouila, Gabon, Africa
For two days, Chelsea Academy was blessed to welcome Canon Alexis Rouquayrol from his mission in Gabón, Africa. Canon Alexis came seeking help for his mission, which he recently took charge of, replacing Canon Fragelli. Founded in honor of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the 9-year-old mission has continued to grow, recently adding the St. Francis de Sales School and the Orphanage Maria Bambina.
Chelsea Academy was Canon Alexis’ first stop on his journey in America. On the first day, he said Mass for the entire student body, afterward making his way through the upper theology classes, answering questions about living out our faith and what it's like bringing Christ to Africa. On his second day with us, Canon taught the Schola class new chant techniques, celebrated an additional Mass with the mothers of Chelsea Academy, and followed up with a presentation about the mission and their needs.
Christianity is fairly new to the village of Mouila, but the people are joyful to learn and hear stories, such as the life of St. Bernadette of Lourdes.Canon Alexis says that the Catholics there have a deep appreciation for their faith, showing fervent reverence and dressing in their best for Mass. He also expresses that the people’s love and dedication help him to realize the secret riches that surround him, making him truly feel like the “Father of the Mission''. He encourages us to see those “riches'' in our own lives. Comfortable in our own strong Catholic communities, it’s possible that we might take our faith for granted, forgetting about the mystical realities that encompass our deep beliefs. We can see by the example of these poor people that God is present everywhere, even in places where he may be unknown.
The village people that have converted show a great attachment to their faith and rejoice in the ability to express that faith in a community. Recently, Mouila’s Oblate community of altar boys gathered in a procession for Pentecost Sunday, preceding a village celebration in honor of that Feast. Last Easter, 12 students were baptized, receiving scapulars that they will cherish forever. Now, they are making preparations for more students to soon receive the sacraments in the spring.
The people of the mission are eager to learn and hear God’s word, but still have daily struggles in the poor village. They are expanding their school, and currently trying to build a library and dispensary, but are held back by poor machinery and insufficient funding. This makes it impossible to fully fix issues, such as their working bus that cannot move because it needs tires. In addition to financial struggles, we have heard that the mission is recently subject to a bad outbreak of malaria. They need our help now more than ever.
The little children appreciate even the smallest of treasures, such as simple crafts and paper dolls. Chelsea students recently sent handmade nativity scenes to Moulia, in addition to Christmas cards written in French for the children of St. Francis de Sales School. As Christians, we are called to take care of the poor. We have been asked by Canon to pray for those in his care and to give what we can. He encourages us to consider devoting some time to visiting as missionaries, just as Mr. Steve Lee and his family did last year. There are a few sponsoring opportunities, either for a specific project or a little child you may meet through their website.
Even if it is impossible to go ourselves, it is most important to be there in spirit through prayer. We can and must pray for our brothers and sisters in Mouila, through the good example of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus. Therese wished to become a missionary herself in Vietnam, but she found that it was not God’s will. Instead, she said, “I will be love,” and offered her life for missionaries through prayer. We learn that those prayers are answered through people like Canon, and even ourselves, who are all called to take care of the world's most in need. Above everything, pray the rosary, and offer it up for the Mission of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus.