Democratic Republic of Congo: Young People Walking in the Footsteps of Saints and Blesseds
The Baka Group in the Diocese of Uvira
On Sunday 13 August 2023, a very significant moment took place in the Parish and Shrine of Saint Mary Mother and Queen in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Diocese of Uvira.
The young people of the Parish who belong to the Kizito-Anuarite-Bakanja group, after three days of retreat to prepare themselves well for this very important moment, made their vows.
The group exists throughout the country and is called ‘Kizito_Anuarite’, while in our diocese of Uvira, the Bishop wanted to add another Congolese blessed, Bakanja, and that is why it is called ‘Kizito_Anuarite_Bakanja’, abbreviated to BAKA. It is made up of children between the ages of 6 and 15 who want to imitate the faith and virtues of these three martyr protectors of theirs, to follow Christ and prepare for their future.
The objectives of the group are:
- To prepare children and young people for the sacraments of Christian initiation through catechesis
- Propose to educate boys to become men according to the heart of Jesus Christ by insisting on the sacrificial aspect of the whole Christian life
Who is Blessed Bakanja?
Blessed Bakanja was a young Congolese Christian, employed by a Belgian colonial company, who in his work tried to live Christian values by proclaiming Jesus to other workers. He suffered persecution from the owner of the company who strongly opposed the evangelisation of his workers. Frustrated to the point of bleeding, he died of his wounds on 15/08/1909. After his death he was recognised and proclaimed by the Church as a martyr for the faith.
Who is Blessed Anuarite?
Anuarite is a Blessed, the first Congolese martyr, a religious of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Wamba. Assassinated in Isiro on 01/12/1964 by Simba rebels for having resisted an attempted rape. Recognised as a martyr of purity and beatified on 15/08/1985 by Pope John Paul II.
Who is Saint Kizito?
Saint Kizito suffered martyrdom at the age of 14 under King Mwanga II, burnt alive for having expressed his desire to resemble Christ. He was the youngest of Uganda’s 22 martyrs. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1820 and canonised in St Peter’s Square in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.
The Formation of the Baka
Through the imitation of their three protectors, young people are called to be a strong sign of witness to their faith in society by conforming their lives to that of Jesus who calls everyone to true Joy. The formation of the BAKA is divided into several stages, each of which is marked by a different coloured scarf.
Each stage has a slogan, which in this case translates as ‘our salvation is in life in Christ’. In fact, during this time, the BAKA make a journey that will lead them to the sacrament of Christian initiation, i.e. baptism. After a year of teaching and structured service, the BAKA enter a second phase, through a promise of commitment to their neighbour.
Welcoming Ritual for Newcomers
The welcoming ritual for the BAKA, takes place on 1 May each year, where the young people, kneeling before the Cross, say: “I pledge to improve my life and the lives of others by living in true friendship with Christ”. At that point, after the celebrant’s blessing, the scarves are handed out, which in the first stage correspond to the colours green and red.
It involves a deeper formation in the Christian faith in order to be well prepared to become young people who direct their own lives and the lives of others to the good. This stage represents the state of the splendour of faith and the goodness of God, which is encapsulated in the slogan “faith, kindness and goodness”. At the handing over of the red and blue scarf, the BAKA recite the following promise: “With the grace of my baptism and the grace of St Kizito, Blessed Anuarite and Blessed Bakanja, I promise to serve God, the Church and my neighbour, to obey my parents and to remain Bakanja, Anuarite, Kizito, according to the heart of Jesus. Amen.”
The children increase their commitment to society. This is reflected in the slogan, which in this case reads: “Useful to society”. This step is a real journey into Christian witness.
The words of the promise for this new step are as follows: “I promise to serve my younger brothers and sisters and to witness to them the good behaviour of Bakanja, Anuarite, Kizito with the help of Saint and Martyr Kizito of Uganda and the Blessed Bakanja and Anuarite. Amen’. A red and white id scarf is distributed to them.
It is a path of orientation to life on the path of truth, and a stage of offering and dedication to Jesus Christ. The slogan that characterises this stage is: “Always a friend of the truth”.
The words of the pledge: “I, …. accept with all my heart to take on the responsibility of leadership in the group of Bakangia, Anuarite, Kizito, with the aim of helping the boys with words and life witness to grow in faith in Jesus in the footsteps of St Kizito, Blessed Anuarite and Blessed Bakanja and help them to be active in the Church and the nation. May the Grace of God help me. Amen”.
The promises, in this case, also concern the parents and the nun who spiritually leads the group. Different scarves are distributed according to the responsibilities assumed by the boys. The scarves vary according to the roles they take on.
We wish these boys a good journey in friendship with Jesus and each other. We ask the Lord to be Himself their Master and Shepherd, through the adults who have made themselves available to accompany them on this wonderful journey towards the full realisation of the plan God has for each of them.
Sister Jacqueline Tabu