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The members of the East Africa District spent the Easter Triduum in their annual assembly, reflecting on 30 years of Christian Brother presence in East Africa. Reading chapters of the history written by Br Frank Chappell provided the basis for lively exploration of a story which many of us knew only in fragments. Frank’s history details the journey from the first Christian Brother to work in East Africa (in Tanzania in 1984-85), through to our first official community being founded in 1988 up to 1995.
From 1995 to the present we were able to fill in the story from our own experience and knowledge. We marveled at the ways in which God was able to “write straight with crooked lines”, to bring good out of the confusion, mistakes and stumbling that were part of the journey. There have been many graces and providential gifts. Among the many twists and turns, there was also pain and sorrow. Our Good Friday Stations of the Cross celebrated the way in which the story echoed and expressed the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus.
It is a human story of birthing something new. We recalled with deep gratitude the many Brothers who have been part of the story. The first ones came from what was St Patrick’s Province in Australia, but many others joined them from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and North America.
It is a story that continues to be written as our brotherhood grows and puts down roots in our African culture. We are standing on the shoulders of many brothers who were courageous and generous in taking the risk to plant the seed. As our founder said, "Have courage! The good seed will grow up in the children’s hearts later on".
This exploration of our history was well facilitated by Brothers Tom Kearney, Frank O’Shea and Mick Podbury. Tom and Frank are the longest-serving Brothers in East Africa, while Mick Podbury was part of the first community of brothers in Chanjale, Tanzania, in 1988.
We were grateful for the presence of our Province Leader, Michael de Klerk, and also for the chance to celebrate together the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, and a vibrant Easter Vigil. We came away with the sense of our identity as Christian Brothers greatly strengthened.
During the annual Assembly East Africa District commemorated the 30th anniversary of its foundation by reflecting on the story written by Br Frank Chappell. Christopher, the artist-in-residence at Ruben Centre took par t in listening to the story and then went away to create the artwork which captures themes and main points from ourreflections about our history. On Saturday 22 April the artwork was unveiled and Brothers reacted to the work. The artwork will be kept as a symbol and reminder of that assembly and our 30th anniversary in East Africa.