I am Frederick Botaka from DR Congo. I am a Mill Hill student, currently on MEP in Loyoro – Kotido, Uganda after my two years of theology in Nairobi, Kenya. After visiting the shrines of the Ugandan Martyrs, I wish to share with you my experience of these places in relation to what I have been learning during the years that I grew up. This focuses mainly on the group K.A. symbolizing two martyrs, Kizito, the youngest of the Ugandan Martyrs and Anuarite, one of the Congolese Martyrs.
K.A. What is it?
K.A. – is a Catholic action movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo for children aged around 9 to 14 years living under the patronage of Saint Kizito for boys, and Blessed Anuarite for girls. Their aim is to follow Christ even by risking their life. Inspired by these two martyrs and following them imaginatively the youngsters are guided towards the next stge of their Christian initiation, usually as ‘Bilenge ya Mwinda’ (youths of light), a movement started in the early 1970s by the late Mgr Matondo Kwa Nzambi, the former Bishop of Basankusu diocese. The group K.A. was the initiative of some major seminarians from Kinshasa in the late seventies for boys and a few years later by another ecclesiastical group for girls. The main aim is to guide the preadolescents from the age of preparation for the first Holy Communion to the admission to the ‘Bilenge ya Mwinda’. They are also involved in liturgical dances, especially during mass.
In order to attain their ideal which is Christ, both boys and girls undergo a similar formation of four stages known as ‘Voyages’ (journeys) corresponding to four school years. Each stage offers a programme of thirty lessons adapted to the place. They live in common the principle «POPVAP»: Perseverance, Obedience, Piety, Vérité (truth), Amour (love) and Purity. Separately, they live the mottos « take courage» for boys, and «to serve and to please» for girls. In order to help them have a balanced formation, their lessons focus on religious and spiritual nourishment, and practical, moral and civic matters.
The four Voyages are called after the names of the villages/cities passed through by Kizito and Anuarite to their ‘Calvary’. The boys follow Rubaga, Mityana, Mengo, and Namugongo and the girls follow Maika, Ibambi, Pawavube and Isiro. Each voyage ends with a solemn celebration during the mass where the parents and all the Christians witness their children promising to God and the community present to be followers of Christ in the footsteps of their patron saints. They are also given a medal as a sign of remembrance of their promise. Each of the stages is characterised by a slogan. During the first stage, they desire to change their life and become active and live their baptismal promises. Then their slogan is ‘our salvation is in the Christian life’. At the second stage they are invited to deepen their Christian faith, apply their training and become the youth who train others to be better Christians. Their slogan therefore is ‘Faith and Goodness’. During the third stage they learn to become practical in society following the slogan ‘Useful in society’. At the last stage they complete the formation journey with numerous tests, show their skills and put this in action in their lives in accordance with the slogan ‘Always friends of the truth’.
The members of the group call each other Kizito (for boys) and Anuarite (for girls) and greet each other ‘Salamu’ (peace) and respond ‘Amani’ (peace). Those who are in charge of them are called «Yaya» (elder) or Encadreur. These elders receive names deriving from the elders of their patron saints. The boys have Mukasa, Kaggwa, Mulumba and Lwanga, and Kasima, Bakoma, Kayenga and Meka for girls. These are the names of the other Saints associated with Kizito and Anuarite. For one to become a ‘Yaya or Encadreur’, s/he must undergo a special training and must have a certain academic qualification (at least upper secondary student) even those who finished all the four voyages. Their chaplain is called ‘Mapera’ (a ‘pet’ name for Fr. Lourdel, a missionary priest during the time of Saint Kizito).
I was a Kizito and finished all the four voyages. I also served as a Yaya/Encadreur, particularly as Kaggwa (in charge of dance, sports and entertainment), and later as Mukasa (in charge of the group). I held these responsibilities for a period of around five years. I had many inspiring and encouraging experiences as I was interacting with these life-giving young people. In order to be practical, we prayed together and did some ‘Bon Tours’ (acts of charity). We visited the sick; we helped some elders with firewood and/or water. We also cleaned the parish church. In order to show that we were youths who train and inspire others towards being good, we visited sub parishes and/or parishes. We prayed, sang, danced, played and interacted with them. As our group was a well-established group, our activities inspired other groups. These were joyful and encouraging activities. However, we also experienced some discouraging moments, especially when we faced lack of or little support from parents and other church authorities. There was also the challenge of absenteeism, especially during school time. Nevertheless, with the intercession of our patron saints, many young boys and girls served God and led others to Christ according to their capacities.
It was my great joy during my formation time here in Uganda to visit all the villages Saint Kizito and his companions passed through to reach their Calvary. My joy was fulfilled when I visited Namugongo, both the Catholic shrine and the Protestant museum. I was happy to see the places associated with the various Ugandan martyrs which I had been learning of over the years. The group K.A. has inspired and helped many young people to know more about their faith and put it into practice in Congo. Unfortunately, in some areas, including my own diocese, this movement seems to have lost its efficacy. Join me to ask for the intercession of Saint Kizito and Blessed Anuarite that many young people may be inspired and ready to serve Christ despite of their age.
Frederick Botaka (MEP student)