Fr. Albert Brys (the taller priest) poses with seminarians in Congo in 1955. Father Brys was in Congo during a period of great violence. This was what he experienced.

THE TIME OF the rebellion in the wake of the independence in 1960 was a period of uncertainty and fear. Many Belgians left Congo.

At my mission station of Bominenge (Equator Province), we were discussing what to do. We all decided to stay. I was asked by my confreres to visit the villages in the forest area. Not without some apprehension did I ride by motorcycle to the surrounding villages, asking myself how the people would receive me and react after all the horrible stories against foreigners, and especially Belgians, and after weeks of rebellious speeches against the foreigners.

Great was my surprise and my happiness when I was joyfully welcomed in all the villages I visited. "So, Father, you did not leave us... and flee to your home country," was their encouraging greeting.

The first village we celebrated the Eucharist with had an overwhelming attendance. In my homily that evening I gave them my answer commenting on Jesus' words: "I am the Good Shepherd, ready to die for his sheep. When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he runs away because he does not care about the sheep."

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I stayed in Congo (later called Zaire) till 1977 when my superiors called me back to Belgium to be secretary to the headquarters of the Flemish CICM-Province at Scheut-Brussels.

I loved the Congolese people, their friendly and sincere hospitality, their simple, joyful and careless way of looking at life.

"You, white people," they told me once, "you live to work, you are always in a hurry; we work to live and to enjoy life."

I have always been struck by their love for their families and their helpful solidarity in and with their clanship and by the way our Christian communities participated and attended the Eucharist Celebrations, praying, singing and dancing. Their sense of communal celebration on the occasions of birth, death, weddings, or after a successful hunting have left a lasting impression on me.

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