“Here and there, missionaries together!” is the motto of Italian Salesian Father Luigi De Liberali, 60, full of enthusiasm for his missionary work in Angola since 2009. Before being stationed in Africa, he was a missionary in Latin America for 18 years, in the Brazilian northeast — so his work has brought him to territories that are quite different but with the same objective: to preach the Gospel.
In a chat with ZENIT last week, Father De Liberali shared particulars about how he spent the New Year and about the country where he is working as a missionary priest.
ZENIT: How did you spend New Year’s as a missionary in distant lands?
Father De Liberali: Yesterday I arrived from a 1,600-kilometer trip in this region, within our parish — a municipality with five communes in which I visited 13 Catholic communities, meeting with much sand, mud, rivers, beautiful landscapes, trunks and ravines: all together!
ZENIT: What is the percentage of Catholics in Angola?
Father De Liberali: In the rural area of Moxico, in the province of Angola where I live, they are 5%. Moxico has an extension of 200,000 square kilometers and a population estimated at one million people. The municipality of Kangamaba alone, where I spent the end of the year until the feast of Epiphany, has 42,000 square kilometers and some 20,000 inhabitants.
ZENIT: With whom do you work in Angola?
Father De Liberali: Our Salesian parish is entrusted with 80,000 square kilometers, which I cover alone. There are more than 100 Catholic communities scattered over this great area, distant from one another. Luena is the city where I live with three other Salesians who are more in charge of the urban area and of our endeavors (school, professional school, youth center, health station).
ZENIT: In what part of Angola are you and what are the difficulties?
Father De Liberali: I am in the East of Angola. The distances are great, the means few, everything is difficult. Imagine that in several communities they asked me for salt. The majority of the people still live on what they can produce from the land or from hunting in the jungle.
ZENIT: What is your means of transport?
Father De Liberali: A Toyota pickup truck. It’s only a year and a half old, but it has already had many problems, also on this trip. Thank goodness I take some tools with me to do the repairs.
ZENIT: How many people do you meet during your trips?
Father De Liberali: I estimate that I meet with an average of 100 people in each community and even more in others.
ZENIT: How many days did it take you to cover 1,600 kilometers. Do you also use a horse?
Father De Liberali: There are almost no horses here, very few burros and few cows. It’s a population not used to raising animals. I covered all this in 10 days, but at an average speed of 20 to 30 kilometers per hour.
ZENIT: What are the roads like?
Father De Liberali: The roads are of colonial times and since then they have never been repaired and the rain ruins them increasingly. Sometimes they have to open other roads because of fallen trees, broken bridges, mud and sand.
ZENIT: Are there robbers there?
Father De Liberali: Personally, I’ve never met with problems of this sort. The social climate is calm. The people receive me very well, warmly, singing, awaiting my arrival, coming out to meet me. It’s a unique loveliness!
ZENIT: Would you tell young people preparing for the World Day that it’s worthwhile to be missionaries?
Father De Liberali: Without a doubt! It’s worthwhile to think of others and not just of oneself. I began when I was young. I had no intention of being a missionary. But I helped and took part in social and solidaristic activities.
ZENIT: And when did you get the idea?
Father De Liberali: Later I felt the call and realized I shouldn’t be afraid to leave my land, and I did so five years after becoming a priest.
ZENIT: What year did you arrive in Angola?
Father De Liberali: I’ve been living here in Angola for four years, but I spent more than 18 years in the northeast of Brazil. Two years in Matriz de Camaragibe (Alagoas), just over 10 years in Arena Blanca (Rio Grande do Norte) and five years in Recife.
ZENIT: How can ZENIT readers help you in your mission?
Father De Liberali: With prayers and solidarity. And sometimes by giving up something to share it with others.
To contact Father De Liberali: [email protected][Translation by ZENIT]