Astère et Delphine Simbaré

married, ccn, Bouvines

8 juin 2024

Foundation in Burundi

« It’s not you who are leaving, it’s us who are sending you. »

By rereading the story of the birth of Chemin Neuf in Burundi, we can confirm that this Word has been fulfilled: "We know, moreover, that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

The story of the founding of Le Che- min Neuf in Burundi began with a friendship between a French couple, Bernard and Evelyne Fulchiron, who lived in Burundi as part of the French cooperation program from 1976 to 1986, and Burundians whom the couple met during their stay in Burundi, in Burundian society in general and in religious circles in particular, such as the Foyer de Charité and a charismatic prayer group that was just starting up.

This period was marked by conflict between the government of Burundi and the Catholic Church. The conflict escalated until the government closed churches, seminaries and prevented prayer groups from meeting. Foreigners who attended places of prayer were frowned upon by the political authorities. As a result, the Fulchirons’ stay in Burundi came to an early end. When Bernard and Evelyne left Burundi in 1986, one of their friends said the following prophetic words during the farewell ceremony:

« You don’t leave, we send you. Anything you find about couples, send it to us ». This prophecy was soon fulfilled: in 1987, the Fulchiron family experienced a Cana session in France and, touched by the grace of Cana, they immediately thought of their friends in Burundi. They bear witness to what they have received. In May 1988, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Bujumbura, Mgr Gabriel Baregensabe, a friend of the Fulchirons, visited France and met the people in charge of the Cana mission, who briefly explained to him what this mission to couples consisted of. Touched by this presentation and confident in his friends’ proposal, he spoke to his bishop about it as soon as he returned to Burundi. That same year, two Burundian couples (Patient and Colette, Canisius and Thérèse) attended a Cana session in France, in Montagnieu. At the beginning of 1991, the Bishop of Bujumbura invited the Chemin Neuf Community to lead a Cana session in Bujumbura, which was held in July 1991.

Cana Team, Burundi, 2001

We were lucky enough to take part in this first Cana session held in Burundi, at the Foyer de Charité in Bujumbura. We were a total of eight new couples, four serving couples (the two couples who had done the Cana session in France, the Fulchirons and François and Laurence Cartier), three nuns and one priest (Mgr Gabriel Baregensabe). We were thirsty for the Lord and it was during this Cana session that he quenched our thirst. But it also increased our thirst to know him better. After this session, we committed ourselves to the Cana fraternity.

In October 1993, a socio-political crisis broke out in Burundi, with inter-ethnic massacres. Certain districts of the city of Bujumbura became balkanized, becoming mono-ethnic. Despite this crisis, the couples involved in the Cana fraternity overcame their fear and managed to meet each other. The Cana sessions continued to take place.

After three years in the Cana fraternity (September 1994), the Lord called us to leave our country to follow community and theological training in les Pothières, in France. While the initial plan was to take a three-month course (cycle A), and we stayed for three years. At the end of the three months, we started a community pathway and followed a six-month training course (cycle C) at Hautecombe. After the year of formation, we were called to the formation service at Les Pothières to experience community life and another Burundian couple (Isidore and Germaine Hakizimana) joined us there. The four of us returned to Burundi in 1997 and joined the Community together in April 1998. The Community started with us four committed people and two couples in Bethlehem.

At that time, we didn’t have a community house, but that didn’t stop us from starting a prayer group, a Cycle B training course (the forerunner of Emmaus training) and the Youth Mission. Our meetings were held in parishes and/or schools run by religious people. The Cana mission continued and bore much fruit. After several Cana sessions held in the capital Bujumbura, a session was held in the north of Burundi, in the diocese of Ngozi, in July 2000.

That same year, the Bishop of Bujum- bura, Mgr Evariste Ngoyagoye, having learned of the existence of the of the Chemin Neuf Institute, asked the Community to found a parish covering the northern quarters of the capital. After receiving a positive response from the Community’s shepherd, the Bishop of Bujumbura proposed a building plot divided into two parts: one part would be owned by the Community to build a place to live and the other part would remain the property of the diocese to build the parish church in particular.

The parish project began in 2007. On the proposal of the community, the parish was named by the bishop « paroisse Saint Jean-Baptiste » and a first life fraternity began in premises rented from a congregation of the Brothers of Charity, neighbours of the future parish. The life fraternity was made up of Noël Tavernier, the priest of the new parish, Elysée Niyokindi, who had just completed her training in philosophy, and Jacqueline Kanyange, a youngster of the Chemin Neuf (JCN). As the rental contract was for one year, work quickly began on the community site and the living fraternity moved into a Chemin Neuf community house in 2008.

After these small beginnings, the Lord blessed the Chemin Neuf missions in Burundi. Today, the Community has around a hundred brothers and sisters, 360 brothers and sisters committed to the Communion and the Cana fraternity has more than 630 couples. ■ A. & D. S.

Frères et soeurs de la Communauté au Burundi, 2023

Cet article fait partie du numéro 078 de la revue FOI


september-october-november 2023

Regard sur le monde   Vie de la Communauté  

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