BY TONI CASHNELLI
They came here to learn. But as often happens, the students became the teachers.
This summer two Conventual friars from Zambia came to Cincinnati to glean ideas from Franciscan Media. These first-time visitors to America have taken away more than print and electronic know-how. They will remember the people who taught them and the friars who made them feel welcome.
Back home, Fr. Kapambwe Anthony Salangeta and Fr. Francis Kasenga have a bright future. "These two brothers have been given responsibility for editorial and publishing responsibilities at Mission Press [run by the Conventuals] in Ndola, Zambia," according to a letter of introduction from Jim Kent, Minister Provincial of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation at Mt. St. Francis, Ind. The problem? "They were thrust into these positions without much preparation, and they seek some help or direction."
Anthony and Francis found both at Franciscan Media by shadowing team members through the electronic universe and the process of publishing. In the process, each emerged as an effective ambassador for a country that is a question mark to most Americans.
"Diverse" doesn’t begin to describe their homeland. An independent republic since 1964 (and formerly known as Northern Rhodesia), Zambia is home to 73 tribes speaking almost that many languages. Since the official language is English, Franciscan Media was a logical choice for their observation internship.
First impressions of America? "The country itself is big, beautiful and the people are good, very hospitable," said Francis, although he was troubled by "the number of shootings" reported on the news. "Sometimes Americans take the freedom they have and abuse it."
Asked to describe Zambia, he said, "It is a beautiful country with hospitable people. There are a very good number of Catholics at Sunday worship." In Africa, said Anthony, "People want to take long Masses. They enjoy singing the songs." At American Mass, Francis says tactfully, "The singing is solemn and different than ours." What they have noticed about the friars is "their closeness," said Anthony. "There is a sense of belonging. They know each friar."
The weeks here were productive. At Franciscan Media, "They work as a team and share ideas and implement ideas, whether they come from a friar or a lay person," said Anthony. "They have given us the opportunity to explore." Upon leaving Francis said, "Whatever we have learned here we will try to implement and reach out to the masses and go with technology."
Before they left they issued an open invitation. If you ever get to Zambia, "You have us to visit now," said Francis. "You can see the country at large."
Enjoy this video about Zambia and the work of the Conventual Franciscans.