Ave Maria!

Franciscans of the Immaculate

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House of the Charity - Bembereké

 On August 25, 2012, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate opened an orphanage dedicated to St Maximilian Kolbe at Bembereké, in the Republic of Benin.  The opening coincided with the thirtieth anniversary of the saint’s canonization and is the first orphanage to be dedicated to him in this West African country, home of the late Card. Bernardin Gantin.  In addition to professing the Definitive Rule of the First Order of St Francis, this religious institute of Pontifical Right relives in its charism the experience of life and action of the “Cities of the Immaculate”, founded by St Maximilian Kolbe in Poland and Japan in 1930’s. Immaculate”, founded by St Maximilian Kolbe in Poland and Japan in 1930’s.

During the two decades of their mission in Benin, in addition to the realization the national Catholic radio station Radio Immaculée Conception and the Diocesan Marian Shrine Notre Dame de la Divine Miséricorde in Allada, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate have also launched themselves into social and charitable activity in the northern and most economically depressed region of the country, Borgou, to help the poorest children. The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, who share the same foundation and spirituality of the friars and represent the female branch of the religious family, are also dedicated in this sphere and are currently working on the construction of a “House of Charity” in the south of Benin, also for the benefit of the poorest children.  

The orphanage of Bembereké, dedicated to St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, carries the blessing of Msgr. Martin Adjou, Bishop of N’Dali, who blessed the educational complex in the presence of the prefect of Atakora, the mayor of Bembereke and a delegation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.  Of great inspiration was the letter sent for the occasion by Dr. Giuseppe Gambardella, Honorary Consul of Benin in the city of Naples. This respectable diplomat, always sensitive to the development of his country, has dedicated himself with intense and effective activity to various charitable works at both institutional and informal levels, often in collaboration with the friars

In a period of economic crisis in the West, the financing of the project is a marvel of pedagogy and creativity, being the fruit of several years of distribution of Easter eggs and chocolate Christmas cribs throughout Italy, with the active involvement of children in favor of those of their age who live in the poorest countries and to whom ought not be denied the same opportunity of education, which stands at the basis of human formation.  This method of fund-raising for the missions, coordinated mainly by the NPO Amim (Association of the Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix), an association composed almost entirely of tertiaries of the Third Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, has thus given evident proof of its effectiveness.   It is the first time the history of the construction of the “Houses of Charity” in developing countries, that in just two years, and at a reasonable cost, it has been possible to bring to final completion the realization of a building project. Not surprisingly, the inauguration date coincided with the liturgical memorial of St. Louis King of France, patron of the Franciscan Third Order.  The  novitiate house of the Franciscans of the Immaculate for French-speaking Africa is located precisely at Bembereke.  Shortly before the inauguration of the orphanage, the ceremony of investiture and religious profession of nine young men from Benin, Cameroon and Chad was held in the nearby Marian shrine of Our Lady of Peace.  nearby Marian shrine of Our Lady of Peace.  

The inauguration was accompanied by a very large presence of the faithful, as well as a delegation of Italian benefactors and even some local Muslim dignitaries, thus manifesting a general appreciation for the work.  It’s a seed of hope in this poor region of Benin of Muslim majority, and where childhood is particularly exposed to the consequences of underdevelopment.

With its unique construction in the shape of an “M”, signifying “Maria” and “Maximilian”, the complex has facilities designed to offer a happy and fruitful residence to up to fifty children and adolescents.  The aim of the project is to offer to the poorest children, with preference given those who have lost one or both parents, the opportunity of taking at least one course of primary education, while receiving a personal and religious formation of high quality. If development begins with education, the realization of this project aims to be a practical response to the exhortation, “Get up and walk”, of the apostolic exhortation Africae Munus, signed by Benedict XVI and handed to the Bishops of the Africa and Madagascar on the occasion of his Apostolic Visit to Benin, last November. 


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