Malta, 29 June 2020 -- Interview with Cl. Jean Paul Mutombo Matala Yane
Who taught you to know and love Jesus?
Knowing and loving Jesus is one of the greatest gifts I have received from my parents. Not only did they teach me the first catechesis, but also their prayer life and their trust in God had a profound impact on me since my early childhood. Therefore, I learned to start my days on my knees and finish them on my knees. One day my mom said to one of my brothers: "Your father, just like he begins his day with a prayer, drunk or tired, he never goes to bed without saying a few words to God ..." All my Christian life, my attachment to Christ, I have always considered it as a seed sown by my parents but watered and maintained by the Church. It is just a grace.
How were you attracted to follow Jesus and Don Bosco?
My very first vocational attraction in general was first in the figure of the priest; because I did not know that there were different congregations. At seven years old, I loved priests very much; I tried by all mean to speak with them. Unfortunately, I could not find an opportunity, if it is only for confession or a greeting that I could address them, for the rare occasion that I could meet them on my way. Later my mom would enroll me in the group of altar boys to satisfy my purely childlike desire to be near or closer to the priest. Unfortunately, even there, the priest remained for me a high-ranking person who had nothing to do with children or young people. This notion would extinguish this attraction in me.
The attraction to the Salesian vocation commenced in me at the age of twelve, at the beginning of my secondary studies, at the Saint Boniface College. A school run by Diocesan priests, but totally open to Salesian youth ministry. It is in that school that I have known the missionary circle, the annual Salesian games, the Salesian holiday camp, spiritual recollections and so many other things. Over time, I had become a zealous participant in many activities organized by the Salesians of Don Bosco in Lubumbashi, until I became a young animator for other young people. From all this, what had fascinated me a lot was the figure of the Salesian Priest, a priest not like those whom I had met before in my environment. If there, the priest was difficult to approach by children or young people, the Salesian priest revealed himself to me as a friend of the young; he says Mass, he hears Confessions, accompanies spiritually, he is also a team-mate on the football ground or basketball court. This ability as a Salesian priest, to combine the identity of the priest, an educator and a friend, has not given me the chance to choose other than to be a Salesian.
How did your Salesian missionary vocation grow?
Regarding my missionary vocation: The experience of the missionary circle (group) helped me a lot in the daily life of my missionary experience, but it was not in the missionary circle that the missionary vocation was born in me. The missionary circle helped to develop in me an availability to serve, to share, to sympathize with the needy, to spend my physical energies or my intellectual and creative capacity, for the goods of others without expecting any reward other than that of knowing that I do the holy will of God. My missionary vocation was born after meeting living testimony from some Salesians missionaries in my country. I have seen and experienced in their way of life an effective way of witnessing the love of Christ to the world. I don’t mention their apostolate to the young people, which is ordinary for all Salesians, but I was touched by their adaptation to the culture, language, meal and climate while they are living far from their family, friends and acquaintances. In my personal reflections I had found that only love – charity - can explain this joyful renunciation. This is where it all started! Of course this process was accompanied by the help of our novice master, spiritual guide, director of the post novitiate and my confessor. They all helped me in vocational discernment.
What gifts do you bring to your new mission land?
It is certain and true that from the Catholic Church and from the Salesian culture of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there is much to bring to my mission land. However, to be honest, until then, I have been focused on learning and integrating myself into the culture of my mission land, in order to understand it, to identify the differences and similarities with my own culture. I believe that only by doing this exercise can I know what to bring and when. However, I brought with me a few natural elements to all the young African people, a lively and cheerful character in everything I do. Also being a foreigner, everyone looks towards me that is why; I always have in mind the awareness that I can be the only opportunity for someone's conversion or a starting point for a new way of conceiving life for someone or even a point of vocational attraction in the life of young people in my mission land. Therefore, my life must be an exemplary life.
What are the main challenges experienced on your missionary journey?
Yes, challenges are part of the missionary experience. Main example is the cultural shock or rejection that means the lack of acceptance on the part of the people to whom you are sent. The biggest challenge I have had to go through in my experience so far is when I had to wait for my visa to go to my mission land in Bulgaria. I had to wait one full year without any reason to receive the visa from Bulgaria while the other two confreres who had applied for the same visa had only waited only three months. This discrimination, although shocking, had not succeeded in ‘killing’ my missionary impulses. The missionary experience in Bulgaria was also a difficult moment for me, but rich and unforgettable, because during this difficult time I have learned something more in my life.
What is your deepest joy of missionary life so far?
And then in Malta. I had some moments of deep joy that support my enthusiasm for missionary life. First of all, there is an immense joy in sharing the Salesian mission and life, with the confreres, who show me their acceptance and support in my apostolic action with the young. The moments of encountering the Maltese young people, were moments of immense joy and family spirit. This experience strengthens my sense of belonging and trust. This experience sustains not only my missionary life but also enthuses to witness the Christian and human values with the young people. The joy of evangelization is just wonderful!
If you were born again, would you again choose the missionary vocation ad gentes?
I will say yes, because I see in missionary life a very great expression of love for the proclamation of the gospel and even the love for the peoples of God. In missionary life, there is the visibility of everything left for the service of the Gospel.
How did you become a missionary in Malta?
Regarding my experience in Malta, I arrived in Malta for the first time, on the 31st January 2017 feast day of Don Bosco. My presence there that year was just to learn English for two months. I had no dreams or thoughts of going back there as a missionary. Nevertheless, to my great happy surprise, on April 2, 2018, the Rector Major decided to transfer me to the vice province of Malta, still a delegation from the province of Ireland at that time. On April 18, 2018, for the second time I found myself in Malta, this time as a missionary, until now. I love Malta, I love the Maltese people and I feel loved by them.
Personal sharing for the young Salesians in Congo (RDC)?
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