The Oblates in Zambia

“Hear, Oh Israel” (Dt. 6:4) The oldest and perhaps most effective way of spreading the good news is through the spoken word. Indeed, the concept of ‘Word’ has profound connotations in Christian theology. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Zambia certainly understand this.Eugene de Mazenod, who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1995, founded the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in France in 1816 for the stated purpose of evangelizing the world’s poor. His advice to his followers was that seeking out “new ways for the word of God to reach hearts often calls for daring.” Clearly it is advice the Oblates have followed.

Today the Oblates are a missionary congregation comprising over 4,500 priests and brothers located in 70 countries. Of this total over 700 Oblates are in Africa. The Zambian Oblate delegation is part of the United States Province. Founded in 1984, it now has nearly 50 priests and brothers. In the past six years these “evangelizers,” the great majority of whom are indigenous, founded Radio Liseli (the word means ‘light’ in Silozi).

The station is headquartered in the Diocese of Mongu is the western most part of Zambia, a stretch of the world which The National Geographic Magazine has identified as one of the globe’s most remote. The Diocese has ten parishes and more than 250 outstations served by 35 priests. Given that the area spans 88,000 square kilometers and has a population of 250,000 souls, the Oblates hit upon the idea of radio evangelization as an effective say of spreading the Word.

Needless to say funding, constructing, and launching the station were acts of daring. The station now operates 24 hours each day and relies on repeater stations (with wind-up radios!) to relay the good news even further. The content includes the liturgy, catechesis, education, human rights promotion, music and prayer—the Rosary being a mainstay.

Indeed, so effective is the outreach of Radio Liseli that both the Zambian Government and USAID have sought to take advantage of the access it provides. True to their charism, however, the Oblates are careful that the content put forth by the station is consistent with their founder’s vision: “that the word of God reach the hearts of men”.

If readers of this column ever require a quick and easy inspirational experience, they need only visit the website of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and be edified by the wonderful works of this fine Order.

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