The new pastoral year has just begun, and in Vaulx-en-Velin the installation of the new parish priest of St. Thomas took center stage today 19th September 2021. Fr. Dieudonné Baloitcha was installed as parish by Fr. Yves Guerpillon the territorial vicar episcopal of East Lyon and rector of Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica. The ceremony took place in the presence of the SMA Provincial superior of Lyon Fr. François du Penhoat and Bishop Michel Cartateguy, the former bishop of Niamey-Niger, a member of the Provincial Council of Lyon.
They were joined by other SMA confreres living and working in Lyon.
The colorful ceremony which took place during the Eucharistic celebration saw Christians from all walks of life – more than twenty different nationalities, dressed in pomp and color, signifying the unity in diversity of the church.
In her welcoming remarks, MmeYolette a member of the pastoral animation team on behalf of the parish of St. Thomas, and sister parishes of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Joseph as well as the chapel of St. Jean in Villeurbanne, invited the visitors to join their joy to theirs together with their three priests (Frs. Dieudonné, Alain Beal and Charles Tshingani) and called on everyone to embrace their missionary call of the baptized for a successful celebration.
The presence of some invited Muslim and Protestant members to grace the occasion, together with the Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles and Sisters of the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart gave great witness to the missionary presence of the SMA family in the church of France.
In his homily Fr. Yves began by reminding Fr. Dieudonné that his first and primary mission is to announce the Word of God. He made reference to the importance of the role of the parish priest and the significance of the name “Dieudonné” which means ‘God has given’ – therefore the gift of God. He invited the new parish priest to be a man of dialogue; dialogue in prayer with Jesus and dialogue with his brothers and sisters in the community he serves. He pointed out that the pastor is never alone in his responsibilities, but works with the community of religious men and women who collaborate with him. He asked Fr. Dieudonné to be attentive to others and to listen to what they say whether they are believers or not, and to have time to visit those entrusted to him in his parish through pastoral proximity.
Secondly, he invited the pastor to embrace wisdom; wisdom in showing benevolence and mercy; to be a man of peace who shuns all that breeds division, like jealousy. He should be able to meet with the concerned parties and address their issues by listening to the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, he called on the parish priest to be a man of service; a servant to all without discrimination – by welcoming everyone including those who are near and those who are far.
In his vote of thanks, after receiving the symbolic key presented to him by the pastoral animation team, Fr. Dieudonné expressed his gratitude to Fr. Yves, and then to the Lyon Provincial and his council for the confidence they have in him. He thanked his SMA confreres for their presence which reinforced their brotherhood; and also the religious from different congregations for their fraternal affection. He thanked his parishioners in their diversity and all those who are committed themselves over the years to form the body of Christ at St. Thomas and the sister parishes. He believes and hopes that together they can build an inclusive community that will be a centre for renewal that is open to all in the joy of the gospel. He also thanked the civil authorities, including her Excellency, the city mayor, with whom they collaborate.
As the pastor of the parish, Fr. Dieudonné will exercise pastoral care to the community committed to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop, who shares in the ministry of Christ for that same community as he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing, in collaboration with the other presbyters or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of the Christian faithful, according to the norms of Canon Law (Canon 519).
After the beautiful Eucharistic celebration, all were invited to a reception in the parish hall where they were treated to a menu from five different continents. And as the saying goes “all that starts well ends well.”
By Dominic Wabwireh, SMA