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8 September 2020

Commissariat of San José del Congo

Our Order’s presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo – or Congo Brazzaville – is an impassioned history that spans more than 50 years and that now reaches a new milestone with the creation of the Commissariat of San Jose del Congo by the Father General, Saverio Cannistrá and his Definitory through the decree published on March 10th, 2020. The Commissariat will be formed by the houses of the previous General Delegation.

To mark this joyous occasion, our web page and our information bulletin will offer in the French language section a brief history of the presence of the Order in these African nations that we summarize here.

From 1965 to 1969, the first Discalced Carmelites from the Provinces of Castille, Flanders, and Rome established themselves in various ways in the west and the center of Congo. They set up pastoral, evangelical, and social initiatives. Soon, the first youths answered the call to vocational discernment and as a result, a novitiate was built in Kananga in 1979 so that the candidates could begin their Carmelite formation. The first Carmelites responsible for the novitiate community were Fathers Marcellino Forcellini (Rome), Sebast Vanderstraaten (Flanders) and Miguel Gutiérrez (Castille) assisted by the Polish missionaries who were already established in Burundi. Over time, coordinated and assisted by then Father General Felipe Sainz de Baranda, the new missionaries in the Congo expanded the structures for receiving and forming vocations with help from the already-established Congolese Carmelites. The Delegation’s growth spurred the building of a center for pastoral and spiritual initiatives, the “Teresianum” of Kinshasha.

As years passed, the veteran, European missionaries gave way in their governance and formation roles to Congolese religious, initiating a period of maturation that now gives fruit with the creation of this new Commissariat.