Congo

Community bids farewell to Father Donato

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A beloved local priest is heading home to Africa but is leaving with positive memories of his time in the area.

Father Donato Lwiyando has left for his homeland of the Congo with his last day in Canada being Tuesday. Father Donato spent six years in Canada with stops at churches in Windsor and London before coming to St. John the Baptist Church in Amherstburg as associate pastor. His most recent church was Good Shepherd Church in Lakeshore. He also spent time assisting those of African origin in the area.

Upon his return to the Congo, Father Donato will look after the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter he founded.

“I have the shelter and I need to take care of it,” said Father Donato. “We have 40 girls living there in the shelter. I think it’s a good time for me to go and take care of those girls.”

ather Donato Lwiyando visits with parishioners from St. Jerome Church from Windsor during a farewell party March 4 at the Columbus Community Hall. He leaves March 6 to move back to the Congo.

Women and children both live in the shelter, with the shelter being a safe haven for the women who have suffered rape and abuse.

Father Donato said he has enjoyed his time in Canada and made many friends during his time in Amherstburg but it was time to go back to Africa. He said he started thinking about returning in February 2017 and made his decision in January 2018.

“I love the community of Amherstburg. I love it very much,” he said. “I had to choose between friends who are OK and friends who are suffering. I chose those who are suffering.”

Father Donato will also be a parish priest and also hopes to return to teaching in the seminary in the Congo. He will also try and help provide medical treatments to those in his homeland.

“When I went home to the Congo, I found people dying of sicknesses that could have been healed,” he said.

Father Donato’s time in Canada also saw him assist with the Spanish-speaking population near Sarnia. He would visit at least twice per month. He was also involved with other groups that helped spread love and peace in the area.

“I will miss the people. I really love the people of Amherstburg,” he said. “They were very, very kind. I will miss their smiles.”

Father Donato hugs a St. John the Baptist Church parishioner (right) during his farewell party at the Columbus Community Hall.

Adding he will always remember how he was welcomed to the area, Father Donato stated that he will always remember Amherstburg’s generosity.

“The people of Amherstburg are really, really generous,” he said. “I will miss that. I have very, very good memories of this community. I felt very loved, very welcomed. I will never forget them.”

Father Donato also spoke highly of St. John the Baptist Church priest Father Brian Jane.

“He has been very friendly, very supportive and very human,” Father Donato stated. “May God bless him.”

While Father Donato has gone home, fundraising for the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter continues. A pasta and salad dinner will be held at the Columbus Community Hall March 18 starting at 4:30 p.m. The cost is $10 and all proceeds will go to the shelter.

Local committee trying to raise funds, awareness for women’s shelter in the Congo

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A women’s shelter in the Congo was founded thanks to the effort of Father Donato Lwiyando and a group of volunteers in 2006 and they are looking for some financial aid from Amherstburg.

Father Donato is now the associate priest at St. John the Baptist Church and he and a committee formed at the church are hopeful that Amherstburg residents will support the shelter. Known as the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter, the shelter provides a place for women and children in the Congo to go to be safe.

Father Donato Lwiyando is pictured with two of the young women supported by the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter in the Congo. Father Donato is now the associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Church and a committee has been formed locally to help fundraise for it.

Father Donato Lwiyando is pictured with two of the young women supported by the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter in the Congo. Father Donato is now the associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Church and a committee has been formed locally to help fundraise for it. (Photo from www.hopeislife.ca)

Father Donato is the president of the committee with Larry Allen being the vice president. Allen pointed out they now have charitable status, meaning they can issue tax receipts for donations over $20.

Father Donato said the shelter was founded to help protect women and children, as many of the women were being raped and abused. Some of the perpetrators come in from neighbouring countries, he said, noting they also steal as well.

“It provides a safe haven,” Allen added of the shelter.

Many women previously ended up in brothels, said Father Donato. The shelter has grown from three women in the beginning to nearly 40 now, he added.

The committee is trying to raise money now that the Christmas season has arrived and Allen pointed out the shelter is a Christian project, a not just for Catholics.

“We’re trying to keep the Christ in Christmas,” he explained.

Father Donato, who has had previous stops in London, Windsor and Sarnia before arriving in Amherstburg, said the shelter teaches the women various skills including sewing, bread baking, making soap and working with pigs. They are trying to make and sell various products and food items so the shelter can help sustain itself.

“The idea is to be self-sufficient,” he said.

Allen said they are planning another pasta fundraiser in March at the K of C Hall, similar to the one held earlier this year. He said they not only appreciate donations, but sponsors as well as they would like to see people make monthly contributions to those in need at the shelter.

father-donato2

Father Donato Lwiyando (back row, centre) stands with a group of women supported a shelter he helped found in the Congo. (Photo from www.lifeishope.ca)

“Our goal is to have sponsors that will do it every month,” said Allen, adding “prayers are always basic and most welcome.”

All proceeds go to the shelter with previous donations helping to build not only the shelter, but also a water reservoir, showers, a new roof and a small room to make the soap. Father Donato hopes that one day they can construct a school at the site, noting the trauma the women and children have suffered makes it very difficult to learn.

For more information, call Father Donato at 519-736-5418 or Allen at 519-736-6731. People can make donations through e-transfers from their financial institutions to stjoseph@hopeislife.ca or deposit it into the committee’s account at Libro Credit Union. Cheques, payable to the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter Inc., can be mailed to 273 Fryer St., Amherstburg, ON, N9V 3G7.

The shelter also has a website, found at www.hopeislife.ca.

Fundraiser for African shelter being held this Sunday at K of C Hall

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The St. John the Baptist Church social justice committee is hosting a pasta dinner fundraiser this Sunday with the aim of assisting women in need in the Congo.

Father Donato Lwiyando, who is the associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Church, started the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter in 2006 to aid women and girls near Bukavu, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa.

“We are having the fundraiser to meet the basic needs of the girls and women living in the shelter,” Fr. Lwiyando explained.

Father Donato Lwiyando (left) and Larry Allen hold a flyer for a fundraiser that the St. John the Baptist Church social justice committee is hosting at the Knights of Columbus Hall this Sunday. Proceeds will help benefit the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter in the Congo.

Father Donato Lwiyando (left) and Larry Allen hold a flyer for a fundraiser that the St. John the Baptist Church social justice committee is hosting at the Knights of Columbus Hall this Sunday. Proceeds will help benefit the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter in the Congo.

The fundraiser is being held at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 190 Richmond St.

The country has been ravaged by war, with over seven million people having lost their lives. Fr. Lwiyando said 500,000 women and girls have also been raped during wartime, with many of them now living with AIDS. The girls have been marginalized after being raped, he added, and go into Bukavu to go into a brothel.

Fr. Lwiyando stepped in ten years ago and had girls taken out of there. While he originally couldn’t find families within the parish in the Congo to adopt them, his efforts continued. Some of the girls in the brothel were as young as 12-years-old and some of the young girls would later become pregnant due to being at the brothel.

A visit to the mayor of Bukavu didn’t prove to be productive but eventually Fr. Lwiyando was able to secure a home on the outskirts of Bukavu. The home, which was subsequently able to be purchased, became the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter.

There are 31 women and girls now living in the home, he noted.

The girls receive vocational training, said Fr. Lwiyando, such as sewing, making soap, tending to animals and growing their own food. Many also go to school.

“Some of them don’t know how to write or read,” said Fr. Lwiyando.

The shelter is looked after by a nun and a team of four other women.

Larry Allen, a member of St. John the Baptist Church’s social justice committee, said people can get an income tax receipt by making their cheques payable to St. John the Baptist Church and mentioning in the memo line “St. Joseph Shelter.”

“It’s a safe shelter for them,” said Allen. “They feel safe there.”

Dinner will be served from 4:30-7 p.m. and tickets are $10 each for adults and $7 for children ages 6-12. Kids five years of age and under are free.