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The Church Celebrates 125 Years Of Presence In Agalega

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The Catholic community in Agalega, which is part of the Port Louis diocese, celebrated 125 years of the Church’s presence on the island on Thursday 8 September. This is the first time that the faithful have commemorated the arrival of the first missionaries on the island. It is a major event on the island, full of strong emotions. Despite the spaced visits of the priests to the archipelago due to transport constraints between Mauritius and Agalega, the Agaleans have kept their faith alive.

However, for the main feasts on the liturgical calendar, such as the celebration of Easter and Christmas, a priest is present.  And during his stay, he takes the opportunity to celebrate weddings, baptisms, first communions and confirmations and to lead training sessions.

For this anniversary, the people of Agalé were happy to have the presence of Father Michel Moura, who knows the archipelago well, having worked there as a civil servant for several years before entering the seminary.

The mass celebrated by Father Michel Moura and the blessing of a new Missionary Cross were the two highlights of this event. The inhabitants received a bookmark with the first cross installed in 1897 by Father Malaval (the first missionary on the island) and a prayer composed by the pastoral core to continue the journey.

The theme of this anniversary sums up very well the continuity of this mission: “Avek nou bann Zanset, dan limilite ek lazwa, ansam anou kontign nou mision batize dan lafwa”.

The Church in Agaléga

Situated 928 km north of Mauritius, the two islands that form the territory of Agalega are separated by a shoal that can be forded at low tide: the North Island and the South Island. A boat connects them. Each of the two islands has its own place of worship: the chapel of the Sacred Heart at Vingt-Cinq on the North Island and on the South Island, at Sainte-Rita, the Sainte-Rita chapel. The name of this place was given in 1933 by Bishop James Leen c.s.sp. during a pastoral visit to the island, in honour of the daughter of Volcy Monnier, the administrator at the time. He was the first bishop of Port-Louis to set foot on these two islands which are part of the diocese of Port-Louis.

As early as 1835, the wife of the then owner, Mrs Barbé, had asked for a priest to be sent to Agaléga. It was not until 1897 that the first missionary, Father Victor Malaval s.j. (1850-1931), arrived on the southern island. It was in the afternoon of 20 August. A chapel was improvised with all the elements necessary for the celebration of Mass. He stayed on the island for 25 days. He did not return until 5 years later. During his stays, he catechised, baptised, blessed marriages, confessed, gave communion to children and adults for the first time and administered the sacrament of confirmation.

In the past, while waiting for the priest’s visit, the administrator would give the newborn babies an anointing. The newborns were then given the additional rites of baptism when a priest visited. During his visits, the priest only performed acts of worship in the afternoon, after school for the children and in the evening, after work for the adults. It was the administrator who married the couples civilly. Today, it is the employees of the weather station who act as civil registrars.

On 18 June 2004, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Sacred Heart Church, Bishop Piat, accompanied by Father Jean-Maurice Labour, Vicar General, went to Agaléga to celebrate this event.

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