LAST week Wednesday May 16, the small town of Usa River in Arusha region was in a great grief, as people gathered to attend the funeral of Father Josephat Msongore, a member of the Holy Ghost Fathers, famously known as Spiritans.
Father Msongore had succumbed to death after suffering from various sicknesses, mostly associated with old age. He was 87 years old. Who was this man of God? Father Msongore was a catholic priest born in 1930 at Kilema Division in Moshi Rural District, Kilimanjaro region, who, apart from his spiritual duties, he was an enormous environmentalist cum a sociologist by nature.
His memoirs showed that he laboured in different parts of the country including Arusha, Moshi, Morogoro and Dar es Salaam archdiocese, where he once worked as parish priest of Saint Peter’s Oysterbay Catholic Parish.
Around 300 people travelled all the way from Morogoro municipality to attend the funeral of this great missionary, who used to sensitise people of that place to plant trees when he worked at Moproco Catholic Church five years ago.
Other mourners came from Dar es Salaam, Moshi, Arusha and Same. This great zealot of nature also enhanced an association that still cares for old people in Morogoro, both spiritually and materially, and when a representative from Morogoro was given a chance to speak, he spoke of Father Msongore as a great hero who has left a mark in people’s lives in that municipality.
Other people who were given a chance to say something about that ‘mzee’ explained how he had helped him in various ways. It was after that event that I quickly made a flashback back in 2012, when I visited Father Msongore in Morogoro and what he told me when we were having breakfast one day.
I first met Father Msongore in 1982 when I joined form five at Usa River seminary, and since then, we used to meet occasionally, especially in Arusha and Moshi. In that particular day he wanted to know how I was faring in life, and I told him I had nothing to complain, because God has granted me a wife and three children, and we had nothing to complain because we were living a happy life.
The reply made him happy, and he went further and inquired whether I was helping the poor and the needy around me. As I was getting ready to reply he interrupted and said I should always try to do something for the community where I live.
“You should go an extra mile and help the vulnerable in society and not just your family. Imagine all of us were working for the good of the entire community, where would our country be in terms of development?” He asked me.
After that short visit I travelled back to Dar es Salaam, and while on the way I kept on pondering what Father Msongore had advised me, and before I arrived in Dar es Salaam I had already made my mind about what good I could do for the good of my community.
Since I did not have enough money to distribute to the poor people around me, I decided to use my knowledge to enable some young men and women in my office to do their masters degree, preferably outside the country.
By then, one of the foreign ambassadors working in Tanzania was my good friend, and I asked him whether his office could grant scholarships to some young employees in our office, who were first degree holders.
That envoy was thrilled with my request and he asked me to bring to his office the following week, names of four young men and women who were interested in doing masters degrees in either social communications or sociology.
I then thanked him and that following week I brought the names to his office, (two from my office and two from our close families) and after following all the needed procedures, the four undergraduates (Two men and two women) travelled overseas for their masters degrees.
The scholarships covered everything, except travelling expenses, which parents and guardians were supposed to incur, and they did that without complaints. What is really interesting is that last week, those four young lads graduated, and they are now masters’ holders.
To me it was really surprising because, they graduated the same day Father Msongore was being laid. That was a great consolation because the education of those young men and women had been possible by the idea that was inseminated my heart by Father Msongore.
Majority of mourners who attended Father Msongore’s funeral had something to share about what this great had done to them, and they loved his way of inquiring how they were doing in live.
Two days ago I dreamt Father Msongore telling his friends the following words: Remember Me. Fill not your hearts with pain and sorrow, but remember me in every tomorrow, and remember the joy, the laughter, the smiles.
I have only gone to rest a little while, although my leaving causes pain and grief, my going has eased my hurt, and given me relief. So dry your eyes and remember me, not as I am now, but as I used to be, because, I will remember you all, and look on with a smile.
Understand in your hearts, I have only gone to rest a little while. As long as I have the love of each of you, I can live my life in the hearts of all of you.
I then asked myself the following questions after that dream - What are some of the feelings that one might feel when a friend passes away? When someone that is special to us is gone it can be difficult to continue living life.
Things that were special to you may begin to seem pointless when you don’t have that special person to share it with. All of the things that you did together are reminders of the loss that you have suffered.
Do yourself a favor and take the time to mourn your loss. As you go through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, memories of the good times you spent together may bring a smile to your face instead of a painful grimace. Rest in peace Father Msongore.