SILVER SPRING, Md. — A Franciscan who has been living and working with Holy Name Province friars for more than a decade is now officially part of the Province.
In June, Jean-Marie Kabango, OFM, was formally received into Holy Name Province. Since 2005, he has been stationed at St. Camillus Parish, the multi-cultural community just outside of Washington, D.C.
“Jean-Marie is a blessing for the friar community at St. Camillus as well as for the Francophone community there,” said Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, who lived at St. Camillus Friary for nine years. “Gentle, self-effacing and happy, Jean-Marie was a delight to live with. He never sought the limelight, nor was he one to make many demands on the fraternity. He lived fraternal life simply, naturally, gratefully and generously. I don’t remember him complaining even once about anything!”
Jean-Marie, who ministers mainly to the French-speaking community of St. Camillus, grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in central Africa.
“I come from the Katanga region, that is, from the southern part of the DRC,” he said. “I served the Province of Saint Benoit l’Africain as secretary and treasurer for two years while having the responsibility of a parish that I served for five years. In 2005, my provincial with his council appointed me to come to the United States to work in a multicultural parish.”
“I still remember the day when several of us from St. Camillus Parish met Jean-Marie at Dulles Airport,” said Larry. “He had flown in from Congo, generously responding to our request to his province for a friar who could pastor the French-speaking African community in Silver Spring. There he was with his joyful smile and gentle, calming presence. Those were qualities that Jean-Marie continued to manifest throughout the years we lived and worked together at St. Camillus.”
“Hard-working, humble and joyful, he slowly but surely led the French-African community toward greater unity and deeper spirituality. Prayerful and patient, and blessed with both a great sense of humor and a keen insight into people, Jean-Marie brought stability and fervor to the Francophone community that was, at the time he arrived, fractured by divisions. Under his guidance that community has continued to grow and share its multiple gifts and charisms with the other parishioners as St. Camillus.
“I am so happy that Jean-Marie is now a member of Holy Name Province. He is a gift of God to us. May he enjoy many more years of fruitful ministry and Franciscan witness with his new band of brothers,” said Larry.
In addition to his temperament earning respect of the St. Camillus community, his knowledge of seven languages – English, French, Lingala, Swahili, Tshiluba, Kikongo (the national languages in DRC), and Kiluba (his parents’ language) – has been an asset to the parish.
“Jean-Marie-Marie is humble and he treats people with dignity and respect,” said Christopher Posch, OFM, pastor of St. Camillus. “He knows when to stand with the people, behind the people, or in front of the people. He is a true lesser brother. And, he even feeds the birds.”
“He is a very holy friar,” added Christopher. “He prays before the Blessed Sacrament every day.”
Jean-Marie said he has had positive feelings about his experience at St. Camillus.
“I have had a very good missionary experience at St Camillus,” he said. “As parish vicar in charge of the Francophone community, I have to serve my brothers and sisters coming mainly from French-speaking African countries to live their faith of Catholic Christians in an American context.
“The beginning was not easy but the support of my brothers in the fraternity was a great help and the grace of God acted effectively. I like the diversity lived in the unity,” he said. “Some liturgical celebrations in St. Camillus always remind me of what we will be at the end of the world. People of all languages and all races, we find ourselves at Jesus’ turn to celebrate our faith.”
Jean-Marie began his Franciscan journey nearly 30 years ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He entered the Franciscan postulancy program there in 1990 and professed his first vows in 1992. Six years later – in September 1998 – Jean-Marie professed his final vows and in 1999, he was ordained a priest. He returns annually to his country.
“Since I have no members of my biological family here in the States, once a year I take my holidays and I visit my parents, the brothers of my home province to share with them my missionary experience since I am the first Congolese Franciscan to live the missionary experience in the U.S.,” he said. “I also visit some family members and friends.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “St. Camillus Parish Helps Puerto Ricans Still Rebuilding from Hurricane” – Aug. 8, 2018, Catholic Standard
- “The Coming of the Friars to St. Camillus” – Sept. 30, 2009, HNP Today
- “Choirs at St. Camillus Sing Music of the World” – Jan. 12, 2011, HNP Today