Columnists Features

Fr Miha continues to ‘speak’

A FEW kilometres east of the mining town of Luanshya, deep in Lambaland, lies Saint Theresa’s Catholic Mission, commonly known as Ibenga.
It is the home of the Conventual Franciscan Friars (OFM Conv.), the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi (FMSA) and the renowned Ibenga Girls Secondary School.
Typical of the Catholic tradition, lurking behind the church at Ibenga is a graveyard containing the remains of priests and nuns among them the first bishop of Ndola Diocese, Francis Mazzieri, a Conventual Franciscan friar who planted the Catholic faith on the Copperbelt and North-Western provinces, together with other Italian missionaries.
Other mortal remains interred at Ibenga include those of the first three indigenous Zambian Franciscan priests, the penurious Fr Francis Mwamba, the Mozart-incarnate and Gregorian music lover Fr John Katongo and the erudite theologian Fr Mark Funga.
This is the Slovene Franciscan priest Fr Miha Drevensek, the smiling ‘Bambo’ whose legacy in Zambia continues to touch, transform and inspire many people, especially the youth.
Ecumenical singing
Take for instance the audio video studio (AVS) Fr Miha started at the Franciscan Centre in Ndola.
Wave after wave of church choirs from different denominations continue to flock to the Franciscan Centre to record their music and videos.
They come from far and wide… Mungwi in Northern Province, Monze in Southern Province and Mtendere in the capital city, Lusaka, to mention but a few.
Just what attracts drove after drove of these singers to Miha’s tiny studio in Ndola?
It is the quality, efficiency and professionalism that is drawing these singers to the Franciscan Centre, where they vie for a recording chance.
On a typical morning, one would hear choir after choir belting out beautiful melodies before being ushered into the studio.
These pre-recording singings, they say, are meant to open up their voices in readiness for the actual recording.
One Wednesday October 15, 2014, a hilarious spectacle unfolded at St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church situated at the Franciscan Centre, when a group of singers from the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) went to town with their video recording in front of the Statue of St Francis.
The recording spilled over into the Catholic Church where they had to be restrained by church officials and advised to confine their recordings to the church environs.
What the UCZ singers did is exactly what the late Fr Miha used to encourage.
He became a household name among church singers who participated in his ecumenical musical concerts and video recordings outside St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, which were aired on the national broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC).
Fr Miha’s invitation of the Habakkuk Brothers from the Pamodzi Central congregation of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church to sing in a Catholic church nearly earned the acapella ensemble expulsion (disfellowship) from their denomination, recalls Brian Micheelo.
Today, the story is different. This Catholic studio is a crowd puller to church singers be it Catholics, SDAs, UCZ, New Apostolic Church and many other protestant and evangelical churches.
They arrive clad in stunning church uniforms, just like the 144,000 in the book of Revelations!
Only this time, their uniforms look like David’s coat of many colours. Some arrive clad in black, others in pink, green or white.
Many others prefer yellow, blue or a combination of all these colours.
A truly ecumenical spirit engulfs the Franciscan Centre today, courtesy of the recording studio and well-trained studio staff Fr Miha left behind.
Looking at these singers in action makes you feel like ‘Miha the Singer’ is indeed speaking from his grave.
Slovenian Scholarship Fund
Fr Miha has also continued to speak from his grave through education scholarships to numerous orphans and vulnerable children in Zambia. No sooner had this hardworking priest built Kalumbwa Secondary School at St Joseph’s Mission in Lufwanyamain 1991 than the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) government introduced user fees in schools.
This forced Fr Miha to start the Slovenian Scholarship Fund, which was funded by his friends from his home country.
Today, over 1,500 needy children are still benefitting from this fund, which pays for their education and school requirements.
With beneficiaries of this fund coming from under-developed areas such as Lufwanyama rural district and Chifubu, Kawama, Sinia/Nkwadzi and Chipulukusu townships, the fund has put a smile on the faces of many poor families whose children are now in school.
“Many of our children here in Lufwanyama are now educated because of Miha,” is the testimony by one Mrs Katulwende.
Radio Icengelo
One of the positives things associated with the MMD’s free market policies was the liberalisation of the airwaves.
In 1995, the late Bishop of Ndola Diocese Dennis de Jong knocked on Fr Miha’s door asking him to build Radio Icengelo.
Although he had no experience in broadcasting, the priest rose to the challenge and renovated the building housing the radio station in Riverside, Kitwe, fitting it with equipment sourced from overseas.
On March 17, 1996, Radio Icengelo hit the airwaves with Fr Miha as its technical director and spiritual adviser.
Nearly 20 years after its construction, the station continues to be an effective medium of mass evangelisation for Ndola Diocese.
The credit goes to the ingenuity and hard work of the late Fr Miha, who toiled day and night until the dream of a Catholic radio station came into existence.
Mr Elpidius Mporokoso, the first station manager, recalls, “Miha’s skills in fundraising in his home country helped in building Radio Icengelo during its initial stages. He managed to recruit volunteers from Slovenia to work as engineers at the radio station.”
Empowering artistes
Fr. Miha had a sharp eye for talent. As an accomplished singer himself he helped many young people discover and hone their talents, which has improved their lives.
To help people understand the multi-faceted character of the late priest the Franciscan Friars, Zambian Province, have published a book Joy in Self-Giving, Miha Drevensek 1946 – 2011.
The book is a befitting tribute to this industrious missionary who lived his Franciscan vocation in an extraordinary way and excelled through people.
This book contains never-seen-before full colour pictures and amazing details about his life and legacy.
It is a must-read for anyone interested in rediscovering and multiplying their talents.
It hits bookstands this November and was launched at the Savoy Hotel in Ndola on May 23, 2015.

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