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Jesuits Pay Tribute to a Young Companion Who Died in a Fatal Road Accident

Mourning a young Jesuit who was involved in a fatal road accident on 7 July 2019, between Ndola and Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. See Eulogy {here}

Jesuits in Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province remember the life of Fr John Bangwe, by paying tribute to the young Jesuit priest from their neighbouring Province of Zambia -Malawi who died in the afternoon of 7 July 2019 in a fatal road accident. The message reads: Death causes us to stop and pause to reflect on the meaning, purpose, and end of life. As Jesuits, we are guided, as always, by the spirituality of our Founder, St Ignatius of Loyola in meditating or contemplating on the subject of life and death.

Just as the Christian Sacred Scriptures have the book of Genesis as the first book in the library called the Bible, we also have a genesis, a point of departure for our spirituality: the Principle and Foundation in the Spiritual Exercises. Towards the end of the material on the Principle and Foundation, St Ignatius says,
"it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created."

Focusing on the phrase "long rather than short life", we undoubtedly reckon that Fr John Bangwe's life has suddenly become short rather than long. The 7th of July 2019 was the very Sunday on which we observed the Sunday of Prayer for Vocations. Yet the Lord, in ways best known and understood by him, has allowed the death of a young vibrant priest who was showing signs of finding consolation and joy in serving the Lord. So yes we have lost a young life, a part of ourselves, a priest recently ordained in 2017 but let the words of Job be part of our prayer too "the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).

As we offer Masses and prayers for the repose of his soul, we commend John our brother to the Lord with the disposition that St Ignatius teaches us to attain and embrace at the end of the Spiritual Exercises. Just as we have a kind of 'Genesis' to our spirituality, the SUSCIPE (Take Lord and Receive) is like our book of Revelation in which the triumph and the glory of God is celebrated through the self-offering of ourselves that Ignatius invites us to make. This is similar to St Paul's invitation in Romans 12:1-2, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Here is a recap of what St Ignatius says as he leads us to self-offering in the Spiritual Exercises:
bring to memory the benefits received, of Creation, Redemption and particular gifts, pondering with much feeling how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He has, and then the same Lord desires to give me Himself as much as He can, according to His Divine ordination.
And with this to reflect on myself, considering with much reason and justice, what I ought on my side to offer and give to His Divine Majesty, that is to say, everything that is mine, and myself with it, as one who makes an offering with much feeling.

Therefore, to the Lord, we commend the soul of our brother John in prayer for mercy and his eternal repose as we say

Take, Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory, my intellect,
and all my will—all that I have and possess.
You gave it to me: to You, Lord, I return it!
All is Yours, dispose of it according to all Your will.
Give me only Your love and grace, for this is enough for me.



 Fr. John Bangwe, SJ Eulogy: 29 June 1982 – 07 July 2019

BangweJohn Bangwe was born on 29 June 1982 in Chilubi District, Kasama. He was second of four brothers. His mother died when he was about 6 years old. The father died in 1998. At that point, John together with the other siblings were taken up and raised by a relative.

He did his secondary school at Mansa High. After completing his grade 12, he went to Evelyne Hone College to study accounting. Opportunities in life began to open up, yet he decided to forfeit some of the job offers that came forth. He opted to answer the call to join the Society of Jesus. He entered the Jesuits on 7 July 2006.

After two years of novitiate, John was sent to Harare, Zimbabwe for his philosophical studies. This was time well spent as he grew in his understanding of the mission; he purified his way of thinking and learnt how to articulate his convictions. He was greatly appreciated by fellow Jesuits: he was generous, available, approachable, kind, jovial … a man for others!
John believed in keeping connections with people! He had a big circle of connections. He created a number of social media groups for specific audiences to share information and for them to remain connected to one another. He cared to know how a brother was fairing either in or outside the Society of Jesus.

After four years of philosophy, John was missioned to teach at Canisius Secondary School, Chikuni, Monze. The boys and teachers found his presence very enlivening. To the boys, he was a big brother; to the teachers, he was a caring partner; to the Jesuits, a wonderful companion.

When the time of regency was coming to a close, there was a possibility for John to pursue further studies in accounts. However, he specifically asked the Provincial to first allow him to go for theology. Accountancy studies, in his mind, could be taken up after ordination.

He studied theology in Nairobi, Kenya and was ordained priest on 27 May 2017 by the Archbishop Emeritus Telesphore Mpundu. Fr. Bangwe was then sent for a postgraduate diploma in accounts at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland beginning September 2017.

Upon successful completion of his programme, Fr. Bangwe was missioned to the Copperbelt University, Kitwe, as Catholic Chaplain in August 2018.
As there arose a need for an interim Province Treasurer, Fr. Bangwe was asked to move from Kitwe to Lusaka and reside at Luwisha House. He joyfully accepted the mission. However, the Lord had a better mission for our companion and brother! He was called to his original home: he died in a road traffic accident in Kapiri Mposhi on 7 July 2019 as he was shifting to his new mission post. 


May the soul of Fr John Bangwe and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Nicholas Penge, SJ | Socius Zambia - Malawi Province