Since 1986, the priory in Poponguine, Senegal (which takes the name “Keur Mariama”) has enabled the Brothers to be present in the heart of a land dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, under the title of Notre-Dame-de-la-Délivrande.
Only 5% of Senegalese identify as Christian, with 95% identifying as Muslim. The two religions manage to live in harmony, the principal guarantees of which are dialogue and a strong sense of the family.
The priory is currently made up of 5 brothers:
- Brother Jean-Christophe (Regular Oblate, originally from Senegal)
- Brother Elisée (undertaking his apostolic placement, originally from the Ivory Coast)
- Brother Christian-Marie (Prior and Parish Priest, originally from Senegal)
- Brother Marie-Guillaume (Vicar, originally from the Ivory Coast)
- Brother Bruno (Rector of the shrine, originally from Cameroon)
Their mission centres around two areas: the parish and the Marian shrine.
The parish occupies a considerable place in the life of the Dakar Diocese: it houses the Minor Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Délivrande and welcomes many pilgrims who come from all over Senegal and neighbouring countries. It is the parish of Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiandoum, who died in 2004 and thanks to whom the Brothers of Saint John were invited to settle in Senegal. Pastoral work in the parish centres mostly around evangelisation of the family, inter-religious dialogue and the Sacraments.
The shrine also forms an important part of life, not only for the Archdiocese, but also for the whole of the Church in Senegal. In May, 1888, Spiritan missionaries initiated a Marian pilgrimage. The following year, they set in motion the construction of the first church, which became the parish of Poponguine. Nowadays people come on pilgrimage, on retreat, for a time of recollection or simply just to visit. One of the Christian gatherings not to be missed is the annual pilgrimage at Pentecost.
In addition to the parish and the shrine, the brothers receive many requests for formation and preaching. They consequently help many different groups and religious communities with conferences or retreats. This is an important need and the brothers are currently reflecting on ways in which they might provide effective help that is adapted to their charism.
After more than thirty years in Poponguine, the brothers would like to express their gratitude to those who came before them in Senegal, and to remind us that guests are always welcome: the guesthouse may be modest, but the welcome is always warm.