Chikonde Celse was born in November, 4, 1917 in Chabukasupa village, Lubwe Mission. Chikonde Celse is Ngumbo by tribe and the language mainly spoken is Ngumbo.
He began his primary school course at Lubwe mission school in 1924 and completed in 1928. He went for further studies at Kapatu in Northern Province in 1929 after which he was chosen to go to the minor seminary at Lubushi in 1934- 1936. He went to the major seminary at Kipalapala in Tanzania in 1937 where he spent nine years. He was ordained as the first priest in Bangweolo Vicariate, on 15th 1947 at Tabora in Tanzania by Rt. Rev. Trudel. He came back to his home place on 28 August 1947 and administered his first mass at home on 31 August 1947 at Lubwe Mission. He became a Monsignor in Mansa Diocese on 4th Dec. 1996.
Because of his great influence over the people of Ngumbo people had a deep faith. This followed after the interpretation of the homilies that were given by the White Fathers. Missionaries could not speak Ngumbo well and it was his task to be going out to different areas spreading the word of God. He re-organised the lay apostolate groups such as the Catholic Family Movement, Young Christian Workers, Tretiaries, Vincent de Paul, Evangelists, Rosary Association, Scouts and Girl Guides. He organised many meetings for the Evangelists so that they could help the priest to instruct the people in the faith. Many churches were built with the help of the White Fathers.
It was understood that the only way to know how to read and write was simply to be a catechumen. People feared baptism for it meant permanent marriages for the spouses. With Fr. Chikonde’s intervention, baptisms were many, with understanding of the matter and it was recorded that from 1905 to 1957, the number grew to 52, 978 at Lubwe Mission.
He translated the catechism of the Catholic Church into local languages, Bemba and Ngumbo. The catechism was brought to Lubwe Mission from France by Father Pueth in 1905. The Church at Lubwe Mission was recorded to be filled three times every Sunday.
Due to the small number of priests, Fr. Chikonde recruited many catechists who could help in instructing people in faith. The eldest catechist, born in 1875, was Mwenge Jacob. The catechists were sent into the villages in groups of four.
From 1930 to 1940, witch-finding was on the increase. Witch-hunters came from Malawi. People thought that they would put an end to death, famine, sickness and sufferings and thought that these were caused by witches. Fr. Chikonde zealously, taught the Christians to dislike the witch-hunters because they brought hatred, suspicion, injustices and dissension among them. By 1949, the White Fathers and Fr. Chikonde Celse were able to remove all the witch-finders who were causing trouble in the area.
Father Chikonde worked in different places from 1947-2002. These include: Luena Parish September 1947 - January 1948 (Now in Kasama Arch Diocese); Malole Parish January 1948 - September 1949 (Now in Kasama Arch Diocese); Nsakaluba Parish September 1949 - November 1951 (Mansa Diocese); Lufubu Parish November 1951 - July 1964 (Mansa Diocese); Kabunda Parish July 1964 - December 1972 (Mansa Diocese); Chaplain for the Sisters of Mercy June 1977 - January 1990 (Mansa Diocese); Nsakaluba Parish December 1972 - April 1986 (Mansa Diocese); Mansa Parish April 1986 - September 1986 (Mansa Diocese); Chembe Parish September 1986 - January 199 (Mansa Diocese); “Monsignor” December, 4, 1996; Retirement 25 May 1997 from active pastoral ministry; On 17 August 1997 his Golden Jubilee was celebrated at Lubwe. He died on 4th May 2002 in Mansa.
Fr. Chikonde Celse was moving to the people very often and he was very close to the people. He urged the people to pray and receive the sacraments; to regularise their marriages; to help the poor; to visit the sick, etc. Because of this faithfulness, more men and women started to take up the vocations of priesthood and sisterhood. By 1959, two sisters made their final vows at Chilubula. He encouraged young men and women to take up the vocation of religious life. Fr. Chikonde initiated the building of chapels in many of the out stations of parishes he worked in. He used to help in pastoral work until he was too sick to continue working.
Chiinga Margrey Mwewa
Fr. J. Soller, (White Father), A History of Lubwe Parish. (Published in Mansa Diocese, 1975). Fr. Louis Molinier, Diary, (Mss. Mansa Cathedral Library, 1905). Fr. Chasha Lufungulo, (Fr. Chikonde’s funeral oration, Mansa diocese, 2002).
This article, received in 2002, was researched and written by Chiinga Margrey Mwewa at St. Augustine’s Major Seminary, Kabwe, Zambia, under the supervision of Fr. Michael O’Shea.