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Father Vjeko's Childhood - 2/2
Tuesday, 12 February 2008 Written by Nikola Babić

father vjeko's parentsIn elementary school Vjeko performed very well and was a good example to his classmates.  He was the only child of his mother who did not have to be coaxed into studying. Everyone remembers his smiling face, his joking manner and at the same time his mature attitudes.  After school he performed duties of babysitting his young siblings, cultivating the land or driving the tractor.  He used also to work in the neighbours' houses. He loved sitting at the top of the stairs singing as the whole family sang together.

He had a special prediliction for prayer and daily church going.  He spent a lot of time with friars and on Church grounds, often in prayer, but also playing with other children. Once his mother objected to his spending so much time in church, so he arrived home with a mediator, fra Ilija who said to her: "Don't prohibit him to go to church, he's going to leave you one day anyway."  This has a resemblance to the time when Mary complained to Jesus about his spending too much time in the temple and the message that Mary recieved. Vjeko's close friendship with friars caused him some minor problems in school as well, since most teachers proclaimed comunist political views at that time.

After elementary school Vjeko entered the minor seminary which fact hardly suprised anybody in the family, as they all kind of expected it.  It seemed that the whole of his childhood clearly pointed in that direction and everybody was glad when he finally decided. He continued as a young man to be that cheery, smiling, humorous person that one had glimpsed in the child.  He also continued to devote himself to the Churcch, to his duties and to his studies.  He did not show much interest in sports. What was unexpected was his decision to go to Africa. This came as quite s surprise to everyone even to his supportive, Christian family whose members were taken aback at the thought of his being so far away from them and his native Bosnia. His sister Ljubica remembers how he tried to explain this decision to her when he said „If I stay here I will never be who I want to be..“

Thus after studying theology and being ordained in Sarajevo he went to Paris for missionary preparation and left for Rwanda, that little country which he loved, for which he gave his life and about which he said „ It is hilly like Bosnia and at times it has a climate like Bosnia and there are strong tensions between the two tribes.“  He was to experience this tension during one of the worst crises the country has known. Much is already written about this time and Vjeko's part in it.

During his 15 years as a missionary, Vjeko visited his parents' house 3 times, wrote around 10 lettters and even during his visits home his mind and much of his time were still focused on Rwandan affaires. His mother  recalls how she used to get angry and threaten to nail down the doors so he could'nt leave the house but nothing could deter him from his mission.  He would say  "They have nothing to eat and I must be with them." During the genocide he called home once using aUN telephone.  Vjeko spent the last seven years of his life in Rwanda without going home for a visit. This was a very unique choice which is in no way evidence of a lack of love for his family, but rather of his passionate devotion and commitment to a people and a way of life to which God had directed him.

And so we kept on talking about Vjeko, because once the parents started talking and remembering it seemed they could not stop and we did not want them to.  It is also a known fact that talking about painful events helps to bring about healing.  Our visit did not simply evoke memories that brought pain but was also an occasion for some more healing of memories to occur.

After lunch we went to the local parish in Osova, which is run by Franciscans. In front of the Church, since the 31st of January 2005,  is a statue of Vjeko. Inside the church you can find Vjeko's room with photographs and documentation of Vjeko's life, work and death. These photographs of his earliest childhood, elementary school years, of his time in minor and major seminary, of his ordination, of his time in Rwanda with pictures of people and of the country give an overview of Vjeko's life. In front of the statue is a memorial which is replicated and which I had already seen in the parish Church of Kivumu, Rwanda, on Vjeko's tomb, as well as in the centre of Kigali where Vjeko was assassinated.

Petar, Vjeko's father, asked the parish priest if that room was going to stay like that and the priest  replied that it would become even nicer and better. What inspired Petar's question? Was it a desire for more privacy? Did he have to give away his son in death as in life?  Vjeko is exposed in this way as an example to all of us. We feel proud of him, we feel proud of  the family that raised him, of the faith they passed on to him, of the values which were cultivated in him and which led him to make the ultimate sacrifice for love. Vjeko deserves to be known like this. We deserve to know him and have him as our model. If only there were more like him, more families like his then we might also be able to live and love more unselfishly a more Christlike life.

Father Vjeko Center

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