Farewell to Denis, a faithful companion and friend
In 1965-1966, I found myself in my first year of philosophy at Chantilly with a certain MAUGENEST Dionysius, both registered in the province of Paris. But we lost sight of each other immediately in the second year and our paths of formation diverged. This brief course gave me the image of Denis as a serious companion. But my shyness at the time did not allow me to approach him to better grasp in depth what he really was.
But God who knows us better than we know ourselves always precedes us at the crossroads. In fact, our companionship was to be forged and consolidated in the 1980s, when Denis sought to establish a Catholic University in Africa. He made the proposal to our companions in Abidjan, but they found that we already had INADES and his project was not accepted. He then went to Kinshasa. There, too, the ideal conditions for the project were not met. I finally received him in Yaoundé where, since 1981, I was superior of the community of St. Francis Xavier and chaplain of the CCU (Catholic University Centre). I opened two doors for Denis:
- I put him in contact with a group of professors that we had created for the Christian animation of the University, the FUC (Forum of Christian Academics). The Group immediately adopted Denis and gave him the information and addresses he needed, and at the same time showed great interest in the project of a Catholic University in Yaoundé.
- I offered him a vacant piece of land that the provincial had asked me to acquire as a possible home for the students, to set up a community of Jesuit professors. It was there that Denis would later build the Bellarmin residence.
Denis was delighted with this welcome and took the decision to establish in Yaoundé what would become the UCAC, the Catholic University of Central Africa. In an unfailing fidelity, he kept a moving memory of this welcome, and whenever he had to introduce me to someone, he always recounted this episode as a decisive point in the choice of Yaoundé to implant the UCAC.
At the time of the construction and start-up of UCAC under the leadership of Denis, the great visionary, I was assigned to Abidjan. Indeed, UCAC, decided in 1989, actually opened its doors in 1991, while I was already on mission at INADES and the CELES (Centre for Literary and Scientific Studies) Juniorate since January 1989. Between 1999 and 2002, it is as socius of the provincial that I followed Denis at the helm of UCAC, struggling with the positioning of the establishment in relation to the Society, while at the same time he was groping to find an appropriate distance in his relations with the bishops.
While the UCAC is becoming stronger and relations with the bishops are becoming blurred, I am in Ouagadougou as superior of the Spiritual Centre (2002-2007), but in 2007, I am sent back to Abidjan as superior of the Saint Francis Xavier Community. Denis was then Director of CERAP (Centre de Recherche et d’Action pour la Paix), opened since 2002, as the “Refoundation of INADES”, to use his own words. In fact, INADES was the name under which the Jesuit religious mission had been registered in the Ivory Coast until then, and by which its mission was signified at that time (1962). Following the recommendation of the General Congregation of 1965, from 2000, the Jesuit religious mission in Ivory Coast became COJECI (Society of Jesus in Ivory Coast), the association on which all the works of the PAO/AOC in Ivory Coast now depend.
Denis my employer
It is in this distinction between a Director of Work and a community superior that I returned to Abidjan in 2007, superior of Father Maugenest. Our reports crossed but without confusion, insofar as Denis was to employ me for two years as Director of the Library (CEDOC, documentation centre), then one of the four departments of the CERAP.
As his employee, and sitting every Monday on the Director’s Council (not a Directorate, Denis said), I found in Denis an enthusiastic and efficient manager and leader, “highly convincing”.
He mobilized his energies for the good of the company, and was committed to the ideas he thought were going in that direction.
The preferential option for lay people
Faithful to the orientations of the Company, and stimulated by a personal conviction (he did not play with French-style secularism), he had taken the preferential option for the laity, of whom he made his privileged collaborators. The initial formatting of CERAP’s statutes bears the marks of the preferential option for the laity and with the laity. But a work of rewriting at the level of the province introduced several amendments to finally give the establishment the stamp of a Jesuit work, to the satisfaction of many young companions.
The work went through a lot of financial difficulties to stabilize itself, but Denis’ strength of conviction, his tenacity and hard work made it possible to take off and set up the CERAP of which we are all proud today. The Company has always been at Denis’ side, as well as the AFD (the French Development Agency) and many other people of good will who saw the innovative scope of the work undertaken by Denis.
When the financial crisis of 2008 worsened, the subsidy tap was turned off, and the Director of CERAP found himself in difficulty, because he could no longer maintain the level of salaries promised to employees. It was an unfortunate time that corresponded to Denis’ retirement. Several well-trained managers soon found it easy to join multinational companies that offered salaries far in excess of their pay at CERAP.
One of the few lay managers who did not take the job at that time was Mrs. Denise Houphouët Boigny. She had voluntarily left the State University, where she was earning a good living, to found CERAP with Denis.
Denis, my companion in the mission of Christ
Denis always consulted or informed the religious superior for important decisions concerning the work. He was always present at community meetings and willingly provided them with his enriching contributions. He knew how to make pertinent remarks to the young companions on our way of proceeding, without fear of being badly regarded.
When I was young, my mother often said to me: “If you know someone, you can live with him. “At CERAP, I lived with Denis in a constructive way at the service of the mission of Christ. There was no lack of tensions, for example, in the face of one or another treatment reserved for young companions, but the grace of state has always allowed us to resolve them among ourselves, without any outbursts. For this I thank the Lord!
The relationship between work director and community superior is delicate. Denis understood this well and tried, despite his taste for provocation, to safeguard the constructive relationship between the work and the community.
Vanves, December 1, 2019
Thank you, President, for this sad information; it is indeed a great loss for us.
Father Maugenest had given a lot to the Church and to Africa. A convinced Jesuit, he had a sense of humanity, formation and peace. His works from the Catholic Church in Paris to Abidjan via Yaoundé accompanied him in the glory of God.
The man of God leaves us a heavy heritage; may he help us from heaven to manage this heritage with wisdom, passion and devotion.
United to all in sorrow and hope.
Gaston Ogui Cossi.
My condolences to all
I am all the more saddened by the disappearance of Father Dénis Maugenest because our last contact was a few days ago when he told me that he was leaving the hospital.
I met this great man for the first time on New Year’s Day 2012 in the company of Andre Julien Mbem, at the time director of the Collection at the Harmattan, and Emile Moselly Batamack. During our conversation, he put forward the idea of setting up a think tank on the future of Africa, an idea that will lead to the creation of the IAM in 2013. Since then, our links have become close, punctuated by frequent email exchanges and lunches at the Maison des Jésuites at 42 bis rue de Grenelle each time I visit Paris.
May the Lord whom he served all his life, grant him eternal rest with him.
Yes, it is a great sadness and a great loss.
I had known Father Maugenest during a conference in Abidjan, at the CERAP (INADES), in 2012, on the subject of corporate social responsibility. He was a straight and discreet man.
He surely rests in peace.
It is with great sadness that we receive this news. One can only bow to such a personality and to the richness of what he has accomplished. Yes, we will keep alive the memory of our brother whose simplicity, generosity and intelligence marked each of our meetings. He is one of those who command respect from the outset. We pass on to each member of the community our sincere condoleances.
Sylvie and Benoît Meslin.
That’s right! Sad news. He’s gone too. A great loss to mankind. Since I met him when I was National Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace in Burkina Faso, I could no longer do without him and I regularly invited him to the Social Weeks of Burkina Faso. He preferred as M. Dénis Maugenest calls him. With his lively intelligence, nothing could be taken for granted and he made everyone think. That is why I liked talking with him very much.
Rest in peace dear friend.
François de Salle BADO.
Very saddened by this disappearance. I extend my condolences to all of you.
Beyond this sadness, Father Denis leaves us all the work of his life as his legacy, and he will continue to live on in each one of us.
Let us remember especially his wisdom, his humor and the love he had for his neighbor.
May he rest in peace.
Sad news. Condoleances to the whole IAM and the Jesuit community. Father Maugenest remains alive through his intellectual, social and human works. He realized many men and women through his professorial teaching, professional mentoring and his profession of faith and good faith in daily life, both as religious and laity.
He finally finds in heaven the peace that he has so much sought for mortals on earth.
During his lifetime he humorously told me not to cry when he died, yes, his legacy consoles me!
Jean Emile NKIRANUYE.
Bria-Central African Republic
Thank you, President. We accompany the Father from wherever we are with the Dignity and Honor due to him.
Good luck to all his friends.
Jean Emile Vincent NKIRANUYE
Central African Republic
Thank you dear President
Being on a trip to Chile I will not be able to attend the funeral of our dear Denis but I will be close to you in thought and prayer.
I am happy to have been able to participate in the foundation of the IAM and wish him long life as Father Dénis had wished.
I am sure that, from where he is, he continues to inspire and protect this beautiful work that you preside over.
Please receive, dear Denise, dear President, all my condolences and wishes of success for the IAM.
Good morning, sir,
It is with great sadness that I learn of the death of Father Maugenest.
I knew him little, but at the end of every IAM conference I attended before I left for Congo, he would ask me for information about the Bar School, the Internship Conference
Like many very intelligent people, he seemed to have a boundless curiosity and I’m sure it wasn’t faked.
Being unable to be physically present at his funeral, I will be in the Prayer Union from Pointe-Noire.
Good evening, everyone,
Tomorrow I will be present at the funeral of Father Denis (he told me several times that he did not like to be called a father because for him, the only father who is and exists is Jesus Christ, but while waiting to find another name, I allow myself to call him that out of respect), and with my children, who know him and love him. They have received much encouragement and sympathy from the father. Yes, Father Denis was a very good educator-pedagogue. He himself, who made Franklin, Sciences Po and Ena (from which he resigned) did not give a damn about these crowned appearances. What is important for him is that each one finds his own salvation, as well as the TRUTH, at his own rhythm, in a progressive way, with discernment, trial and error, thinking calmly.
Certainly, Father Maugenest gave much to Africa, but he would have liked to give as much to Asia. In any case, he was a promoter of the TRICONTINENTAL dialogue (where the Africa World Institute originated) between Africa Asia and Europe (and if we look closely at what is happening at present on the geopolitical level, we cannot ignore his vision).The photo that made him truly happy was the one in which Atsugo and I were on one side of Asia, and Denise and Liliane (or other African members of the IAM) on the other side of Africa, itself, of Europe, in the middle between two continents.
Finally, although he was always consulted, as a friend, Jesuit father, godfather, sage, brother, teacher… Father Maugenest never sought (at least as far as I know) to impose his ideas on others (even the ideas of Christianity). According to him, in order to have peace on earth, Man should “LIVE TOGETHER WITH EVERYTHING… Initiation to political society. “(title of one of his books). Father Maugenest thought about this conviction, believed in it, taught it and above all practiced it and applied it first to himself .
With tears in my eyes, I pray Peace be with him, and the peace crowned with light will be with him…
TRIBUTE TO FATHER DENIS MAUGENEST
From Father Denis Maugenest
I first met Father Denis Maugenest in September 2003 at the inauguration ceremony of the Institute of Theology of the Society of Jesus (ITCJ) in Cocody les Deux-Plateaux, a district of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. I had been invited by Father Yves Morel.
During the meal following the mass, I was sitting in front of Father Denis Maugenest and we started a conversation. As we were inaugurating a training institution, I told him that I had heard about the Catholic University of Central Africa in Yaoundé and I expressed my admiration for the success of this structure, unaware that he had been its founder, which he revealed to me much later in our meeting.
The Founder of CERAP and the Institut Afrique Monde
During this discussion, Father Maugenest informed me of the refoundation in 2002 of the African Institute for Economic and Social Development (INADES) created in 1962 by the Jesuits, well known to all Ivorians, now renamed the Centre de Recherche et d’Action pour la Paix (CERAP), in the context of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.
He revealed to me his vision of CERAP which, in his opinion, should be a place of reflection and free debate, supposed to contribute to education for citizenship and the culture of peace, to raising awareness on respect for human rights, to questioning everyone about the need to live together and to interreligious dialogue.
He also wanted, as I understand it, for CERAP to play its part in the training of young Africans from all walks of life, and for the Institution to set an example by helping to renovate the Ivorian University.
In 2006, when I joined the CERAP team as advisor to the Director General, Father Denis Maugenest, and then as Secretary General, CERAP became a training and publication centre, including “Débats – Courrier d’Afrique de l’Ouest”.
Within CERAP, the Institute for Dignity and Human Rights (IDDH) was officially recognized in October 2005. This private Ivorian institution of higher education, offered in-service training in human rights, conflict management and sustainable development.
Then, in 2008, the School of Moral and Political Sciences of West Africa (ESMPAO) was set up within the IDDH, which offered a master’s degree in Ethics and Governance. It was at this time that CERAP/IDDH became admitted as a Member of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF). The CERAP / IDDH was subsequently ranked as the first private higher education institution in the ranking carried out by the Ivorian Ministry of Higher Education.
CERAP’s Executive Director, Father Denis Maugenest, was a hard worker and passionate. He only took one week’s vacation a year to complete his spiritual retreat.
Cultivated, having the courage of his opinions, he was never discouraged, even in the worst difficulties. He was not afraid to innovate or take risks.
Father Denis Maugenest returns to France in 2011, after his stay in Côte d’Ivoire. He then decided, after having thought about it, to found the Africa World Institute (AMI). He had no difficulty in getting some people to support his idea. The Africa World Institute (AMI), a free and independent laboratory of ideas, was therefore created in October 2013, with the precious and immense help of the Society of Jesus, whom I cannot thank enough.
The Africa World Institute (AMI) has set itself the mission of:
- to make Africa’s dynamism and potential known to as many people as possible through a better understanding of its society, culture and economy, from both a historical and a contemporary perspective;
- to position itself as a body for reflection, analysis and debate, proposing innovative and bold ideas for the development of a peaceful Africa, open to the world, with a point of view to defend on what happens there;
- to encourage and implement initiatives that aim to improve the lives of men and women on the African continent.
Father Denis Maugenest, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Africa World Institute, then asked to be a simple sponsor, with the concern to promote the youngest, which did not prevent him from being present at all the meetings.
The latest work of the Africa World Institute concerns interreligious dialogue and its contribution to peace in West Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Benin) on the one hand, and in North Africa (Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia) on the other. Father Maugenest was particularly devoted to peace and dialogue in Africa.
At the request of its Board of Directors, a branch of the Africa World Institute was set up in Côte d’Ivoire in 2014. Father Denis Maugenest’s wish has always been the spin-off of the Africa World Institute in several African countries.
A life given to Africa
Father Maugenest has given much to Africa and Africans. We owe him a lot. He has constantly expressed the idea that it is up to Africans themselves to imagine the best for the Continent and to devote themselves boldly to it.
The date of November 30, 2019
It is the date of November 30, 2019 that the Jesuit brothers of Father Denis Maugenest have chosen for the last Eucharistic celebration with him. It is also at the same time on November 30, 2019 that the symposium organized by the Africa World Institute on the theme: “Higher education and employability of young people: innovative strategies within the framework of the objectives of sustainable development” opens in Abidjan, at CERAP, in the presence of students from several Ivorian universities, in the amphitheatre built by Father Maugenest upon his arrival in Côte d’Ivoire, after having taken his pilgrim’s staff for a fundraising event.
On the evening of November 30, at 6pm, an extraordinary general assembly of the Africa World Institute will be held in Côte d’Ivoire. We will dedicate these two activities to Father Denis Maugenest. It will be our way of saying goodbye and thank you.
On behalf of the Africa World Institute, I extend heartfelt condolences to his biological family, his brothers in Christ, the Jesuits and his friends. We are sure that he will continue, “from heaven where our hope places him”, to support us, to support what he has accomplished here on earth much more than he was able to do when he was among us.