Bakanja, Isidore, Bl.
BAKANJA, ISIDORE, BL.
Lay martyr; b. Boangi are a of the Belgian Congo, c. 1885; baptized Mbandaka (Coquilhatville), May 6, 1906;d. Busirá, Congo, Aug. 8 or 15, 1909. Isidore Bakanja was baptized when he was about 18 years old. He was working as a mason's assistant when he was evangelized by Trappist missionaries from Westmalle Abbey, Belgium. Isidore wore a scapular to attest to his new faith, and so often shared his faith with others that many thought he was a catechist. He migrated to Ikile, in search of other Christians, where he was employed as a domestic servant by A. van Cauter, agent for the Belgium Anonymous Society that controlled the regional rubber plantations and ivory trade. Finding that many of the agents hated the missionaries, Isidore tried to return home, but was detained. On Feb. 2, 1909, Bakanja was scourged, beaten, and incarcerated in chains for refusing to remove his scapular. Later, he was banished from the village so that the company inspector would not discover the cruelty inflicted on him. En route Isidore met the inspector, who was horrified at the festering wounds and cared for him until Isidore died about six months later. A canonical inquiry was begun for Isidore's cause (1913–14), but dropped for political reasons. In 1976; the cause was reopened at the request of a Zairean lay group, known as the Catechists. He was beatified by John Paul II, April 24, 1994.
Feast: Aug. 15.
Bibliography: Je meurs parce que je suis chrétien: le Conseil des laïcs catholiques médite sur la vie et le message qu’Isidore Bakanja adresse à ses frères zaïrois (Kinshasa n.d.). c. djungu-simbak., Bakanja Isidore: vrai zaïrois, vrai chrétien (Kinshasa 1994). i. matondo kwa nzambi, Le bienheureux Isidore Bakanja: la voix qui crie dans la forêt (Limete, Kinshasa 1994). d. van groenweghe, Bakanja Isidore, martyr du Zaïre: récit biographique (Brussels 1989). h. vinck, Bakanja Isidore: dossier pastoral (Mbandaka, Zaire 1983).
[k. i. rabenstein]