Mill Hill Missionaries Providing Training to Restore Teenage Mothers’ Dignity in DR Congo

A section of beneficiaries of Centre of formation Bakanja-Anuarite in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Centre of formation Bakanja-Anuarite

Tucked in the poverty-stricken Plateaux de Bateke region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Bakanja-Anuarite Formation Centre has opened doors to dozens of young mothers whose childhood was stolen when they became pregnant and dropped out of school.

The formation center is run by the Mill Hill Missionaries (MHM) who ventured about 80 kilometers outside DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, in their quest to serve the poorest of the poor in the Central African nation.

Fr. Patrick Lonkoy Bolengu, a MHM Priest who serves as the Director of the Centre in St. Francis of Paola Parish of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa says that Plateaux de Bateke, which, ironically, is rich in manganese mineral deposits, fits Pope Francis’ description of “the periphery of peripheries.”

Here, Fr. Bolengu tells ACI Africa, people live in ramshackle structures, away from any source of clean drinking water or electricity.

Plateaux de Bateke, the Priest says in the Monday, December 19 interview with ACI Africa, “is a place where many people would not love to live.”


“People here have neither electricity nor a good source of drinking water. Houses are poorly constructed as well. People live in abject poverty,” Fr. Bolengu says.

The struggle to survive in Plateaux de Bateke has led a big population of children in the region to drop out of school, with a huge percentage of young girls ending up pregnant, the Congolese Priest says.

“In our village, 80 percent of girls from the age of thirteen to sixteen have given birth. We found out that the factor behind these alarming statistics is that people are very poor and children survive on the philosophy of survival for the fittest,” Fr. Bolengu says.

He adds, “A majority of these teenage mothers are out of school. It can be estimated that 90 percent of these teenage mothers have not completed primary and secondary school. This fact has negative impacts on the present and future lives of these young people.”

The Catholic Priest says that prostitution is very high in villages, where children and young people are living with HIV and have had other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

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The aim of the MHM Priests, when they started Bakanja-Anuarite Formation Centre, was to equip young school dropouts, including teenage mothers, with life skills to get out of poverty and to live dignified lives.

The Centre has a tailoring section for young mothers and also trains young mechanics. It also offers skills in agriculture, including livestock rearing.

The MHM Priests also plan to construct a dormitory for children in both primary and secondary schools. These activities, they hope, will address the high illiteracy levels in Plateaux de Bateke.

“At first, we wanted only to have one small classroom, which could accommodate 10 to 15 teenage mothers for six months. However, we discovered that this was not enough; they needed more courses,” Fr. Bolengu says, adding that the Centre has introduced a three-year program to meet the growing needs of teenage mothers.

In their first year, young mothers are taught theoretical and practical courses in sewing, French, and human science courses.


“We thought we could train 20 teenage mothers at most, but now we have 40 and more mothers are still knocking on our door. This makes us realize that the need is real,” the MHM Priest says.

The challenge at the Centre, Fr. Bolengu says, is space. He says and expresses hope that with donors coming on board, the Centre will be able to construct four big classrooms, which can accommodate three different cohorts of the young mothers who he says are eager to turn their lives around.

Another room of the envisioned formation Centre will be the store where the sewing machines are kept.

Fr. Bolengu says that a desire to live with the poorest of the poor drives the MHM Congregation spirit to serve the most deprived people in DRC.

“I remember one day, I was chatting with a Priest who asked me why our Congregation had to pass Kinshasa and other better places nearby the city and, instead, chose to come to such difficult places,” he says.

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He adds, “In terms of Mission, Our Society considers this place as the ‘neediest’. This is evident from the beginning of our mission in DRC in 1905 when we passed all town places in DRC and went to start the mission in the Congo Forest, where many of our missionaries have remained among their people – sharing their insecurity and deprivation, reinforcing their faith, teaching the young, ministering to the sick and preparing Priests for the future.”

The MHM Congregation has remained in the most remote parts of DRC for decades and has worked together with poor locals to erect church buildings, to build schools, health centers, and vocation centers.

Expressing gratitude to those who are already supporting the inception of the Bakanja-Anuarite Formation Centre, Fr. Bolengu launches an appeal for more support to expand the center and to meet the growing needs in the deprived Parish.

“We are grateful to all people who are directly or indirectly supporting us in bringing life in abundance to these young people,” he says, and adds, “Any person who would like to support this center can pass through the Mill Hill Missionaries, or contact me, Fr. Patrick Lonkoy Bolengu at, especially for the construction of these four classrooms.”

He further appeals, “We also have an urgent need to expand our mechanic and ministry training for boys, and construct the dormitory for children for both primary and secondary schools. Anyone can support us in any of these projects.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.