He explained, “At that time, we were coming out of an era where missionaries were handing over to locals (and) there were no local Priests. As missionaries left, the local Bishop found himself with fewer helpers in the field.”
“What is extraordinary about Bishop Dennis is that in spite of the difficulties, he did not relent in his service, especially to the poor, the underprivileged, and the voiceless. He worked hard for social justice in accordance with the social teachings of the Church,” Bishop Phiri said.
He added that his predecessor “worked so hard under very difficult situations in that short period he was Bishop.”
The late Bishop De Jong was at the helm of Ndola Diocese from 28 September 1975 when he was consecrated until his death on 17 September 2003.
A couple of years before his passing on, the Zambian Bishop was awarded the 2001 Africa Prize for Leadership, the Nobel Prize for Africa, by the New York Hunger Project on 21 September 2001 for establishing the Integrated AIDS Program, a Zambian group involved in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
In June 2003, Bishop De Jong was also honored by the Rotary Club of Ndola, which bestowed upon him the Honor of Best Citizen of the year 2002-2003 for his outstanding community and social work in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province.
In his September 2022 homily, the Local Ordinary of Ndola called on the faithful to emulate Bishop De Jong’s spirit of service as a way of honoring him.
Bishop De Jong, he said, “gave a good example and he gave meritorious service to God through the communities that he served. He is gone and it’s now our turn to do the same, to serve God selflessly,”
Bishop Phiri went on to encourage the people of God to “serve in fear of God, giving the best each day,” and added, “For the love of God, give good service to neighbor.”
Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.