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Fr. Charles Phukuta named superior general

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A straw ballot changed Missionhurst Father Charles Phukuta’s life when he was elected as the superior general of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in mid-June. Prolonged applause and congratulatory greetings stunned him and the results encouraged him to trust that God was speaking through each of his confreres.

“If they elected me, there was a reason and I would try to respond the best that I can, with God’s help and the support of my CICM confreres,” said Father Phukuta. “This is both an awesome responsibility and a challenging task ahead of us.”

Father Phukuta is the outgoing provincial superior of the U.S. province of the General Government of Missionhurst CICM, a position he has held since July 2012. He succeeds Father Timothy Atkin as superior general. He is succeeded by Father Celso Tabalanza, who served as pastor of St. Bonaventure Church in San Antonio.

Father Phukuta is responsible for bringing the Good News to the parts of the world where the Gospel is not known or lived, according to Father Joe Giordano, rector of Missionhurst.

Father Phukuta was born in Boma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec. 24, 1965, to Matthew Khonde-Ndungi and Clementine Phukuta-Nkuanga. He is the third of nine children. He joined the Kinshasa province of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oct. 7, 1989, and made his first religious vows a year later.

He was assigned to the U.S. province in September 1993. He studied theology at the Oblate School in San Antonio and completed a yearlong pastoral internship at St. Martin de Porres Church in Alton, Texas.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1999. Father Phukuta was appointed parochial vicar of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in La Joya, Texas, where he served until June 2002. He then led a team that started a new Missionhurst community in Raleigh, N. C., and was appointed pastor of St. Eugene Church in Wendell, N.C.

In 2006, Father Phukuta was appointed to a six-year term as secretary general of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Rome.

Father Phukuta will continue the work of past general chapters, a meeting held every six years to deal with important matters in the congregation.

“I am only one of many confreres who have tried to put into practice what the recent general chapters have decreed — namely, to revitalize our identity and our mission,” he said. “For me, this election is the confirmation of the need for CICM to continue on that path of revitalization.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017