A meeting of hope (PE nr 1081 – 2018/05)

In Kenya, Sunday is part of the week-end. However, Sunday 11th March 2018 was not like the others. Towards the end of the day and quite suddenly the clouds began to pile up and it started raining like bullets at Gravelotte. It got cold and the weather changed. Nevertheless all roads led to the Dimesse Sisters in Karen. We were 24 Missionaries of Africa (including the Provincial of the EAP) coming from all the Provinces of Africa and beyond: SAP, PAO, SOA, EPO, PAC, EAP, Ghana-Nigeria, and the Maghreb. It was a historic encounter because it was the first meeting that had ever brought together the vocation directors and the Rectors of the Pre-First Phase houses. The aim of the meeting was to see where we were coming from, where we are at, and where do we want to go.

When Didier Sawadogo, our Assistant General who travelled from Rome to help us reflect together, gave the opening address, the word ‘Hope’ emerged as the main thread. This guided us all during this amicable week.

“The harvest is great, but the labourers are few” (Mt 9, 37). We should never give up looking for workers for the harvest of the Lord said one of the animators present. In this way we began our week of cordial and fruitful sharing.

Meeting of vocation animators with the Rectors of the Pre-First Phase houses of the Missionaries of Africa

With a full programme to be got through, we began with reports about the work of vocation promotion from each Province. Although different in substance and form (because the realities are not the same), the reports of each Province and Pre-First Phase houses were particularly edifying. Following the reports, we studied the document, “New Wine, New Wineskins” which was presented by Didier Sawadogo. This is a document issued by the Vatican which tackles some challenges that Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Apostolic Life are facing at the present. It came out as a result of different meetings held during the Year of Consecrated Life. This document aims to clarify the discernment that congregations need to do when faced with the demands of today and the challenges of our time. For us, it encourages us to look again at the criteria of discernment for vocation promotion, to discern the quality of the new wine and to take new paths more adapted to our circumstances; in other words, being ‘new skins’ for the ‘new wine’ that the Lord continually calls for his abundant harvest. With this helpful document, which was well explained, “evening came and morning came” and so ended our first day of work.

Following all this, we treated a number of subjects on the second day in small and large groups. Subjects treated included: vocation promotion in collaboration with the local Church, with the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, ordinations of our confreres, the 150th Anniversary of our Society, collaboration between vocation promotion, Pre-First Phase training and the First Phase of Formation. At the end of the day, we worked on a document about the Synod on “Youth, faith and vocational discernment” foreseen for October 2018. It was presented by Bob Tebri, our Secretary for Initial Formation. The document addresses the issues of faith and vocational discernment of young people. What are the indicators for vocation promotion in our Provinces? We need to understand young people who come to us in order to be able to help them to make the best possible discernment about their vocation. So, “evening came and morning came” on our second day’s work.

Then we examined the question of psychological tests for our aspirants. Olivier Soma, our confrere, who is a trained psychologist, opened our minds on the subject and how it is a key tool in the vocational discernment of our younger brothers. During the day, human formation was discussed in small and large groups. With the role of psychology explained satisfactorily “evening came and morning came” on our third day’s work.

Thereafter, questions on the relationships between the vocation promotion team and the Pre-First Phase, the programmes offered by the latter, the collaboration between vocation promotion and the Pre-First Phase houses were debated in big and small groups. With this work satisfactorily completed, “evening came and morning came” on what was our fourth and final day devoted to vocation promotion.

As Pope Francis has written, “Faced with a shortage of vocations, we sometimes make a diagnosis of the rich: rich in the knowledge of modern anthropological sciences who, with their mask of absolute self-sufficiency, take us away from the humble prayer of petition and entreaty to the Master of the harvest”

We are neither very rich financially or very rich spiritually. Neither can we be satisfied with the actual number of vocations even when the Lord has been so generous with us recently (39 first appointments this year). Therefore, let us never cease to thank him for his generosity and let us continue to plead with him and to work for more Missionary of Africa vocations.

It is in this context of gratefulness for the goodness of the Lord towards our Society, and with a positive outlook that we have closed this historic meeting called Hope. It took place in Nairobi from the 11th to the 16th March 2018 in a fraternal atmosphere, which was also hardworking and joyful! Thanks to all who made sure that this historic meeting was a success.

Vincent Kyererezi, M.Afr.

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