Chapter communication – 19th June 2022

Chapter Communication - 19 June 2022

For all that has been, thanks
For all that will be, yes

These were the opening words of the recollection led by Dave Sullivan on Saturday morning, and were a quote from Dag Hammarskjöld, a former UN Secretary General. These words express many of the central attitudes needed for the leaders of the Missionary Society of Africa to implement the acts of Chapter 2022, thankfulness, gratitude openness, hope.

Fr. Dave wanted to encourage the capitulants to put Chapter 2022 into practice by also using the following texts:   

    • Luke 12 (41-46): the parable of the stewards
    • Matthew 23 (14-30): the parable of the talents
    • Haggai 2 (1-5): Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem

These texts contain an exhortation to faithful commitment, perseverance and courage in the face of adversity. This commitment must be lived with responsibility, intelligence, respect and faith in the Lord. It is also a reminder of the Lord’s presence and support in carrying out the work undertaken in his name. “I am with you” is the promise of Jesus at the Ascension. We are called to hear it today at the end of the chapter and make it ours once more.

OFFICIAL CLOSING OF THE CHAPTER

The Superior General thanked all the capitulants. He set in motion the internal rules of the Chapter, including the signing of the Chapter report and the closing vote submitted to the assembly. He officially declared the twenty-ninth Chapter of the Missionaries of Africa closed.

During the evening, a BBQ was held in the house garden to allow all the members of the chapter and the community to meet in a friendly and relaxed way, to say goodbye and good luck as some have to fly early to their mission destinations.

THE EUCHARIST OF THE LAST SUNDAY OR THE CHAPTER

The Superior General, Fr Stan Lubungo, led the Eucharist. During the homily, he underlined that the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus allows us to celebrate our faith in the Eucharist. He showed from some biblical texts that the Eucharist is the expression of God’s concern and support for us throughout our lives. The Eucharist must be understood in the line of the incarnation of God who comes to share our humanity and who makes himself entirely present in it and confirms it through the Eucharist, his Body and Blood.

Fr. Stan Lubungo added that the celebration of the Body and Blood of Jesus enhances the meaning of our chapter, because the Eucharist is the centre of our life and, during the chapter, the Eucharist remained at the heart of our sharing. May we, in the footsteps of Jesus, give our lives to others and for them too.

Today’s liturgy included a short rite of welcome for the new General Council and the handing over of power. On the welcoming side, each member of the former General Council said a word and gave a welcome gift to a member of the new Council. 

    • Francis Barnes to Francis Bomansaan: a fundamental word of the Jewish faith: the “Shema Israel”, “Hear Israel, you shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul”.
    • Ignatius Anipu to Anselme Tarpaga: a plate with inscriptions in Arabic, signifying that the White Fathers are dedicated to dialogue and encounter with the Muslim world.
    • Didier Sawadogo to Maria Joseph Leo Laurence: the vade mecum of the houses of formation with the mission of making our candidates apostles, nothing but apostles.
    • Martin Grenier to Pawel Hulecki: a cross with “Peace” written on it and a document from AFJN to signify the important commitment of Missionaries of Africa to peace and dialogue in the world.

The second part of the handover rite consisted of the exchange of the 150-year jubilee chasubles between the councillors of the former General Council and those of the new council. The latter then took the place of the former as concelebrants at the side of the Superior General.

The use of Bishop Livinhac’s chalice brought a special solemnity and significance to the celebration. Bishop Lininhac was the only Superior General to have been re-elected for successive terms. And he died in 1922.

The Superior General and the two General Councils’ members will spend time together during this week. This is a time of  sharing between the two councils during which there will be much exchange and passing on of information.

During this time, the chapter members will fly to their respective destinations… not because the chapter is over, but rather because it is starting to come alive in our communities and missions

Finally, I would like to thank you for your loyalty in reading the Chapter’s communications. I hope that these communications have sparked your interest in the Chapter and the Missionary Society of Africa.

The communications stop, but we remain united through our missionary vocation and through prayer.

Peace and blessings.

Thank you to Pawel Hulecki who faithfully took pictures throughout the Chapter and to Yago for today’s pictures. Other pictures of the Eucharistic celebration will follow.

Chapter communication – 18th June 2022

Chapter Communication - 18 June 2022

Salvador has been in hospital for a few days and I (Philippe Docq) am back in Brussels. Seeing nothing coming from Jean Lamonde, I post these few pictures, under the risk that they become completely out of date.  

Here are the slides projected during the last spiritual input at the very end of the chapter. Thank you Dave Sullivan.

Chapter Communication – 17th June 2022

Chapter Communication - 17 June 2022

This morning the last working session of the chapter took place. The purpose of this session was to complete the various votes on both the latest texts and the amendments that had been proposed. A moderator then recalled the importance of the post-capitular assemblies in order to be able to reap the fruits of the Chapter over the next six years. The moderators and the Superior General thanked the capitulants for their work over the past five weeks.

An evaluation grid for the Chapter has been placed on line and the capitulants will complete it over the next few hours.

Tomorrow morning’s programme consists of a short recollection and the signing of the Chapter minutes. Finally, the Superior General will officially close the Chapter. 

Long before the Chapter, the idea of having a paperless, ecological Chapter was raised. We are happy to confirm that this plan has been realised. No photocopying was needed for the plenary work, nor for the team work, nor for the voting. The texts were on the disk of our chapter website and everyone could consult the relevant documents for the day, both for the first reading and for the second and last minute editing. Putting the texts on the big screen made discussion and voting much easier. This required an increase in the capacity of the house’s WIFI, as the community grew from 45 members to over 80.

An electronic voting system simplified the voting process and saved the capitulants a lot of time.

This is the penultimate communication. The last one will contain some reflections from Saturday’s recollection and from the homily at Sunday’s Eucharist.

Chapter Communication – 15th June 2022

Chapter Communication - 15 June 2022

The morning of June the 15th  was dedicated to reflection and prayer through an intervention of Fr David Sullivan who asked the capitulants to integrate and appropriate for themselves the vision that emerged from the Chapter. They must live it with conviction and confidence, allow themselves to be transformed by it and pass it on to all the confreres afterwards. Only in this way can they become worthy ambassadors of the Chapter that is about to end.

The ascension and Pentecost offer us a good example of the apostles’ appropriation of the Gospel. Jesus was no longer physically with them. Yet they took the right decisions and initiatives to witness to the Gospel and the love of God. They did not proclaim the Gospel because they were obliged to, but rather because they were convinced of it, because the Gospel was no longer simply Jesus’ Gospel but their own. In addition, they accepted that their lives be shaped by it.

Fr. Sullivan placed great emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity, which consists of sharing authority with those in charge at lower levels, giving them more freedom of action and decision. As a result, decisions are taken more quickly and with more understanding of the situation. This empowerment conveys energy and commitment in the lives of people.

This practice does not take away the responsibility of major superiors. This responsibility consists in inspiring the confreres to commit themselves and to see to the concrete application of the Chapter. The vision that emerges from the Chapter comes from the grassroots through the various pre-capitular assemblies and returns to the grassroots through the post-capitular assemblies. Through prayer, fraternity and dialogue, the Chapter will revive our charism and inspire our missionary commitment to Africa and to the world of today.

The atmosphere was business-like in the afternoon. The capitulants voted on some documents and read others. Finally, there was a discussion about some amendments to the constitutions.

Chapter communication – 14th June 2022

Chapter Communication - 14 June 2022

In the aftermath of the papal audience, the two topics discussed were the two aspects of governance, human resources and financial and material resources. I will deal with them very briefly. The afternoon saw the presentation of the first texts to be submitted to the vote of the assembly.

HUMAN RESOURCES

One of the important points contained in the proposed text concerns the consultation and appointment of the major superiors of the society. We are aware that the appointment of major superiors is not always easy. Interculturality and competence are central to the appointment of major superiors. The leaders of the mega provinces are dedicated to the animation of the confreres. They strive to promote co-responsibility and subsidiarity in the exercise of their functions.

A notable progress is that the provinces have their own statutes. Relations between the provincials and the General Council are good and constructive.

In spite of the precautions taken to carry out consultations, there are sometimes murmurings when major superiors are appointed.

FINANCIAL AND MATERIAL RESOURCES

The financial and material resources of the Society are at the service of the mission. We are grateful and aware of how much Providence has supported us over the years. This same Providence urges us to take the necessary steps to vary and increase the Society’s income and also to better budget and control our expenses, to favour our simple lifestyle. We appreciate the efforts made by society to audit, to start income-generating and self-sufficient projects. We are becoming more and more aware of the capacity of Africa to support our mission and to help us financially, either through the concrete help of individuals, or the creation of a development fund at the level of provinces or large centres in Africa.

The chapter reminds all confreres that the financial stability of the society does not rest solely on the shoulders of the bursars, but on those of all members of the society. Co-responsibility, generosity and transparency are fundamental to the long-term sound management of our material resources.

VOTE

The chapter is in its final week. Only a few texts have to be passed to the plenary assembly for final correction.  Voting on the ready texts has begun and is following a very rigorous and methodical process.

Chapter Communication – 13th June 2022

Chapter Communication - 13 June 2022

The audience with Pope Francis took place this morning with more than fifty confreres. I am sharing with you a short text that Didier Sawadogo was kind enough to write for our daily communication.

Papal Audience with the capitulants on 13 June 2022

We were welcomed at the Bronze Gate at 11.45am and taken to the Clementine Hall dedicated to Pope Clement VIII. We were 51 Missionaries of Africa and Sister Inarra Maria-Begona, observer at the Chapter on behalf of the MSOLA.

It was a busy morning for the Pope who entered the Clementine Hall at 1.05 pm to the applause of the capitulants.

Stan Lubungo, took the floor to greet the Pope and give us news.  He began by thanking the Pope for his welcome and recalled that on 8 February 2019, we had the joy and privilege of being welcomed with our MSOLA Sisters by him as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of our two institutes.  We were encouraged and carried by his strong words inviting us to be faithful to our origins in order to commit ourselves fearlessly to the path of mission in order to bear witness that “God is always new, He who pushes us to go without respite and to move beyond what is known, towards the peripheries and the frontiers”. Today,” the Superior General told the Pope, “you welcome us once again in the context of our General Chapter, another important stop to reread the past and turn towards the future with hope.  He shared with the Pope our joy at the announcement of his visit to Congo and South Sudan, two countries where we are and share the life of the people. We pray that his health will allow him to carry out this missionary journey as soon as possible in order to strengthen the people who expect a lot from this visit. He ended by sharing with the Pope the sad news of the death of our confrere, Michael Mawelera, who was killed in Mbeya, Tanzania on 10 June.

In response, the Pope began by reiterating his desire to visit Congo and South Sudan, but also shared the difficulty of travelling at his age: “To my great regret, I had to postpone my trip to Congo and South Sudan. Indeed, at my age, it is not so easy to go on mission! But your prayers and your example give me courage, and I am confident that I will be able to visit these peoples, whom I hold in my heart,” he said.  He added: “On 3 July, the day I was to celebrate in Kinshasa, we will take Kinshasa to St Peter’s, and there we will celebrate with all the Roman Congolese, who are numerous.

He remembered our Jubilee well and asked us to pass on his greetings to the confreres and the MSOLA Sisters. He reminded us that looking back with gratitude as we do on the occasion of our Chapter is a sign of good spiritual health. Gratitude opens us to hope. Therefore, he invited us to move forward in gratitude and hope. Taking up the quotation of our founder, quoted by the Superior General, the Holy Father reminded us that the apostle is not the one who proselytises. Proselytising is not evangelical. The apostle is a witness. Witness is based on two things: fraternity and prayer. A good example of this is the life of Saint Charles de Foucauld, the universal brother.

To conclude, the Holy Father invited us to the joy of the Gospel, to be joyful missionaries who sow joy in spite of the context of poverty and insecurity before giving us his apostolic blessing and inviting us to pray for him.

N.B.: You can read the full text of the Holy Father’s message on this very blog.

During the afternoon, the capitulants devoted themselves, for the second time during this Chapter, to interculturality and to the identity and formation of the brothers. The texts will be further polished. I cannot bring you much that is new. However, I will take up with you some of the realities that attracted the attention of the participants.

INTERCULTURALITY

Interculturality is part of our charism, our lifestyle and our mission. It remains a central element of our evangelical witness where we live. Our intercultural communities arouse in us an interest in knowing the cultures of our confreres and they increase in us the desire and willingness to learn and love those of the peoples we serve.

Interculturality in our midst enriches us as a society, as missionary communities and as individuals with the qualities of our different peoples. It is a sign of dialogue between cultures, peoples and religions. It is also a witness of universal brotherhood for the world today.

The aim of our interculturality is not to build a small private intercultural bastion. We are called to integrate and transmit interculturality to the peoples through our encounters, our pastoral missionary initiatives, our visits and apostolate to all.

The capitulants do not take for granted this characteristic of interculturality that is so significant for us. They have therefore looked at ways of protecting it and living it better.

IDENTITY AND FORMATION OF THE BROTHERS

The Society of Missionaries of Africa is composed of brothers and priests. All of us have the same common missionary vocation and live the same charism bequeathed to us by Cardinal Lavigerie. All of us develop a strong prayer life, all of us live community life, all of us are affected by interculturality, life away from our families, learning the language and customs, and all of us want to be witnesses of the Gospel. This common missionary vocation, which is ours, is lived in two ways, as brothers and as priests. The presence and apostolate of the brothers in our society is a treasure to be treasured and it is clear that the Society of the Missionaries of Africa would not be what it is today without the presence and contribution of the brothers among us. All of us are missionaries and apostles. The evangelical witness of the brothers makes that of society more complete and whole.

A large part of the discussion focused on the formation of the brothers, which needs to be clarified. What formation and for what purpose? There is no ready-made answer to the question because the formation of the brothers requires a personalised professional component in order to exercise its mission effectively.