Chapter Communication – 20th May 2022

Chapter Communication - 20 May 2022

The capitulants get used to the chapter hall, the use of the microphones, and the schedule. The presentation of the different provinces is taking place.

For the chapter, it was requested that the provinces be described in terms of a particular aspect of the mission and of our society, expressing strengths, weaknesses, challenges and threats. This way of proceeding allows to have in mind the whole society and to widen the scope of the discussion from the beginning of the exchanges.

 WEST AFRICA PROVINCE
Luc Kola

The West Africa Province offered us a description of the mission
in a context of insecurity and violence.

New realities are emerging: violence, rural exodus, displacement of populations, religious extremism, deficient education and health services. People live in fear.

The confreres remember the courage of the first missionaries who were killed crossing the Sahara. Moreover, they receive valour by considering our vocation, charisma and esprit de corps. Prayer remains a source of fidelity and courage. The apostolate continues with various activities, such as inculturation and IFIC and the Senufo project. In the context of insecurity, inter-religious dialogue, Justice and Peace take on a central role as well as the pastoral care of refugees. As travel in our missions is increasingly difficult due to the covid and insecurity, the media has played an important role in maintaining contact with the people and in evangelisation.

The situation of insecurity over which we have no control has repercussions among the confreres at both personal and community level. As the mission is more dangerous, many confreres experience concern, fear and tension. Accompanying and supporting them is difficult and requires skills and resources. Sometimes some hesitate before accepting appointments in the province and within the province. It is suggested that houses of formation prepare young people for mission in such context.

Despite all this, our call to mission remains and missionaries are committed to it. The Lord has promised us that he will be with us to the end.

EAST AFRICA PROVINCE
Aloysius Ssekamatte

Mission in the context of inculturation.

The presentation began by mentioning several commitments of the province, the refugees in South Sudan and Uganda, the houses of formation in its territory, missionary and vocational animation and the progress of the new provincial house in Nairobi. Christian-Muslim dialogue remains a priority and we receive requests for involvement in this area.

Community life is seen as evangelical witness. Our communities are changing as African cultures differ from each other and from the local culture of their mission. These differences can become an asset for apostolic witness.

Our international and intercultural communities generate certain difficulties. Firstly, governments limit us in terms of visas. We find that it is not uncommon to find confreres of the same nationality in the same mission station. We also see interpersonal conflicts and community instability that affect long-term commitment, contact with people and language learning. Circumstances can lead to a confrere having too much responsibility, as a parish priest, bursar, etc. The understanding of the evangelical counsels needs renewal. Obedience sometimes becomes problematic. Individualism, sense of entitlement, personal interests destroy community cohesion. Many confreres experience health problems soon after ordination.

SOUTH AFRICAN PROVINCE
Felix Phiri

Mission in the context of internationality
especially for governance and appointment of provincials.

There is a concern in society about the appointment of major superiors and provincials in particular. There seems to be a desire that the provincial should be of the nationality of one of the countries of the province. Is this the way of the Missionaries of Africa?

A look at our past shows us that the large national group was once French. Gradually, the evolution led the society to an internationality according to the views of our founder and international life was promoted both at the level of our communities and at the level of major superiors. At present we are also living a moment of transition with fundamental elements:

    • The feeling of belonging to our country of origin. How should we live it?
    • In the past: the system of provinces in Europe and America that sent personnel and resources and offered communities largely of one nationality. The regions received missionaries who lived in international communities.
    • Now, we have only provinces and all provinces send and receive personnel and resources. Therefore, the provinces now receive missionaries appointed to the province for the missionary apostolate, missionaries on leave or sick, other “nationals” appointed for work in the province.
    • Thus, the interplay of nationalities is transformed. Nationals living in their province of origin as well as those living in other circumscriptions wish to have a say in the consultation and appointment of major superiors.
    • We must keep our international and intercultural character. Therein lies the good of our society and mission. Misunderstood nationalism should not interfere in appointments.

PROVINCE OF EUROPE
Gérard Chabanon

The Province of Europe describes its Mission outside Africa.

This mission comprises six main centres, Roquetas, Liverpool, Marseille, Toulouse, Berlin and Karlsruhe, which are places to live our missionary charism in areas where we respond in various ways to a real need. They are oriented in the line of Pope Francis, fraternity and solidarity. Their activities are similar and it is impossible to describe them all here.

There is a pastoral component: traditional pastoral work with Catholic populations among immigrants.

There is a dialogue component, with Muslims and Christians of various Churches, especially in the dialogue in everyday life, including collaboration with other religious groups and the various civil authorities. Our impact is valuable here.

There is also a social component: approaching African migrants, families, going to working-class neighbourhoods, visiting prisoners, forming different associations and support groups for women, students, some of whom are now African students from Ukraine (Germany), commitment against human trafficking, help for drug addicts.

Many of these activities would not work without the help and competence of lay people.

These projects bring us into contact with the local churches and civil authorities. The missionaries of Africa are committed to these projects and develop them with the concern of transmitting our missionary spirit to our collaborators and the people we meet.

The idea of a Mediterranean synod is emerging.

PROVINCE OF THE AMERICAS
Réal Doucet

The province of the Americas shows us
another image of the mission outside Africa.

It now has three sectors, United States, Mexico and Canada. Brazil is closed when the administrative procedures are completed. There is a resumption of candidates in Mexico with some young men in the house of formation. The most active colleagues in the US are not American. The Afrika Centre, whose mission was to promote the integration of Africans into Montreal society, is closed for the moment because of Covid.

Father Barthélemy Bazemo described the AFJN, the activities of Justice and Peace, and the advocacy work with the White House authorities in support of Africa. AFJN is a place where many African personalities can meet. Several African bishops use its services. There are positive fruits for the development and peace in Africa. “With Washington, we are present where it counts.

The AMS offers good possibilities for missionaries in Africa in the field of missionary and vocational animation, formation and finances. Contacts with young people are also possible. There is a future for the society.

SOA
Paul Johnston

Soa is a missionary entity outside Africa.

In Asia we are present in two countries, India and the Philippines, and we hope to enter Vietnam. Mission/vocation promotion and formation take precedence. There is a slowdown in animation now because of the confinement, which has prevented animators from visiting possible candidates.

The missionaries of Africa are present in the working class areas and prioritise contact with young people. They go to the peripheries a lot. They are also involved with migrants. Inter-religious dialogue is also part of the activities, living in an environment with a low percentage of Christians. Contacts with religious congregations are good.

SOA contributes to the internationality and interculturality of the Missionary Society of Africa.

Some Indian bishops think that our vocation promotion is reducing diocesan vocations. Obtaining Indian visas has become difficult. For some time now, many people have been asking about religious freedom in India.

Chapter communication – 19th May 2022

Chapter Communication - 19 May 2022

The presentation of reports is the first part of the chapter. So today we have heard four of these reports: General Treasurer, the provinces of the Maghreb, Ethiopia / Near East and Ghana / Nigeria. I would like to offer you some highlights from these reports.

GENERAL TREASURER’S OFFICE

John Itaru

Father Itaru shared with us some figures of course. However, he wanted to present to us the major trends, difficulties and challenges of the financial state of our missionary society. It is good to remember that we are talking about the finances of our whole missionary society.

Among the trends, he pointed out that ordinary expenses have exceeded ordinary income for several years. This fact requires the General Bursar to draw resources from investments. This custom is not healthy in the long run. Budgeting helps to limit expenditures. In addition, the proportion of ordinary expenses decreases in relation to extraordinary expenses. We see the creation of good self-financing projects in some parishes and provinces.  The pensions of elderly confreres are decreasing.

Some proposals are sometimes expressed and it is difficult to put them into practice. For example, investments in Africa attract us but we need to remember that African economies are fragile. Moreover, there is violence and wars that disrupt financial services. It is becoming increasingly difficult to transfer money from one country to another, especially in Africa.

In fact, we did not just listen to endless numbers, but perceptions of some of our mentalities and behaviours that can undermine our financial resources, and require community and personal conversions. Many take our financial situation for granted, forgetting how quickly finances can become fragile. Some have unreasonable expectations; others believe they have some sort of entitlement. We are invited to examine our simple lifestyle practices and get down working to generate income and to better manage expenses.

Provincial and sector bursar training sessions are bearing fruit. We recommend that we address the topic of our finances in the formation houses. 

The financial state of our society is stable. There is no need to panic but to remain alert and prudent to better manage it and serve Africa and use our resources and patrimony in the long run.

ETHIOPIA AND THE NEAR EAST

Bonaventure Bwanakweri

Ecumenism, formation, St. Anne’s are at the centre of our mission in Jerusalem and Ethiopia. EPO has a strong presence of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It is important to create bridges between people.  The confreres dedicate themselves to the population through social centres that become places of contact and service. Among the difficulties we encounter is the reality of the war, whether muted or in waiting or de facto. The languages are difficult to master for us. Christians are the minority. There is a need to revive our missionary spirit, because some confreres do not seem to be very convinced of the need for ecumenism.

GHANA / NIGERIA

John Aserbire

The mission in Ghana-Nigeria is focused on first evangelization. The presence of syncretism and “mushroom” and “successful” churches complicates our approach to the people, even though people usually trust Catholic priests and leaders. Many leave the Catholic Church to join these religious movements. It would be wise to ask ourselves whether our approach is sound, given the number of people who leave the Catholic Church. Good catechesis is one of our priorities. Catholic outstations are sometimes very small and lack resources. An effort is needed to move forward in the area of inculturation and to start self-financing projects.

African languages are difficult to learn. Moreover, Islamism creates tensions and violence in these two countries and does not facilitate our regular contact with the people.

MAGHREB

Anselme Tarpaga

We had the privilege of a guided tour of our origins in Algeria, the place of our foundation, with our founder, the mention of Missionaries of Africa who left their mark in the field of Islamic-Christian dialogue, the martyrs of Algeria, the jubilee of 150 years of foundation. Dialogue holds the primary place in the apostolate of our confreres in the Maghreb. The incarnation of Jesus constitutes the basis of this dialogue because Jesus became incarnate for all humanity, thus establishing permanent links between God and all humanity.

This dialogue is lived especially in the field of the daily life of the people who welcome us, social dialogue, study centres, collaboration for a development project. Theological dialogue does not receive much emphasis. A word that could summarize the apostolate in the Maghreb: presence, spending time with people, which is different from inactivity.

To last in the mission of presence and dialogue, it is necessary for the missionary to have a good dose of holiness, humility and resilience to overcome the obstacles and remain faithful to the mission. Among the difficulties, we find a lack of stability in our communities. Moreover, some confreres prefer to be appointed elsewhere than in the Maghreb. Our confreres must sometimes overcome and relativize racist behaviours towards them.

The diversity of the origins of the missionaries of Africa in the Maghreb is more marked than in the past.

Chapter communication – 18th May 2022

Chapter Communication - 18 May 2022

The work of the Chapter begins today. On Monday, six working teams were constituted, three French and three in English; the See-Judge-Act method was adopted too.

See: read, listen, and share. It is a matter of taking the pulse of the society, of the mission and of arriving at a global vision. This task is carried out with the different reports and sharing.

Judging: filtering the information and discerning the major orientations.

Acting: the implementation of the decisions and orientations, with the work of the post-chapter assemblies.

The first report to be presented is that of the Superior General. In his approach, the Superior General focuses more on the past six years than on projections for the next six years.  He did not read the report. Rather, he provided a reading  and working grid..

The General Council of the MSOLA addressed a word to the chapter, briefly describing the main orientations during its mandate and the collaboration between our two institutes, without forgetting the suggestions for the next General Council, coming from several members of the MSOLA. Our sisters participated in the Eucharist as well.

In the afternoon, the Superior General spoke mainly on four points:

1/- Six unique years for our Missionary Society:

Significant events have taken place during these six years. There was the celebration of the 150th anniversary of our foundation, the beatification of four confreres martyred in Algeria, the audience with Pope Francis, the plenary council in Kampala, our involvement in the preparation of the Abu Dhabi meeting, the cardinalate of our confrere Michael Fitzgerald. All these events encourage us in our missionary commitment. Moreover, they allow us to connect more intensely with our missionary origins and perceive God’s benevolence towards us.

The General Council initiated new projects for refugees in South Sudan and Uganda, as well as accepting a commitment in some parishes in Europe and North America for an apostolate among the African population.  We experienced a live internet meeting with the three confreres who are involved in the South Sudan project and witnessed their happiness as they shared the challenges they face.

2/- 2016 Chapter Orientations:

The general council encouraged the ministry of Justice and Peace, Encounter and Respect for Creation. It did its best to appoint confreres in the Maghreb. Projects for refugees and migrants were started in and outside Africa. Efforts have been made to support IFIC in Bamako, Pisai. Covid has accelerated our use of technology and media, allowing many online meetings.

The general council regrets that it was not possible to establish a community in Addis Ababa.

3/- Challenges:

Pope Francis inspires us with a new missionary impulse. He does so constantly with important priorities:

  • The Church reaching out to peripheries, on mission, stepping out of its comfort zones. The Church exists for mission.
  • Integrity of creation and care for our common home. Ecology, climate change.
  • The Church reforming itself in depth with transparency, interculturality, respect for differences and synodality, dialogue.

4/- Towards the future, and our chapter 2022:

How do we keep our jubilee flame lit and remain missionaries, prophetic witnesses? With what consequences for our community life, our lifestyle, our finances, the formation of candidates? In the synthesis of the responses, the themes of interculturality, dialogue constantly come up both at the level of community life, missionary apostolate and governance.

The teams continued the reflection.

Chapter communication – 17th May 2022

Chapter Communication - 17 May 2022

A day of recollection in complete silence, led by Dave Sullivan, is scheduled for today. Two conferences are on the program.

STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN :

With texts from Mark’s gospel, 4(3,9,23); 4(14-20); 10(30-37); and Luke 16(19-31); 7 (36-50), Father Sullivan emphasized the need to stop, look and listen as a missionary and spiritual attitude to perceive the Lord’s message about our world and our mission. It is not easy for us to put this attitude into practice, which is crucial for the 2022 Chapter.

There are interferences that prevent us from hearing and understanding, such as inner noises, our own ideas, community and interpersonal conflicts, power conflicts. Sometimes we see other people’s opinions as contrary to our own, instead of seeing them as complementary. The parables used in the conference clearly show that we can see people, without necessarily perceiving their needs and situations, nor taking action because of a multitude of reasons.

The chapter is crucial for the future of our missionary society and for our missionary commitments. May the Lord guide its members in their listening, vision, perception and evaluation of the world and mission in order to make wise and courageous decisions for his glory, for the good of the people of God entrusted to us and for our faithfulness to the mission.

ON THE ROAD TOGETHER FOLLOWING JESUS AND OUR DREAMS

Martin Luther King pronounced a famous speech: “I had a dream…” when all men will stand in brotherhood… With those words, he inspired millions of people. The Missionaries of Africa also have a dream coming from Jesus and Cardinal Lavigerie, a dream of proclaiming the Good News to the African World, of fraternity, solidarity, brotherhood, respect, collaboration and of a just world, a more peaceful world.

At the beginning of the Chapter, it is essential that we remember our dream, our vocation, our charism and reconnect with it as apostles of Christ. We are invited to do it all together individually and community wise. In 2 Tim. 1(6-7), Paul asks Timothy to renew the gift of God in him. That word of Paul’s is for us today. We should not fall into the trap of forgetting our initial zeal Apoc. 2(4-5).

The good Samaritan, Luke 10(30-37); the healing of the blind, Mark 10(46-52).

Fr. Sullivan used some images to make us see and walk. Lavigerie was like the Samaritan seeing the needs (of the wounded man) and we like innkeepers called for the ongoing care of the mission (long term collaboration). He also used the healing of the blind man to remind us that Jesus healed the blind man sit at the side of the road, giving him vision and the possibility to walk on the road, following Jesus.

May we walk together in an “esprit de corps”, in unity and solidarity, pursuing the same dream, doing our utmost to keep a global vision of the Society. We are called to witness to God’s dream by our lives, prophetic witnesses to the African World of today. Let us ask the Lord to grant us the courage and the wisdom needed to respond to today’s challenges.

We are gathered in his name and he is with us as promised to accompany us on our missionary path Mt. 18(20).

Chapter Communication – 16 May 2022

Chapter Communication - 16 May 2022

Today marks the official opening of the Chapter 2022. It is quite difficult to give news because the capitulants are deliberating behind closed doors. From the announcements, however, we can say a few brief words. The very first tasks of the Chapter concern the call of the capitulants, the information and approval of the different procedures of the Chapter itself, the method that will be used, the acceptance of collaborators as representatives of different ministries, such as Justice and Peace, integrity of the ministry, the bursar’s office, translators, secretaries, etc. There are 40 capitulants while the participants’ group reach fourteen persons.
In the evening, Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald presided the Eucharist, which was attended by all the members of the Chapter and all the members of the Generalate community. In his introduction, Father Stan Lubungo shared with us that he saw the nomination of Mike Fitzgerald as cardinal, as a sign of the divine kindness towards our Society. He asked us to pray for the chapter.

Cardinal Fitzgerald invited us to thank God for the history of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa. He pointed out how meaningful are the links between Charles de Foucauld and our Society while expressing a difference. He said that Charles de Foucauld stressed the importance of following and imitating “Jesus at Nazareth”, while ourselves, as Missionaries of Africa, are called to follow and to imitate “Jesus of Nazareth”, proclaiming the Good News, curing the sick, forming his disciples.

In his homily, Cardinal Fitzgerald showed the positive side of the Law. It is much more than mere commandments, and it is meant to lead us to life and it represents our inner disposition towards our ministry, mission and charism. We are motivated by love in our proclamation of the Good News. The central question is how are we going to put that into practice? That is exactly the question that the Chapter is required to answer. May the Holy Spirit come upon the members of the Chapter to answer that precise question and to understand better the message of Jesus.

Tomorrow Father Dave Sullivan will be preach the recollection to the Chapter members. This information is a good invitation for all of us to pray for the chapter.

Chapter Communication – 14 May 2022

Chapter Communication - 14 May 2022

At last, the day of the 29th Chapter of the Missionaries of Africa has arrived, and it was made possible thanks to all the contributions that arrived in Rome and for which all the members of the Chapter thank you. For some days now, the Generalate has been permeated by the fever of the Chapter, which has grown as the capitulants have arrived from many countries where the Missionaries of Africa are present. Thus, for many there was a time of meeting those they had not seen for years and for others the chance to make new acquaintances.

This time, the chapter of the Missionaries of Africa coincides with two important events for our missionary society, the anniversary of the martyrs of Algeria, and the canonization of Charles de Foucauld. These two events are celebrated by the community of the Generalate and also by the members of the Chapter. We received a presentation on the martyrs of Algeria by Bishop John MacWilliam and a video on Algeria offering a description of the Algerian situation at that time. On Sunday, several of the capitulants and community members will participate in the celebration of the canonization of Charles de Foucauld at the Vatican. This afternoon, a panel on Charles de Foucauld will be animated by three of our confreres, Card. Michael Fitzgerard, Bishop Claude Rault and Bishop John MacWilliam.

Today, the members of the Chapter met in assembly for the first time. The purpose was to deal with the practical issues of the house timetable and the introduction to the technology needed to order to ensure that the chapter is “paperless”. It was a good opportunity to stimulate the dynamic among the capitulants and to begin the Chapter journey.

This communication would not be complete without mentioning the improvement of the chapter hall. Some modern technological material has been fitted for the use of computers, etc. The members of the Chapter have been introduced to microphones, headphones, screens, etc. These exercises will allow for a smoother launch of the chapter on Monday.

New Chapter Room

Finally, this evening, Saturday, a BBQ is planned to encourage contacts between capitulants and members of the Generalate community.

The members of the chapter rely on our prayers. May the Holy Spirit accompany them during the chapter, opening their ears to listen to the Word of God, their hearts to his love and their minds to be guided by his wisdom.

Jean Lamonde
14 May 2022

The Stakes of a General Chapter (PAO Baobab nr 38)

The Stakes of a General Chapter

Baobab nr 38 of september 2021 - Editorial

Soon the pre-capitular assembly of our 29th General Chapter will meet in Bobo-Dioulasso. This is an important time in the life of our Society and in particular of our PAO Province. We will have to respond to the questionnaire sent by the General Council and which will be dealt with during this Assembly. Let us return to the importance of a General Chapter.

(more…)

First meeting with the Chapter moderators

First meeting with the Chapter moderators

Here is some news from the Generalate at the beginning of the academic year. The General Council is once again complete after the usual summer dispersion. Two confreres have joined them in this first week of work, the mornings of which are dedicated to the preparation of the 2022 Chapter. They are the two future moderators, Innocent Maganya, who directs and teaches at the Institute for Inter-religious Dialogue and Islamic Studies (IRDIS) in Nairobi, and Yago Abeledo, who resides in New York and follows a 4 year specialised formation in process-oriented facilitation and conflict studies.

This first contact between the General Council and the future moderators of the Chapter is very important because the former have already reflected a great deal on the Chapter of 2022, notably by reading the responses to the General Consultation launched last year, while the latter are anxious to know what the description of their future task will be, that is to say, how they will be able to stimulate and nourish the discernment of the capitulants.

This week’s work is focused on three documents:

    • The internal regulations of the Chapter: the basis of this document will of course be the regulations already in existence at the 2016 Chapter, but which will be reviewed, corrected and adapted in view of next year’s Chapter. For example, the role of the spiritual guide of the Chapter will enhanced, as well as the times of prayer at the beginning and end of the day, in order to give more space to discernment and listening to the Spirit.
    • The method to be used during the Chapter was one of the questions of the General Consultation. There is a clear consensus for the so-called Cardinal Cardijn method “See, Judge, Act”. But the General Council has already gone further by taking inspiration from the famous “Pastoral Cycle” (Experience – Analysis – Theological Reflection – Action – Celebration – Evaluation…) widely used by JPIC.
    • The Chapter Calendar will be the third and final document to be drawn up during the working meetings of this week.

 

In a future working meeting, the spiritual guide of the Chapter should probably be present.

But Rome is not the only one to get to work. The Pre-Capitulars will begin in all the provinces. Their reflections will complement those of the General Council to give the future 2022 Chapter a solid basis for work and reflection.

Good meetings to you all!

And above all… with a touch of humour…