Celebration of the Feast of the Consecrated Life on the 3rd of February 2024 in Lilongwe, Malawi

Burnout in the mission

In 1997, Pope Saint John-Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This feast is celebrated in the Catholic Church every February 2nd. In the archdiocese of Lilongwe, this celebration is often arranged on a convenient day after the 2nd of February for all the consecrated men and women to meet together and have a day of recollection and gathering. This year, we celebrated this feast on the 3rd of February 2024.

Presentation of the animator

The theme guiding the recollection was “Burnout in the mission”. Rev. Fr. John Mangwere belonging to the apostolic society of the Pallotines animated the recollection. He ardently called upon all the consecrated people to be on their guard against physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. This causes fatigue, stress, and depression and eventually may lead to loss of vocation. “As consecrated people, we are given to the mission and spend much of our energies serving others, forgetting our own selves”.

This reflection on burnout in the mission is a unique call to the consecrated people in service to often have a renewal in pastoral ministry. Evangelization is a tiring service that requires constant discernment, especially in this fast-changing world. Without having a regular update regarding the signs of the time, one loses the direction and moral in the ministry.

Incessant deterioration of community life in many religious houses was pointed out as a leading cause of burnout in the ministry. The ‘cancer’ of individualism in our societies does not leave religious communities spared. This has been spotted as an evil and is a paramount factor challenging religious life and ministry in the church.

Upon hearing this emotion-moving reflection from Fr. John, the dozens of consecrated men and women were ushered into a moment of meditation. This was meant to prepare for the asking of pardon from God for the numerous times, that we had failed. The sacrament of reconciliation, arranged minutes before the holy Mass, mended the broken bridges between humanity and God, shattered because of sin.

The archbishop’s homily

In attendance was his grace the Archbishop of Lilongwe Archdiocese George Desmond Tambala (O.C.D.) and his Auxiliary His Lordship Bishop Vincent Frederick Mwakhwawa. Their presence and that of other dignified Deans of the deaneries of Lilongwe diocese showed the unity among the consecrated men and women in the archdiocese.

In his rather challenging homily, the archbishop invited all consecrated present to meditate on the role they play in the church. “The Catholic Church as seen today is both a growing church and a dying church. In the global south and Asian parts of the world, the Church continues to have numerous baptisms, while the Catholic Church in the western world is on the verge of extinction”. This should awaken the call to moral and enthusiasm among the consecrated men and women. “The church and the world are in dire need of the religious”.  “Their role in the society is vital”, he added.   He insisted on the education and formation of formators responsible for the formation of the consecrated in the church. “Today, unlike in the past, we need formators well-versed in spirituality, psychology, and human sciences”. Hence, the need for a holistic education of formators.

He ended his homily by calling upon all the consecrated women and men to work together in the ministry to the young people. The youth are the foundation of the church of tomorrow. They are the joys of the church we need to see tomorrow. The responsibility for their evangelization lies entirely on the consecrated men and women of today.

Appreciation of Father Turnbull

In a nutshell, the Vicar of the Religious, Fr. Bill Turnbull (M.Afr.)  thanked all consecrated men and women who made their contributions to grace the celebration. He appreciated the unity among the consecrated and invited them to continue with the same spirit in the forthcoming jubilee of the religious due in 2025. As a religious, a missionary and a Christian, what is my/your role in this world, where cultural norms, religious life and faith facts are in flux! Christ was consecrated and given to this same world more than 2000 years ago. You and I are consecrated people and offered to this world of today. Behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel (Lk: 2:34), and so everyone of us is also destined for the rise and fall of many in our mission stations today.

By: Justus Wednesday (Stagiaire)

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