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
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
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
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.
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.