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
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
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
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
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
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 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.