Echoes from the Plenary Council – 21st November 2019

Echoes from the Plenary Council - 21st November 2019

The laity: Input given by Ignatius

Ignatius Anipu gave the input on the morning of the 20th concerning the laity. He based his presentation on two sources: the responses of the consultation in view of the plenary council and the document “Living our Charism Today. “

We might well ask if the Society does indeed desire to share our charism with lay people, which would require a greater openness and commitment on our part. In that sense the work of today, both at the personal and group level, is to share our experiences of working hand in hand with such lay groups and what proposals would we make to move forward in welcoming and accompanying such groups.

It is a fact that there is an increasing number of lay people that desire to share in our charism. This surely comes from seeing how we live and work here in Africa and beyond. It is also true that collaborative ministry is all important today something that our Pope Francis often speaks about and encourages. For many years now we have had groups (friends of the M’Afr) in Europe, in the Americas, but increasingly the greater number is to be found in Africa but also in Asia, Mexico etc. Again such groups reflect a deep desire to be associated in one way or another with our mission and some would be even ready to work in other countries. We do not hold the monopoly of our charism for surely it should be a gift for the whole Church. This goes back even to our Cardinal who was convinced of such collaboration (the armed auxiliaries, the doctor catechists like Adrian Atiman).

Such lay people would commit themselves as fully fledged partners in Mission and in all its aspects (JPIC, Dialogue, the peripheries, etc.). Would such groups be formed into an association, a third order, a fraternity? Whatever we need to create bonds even if they are not so tight but, at the same time avoiding imprisoning them in some sort of clerical straightjacket.

It is a call to take existing groups and their support seriously. This would involve such groupings to have statutes. In some places such statutes exist yet the question remains of how best to accompany such groups. It is a fact that many of these groups have a chaplain We must ask ourselves in leadership just where do we stand concerning the accompaniment of the existing groups of lay people and how to improve what we do?

In the particular group I am part of here in the plenary council the sharing was very rich indeed. We were convinced of the need to share our charism and in reflection we see how much is happening on the ground especially in Africa but not only (we spoke about Mexico, the Philippines, Poland where such groups are active). One of the confreres did say though that the question of our collaboration with the laity keeps coming back especially at chapters and he wondered whether this is just another one of those topics that we never really come to grips with and yet we continue to make bold declarations. Unanimously all of us felt that this time we really see that the increasing desire for such collaboration and a sharing in our charism is indeed coming from the lay people themselves. It is our desire to respond to such an ardent desire. And, as the booklet on ‘Living our Charism Today’ states clearly on page 32: If we are ready to listen to what the Spirit has to say to our Society today, our Charism may surprisingly renew itself in the lives of many lay persons.’

Francis Barnes

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