A thousand journey begins with a step and that was the beginning of my holistic formation as well with the M.Afr. Everything started at Ibadan-Nigeria where courses like history of the Society of Missionaries of Africa, Church History, Finance, Spirituality, Computer software and hardware, etc were taught by some confreres M.Afr and other lay persons. Participating at mass at the outstations of the parish like IJAIYE, SASA, etc about two hours drive from Ibadan, was very formative to me. I learned a lot from the people I met there. With Brother Joseph Bakuri as rector, and the other confrères at the parish, they helped me spiritually,
morally and others. That experience I had there was a very nice and wonderful preparation for me to go to the philosophy house at Ejisu-Ghana. The courses in the preparation actually helped me and that was a hallmark in my philosophical studies in Ejisu. My personal experience during my years of formation with the Missionary of Africa was good with some challenges as well.
My Community Life: Community life was very interesting to me in Ibadan-Nigeria and Ejisu-Ghana. That was where I built that sense of accommodating others with their characters different from me. I consider each person a member of my family with due respect accorded to each member. Nevertheless, there were times we had small quarrels over one thing or the other because of divergent views or convictions. Community prayers, Eucharistic celebrations, recollections and retreats, etc were very enriching for me to feel that sense of belongings.
My experience with some of the formators was very good. I say good in the sense that these formators have a good sense of humanity and consideration for the other as a human person with blood and that I really appreciated. They considered me as their younger brother and human being like themselves. They were ready to help me in all my needs and I cherished their efforts. Some formators looked down on me because of their status as ‘confrère’ or ‘priest’.
But my college psychological studies had helped me to understand them without any prejudices or whatsoever. It was a question of inferiority complex if I may say. I like someone who is very open minded and who will correct me rather than keeping it in his heart and at the end of the day he will write it in my reports. During my three years of Philosophy I was very lucky to have some good formators. My days in Ejisu were very good time, the best formation years, and I enjoyed my studies over there. I can say my philosophy days were happier than the other years of formation with the M.Afr so far. I felt that sense of brotherhood, I was considered a responsible person and with my colleagues and some formators, life was a paradise. My holistic formation was laid very well in the preparatory session and was strongly built on at the philosophy grace to the good and qualified formators. Those are the years that actually laid the good foundation to my missionary formation.
My human formation: Self-knowledge was the key factor that helped me to adapt easily to my new environment. I was at the first place my personal formator because I have to prove capable of what I do and asked for help on the areas that I cannot do. My formation was in my hands. I consider life and atmosphere of my present situation, as an avenue for me to develop my personality, my motivation and identity for the mission or a priest to be. I have a higher consideration for others as a human person no matter the age. I share with others what I have and what I know so that the brothers around me can benefit from it. I learn to cultivate a sense of maturity as a responsible man who knows what I am looking for in life. My past working experience has helped me to relate and interact with the members of the community. Sometimes, the behaviours a confrere ‘priest’ will discourage me but what has always given me the confidence is the one who called me-GOD. Great was my surprise to hear a priest who was supposed to be my formator and he turned to be my ‘deformator.’ He told lies to a Superior General so that I can be dismissed or punished because of jealousy, hatred, and because I am from Ghana. My faith in God is so solid that whoever plots against me, God will reveal it to me. ‘Put an eye on him, he is a Ghanaian’ was the first words when I arrived in Kinshasa. What kind of a priest is this? What is more amazing to me is that God answers my prayers. Just like the centurion despite what he was, he came to Jesus, I considered myself exactly in my current situation. This has given me a personal consolation. I have learned a lot from elderly confreres, diocesan priest, colleagues and friends.
My intellectual formation: to constantly practice what I have learned was among my considerations in my days in the formation. I was closely acquainted with the act of studying, and the motivation to learn and re-learn prior knowledge was a significant factor as a professional teacher. My positive attitude towards studying and learning contributed to my proper understanding to my holistic formation. My learning was not only to get higher marks but to acquire the necessary knowledge that will be very useful to apply concretely in my future mission.
Recalling how I learned in my days at the philosophy house in Ejisu, as well as my formal education at College of Education, offered venues for my holistic formation intellectually. These opportunities were provided to develop my full potential intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and socially, etc. In the philosophy house, I learned to nurture my mind with the ideas, thoughts and ways of thinking of many philosophers which I really enjoyed. In my heart, I was motivated by the ideas of St. Augustine who said “man can do other things unwillingly, but he cannot believe unless he wills. Most importantly, I learned the importance of self-reflection in the context of my experience and through commitment in the experiences presented by educators as well as the formators. My idea of my knowledge from self-reflection was motivated by that of Plato’s philosophical learning theory that ‘knowledge is discovered from self-reflection’. I was able to apply to a context given what I have learned and respond appropriately to the challenges I met. My philosophical studies have helped me to acquire a solid and coherent knowledge of man and society, the world and of God. My theological studies have led to my understanding of the doctrine of the Catholic Church. This is the food that nourishes my soul daily and gives me spiritual growth. With the knowledge of the Catholic doctrine, I am able to communicate to others the faith that I have in Jesus Christ in a simple language so that the people of God can find themselves in the message of the good news.
My pastoral formation: In my research in following Jesus as my model, I tried as much as possible to walk in His footsteps. Through the pastoral experiences, I have learned to listen to others. My interaction with people in the place of apostolate, I acquired some values which made a difference in me, caring for the human person, and providing selfless service to others without any interest. I realized that my experience with these people give me a process of providing guided opportunities for me to produce relatively permanent change through the engagement in experiences provided by these people I met. This has encouraged me to actively participate in the cause of justice and peace for these people in my little way. At a personal level, I was called to engage in the holistic self-formation which in a process has gone to create a positive impact on me and in the society.
In the noviciate as well as during stage, I used to share the word of God and help the aged, the sick, etc to have access to the Eucharist. I came to realise that my small contribution to their spiritual nourishment was not just a merrily presence, but a presence that had a great impact on the lives of those peoples. In my theological studies in Kinshasa, I have worked with the street children for two years and I came to realise that my experiences with them gives me a joy to engage more actively and I have a preferential option for the poor and marginalised street children. My one year in the parish of St Felicity parish at Kisenso (and again where I am currently doing my diaconate ministry) with the ‘Jeunes de Lumière’ gave me the joy to give service to those who are in need. I equally acquired a lot from them.
My spiritual formation: my love for prayer started in my family grace to my father and mother, elder brothers and sisters, who used to challenge my faith about what I know of the catholic prayers. Their challenge later became useful in my life. I am constantly seeking Christ in my daily meditation on God’s word. I participate actively in the daily sacred mysteries of Eucharist as well as the liturgy of the Hours, recollections, retreats, spiritual readings, sacrament of reconciliation. I build an intimate relationship with Jesus who called me to this vocation-servant of others. My meditations and personal prayers have been my strong weapon to forge ahead despite all the challenges.
My noviciate was a very wonderful experience. It was a year of grace for me. I had enough time to have a deeper relation with Jesus. In my prayers, I present myself, my life, my worries, joy, and my motivation before God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I enter into the presence of God with a dialogue and I listen to Him so that I can respond actively to His call. Reading the Bible, spiritual readings, spiritual direction, etc were very helpful to me.
In my soul, I was nourished by my personal prayers, personal meditation, guided meditation, spiritual readings, community prayers, Eucharistic celebrations, apostolic life, etc. Our Lady of Africa has also responded to my entire prayer requests. I enjoyed the opportunities on values of formation and spiritual growth that were provided to me. Encouragement by the spiritual directors, confreres, lay people, etc has helped me so much.
In a nut shell, my years of formation were mixed feelings but what was important to me was my motivation to the charisma of Lavigerie. I stay focused on the one who called me and I let go of the hatred that I have encountered on my way. I have realised that if God really called you, no matter what men do, you will still get to your destination. Thanks a lot; this is just a gist of it because of time factor.
Francis Xavier Angkosaala, M.Afr
(Kinshasa, D.R. Congo)
(Taken from the Ghana-Nigeria Link March 2018)