The past that comes back and the past that never comes back are moments in our life that evokes memories and feelings that resonate unceasingly, like a wave, in the distant corners of our existence. For example, the happiness of having succeeded in something or recognition for having guided brothers or sisters towards a big-hearted course of action that leads to faith which is embodied in prayer, witness and a commitment to doing good with justice. These moments in our life also have their demons. Their ugliness sometimes haunts our minds to the point of triggering a feeling of revolt against human failures and limitations. Fortunately, by divine grace, our failures and our human limitations take us back to the spirituality of humility to savour and celebrate the mercy of God and the joy of the fraternal support whose benevolence has stood the test of time.
In the long run, we are moving towards a more incarnated and more radiant missionary vision resulting from a holistic and continuous discernment. To this end, I salute the memory of our elders who have discerned and witnessed to the incarnate vision of the missionary-disciple and for whom memories of regionality and fraternity still exude the feeling of pride and hope. Happy are you for having guided other young people to this vision and responding to the same call of Christ; “Old people you are still bearing fruit… good for you!”
In the distant past, missionary vocations came from the western world. This was the time of asserting the Christian tradition. Afterwards there has been a remarkable decrease in missionary vocations and nowadays we observe a certain coldness and disinterestedness regarding the Catholic faith. In the recent past, the region of the African world has begun to see the emergence of its own missionary vocation. In Africa, there is still enthusiasm for the Catholic faith. However, we can still ask the question; how long will this expression of missionary enthusiasm last? It will certainly take some time before there is a cooling off regarding the Catholic faith and a diminution of missionary vocations as elsewhere. However we are beginning to see the first signs of changing perspectives with the arrival of Pentecostalism and similar sects, as well as the advent of some oriental religions (Buddhism and Hinduism etc.) brought by the arrival of the Chinese, Indians, and Pakistanis. There are also an increasing number of secret societies who recruit young Africans. There is also the possibility of changes resulting from more stability and macroeconomic growth. These events are beginning to provoke some cultural shocks but we may need to wait for other major and/or minor upheavals, be they in the distant future or not, before we will see a fall in missionary vocations. We should remember however that nothing is set in stone. Considering the changes looming on the horizon and as part of a vision of an incarnated mission, we should seriously consider establishing movements of “lay missionary friends of Africa”, both locally and internationally wherever we may be. We can also envisage, in the more or less near future, the setting up of communities promoting the missions and missionary vocations in other areas of the world, for example, Madagascar, South Korea and Indonesia. The Indian model which has been a long term investment and more recently the Brazilian model are beginning to bear fruit. However, we should never forget that each region has its own experiences and particularities.
Raphaël Muteba Ndjibu, M.Afr.