Specialized Formation, a need for the mission, not a luxury (PE nr. 1089 – 2018/03)

I am Brother Vitus Danaa Abobo, M.Afr. one of the lucky confreres who got all the support I needed to specialize in Social Communication, a B.A. program during my fourth phase of Initial Formation in Nairobi.

After one year of theological studies I was asked to specialize in Social Communications. In the beginning I was not happy about it, as I intended to specialize in Information Technology, especially network engineering, and computer repairs. However, as time went on, I began to put my heart into the program and started to enjoy it. I was convinced that God knew what I needed most for the mission.

One thing that helped me to put all my heart into the program was the realization that many of our places of mission are in a rural setting; hence I was not likely to have anyone to turn to for help in the field of social communications. I had to be a ‘jack of all trades’, meaning that unlike most of my fellow students who focused on one area like photography, videography or radio, I had to try my best to do additional courses in addition to my specialist subject in the area of print media. This meant more work, but I knew it was worth the sacrifice.

With some classmates in Tangaza.

Having finished the initial part of this specialization, I wanted to use this knowledge to train other confreres and young people in our parishes and centres, and to do documentaries on the impact of our presence in our various places of mission. This will enable more people to know how God is using us to touch the lives of the people we work with. Such documentaries will also help our donors and benefactors to see the impact that their sacrifices have on the lives of the beneficiaries.

In the meantime, I have designed a website for the Students of the Missionaries of Africa which is meant to help the students share their experiences with each other and the outside world (https://www.mafrstudents.org). I also designed a 2017 Liturgical Calendar for the Lavigerie Family in Nairobi, a leaflet for the vocation director in Nairobi and recently a 2018 Liturgical Calendar for the Malawi Sector.

I intend to use my skills to improve the communication within the province as the new Provincial Media Coordinator. Here at the Centre for Social Concern I intend to do documentaries, write articles and use photo journalism to help our benefactors and donors see the impact of their support and collaboration on the lives of the ordinary people here in Malawi, as well as help fellow confreres appreciate the role of CFSC in our Sector/Province.

However to realise these dreams, I will need not only technical resources like cameras, audio recorders and computers essential for editing, but other confreres to work with as well. As the saying goes ‘two heads are better than one’. Hence, team work will be very crucial in achieving this dream, not just for its effectiveness but also for continuity. I hope other confreres and students in Formation who have an interest in these areas will be given the chance that I got, to specialize in this field of Social Communications.

With regards to specialized studies, two things are essential; an interest in the subject and the needs of the Society. Therefore, it is important to help the confrere or student being sent for specialized studies to see the need for that speciality. This may be difficult, yet it is important if the confrere is to put all his heart into his studies. It is equally important to take the enthusiasm and capacity of the confrere or student into consideration, if we want to have specialists who have mastered their subject. I have studied with students who do the minimum as if they were forced to study certain programs. We would not want to invest a lot and reap next to nothing.

Coming back from a pastoral visit with a sack of plantains and a sack of sugar cane given by a family.

For students in formation, I think it is good to give those, who have the capacity and will, the chance to study other courses besides Missiology and Pastoral work. In my opinion, it is important to help Formators realize that no knowledge is irrelevant, so let us widen the orientation of our students. This might mean an increase in our current expenditure, but it will result in more self-reliance and a decrease in future expenditure as we will have more specialists in the Society.

For instance, the jobs I was doing in the formation house in Nairobi (networking, computer repair and maintenance, photography and videography) would have cost the Society thousands of Kenya Shillings if specialists had to come in from the outside. What a joy it was that I was able to be of use within my community.

During my three years of specialization, I have studied with Seminarians and Sisters from other congregations who took extra courses in our Institute almost every semester, yet our own students in Nairobi were discouraged from doing the same; this mentality needs to change.

As a Congregation, we have already realised the need to have confreres who are specialists in various fields besides Missiology and Pastoral work. The main challenge is to convince ourselves as individuals of this need, or else we will be fighting a losing battle.

Vitus Danaa Abobo, M.Afr.

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