“You will be my witnesses from Jerusalem…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
The General Government met with the Councils of Major Organisms and Mission Coordinators of ACLA in Subiaco Benedictine Retreat Centre, Karen in Nairobi, Kenya from November 20-27, 2017. There were 8 members from the General Government and 29 delegates from Angola/Sao-Tomé, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire/Burkina Faso, Gabon, D.R. Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Nigeria (East and West), Saint Charles Lwanga, and Zimbabwe. It was a very important moment for us, Claretians in Africa in particular and the Congregation as a whole within the context of the conclusion of the bicentenary celebration of the birth of our co-founder Fr. Josep Xifré, and the just celebrated beatification of our 109 Martyrs of our Congregation.
The theme of the encounter was: “Witnesses and Messengers of the Joy of the Gospel in Africa”, with the objective to discern together the challenges and our missionary response in Africa after the 25th General Chapter and the just concluded Canonical visitations organised in the different Organisms of the Continent.
The meeting was scheduled according to the three processes of transformation as proposed by the General Chapter (cf. MS 64-75). This was articulated according to the three different and connected moments of the passage of Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35), viz; expression of the anxiety, listening to Jesus through the Scriptures and breaking of the bread and then the return to Jerusalem. This passage became the icon that guided our itinerary and the basis of our recollection.
A Congregation going forth in Africa
We notice with much satisfaction our commitment to pastoral ministry, our willingness to reach the peripheries and to take into cognisance our social reality with special interest on the poor, and above all our efforts to imprint our Charism in the different areas needing our attention.
Nevertheless, as Congregation going forth we challenge ourselves to go beyond the traditional pastoral models, to be more creative in our missionary positions while diversifying our apostolate for better clarity. Therefore:
a. As missionaries called to be witnesses and messengers of the joy of the Gospel in Africa, we should present ourselves to the Lord with the “odour of the sheep” and reach out to the people of God with the “odour of the Good Shepherd”.
b. As harbingers of the Joy of the Gospel, we should have as our model, our Father Founder Saint Anthony Mary Claret, who missioned in Cuba; the zeal, the missionary creativity and the life testimony of our pioneer missionaries in the African continent should inspire us to announce the Gospel.
c. We reaffirm our commitment to JPIC by responding to the realities of communal conflicts, violence and poverty, which create dehumanising conditions that force young people to immigrate. We must bear in mind the words of Blessed Paul VI that “development is the new name of peace”. We should introduce JPIC into the curriculum of formation and make our JPIC teams more functional.
d. In our radical option for the poor (Aut. 562). We should aim at welcoming, listening to, accompanying and caring for the most vulnerable of the earth. We should also open ourselves to new experiences of the spirit, who makes us go out towards the peripheries of poverty and who leads us to promote ethical cultures of cooperation and solidarity. We should give a real testimony of both personal and communitarian poverty and simplicity, sharing our goods for the promotion of the poor and joining with the poor as agents of evangelisation and advocates of the unique mission of the Spirit.
e. In our desire to meet and work with the Youths in a continent characterised by a dark and bleak future for them, bedevilled with physical poverty, structural injustices, lack of democracy and the need for true peace and reconciliation among communities, we commit ourselves to working with the youths in order to create a better future with them and to help them to respond to the Call of God to different vocations.
f. As an evangelising community we are conscious of the fact that it is the Lord who has taken the initiative in the evangelizing mission. This in turn motivates us to boldly take the initiatives to go out and evangelise the world with others. Therefore, we resolve to form lay evangelisers in order to collectively promote the work of evangelisation in the perspective of shared mission.
g. As Listeners and Servants of the Word, the Word of God is at the centre of our life and Mission. We reaffirm the biblical inspiration of all our pastoral activities, taking into cognisance the centrality of this charismatic trait in the life of every Claretian. Therefore, we are called to intensify our commitment to the biblical pastoral ministry by organising Bible weeks, Lectio Divina in communities, Bible Conferences, Bible Retreats, etc.
A. Community of Witnesses and Messengers
We recognize with much gratitude the missionary work being done in our different missionary positions. To do this effectively;
a. We have to intensify our missionary vocation and to reaffirm our sense of belonging to the community. This entails accepting our brothers not as burdens but as companions.
b. We are challenged to elaborate our personal and community life projects in accord with the orientations of the Congregation, the perspectives of our Organisms and the exigencies of the Local Churches where we work.
c. We have to engage ourselves in productive work within the Organism, improve on our pulling together of our resources, grow in the sharing of goods and participate in the congregational solidarity. We affirm that for effective realisation of all these, our governing councils will have to work as a team and serve as good examples for all the other confreres.
d. Considering the missionary needs and the resources needed for our missions in Africa, we reaffirm the need for every Major Organism and Mission in Africa to have a realistic self-sufficiency plan that will help in the realisation of the life and the mission of the Congregation in Africa. This calls for proper management of our economy through control, accountability and formation of economes, and for economic sustainability through personal work, sharing of goods and proper planning.
e. We are grateful to God for the gift of young missionaries in Africa. In view of the future, we affirm the need to be committed to healthy living and provision of health insurance for every missionary in the continent.
f. We are called to have a shared vision of our commitment to the Gospel message, which builds up the community. This is a possibility through shared ownership by contributing our quota towards the progress of the community. Ownership leads to accountability and responsibility. We need to harness our gifts for the growth of the community.
g. Our radical option for the poor is made credible through a poor and simple lifestyle, through the sharing of goods among ourselves and with the needy. This also entails managing our goods without greed, trusting in Divine Providence, and excluding any collaboration with the god of unjust riches.
h. We shall collaborate and network as one Claretian charismatic family present in different Organisms by rendering our fraternal communion as the first instance of witnessing and proclaiming the joy of the Gospel within the continent. This calls for an appraisal of our strengths and weaknesses in order to complement one another and address the various challenges together.
i. Given the diversity and the need for intercultural living in our continent and communities, and in order to be better witnesses of the joy of the Gospel, we commit ourselves to focusing on what unites us in our diversity, on the uniqueness of the person of the other, more than his ethnic and tribal identity.
j. We are called to inculturate our charism in the continent. This entails being Claretians rooted in our African culture, in terms of the rich values it has, and at the same time in the charism of the Congregation. We must be truly Claretians and authentic missionaries in Africa. We must be open to other cultures by fostering a practice that takes cognisance of the intercultural nature of our Congregation.
k. As messengers of the joy of the Gospel, in approaching other cultures and people, we have to put off our “shoes” (namely our prejudices and biases) and put on the “shoes” of the other in order to better appreciate their sense of dignity. Thus, cultural diversity should not be seen as a threat, rather as a binding and enriching element. We must not absolutize any culture since the Gospel transcends every culture and gives meaning to the culture.
Men who Adore God in Spirit and in Truth
This touches the very fundamental principles of our Spirituality and our Formation. We want to be credible missionaries, we want to be credible Claretians. This entails a deep commitment to living all the aspects of our spiritual life stemming from the Forge to other programs organised by the Prefecture of Spirituality. This should be reflected not only at the level of the missionaries in on-going formation, but in all the phases of our formation. Therefore;
a. We are called to reinforce our Claretian identity, commitment to our missionary vocation and to deepen our spiritual life by giving up such negative elements like clericalism, prejudice, and formalism in our spirituality. There is need to foster collaboration among the different Organisms within the continent.
b. We shall express our spirituality through the daily prayers, monthly recollections, annual retreats, and the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Solemnity and other feasts of the Congregation in our various Organisms. We propose a quinquennium program for the Major Organisms of ACLA.
c. To become agents of a transforming presence in the African Continent, we need to first experience the transforming presence of the Gospel in ourselves as individuals and as communities. We are therefore called to respond to the invitation of God by drawing from our missionary charismatic traits in order to give a Claretian contribution to the Church and society in Africa.
d. We give thanks to God for the many vocations we receive in our Congregation from this continent. This gives us joy to see the future of the entire Congregation in the light of the current vocations that we have. We are to take cognisance of the responsibility of forming these young missionaries in a Claretian way. Therefore, we take very seriously the issue of Formation of our missionaries. We must strive to inculcate the true Claretian spirit through well trained and dedicated formators in intercultural and international formation style and facilities.
e. In announcing the gospel message we should employ prudently the use of social media as an efficacious means. We should also educate our formandi on the proper use of the social media. They should also be prepared for mission by learning the language and culture of the place to which they will be sent after their initial formation.
f. We should foster vocation to the brotherhood by designing special programs for them. Moreover, when possible, we can appoint a brother to be part of the vocation and formation team.
Having gone through this road to Emmaus with the accompaniment of the General Council, like our Mother Mary who joyfully visited Elizabeth and sharing the Good news after the annunciation, we are joyfully returning to “Jerusalem” of our respective Major Organisms and Missions to share the Good News with our brothers and sisters in the mission.
We are thankful for all the efforts the General Council made to break down the three processes of transformation, to give us greater insights about the Claretian life and mission in Africa. The same gratitude goes to the Saint Charles Lwanga Delegation whose initial Karibuni Sana was proven not only in words, but also in the professionality in the logistics that were set in place for us. We are convinced that this meeting remains for us a great moment of fraternity and “A great ‘rendez vous’ in Claretian history in Africa” as our ACLA president affirmed.