In the recent weeks we had the African Continental Assembly in Bubju -Tanzania which was the first to be held after the XIII General Chapter in the continent of Africa. After the Continental Assembly, what followed was the Regional and Deligation Conferences of which the first in the continent was Ethiopian Region and then the South African/Swaziland delegation followed.
We started the Conference officially on 29th January, which was at the same breath the 117th anniversary of our foundation. As naturally as it could be, we started by the Celebration of the Eucharist led by Fr. James Lengarin, the Vice General Superior. In his reflection, he took us back to Our Founder’s dream of being in the Mission. The long life challenges that became an impediment of going to active Mission, the plan of having missionaries going to the ‘dream land’, specifically in Ethiopia ; a process that started in 1890s, up to 1901. Fr. Lengarin reflected on the challenges the Founder had to endure and the hadles he had to jump in order for this dream of evangelizing in African Missions could be fulfilled. Patience, determination and Faith were the key driving forces for our founder. The death of one bishop and restarting all over again with another, the travels to Rome in order to have audience with Propaganda Fide, the eventual reception of some young men for the missions, and consequently their withdrawal, his total trust of the intervention and help of our Lady Consolata, and finally the break through after all the hadles had been jumped. This, Fr. Lengarin said, is what we need to learn and reflect from our Founder and from this day of foundation. We were challenged not to seek the comfort zones, but to go out and beyond the periphery of our comfort zone.
The Conference was officially commenced by the Delegate Superior, Fr. James Githinji. In his opening remarks, he called upon all of us to share and reflect deeply on the acts of the XIII General Chapter and the other documents given to us. He termed the conference a moment of grace for the delegation since it will help to shape the life of the missionaries in the delegation for the next six years.
In their opening remarks, Fr. Lengarin and Fr. Godfrey Msumange retaliated the Spirit and call of the XIII General Chapter, focusing on Revitalization and Restructuring. They reflected on the Centrality of Personal revitalization, the aspect of personal relashionship with Christ and the value of Prayer and meditation. Personal revitalization is the starting point to Communial, Continetal and the whole congregation’s revitalization. We should never therefore, forget our identity and centrality.
They further noted the fact that our congregation has changed in recent years. Majority of voctions, in fact 95 % more or less come from the Continent of Africa. In fact the number of missionaries in Africa is 444, a great percentage in the congregation. On the other side, there is a significant number of young missionaries. It is a blessing, but at the same time posses a challenge coming from self identity and crisis that come along within these early years of priesthood. Therefore, a need of following up and continous formation of the young missionaries is necessary. This was not just an idea but part of the Continental Action Plan and also adopted in the Delegation planning.
PRESENTATION OF NEW COMMUNITIES…
We further had presentation of the opening of new communities where we are based. Namely, Manzini ( Swaziland), ( 2015/2016) Mamelodi ( 2015) and Osizweni (2016).
We had presentation also of the The Missionary Animation and Vocation Promotion Office by Fr Daniel Kivuw’a – The delegation Missionary and Vocation Animator. He made us aware of the activities of the office and the situation as it is now. We are much aware that as yet we have no South African Missionary. We can however claim pride of having one candidate from Swaziland by the name of Boy Mahazule. A sign of hope for us. All of us were challenged to be Missionary and Vocation animators in our respective places. We shall continue animating and let the ‘owner of the vineyard do His job’ as the Animator advised us.
The Seminary of Merivale has had a constant numbers of Temporaly Professed members that come for their theological studies. At present there are 10 students and two formators. The challenge brought forward is the support of the seminary in it’s daily running, but more importadly the financial constraints in the Theological studies. The Rector, Fr. Fredrick Agalo, appreciated the support of the members in both financial and gifts (in form of foods) given to the seminary from our Parishes. This, he said has reduced the budget of the seminary significantly. However, more support is needed to keep the seminary running well.
THE DELIGATION SUPERIOR
We also had the presentation of our delegate superior – Fr. James Githinji- narrating the history of our presence in South Africa, going back to the Second World War, in 1940s when some of our Confreres became prisoners of war till up to date in the current situation. We were presented chronologically the works, openings and closure of our missions throughout the years. We understood the history of our presence and this in fact challenged us to think of having someone who will compile this rich history that will make part of our archives of the documented history. In our further delibarations too, we came to appreciate the missionaries that have this history with them, namely; Fr. Rocco Marra and Fr. Giorgio Massa. These members, together with others who are outside the delegation can be a rich source of documenting our history.
The Delegation Administrator gave his presentation on the economic situation of our Delegation. It was clear that every member has a role to play in contributing to the financial well being of the Delegation. Proper use of our finances, accountability and openness are some of the pillars of stable financial situation in our delegation. The sky ahead seems grey, and hence, we were challenged to think more about how to help our delegation in making sure that we won’t fall below the cliff.
THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THE CONFERENCE…
The VII DSA ( Delegation of South Africa) Conference, in line with the XIII Chapter and the Continental Missionary Project based it’s deliberations, planning and decisions on the following ;
- Missionary Animation and Vocation Promotion
- Economy for the Mission
The working Documents being :-
- The Acts of the XIII General Chapter
- The Document of the Continental Project
- The Guidelines of the General Government (2017-2023)
- The Continental Action Plan for the next six years.
- Other different documents on basic formation, administration, animation and evangelization that came from the just concluded continental Assembly in Bunju- Tanzania.
DELIBERATIONS AND ENACTING
The members present, having already worked in their small communities and eventually coming up with Instrumentum Laboris divided into 3 groups that each took a theme to discuss and affirm the proposals of the Instrumentum Laboris. They had also the Continental Action Plan for the next six years to guide our discourses and the above mentioned materials documentsthat were at our disposal. On the first day, under the general theme of Revitalization, we focused on;
- The Missionary Disciple
- Missionary animation and vocation
- The formation to the Mission.
Three important areas were in focus ,
- i) The Individual Missionary
- ii) The IMC Community
The second day we delt on;
- i) Fraternal Life in the Community
- ii) Missionary Ad Gentes and Service
iii) Economy for the Mission
- On the last day of our meeting, we dealt on Restructuring. In this aspect, we challenged ourself to focus on our Ad Gentes Charism and penetrate in the areas that need us in this aspect, especially the outskirts of the cities, value and participate in religious dialogues, understand and enact the guidelines from the DG and the continental deligation.
In summary, a road map for the next 6 years, based on the four-mentioned areas as par the Acts of the General Chapter and all other documents used as the guidelines, together with the reflections in groups that reflected on the reality of our Delegation and the proposals taken in the small groups and eventually in the Plenaries, brought about the last document that forms the Acts of DSA VII Conference 2018.
In was agreed that an individual plays a very vital role in both Revitalization and Restructuring.
An individual’s effort to revive the faith, word of God, prayer, meditation, fraternal spirit, accountability, sence of belonging, spiritual retreats and recollectiosn, spiritual directions, Charism, discipleship etc is very vital for Communial Revitalization and growth.
A Community is the ideal place of living and practicing our discipleship. This can be possible through active participation in communial programs. In mind was the on going formation, retreats, recollections, community prayer, and so on.
THE CONFERENCE SPIRIT
The conference had a very positive and enthusiastic attitude. Further more, all members were engaged in reflections and delibarations. With no doubt, there was the family spirit, the sence of belonging, the sence of ‘communial ownership’ of all the areas of concern. This gave an opportunity for free interactions both in the meeting and in free times of breaks and ending of the day.
The spiritual aspect of Eucharistic celebrations and prayers was evident. We were one family that sat around the table, sharing ideas about the road map of our family. We hope the next six years will bring to fruition all the delibarations of this Conference.