AFRICA-MADAGASCARAMR Conference: signs of hope
After the recent Conference of the Africa-Madagascar Region, 23-24 April 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya, the newly elected president of the region, Fr. George IHEANACHO, wrote this hopeful message in the regional newsletter.
The just concluded Africa-Madagascar Regional Conference, Nairobi, 2014, was unique. It was lived in the background of the Triennium of the 200 years of our Congregation. Each Unit of the region had the opportunity to highlight efforts made towards an apostolic community experience of the Triennium for this first year. The variety of commitments towards the Triennium activities bears witness to the ingenuity of the Oblate charism in diverse contexts of our Region.
This underscores why 13 out of the 16 members of the AMR Conference, assisted by a team of Oblates and lay persons for logistics, gathered to reflect on the theme: Oblate model of formation in Africa: A look at the challenges and opportunities. This is indeed a crucial area in the life of a Region considered as one of the lifelines of the Congregation.
As the Conference reviewed efforts made by Units to implement the Yaoundé 2012 resolutions, it came to limelight that there has been a remarkable exchange of scholastics in the formation houses within the Region, an inaugural meeting of formators in the Region and an effective running of the AMR office in Johannesburg with a regular flow of information, among others.
The Region is gradually taking its rightful place in the Congregation as some hitherto young Units celebrate their jubilees, expand to other territories, assume leadership roles in ecclesiastical circumscriptions and fully partake in the services rendered to the Congregation at the highest levels. Though this is a cause for joy, we must be conscious of the challenges that face us as a Region and as a Congregation.
Are we ready and willing to have a radical change in our life and structure as a Region? Can we be courageous and faithful enough to overcome the challenges of living beyond 200 years as a Congregation?
May our Patroness and Mother, Mary Immaculate, and our dear Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, intercede for us as we journey towards a renewed and a re-inflamed oblate charism and life.
Recently, Fr. Ken FORSTER, provincial of OMI Lacombe Province in Canada, returned to Kenya where he had served as a missionary several years ago. Here is an excerpt from his report to his province.
Fr. Gideon RIMBERIA, a Kenyan Oblate ordained less than two years, will be the pastor of the new parish in Kisaju. They have many needs. Kisaju, which is a fast growing community relatively close to Nairobi, has been chosen as the place to establish the parish centre. Without a church, the community celebrates Sunday Mass in a nursery classroom that is overflowing. They are negotiating to get a few acres of land from the Catholic-sponsored school. The Oblates are presently renting a house as their residence in the mother parish but will move shortly to Kisaju itself, and look to rent there. They will be working with many tribal groups but predominantly with the Masai.
The area is very dry, so water will be a major concern. Their collection from this emerging parish has been 300,000 ksh in the last six months or about $3600, but they often receive considerable food and vegetables in the sadaka (offering). They often have enough to share with a shelter for women that is run by nuns and served by the Oblates weekly.
A newly ordained Oblate from the Mission of South Korea, Fr. Sam HONG, has received his first obedience from the Superior General to serve in Kenya. He arrived in April.
All members of the mission community met in our formation house in Karen, Nairobi, for three full days. It was a time of prayer, sharing of ideas, wrestling with choosing a common path, planning the future and discerning leadership for the mission. Fr. Jim FIORI has been re-appointed for a second term at the last Provincial Council meeting in Vancouver. His two councillors are Fr. Faustin LITANDA and Fr. Gideon RIMBERIA.
We discussed concerns regarding formation. We have three scholastics in theology, one in novitiate and six in pre-novitiate studying philosophy. We project that we may have ten young men joining as postulants in Meru. How can we give them the best formation as wholesome young men, as Oblates, to become saints as St. Eugene desires?
There are many development projects taking place in Kenya. Highways and major circular roads in Nairobi are being built with Chinese government grants. There also seems to be the development of a middle class able to purchase vehicles, especially motorcycles, even in the rural areas like Kionyo. There is a new asphalt road from Chogoria through our Kionyo Parish to Meru town. What a big change from the roads we drove on sixteen years ago! Traffic is very heavy on the highway from Nairobi north. Pray that we don’t lose any of our Oblate brothers as people are impatient and pass in dangerous situations.
For several years now, the boarding residence of the Koungheul Mission has been welcoming a large group of children and teenagers during the school year. It is an important service, so that these children and young people, who come from their villages in the countryside, might have a safe place to stay and eat, and a place to study.
and Muslims together form a community, with the help of the house master, Jean,
who watches over them closely, together with Raphael, a young man. There are
two women, Marianna, Jean’s wife, and Sidonie who look after the kitchen with painstaking
and often tiring labor. I help too, along with my two confreres, Fr. Jacques
DIOP and Brother Etienne BASSENE.
Every morning, the children and teenagers go to school, but here they have a home to return to, to eat, to rest and to be supervised. The Christians can therefore be part of the life of our parish of Our Lady of Fatima, but Muslims also receive human and moral training by participating in formational activities.
Last 18 May, we had our patronal feast day. It was a beautiful day, with the presence of the whole community of Koungheul, the neighboring villages and several guests. It was an opportunity to come together to share in the joy of a solemn celebration, a good lunch and moments of relaxation and rest. Above all, it was an opportunity to honor Mary (who is very popular in Senegal, not only among Christians but also among Muslims) and entrust our lives to her.
In coming months, we want to refurbish the entire residence, by painting and making necessary repairs, from the kitchen to the dormitories.
Soon the rainy season will begin (July to September) and it is time to cultivate the fields (millet, corn, peanuts) so that they can feed their families. Our children and teenagers, once school is out, will go back to their villages to help their parents on the farms (until the beginning of October and the reopening of the school). We ask of the Lord and His providence good results at school (especially for those who have exams) and also abundant rain that that will bear good fruit for the work in the countryside! (Fr. Pier Francesco PURPURA)
Saint Joseph’s Theological Institute, Cedara, held its second annual conference from the 24th to the 26th April 2014. The theme was: The Response of the Church to Globalisation in Africa. After a word of welcome from Fr. Sylvester DAVID, President of the Institute, the concept of globalization was introduced by means of a number of trends it promotes in human society.
The first, the secularism trend, is the continuing move of religion to the realm of the private. This leads to the marginalisation of religion as participant in the social debate about right and wrong. A related trend is the relativizing of truth as a result the dismissal of transcendence as a source of general moral norms and absolute truths in favour of socially and culturally determined truths for particular groups of people.
A further trend is a shift in the notion of justice, increasingly prioritised in terms of materialist issues to the detriment of ethical behaviour, including concern for the exploited and the environment. This leads to the poor being marginalised in society and more open to resistance identities and behaviours. These manifest as strategies either advocating engagement with violence or withdrawal into dependency driven states such as substance abuse or “religious” experiences of euphoria outside daily life.
Spirituality trends occur within such resistance groups. Some promote fundamentalist religious positions both outside and within traditional religions. Such spiritualties can lead people to resort to violence. Another spirituality trend is the growth of consumer religion offering religious products based on personal needs, prioritising immediate gratification over permanent commitment and ethical behaviour change.
On the socioeconomic level there is a growing gap, globally, between rich and middle class on the one hand and the poor on the other. The poor are increasingly intra-national in nature rather than international as in the modern period of first world and third world countries. Unemployment is increasingly the primary sign of the poor. Lack of access to human development is one of its principal causes.
Globalisation thus raises issues of human drama and suffering. Some manifest in conflict including on the interreligious level others in growing human incapacity and lack of development. Yet others come from the environment. Others affect the lack of growth in local knowledge to counter the power of the global metropoles.
During the course of the conference, various scholars presented papers that addressed these trends. They endeavoured to show how the Church can respond as an advocate for peace and justice, the poor, the disabled, and the whole planet. (Stuart C. BATE, Director, Research and Development SJTI)
The story of the
Missionary Oblates’ presence and ministry in Zambia is truly an amazing one!
This year the country, located in south central Africa, celebrates 50 years of
independence from British rule (1964) and the Missionary Oblates are
celebrating 30 years since the arrival of the first missionaries from the
United States (former Southern Province).
Current statistics tell of a huge success story: today, there are 31 native Oblate priests and 4 perpetually professed native Oblate Brothers ministering there. Fifty one seminarians are studying for the Oblates from Zambia. Twenty seven are in temporary vows; five are in the novitiate; nineteen are in the pre-novitiate.
Besides the ministries of the Oblates in Zambia itself, Zambian Oblates also serve in South Africa, the United States, Mexico and Italy. Recent requests have been made to the Delegation Superior, Fr. Freeborn KIBOMBWE, for Zambian Oblates to minister in Australia and China. That request is currently under consideration. Fr. Freeborn is also planning eventually to send Oblates to the neighboring country of Malawi.
The zeal of these Oblates to minister elsewhere is not surprising since seminarians for the Oblates study in South Africa, the United States, Cameroun, Italy and Germany. They learn early in their education and formation about the internationality of the Oblate Congregation and the great need for Oblates in many parts of the world.
The vocation shortage of Oblates in the U.S. Province has been relieved somewhat by the generosity of two Zambian Oblates who have come to the U.S. to minister recently. Fr. Humphrey MILIMO has joined the mission center in Buffalo, New York, and Fr. Emmanuel MULENGA is with the Oblates at the mission center in New Orleans, Louisiana. Fr. Nebby Chanda MUTALE will soon be arriving in the U.S. to be on the formation team at the post-novitiate in San Antonio, Texas, while pursuing graduate studies.
The U.S. Province, while serving as a mentor to the delegation in Zambia, has learned much from the dedicated service, the strong faith, and the ardent zeal of these young Zambian Oblates who are truly on fire to bring the gospel to the nations (Fr. Louis STUDER in OMI USA, July 2014)