Meeting of the General Commission for Africa and Madagascar in Rome

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(Rome) The meeting of the General Commission for Africa and Madagascar took place from 5th to 9th of March in General Curia, Rome. For this meeting all the members were present and Father General, Michael Brehl was with us in the evening of the first day. The members of the Commission those who were present are Fr. Nicolas Ayouba (General Consultor, member of the General Secretariat for Evangelization), Fr. Sean Wales (South Africa), Fr. Joseph Apisit (Thailand), Fr. Glenn Parker (Richmond), Fr. Ramón Correa (Buenos Aires), Fr. Jorge Gómez (Bogotá) and Fr. Francois Stanula (Francia). There were also representatives of the General Secretariat for Evangelization Fr. Pedro López Calvo, General Consultor, Fr. Sebastian Ani Dato, General Consultor, Fr. Cristian Bueno, Secretary General for Evangelization.

The main topics for discussion were based on certain questions that needed the answers. They are: Why this General Commission for Africa?  To achieve that mandate a brief reminder of the creation of this General Commission is necessary: where were we from? Where were we now? What is happening now in the Conference of Africa and Madagascar? Where were we going to? How this General Commission can help the Congregation to implement and achieve these decisions of General Chapters, in order to achieve the goals or fulfill the mandate given by the XXV General Chapter in the Decision number 17 and 18?

So, to achieve this a brief introduction or reminder of the creation of this General Commission was necessary. First, we shared our rich and varied experiences in relation to Africa and Madagascar. It was important to see the link between the Commission for Africa and Madagascar and the General Secretariat for Evangelization. All of our tasks were pastoral. Then we were reminded what was decided by the various General Chapters, and also recalled what was done or not, in order to learn from the lessons or mistakes of the past. We noticed that there have been several initiatives and attempts to concretize the decision taken that Africa (and Madagascar) is a priority for the Congregation. We must recognize the “growth of Units and the number of missionaries on this Continent from 1985 to now”, said Father General Michael Brehl. Therefore, we acknowledged and congratulated to Mother Provinces and its Units engaged in Africa and Madagascar.

We want to recall here what was said and decided in some of the last General Chapters:

  • In 1985 Postulation (1.A): Situation of the Congregation in Africa, greater presence and economic solidarity
  • In 1991 Recommendation (10.1): in view of the importance given by the General Chapter 1985 to the presence of the Redemptorists in Africa, and in view of the need to intensify this presence, the General renews that appeal to the Congregation as a pastoral priority…
  • In 1997 Approve Postulatum 6: The presence of the Congregation in Africa, the General still considers Africa as a priority for the Congregation…
  • In 2009 Other Decisions 8-9: – New Structures for Africa and Madagascar: The Conference of Africa and Madagascar is a priority… new structures in place.
  • In 2016 Decisions 17-18 – Missionary solidarity, Africa and Madagascar: a priority of the Congregation.

we also mentioned about the Regional Meeting held in Ibadan, Nigeria from November 26 to December 5, 2006, and followed letters from Father General Joseph Tobin. We also noticed:

  • February 2, 2007, addressed to the Redemptorists of Africa, about the outcome of the Regional Meeting in Ibadan, and the decisions of the General Council, especially about the creation of a General Commission for Africa.
  • Also, a report on the outcome or results and recommendations of the Meeting of the commission for Africa in 6 to 8 December 2007, (refer the Document for recommendations).
  • March 2008 – the Document on Financial Support to Africa (important to know it)!
  • 29 January 2008 – Father General Joseph Tobin’s letter of to the Redemptorists of Africa on training and finance in Africa.
  • April 2nd, 2008 – Father General Joseph Tobin’s letter to the Redemptorists of Africa, speaking about a questionnaire on the creation of the funds for Africa, for a decision of the General Council.

All this is to answer the question: where were we from?

So, where we are now? What is going on or happening or not happening in the Conference of Africa and Madagascar?

At this stage, we notice many lacks, fragilities, obstacles and fears which limit in leadership, faithful religious and community life, apostolic life, in following the best practices in finance and accountability; a lack in having and following Protocols and Policies on Child safeguarding and protection of Vulnerable adults. we find ethnicism everywhere. Do we really have the Redemptorist spirit in Africa and Madagascar?

Africa and Africans have given themselves a poor profile, from outside and even from within Africa. This Africa is perceived to be truly the third world summit of all poverty, the continent of all trafficking for a long time and a Continent of perpetual needs. The impression can be given that Africa is all and only about trafficking, of Drugs, Organs, Weapons and even religious trafficking (view of all the proliferation of Islamist and fundamentalist groups, as if Africa shall be more Muslim than the worldwide Arab countries?).

There we also discover the impulses of groupism behind the borders and label of ethnic and cultural barriers, where Christian and religious life and even the water of baptism seem insignificant signs or a decrepit symbol.

What’s going on in Africa and Madagascar?

In COREAM nowadays, we also have many things going on already in this Conference. Africa yet remains a young and growing Continent, a fertile ground for many priestly and religious vocations that explain also the youth and growing members of our Units.

The COREAM Coordination and Solidarity Office based in Nairobi functioning well. Some concrete steps were already taken in the Conference or between some Units of the Conference: The COREAM is implementing and carrying out to its best capability. The Common Formation Houses and the COREAM Ratio Formationis in course of elaboration: in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar. The project for Common (inter-Units) missionary initiatives and teams: Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Congo Brazzaville, South Sudan are carried out. Many Social projects are going on well, with Fr Gerry O’Connor’s support and dedication. A website is created on fundraising but known widespread: Redemptorist Units Network for Africa and Madagascar (RUNFAM), Cf. current Strategic Plan page 15. We need more information on the “Fund for Africa and Madagascar” and the “Redemptorists International Solidarity (RIS)”, directed by Fr Gerry O’Connor, and on how it works and how to increase it? The documents have been written and we had Bursars training on best practice in finance and accountability (Training for Units Bursars); we need ensuring and strengthen in COREAM accountability and transparency. The Apostolic Plan and the Plan of Reconfiguration in course of elaboration for the quadrennium 2019-2022, and also a Strategic Plan (2016-2019) for 2019-2022, ready to be revised and presented to the mid-Sexennium meeting and to the next COREAM Assembly in August 2019. The need to ensure and strengthen the implementation of the Protocols and Policies on Child safeguarding and vulnerable adults’ protection.

Where we are going?

How this General Commission can help the Congregation to carry and implement these Decisions of General Chapters: Africa and Madagascar: a priority of the Congregation, in particular, way to achieve the goal or mandate given by the 25 General Chapter in his Decision number 17 and 18?

How do we give back to Africa the lost or degraded image of greater human and religious values, of evangelical solidarity, of uncompromising hospitality, of faith and of respect for the person and life and of Redemptorist culture and tradition?

Message and recommendations:

What was our experience in these three days of the meeting of our commission on Africa and Madagascar (COREAM) as a priority of the Congregation?

You will receive very soon a message and some recommendations from the meeting of our Commission, especially on three points:

  • Formation for the mission, missionary initiatives, and finances
  • The Restructuring process in the implementation of the Apostolic Plan and Plan of Reconfiguration, and their implications.
  • The Place, Role and Relationship with the Mother Provinces: the COREAM Network.

Important Agendas to know:

  • Network for Africa and Madagascar next July 2019, about the Collaboration of the Units in Africa with mother-Provinces, mainly in mission, formation for mission, on Redemptorist Moral Theology, Spirituality, retreats, preachers, sending teachers, personnel to help in preaching popular mission, etc… and Financial matters and support, including the increasing of the Fund for Africa and Madagascar.
  • The meeting for all the formators of COREAM in Nairobi next July 2019,
  • The Mid-Sexennium meeting in Nairobi from July 31 to August 8, 2019,
  • The COREAM Assembly following the Mid-Sexennium meeting, from August 7 to 11.

Fraternally and united in Christ the Redeemer.

Fr. Ayouba Nicolas Issifi, CSsR.

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