It was a mixture of elation at seeing one another again and the expression of sadness at not being able to enjoy that physical fraternal presence of each other as the Assembly of the Conference of the Redemptorists of Africa and Madagascar (COREAM) was held via Zoom network from Tuesday July 26th to Friday July 29th 2022. The Assembly was initially planned to hold in Nairobi, Kenya. 18 Superiors and Vocals from all 9 units of the Conference, 2 members of the General Council, 1 lay representative and four technical team members were present. Frs Micheal Brehl and Nicholas Ayouba were present as members of the General Council while Fr. Gerry ‘O’Connor, COREAM Procurator, also functions as a member of the COREAM council.
That mixed feeling mentioned above was beautifully expressed in the opening speech of the Superior General, Fr. Michael Brehl. In his usual warm, simple and familial manner, Fr. Michael expressed his gratitude to the Conference of Africa and Madagascar for being an example to other Conferences of the possibilities available demonstrated at the first phase of the General Chapter which happened to be the first one held in the lead up to the General Chapter. The Coordinator for Africa and Madagascar Fr. Noel Sottima, continued on the same note. He congratulated the Conference for the progress made so far.
Fr. Joseph Afulo, SJ, a Kenyan on mission to Zimbabwe, gave the keynote address. As a former Provincial of the Jesuits in Africa he shared the Jesuit African experience of restructuring with our Conference. In his talk he stressed the necessity of a solid communal discernment at every stage of the restructuring process. He also noted that the documents and structures put in place by the Redemptorist Congregation were very well on the right track. The participants showed their appreciation after the talk and had a fruitful conversation also.
In the days following, priority was given to the restructuring process. Also deeply discussed was the issue of the self-reliance of COREAM. The assembly had robust conversations on common projects, funding, timeline for the restructuring, practical steps to be taken and commitment of COREAM to the solidarity fund for Africa. There was a marked change in the tone of the discussion from the abstract to the practical. The consultor General for Africa, Fr. Ayouba, enjoined the assembly to be courageous in the face of the uncertainties that face the Conference on the journey to restructuring and if needs be, to re-evaluate decisions made from past COREAM Assemblies in the light of present day realities.
The theme of discernment that set the tone for the reflection of the assembly gradually became a constant hum of the Spirit speaking to us. These past few days marked a truly significant moment of communal discernment for us as COREAM. The Superiors promised to communicate this spirit to every confrere in their units.
The Conference also took time to celebrate the baby steps already being taken with regard to reconfiguration. There has been continuous Conference-wide online trainings on various topics, some units have already started common formation, others have finalised plans to have common missions. The common novitiates in Ghana and Madagascar are both set to begin in September, while the pastoral year students exchange plan kicks-off in August.
Presentations were made on the COREAM Ratio Formationis, the COREAM Statutes, the restructuring and important bits of information about the forthcoming General Chapter were communicated.
In his closing remarks the Superior General congratulated everyone for their hard work. He left us with the words; “Stay close to one another, stay close to the poor and stay close to the Redeemer”
Godwin Abbah, CSsR
Vice Province of Nigeria