Recently the Mother of Divine Love Province [Ireland] hosted an important meeting here in its Delegature of East Africa. It was conducted at Arusha in Tanzania and, although only just a Deacon, I had the good fortune to attend – a somewhat daunting experience but I thank God for the opportunity.
Our Leaders came not just from Africa but from other parts of the world, Asia, Europe and Latin America – a very vibrant team of 16 who sat down to discuss issues concerning the Society as a whole but Africa in particular. In the serene environment of the Canossa Spirituality Centre no one could doubt that a new Pentecost was happening as they brought their wisdom, care and concern to focus on each of the SAC entities across the continent. As a young member I felt strengthened in my vocation, spiritually enriched and filled with hope.
Despite the many problems affecting us here the meeting reaffirmed that Africa can and must stand up with dignity. And, through its many vocations, this dignity will be affirmed when we prophetically proclaim our Pallottine charism giving hope to people through our commitment to health, dialogue, the building up of a just society, peace and reconciliation, interreligious dialogue, education, pastoral care for families and youth.
I was so happy to hear that formation is an issue at the heart of our superiors. Our houses of formation here are full of zealous and resourceful students at all levels, a blessing that provided great consolation to them.
Fr Jacob stressed the need to rediscover and strengthen our missionary tradition and spirit. Our Society, from the outset, was marked with a missionary outlook. With this heritage all our Pallottine entities here should never fear to undertake missionary ventures. Peru, Chile, Cuba, Taiwan, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, and Malawi were mentioned, among others. St Vincent, from his place in heaven, must have been happy!
In East Africa Uganda has become a Land of Martyrs. It has a high number of Catholics but, with deep political, social and cultural problems, she finds herself at a crossroad. Because of her brokenness there is a crisis in faith, hope and charity creating a disintegrated society. It was recognised that our charism can be relevant in re-igniting that glowing flame of faith and charity, and in bringing hope. We can and must respond in very concrete ways, specially encouraged by the ordination of three Ugandan Ugandan Deacons last February.
There was recognition that, if we are to support the countries of Africa to ‘stand up and walk with dignity’ then a high degree of involvement on the ground is required of all those responsible, as well a determined spirit of collaboration. Other emphases mentioned were an increased spirit of transparency and accountability, a constant commitment to the protection of minors and vulnerable persons and, above all, spiritual renewal. The latter was very much stressed and a call to not only to be people with a social conscience but also rooted in prayer and adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist, especially during this Year of Consecrated Life, but right throughout our lives.
The visitors did not lock themselves inside the Canossian walls. They moved out and experienced the beauty of Africa in the wildlife with a visit to Manyara National Park. At Esso, Arusha, they witnessed a vibrant church with many, young and old, who worship God at St Vincent Pallotti parish. They saw how Pallottines work with people in transforming society, in caring for the handicapped, the sick, and all those in distress. The work at Esso and in the international houses of formation in both Arusha and Nairobi were both admired for their spirit of cooperation and collaboration.
My hope and prayer is that the decisions and recommendations they made will help us all to move a step further in our commitment to loving God and our neighbour, after the example of St Vincent, and with the intercession of Mary Queen of Apostles.
Deacon Allan Bukenya sac [IR] – Arusha – TANZANIA