The African Conference (CA) comprising the Provinces/Region of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament in Africa took place from 25 to 30 November 2019 in Brazzaville at the postulancy community in Barrage.
The participants were as follows :
For Uganda : Fr Roel Dela Cruz, Provincial Superior of the Philippines, Fr Alde Bureros, Provincial Treasurer, Fr Georges Ssali, director of postulants at Jinja.
For Mozambique : Fr Gerald Bernardo Uaiare, superior of Maputo.
For the Cameroons : Fr Domenico Avogadro, Provincial Superior of Italy, Fr Nicaise Milandou Semo, responsible at Yaoundé.
For Senegal: Fr Raphael Diop, Provincial Treasurer, Fr Abraham Faye, master of novices Interafrican novitiate at Koudiadiène.
For Congo-Brazzaville: Fr Brel Gustinau Malela Daouda, Regional Superior, Fr Rodolphe Mboya, Regional Treasurer.
For Congo-Kinshasa: Fr Anaclet Bambala, Provincial Superior, Br Michel Lukikeba, Provincial Treasurer, Fr Jean Willy Moupila, director of the Interafrican Scholasticate at Kinshasa, Fr Augustin Mfwankama, treasurer of the Interafrican Scholasticate.
For the General Curia: Fr Castigo Agostinho Maholele, General Consultor in charge of Africa, Fr Philip Benzy Romician, General Treasurer.
The Assembly unfolded in two phases: two days dealing with specific issues about the life of the Congregation in Africa, notably regarding formation; and a three-day formation input about economic and financial questions. The work began with a solemn Mass celebrated on Sunday 24 November 2019 in our parish church of St Peter Claver of Bacongo. The Eucharist was presided by Fr Brel Gustinau Daouda Malela, president at present of the CA, concelebrated by the delegates to the CA. At the end of the celebration there was a fraternal meal in the regional community at St Peter Claver.
The work in the hall began on Monday 25 November with a talk presented by Sister Angela, a Daughter of Charity, on the theme “How to confront the abuse of minors and vulnerable persons?” In her exposé, she recalled that we are all potential abusers. She cited the text of St Luke about the urgency for conscientisation: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13:1-9). Hence, the protection of minors and vulnerable persons is a duty pertaining to all. This is a matter concerning our Congregations and the Church. Following persons and institutions characterised for the protection of minors and vulnerable persons, we are all invited in this regard to be personally and communally committed. As an approach to a solution, this speaker invited the Assembly to become conscientized, to respect the norms, adequate formation, vigilance by superiors, prudence and resistance of temptation, drawing up of rules of conduct and sanctions in this area, raising of awareness, etc. These words were added to by Fr Domenico Avogadro who recalled that sexual abuse is always accompanied by the abuse of conscience and power. And in relation to the charisma of our founder (“I will leave everything for the priests”), the Congregation should prepare to ensure the accompaniment of the priests who may be subject to sanctions relating to abuse.
After this talk, the delegates focused on some issues related to the life and future of our houses of formation (Novitiate and Scholasticate), our collaboration between the African communities and with the General Commissions of formation and finances. Fr Agostinho highlighted the expectations of such an assembly which is in line with the main theme of the last General Chapter: "From the breaking of the bread: family, self-giving, mission". He then presented the message of the Superior General, Fr Eugênio Barbosa Martins, to the African Conference.
The reflections and reports followed by sharing generated some resolutions that we summarise here. The availability of the CA to welcome scholastics coming from other Conferences of the Congregation; collaboration with the General Council to ensure the running and presence of this parish. As regards formation:
- Encourage young persons in formation to write on the founder and religious who are capable to undertake a course of specialisation;
- Encourage specific SSS formation in the Interafrican Scolasticate and strengthen the development among young persons in formation with a sense of belonging to the Congregation and community life;
- In order to ensure our formation structure, the CA encourages setting up establishments for forming formators who would be available to be provided when needed;
- Moreover, in view of preparing better for ministries the members of the CA were reminded of the necessary and canonical time required as regards the admission of candidates for sacred orders in accord with the programme of preparation for perpetual profession (P4).
Some of the other concerns that were the object of our reflections, namely: learning the official languages of the Congregation, which are French and English (as appropriate, Spanish, Italian), which should be given importance in the novitiate and scholasticate; the encouragement of internationality as seen in the current positive experience of African candidates outsides the CA (in Canada, Colombia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka). To reinforce these experiences, the CA is committed in each community to prepare young persons from the beginning to face foreign cultures.
The other salient moment of the meeting in Brazzaville was the formation given to the treasurers of the CA for three days. This was by the General Treasurer, Fr Philip Benzy Romician, assisted by the Consultor in charge of Africa, who helped the treasurers of the Provinces/Region and those of formation to understand the new challenges in carrying our economic and financial management in the Church in general and in the Congregation in particular.
Based on recommendations of the Church presented in the document “Economy at the service of charism and mission” that was published some years ago by the CIVCSVA, the General Treasurer recalled the principles of sound management rooted in the Holy Scriptures. With the help of audio-visual and shared reflections, he instructed the Assembly about the limitations of treasurers (lack of adequate formation) and the values to be promoted (imitation of the poor and free Christ, transparency, and responsibility). In a parallel way, all the parameters of systematic and professional management were addressed. An appeal was thus made to treasurers and superiors to learn to employ the instruments of management and control that science and the Church are offering us.
At the end of this formation, the Assembly of the African Conference was closed and the date of the next meeting was fixed for November 2022 in Senegal.
Father Nicaise Milandou Semo, sss
Secretary of the meeting