Synod for Africa Concludes

Our Lady of Africa

Our Lady of Africa

The Synod for Africa has concluded. John L. Allen, Jr. has written an excellent summary of the Synod for the National Catholic Reporter titled Women may come out winners in the Synod for Africa. The results of the Synod reflect a realistic acknowledgement of present injustices while not forgetting the gifts inherent in the African continent and her people.

The Synod has presented Pope Benedict XVI with 57 propositions to consider as he prepares his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. Here are some of the propositions that speak directly to the laity, New Ecclesial Movements, and Small Christian Communities. There is much for us to ponder in these words, especially in light of our new document, “Marianist Lay Communities in the Church and in the World“. (Emphases are mine.)

  • The Synod renews its support for the promotion of Small Christian Communities (SCC), which firmly build up the Church-Family of God in Africa. The SCC are based on Gospel-sharing, where Christians gather to celebrate the presence of the Lord in their lives and in their midst, through the celebration of the Eucharist, the reading of the Word of God and witnessing to their faith in loving service to each other and their communities. Under the guidance of their pastors and catechists, they seek to deepen their faith and mature in Christian witness, as they live concrete experiences of fatherhood, motherhood, relationships, open fellowship, where each takes care of the other. This Family of God extends beyond the bonds of blood, ethnicity, tribe, culture and race. In this way, SCC open paths to reconciliation with extended families, which have the tendency to impose on Christian nuclear families their syncretistic ways and customs. (35)
  • Christ’s lay faithful share in the threefold mission of Christ, priest, prophet and king, because they are members of the People of God. They are therefore called to live their vocation and mission at all levels of society, especially in the socio-political, socio-economic and socio-cultural spheres. …Consequently, the Church must provide them with an initial and ongoing catechesis for a conversion of heart, supported by an adequate spiritual, biblical, doctrinal and moral formation for a social Christian conscience.
    In this regard, perhaps one of the providential tools for the development of this conversion and faith experience are the new ecclesial movements. These movements and communities of faith and communion exist in the Church as “veritable laboratories of faith”, places of formation and empowerment through the Spirit for a life of witness and mission. Thus equipped as disciples of the Lord, they act in the world as leaven. (37)
  • For those who are engaged in directing political, economic and cultural affairs, the Church is to take special care to plan a formation programme based on the Word of God and the social doctrine of the Church (cf.”The Compendium”, 12). This program is to include formation in leadership which transforms life through action (leadership training for transformative action).…Small Christian Communities are to offer assistance in the formation of the People of God and serve as a place for concretely living out reconciliation, justice and peace. (37)
  • Permanent catechists or those who act as catechists on occasion are the vital heralds of the Gospel for our Small Christian Communities, where they exercise various roles: leaders of prayer, counsellors and mediators. They require a solid formation and material support which is necessary for them effectively to assume their role as spiritual guides. They also need to be encouraged and supported in their zeal for service within these communities, especially their service to reconciliation, justice and peace.

Our Marianist Lay Communities in Africa formed their own Region within the International Organization of MLC during our 2005 meeting in Bordeaux. Lorna Mueni Kilonzo, the first Regional Responsible for Africa, constantly reminded the international team of the need for formation in the countries she represented. Her words were, “we must form formators”! Ernest Kasongo, the new Regional Responsible for Africa, is continuing the call for formation resources and programs. This will be an important agenda item for us during our meetings in Rome.

The African Bishops recognize that lay women and men, formed and educated in their faith, are needed to build both the church and society. And, they are needed for leadership within both. Ecclesial movements and small Christian communities, such as our Marianist Lay Communities, provide “veritable laboratories, places of formation and empowerment through the Spirit for a life of witness and mission.”

The Gift and Task of Languages

I love hearing – and seeing – the many languages that are used within our global Marianist Family. Yet it’s a big task to understand, and be understood by all.

Our three official languages are Spanish, French and English. These are the languages used in our meetings. These are the languages we are committed to use in our official communications. Of course, we also have Marianist Lay Communities who speak Korean, Japanese, Tagalog, Portuguese, German, Italian, Hindi, Swahili, and other languages and dialects. We depend on the generosity of local members to provide translations for their communities.

Our present international team models this linguistic diversity. We write our emails in our native language – Spanish, English, or French. Modern technology allows us to use computer tools such as or Yahoo Babel Fish (available on this Blog) to translate the message received into our own language. These tools are wonderful, but not perfect. They work best if the language is simple, direct, and free of idioms. That brilliant, witty remark in English doesn’t always translate well into Spanish! And, translated pronouns can bring a smile. Our friend, Domingo Fuentes, becomes “Sunday Springs” in English. J

Learning how to use simple, clear language is important in international work. We learn to listen carefully and become more culturally sensitive to language. We choose our words wisely both for meaning and economy. The virtue of “silence of words” is a good skill for true dialogue in any language, and even more so in a multi-lingual environment.

When we meet in person, our communication depends on simultaneous translation. A gifted translator will be able to not only translate, but also interpret the meaning of what is being said. Izaskun and Marcela were invaluable to the past international team during our Rome meetings. And, their generosity extended into meal and social times so we could all share in the conversations. We also had Ana’s gifts as a professional translator at our disposal. We had an excellent team of translators in Nairobi. They worked long and hard hours to ensure that our words – written and spoken – were understood by all.

In two weeks the new international team will be travelling to Rome for our annual meetings. We need a translating team for the work of the International Organization of MLC-CLM to help us with reports, bulletins, the web-site, and other communications during the year. If you have the gift of languages and are willing to help us, please contact me at .

Of course, pictures and music can transcend language barriers. Here is a video from our  Nairobi 2009 meeting. And, thank you to Perico for translating the Swahili into English, French, and Spanish!

JAMBO, JAMBO BWANA!!! (Hola, Hola Señor-Hello, Hello, Sir-Bonjour, bonjour monsieur)
HABARI GANI? (Tienen ustedes alguna novedad?-Any news y’all?-Avez-vous des nouvelles?)
NZURI SANA (Muy bien-Very well-Très bien)
WAGENI (vistantes-visitors-visiteurs)
MWAKARIBISHWA (sean bienvenidos-may you all be welcome-soyez les bienvenus)
KENYA YETU (a nuestra Kenia- to our Kenya- au notre Kenya)
HAKUNA MATATA (no hay problema-there’s no problem- il n’y a pas de problèmes)

Pilgrimage to Switzerland

Here is some news from Carmen Hocevar, one of the delegates from France to the International Meeting in Nairobi.

Chers amis,

Comme prévu, nous sommes allés en Suisse pour le pèlerinage annuel organisé par frère Jean-Paul Federneder et Roland Carrupt. Nous sommes arrivés sous une pluie battante mais le lendemain ce fut un autre décor ! Nous avons visité les endroits où Saint Nicolas de Flüe a vécu, nous avons prié dans différents endroits et appris beaucoup de choses sur l’ermite qui réussit à instaurer la paix dans ce petit pays en disant les paroles justes inspirées de Dieu.

Que la paix soit avec vous !



Hello everybody !

We went to Switzerland for the annual pilgrimage organized by brother Jean-Paul Federneder and Roland Carrupt. We arrived under a pouring rain but the following day it was another landscape! We visited the places where Saint Nicolas de Flüe lived, prayed in these different places and learnt a lot about the ermite who managed to settle peace in this little country just uttering the right words inspired by God.

Let peace be with you !



Synod for Africa

The Catholic Church has made headline news in Canada these past weeks. Sadly, it was focused on the resignation of Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, Nova Scotia upon being charged with possession and importation of child pornography. The news story was not only deeply depressing, but it renewed and increased the hurt, anger, and distrust that many Catholics in North America have with the hierarchical leadership in our Church. It’s becoming harder and harder to not only defend our faith, but to defend our Church. Many have given up trying.

Yet, there is hope in our Church. I’ve been following the Africa Synod of Bishops taking place in Rome from October 4 – 25. There are some interesting ideas coming from the African bishops, ideas that reflect our own Marianist vision in many ways. Unfortunately, the words of these progressively thinking Bishops, speaking out for justice and peace, aren’t making even a small blip in our secular media.

I’ve been reading the coverage of John L. Allen Jr., the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter in the USA. There is a complete index of his articles online. On October 14 he wrote, “As the Synod of Bishops for Africa reaches its midway point, its key themes seem to include empowering women (both in the broader society and the church), a perceived Western assault on the African family, globalization and its discontents (especially chronic poverty), and dialogue with Islam.”

Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi was described as one of the ‘big guns’ in the African church. Njue asserted that “Africa continues to thirst for good governance”. Bad governance is too often the reality “where unchecked hunger for power has led to impunity, corruption, manipulation of people, and other similar social political evils.” (Cardinal Njue celebrated the opening mass for our Nairobi meeting. We were all moved with his affirmation of the role of the laity in the Church.)

Archbishop John Onaiyeken of Abuja, Nigeria spoke of irresponsible actions of multinational oil companies in Africa. He also observed how it was time for Catholic/Islamic relations to go beyond dialogue to concrete collaboration in issues of peace and justice.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, the general secretary of the synod stated “The synod fathers have heard the cry of women…women need to be recognized in society as well as in the church as active members.” Fellow Ghanaian, Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, gave an interview to John L. Allen Jr. where he posed this intriguing idea. Instead of a synod of bishops, why not a “pastoral congress of the universal church.”? The full interview is well worth reading, especially for his concrete strategies for integrating women into Church leadership within the present structures. These include actively promoting the education and formation of women, and promoting “women’s affairs” diocesan offices.

Those who attended our International Meeting in Nairobi, were deeply moved by the faith and energy of our sisters and brothers in Africa. Pope Benedict, in his opening address to the Synod, called Africa an “immense spiritual lung” and praised the “extraordinary human wealth” of Africa. I echo his sentiments, and smile at the images of African drums and Congolese choirs in St. Peter’s Basillica!

Cardinal Njue

The past leadership team meets with Cardinal Njue in Nairobi. August 2009

WDP 2009 – In Thanksgiving!

Our Lady of the Pillar

Our Lady of the Pillar

Happy Feast Day of Our Lady of the Pillar! This is a special feast for Marianists and the calendar date used for our annual Marianist World Day of Prayer. (WDP takes place on the Sunday closest to October 12th.) Today is also a national holiday in Canada. Thanksgiving Day marks the end of the harvest in gratefulness for all the blessings we have.

This year, the energy and global family spirit that we experienced in Nairobi flowed into the World Day of Prayer celebrations. An email was circulated among some of the meeting participants, and news was shared about WDP plans around the world. Saturday evening, news came out that the MLC in Kenya were going to connect with other communities via Skype!

Thanks to Ana Blazquez Ubach in Zaragoza and Bro. Stan Zubek in Mombasa, I was able to get connected also. It was early Sunday morning for me. So I set my alarm the night before, and sleepily headed to my computer Sunday morning – with a big mug of coffee in hand. I contacted Ana. She contacted Bro. Stan. And, before you know it, we were hearing the voices of our friends gathered in Mombasa! I was able to greet and chat, via video cam,  with each person there, including old friends and two new members. ( I do apologize for still being in my pajamas…. I wasn’t expecting to have the video camera on!!! :-) )

The Mombasa community had connected earlier with Johneleen Lardera and MLC Philippines. Susan Vogt and MLC Nairobi joined the call with Ana, MLC Mombasa and me. Our friends in Kenya sang some of our favourite songs. And, we joined together in praying the intentions given to us by our Marianist Family in Congo Kinshasa. What a great experience it was! What a creative use of “new methods for new times”!

I encourage you to send photographs of your local WDP celebrations to Brother Michael McAward or Brother Tim Phillips in Rome, so they can be shared with the World Marianist Family on the site.  I also welcome you to share your experiences in the discussion board below. Thank you…..mérci….and gracias!

(As I was writing this blog, another email popped in from Francisca Jere in Zambia sharing their WDP experience with Fr. Manuel Cortez, SM Superior General. Greetings to Zambia!)

WDP 2009 – Who is my neighbour?


Today’s Good Samaritan gospel asks the question, “Who is my neighbour”? (Luke 10) Jesus challenges us to go beyond the comfort zone of close family and friends. He challenges us to expand our vision and our hearts to a more inclusive, ever-widening circle of neighbours. This is why making, nurturing, and supporting international connections are so important. The miles between us melt when we form global friendships. World news becomes more significant when we have sisters and brothers affected by tragedies we see in photos and newscasts- the horrible flooding in the Philippines, the droughts in Kenya, violence in the Congo, and persecution of Christians in India. These are no longer disconnected stories and images. These are our neighbours.

We think that our hearts can only take so much. There are enough problems in each day, in our own place and time. Yet, our loving God is ready to expand the capability of our hearts to embrace all of God’s creation. To not only love, nurture and support all our neighbours, but to be loved, nurtured and supported in return.


Our annual Marianist World Day of Prayer is a grace-filled opportunity to spiritually connect as a global family. Each year, a different host country invites us to learn more about life in their country. We gather with Mary at a shrine dedicated to her honour. We join with her and our sisters and brothers to pray for the special needs of the host country, the Marianist Family, and the whole world.

This year, we gather on October 11th with our Marianist family in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace of Fatima. The invitation, back-ground to the Shrine, and prayers are available in ENGLISHFRANCAISESPANOL , and in  PORTUGESE. We pray in a special way for peace and justice in the Congo. May Our Lady of Peace show us the way.