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PGC Days 10 and 11
As is fitting, Sundays during PGC meetings are traditionally left to rest and to the Lord. But on this next-to-the-last day of our meetings we took the time to welcome the brand new archbishop of Arusha, Most Rev. Issac Amani Massawe. He shared with us some information about the Church in Tanzania and especially in his own archdiocese. Taking his cue from the motto of the archdiocese, « Go and get involved in working together in Jesus Christ », he shared his goals for the archdiocese: foster a family Church with dynamic Christian base communities; bring Christians to work together and to be united in laying a solid foundation of Christian values; develop a greater integration of the Bible and the Sacraments in the lives of all; to facilitate greater financial autonomy of the Church by getting the faithful more involved in this area.
In addition, Bishop Isaac told us of the solid tradition of a lay state in Tanzania. There is no State religion but Tanzanians are presumed to be religious. It is up to each individual to practice his religion without causing problems for others. To be sure there is the challenge of certain radical Muslims who would like to make certain sections of the country Muslim regions, but that’s not going to happen. For the moment they are well controlled by the State… As for the Christian churches, there is good cooperation among the historical Churches, a little less with the revivalist ones. A Christian Office of Social Services (health and education) was created by the large Christian churches. Otherwise, the great challenges of the archdiocese include: the poor roads and large distances; the nomadic nature of herdsmen that poses a challenge to the traditional way of building Christian communities; the fact that young people are spread out far and wide and that it’s hard to gather them together, especially in rural areas; and the size of parishes with as many as 10-15 outstations to be served… In conclusion, Bishop Isaac insisted on the unity of all Church actors: diocesan and religious priests, nuns, lay-people who must work together, guided by the goals of the archdiocese.
Finally, on our last day of work, after several concluding votes on texts we had worked on and the scheduling of future council meetings, the Superior general closed the meetings with a final word. Alluding to the note on which we had opened our meetings, he recalled that we must never lose hope as we look lucidly at our situation and refuse to bury our heads in the sand. Re-examining our foundation in Ecuador (Riobamba) afforded us an opportunity to draw lessons for future foundations: pay attention to the preparation, the coordination, the human and financial means needed. Coming from different local contexts provides us with a variety of viewpoints on the crises the Church is facing and that was enriching. Putting our collective minds together on the situation in Turkey let us make some progress… The Superior general invited us, therefore, to pursue this way of re-examining our « successes » and failures and to share with one another well ahead of time our plans for our Provinces in order to assure greater awareness and collaboration. Let us not forget that the « Body of the Congregation is a missionary body, that is to say, that it must be open to what the Spirit is proposing. The Congregation is also missionary by virtue of its internationality and its desire to find a way to live intercultularity in community.» We are evermore aware of the need to reinforce the Assumption formation we give, to keep tweaking the implementation of our international formation communities (CIFA), and to fine-tune our criteria for vocation recruiting. This last theme will be the focus of special work at the next PGC. « We don’t need lukewarm or mediocre religious; we need men who are filled with passion. »
I personally join my thanks to all those who have already spoken, for the welcome offered by our brothers and sisters of East Africa; for the work of the secretary; for the steering committee, for the liturgy… and for the leadership of the Superior general. Our next PGC meeting will take place in Rome this coming December.
“We shall therefore place our whole confidence in God alone, never in any created thing. Evangelical poverty will be the external evidence of our hope, from which we shall also draw the true spirit of humility. […] Hope exercised in this way will inspire the deepest gratitude for the gifts of God and will remind us always of the words of the Apostle who recommends that we give thanks for everything that happens, ‘In everything, give thanks to the Lord’” (Emmanuel d’Alzon, Book One, chap.6, Directory).
Fr. Benoît Bigard