Brothers from Mozambique and English speaking Provinces in Africa, with the participation of a Brother representative of TGB province and the Brother in the General Council, met from April 6th to 9th, 2010 in Nairobi. They shared and refected at the laght of the last General Chapter on their experience of mission, on vocation promotion, formation and the Comboni Projects of Human Promotion.
It is a special gift of grace that after the XVII General Chapter the Brothers from Mozambique and English speaking Provinces in Africa, with the participation of a Brother representative of TGB province and the Brother in the General Council, could meet from April 6th to 9th, 2010 in Nairobi. It was a moment of fraternity and common discernment on the way forward for the Brothers in this part of Africa, involving 24 Brothers from 9 circumscriptions and from the Comboni Brothers' Centre. We have gathered together intending to:
We had the chance of learning a lot about the situation in different provinces, and above all of trying to discern where and how the Spirit of God is calling us to re-qualify our presence and ministry. We thank the Lord for the inspiration and commitment coming out of the work done during these days. We are happy to have clarified to ourselves these issues, and we humbly would like to make some suggestions for consideration by the Institute.
1. Vocation Promotion
Aware of the dire need to become more active and creative in the promotion of vocations to brotherhood, we resolve to be involved in vocation promotion through our life, ministry and witness. In each province, we suggest that a Brother be systematically involved, at least part time, in this service. We commit ourselves to produce material for promoting awareness about the vocation of the Comboni Brother. We also observe that in some cases there is a convergence between the needs of the mission and the pattern of vocations in recent years. For instance, we have taken notice of the need for Brothers prepared to work in schools as educators and administrators, or in hospitals and health structures; at the same time, we observed that many young Brothers that passed through the CBC over the last ten years happened to be nurses. Therefore we suggest that VP be extended to new forums such as Teacher Training Colleges, Nursing and Medical Schools, and Social Work Colleges. In fact, people inclined towards helping or service professions seem to have a sort of sensitivity to the missionary call.
Finally, we ask that the courses of formation for vocation promoters develop a specific training on the vocation of the Brothers.
2. Formation of Brothers
We have observed that the Ratio fundamentalis states clear objectives and stages of formation, but unfortunately in too many cases it is not followed by the Provinces (for example the necessity of completing the professional training before the CIF). We understand the need for flexibility in the system, in order to consider different entry points of the candidates (e.g. those who join with already an acquired profession, and those who join without), the diversity of professions of the Brothers, and the diverse situations from country to country. This means that Brothers in formation will have different needs, but these ought to be addressed within the overall objectives of each stage of their formation.
We also need to open up to new professions, in accordance with the new socio-cultural situations and needs that we see in our mission field. Furthermore, we would like to insist on the importance of reaching at least the first University cycle in professional qualifications: this is very important in today's world, and also gives a great advantage in the phase of the ministerial education at the CBC.
We see that the postulancy at this time is the most critical phase in the formation of the Brothers. We see a serious problem with the current structures of formation (mixed postulancies) because the candidates to brotherhood find it difficult to develop a strong sense of identity as Brothers, and rarely endure in their vocation. We have the impression that formation processes are skewed towards the needs and orientation of the formation of candidates to priesthood, who are generally the large majority in the group of students. Moreover, we notice that when an adequate formation structure is given, also vocation promotion is much more fruitful. Therefore, we invite Provincial superiors to implement the Chapter's recommendation to start inter-provincial postulancies for the Brothers, which should be located where the candidates can access a large variety of professional trainings (technical or other). At any rate, if no other option is there than a mixed postulancy, we suggest that the following conditions be given: there must be a Brother formator, there must be a clear line of formation and programme specific for the Brothers, which may also require flexibility of the timetable in the community. If a candidate joins when he already has a profession, then the formators should prepare a personalised programme, for which probably one year may be sufficient.
We also advocate for giving the Brothers in formation the chance to practice their profession before going to the Comboni Brothers Centre for their ministerial education.
Finally, we invite the General Secretary for formation to find out whether there are training programmes for formators with a specific focus on the formation of Brothers; though we are happy with the adoption of the integrated model of formation as the pedagogy of the Institute by the last Chapter, we notice that specific issues and challenges that concern the Brothers are not captured in that model. We need to research and address systematically this matter.
3. Comboni Projects of Human Promotion
We fully support the orientation of the last two Chapters regarding the Comboni Projects of Human Promotion, as defined in the presentation of the Brothers of Latin America at their continental assembly in 2009. We wish to further clarify that these projects ought to be started as a prophetic response to specific social challenges, based on a deep socio-cultural analysis and with the involvement of the local people. We also call for careful planning for the formation (specialization) and assignment of Brothers to work in CPHPs, which should be in a viable number in a continent to guarantee their effectiveness.
Though we are very few in our Provinces, we have realised that by networking among us we can make our ministry more effective, meaningful and eventually bring it to another level. In particular, we see the possibility of sharing and cooperate in matter of educational projects, vocation promotion, administration, and other common mission fields.
5. Comboni Brothers' Centre - Nairobi
We discussed about how we envisage the development of the Comboni Brothers' Centre, in Nairobi. This Centre for us is a symbol of the Brothers in the Institute, and we wish to see that it becomes a Centre for Brothers in Africa, receiving the Brothers in basic formation (post-novitiate), Brothers preparing for their perpetual vows, an elderly Brother to witness and communicate the history of the Brothers, and possibly some Brothers running their social ministry from the CBC. We also dream to see in it a Centre that may coordinate exchange, facilitate reflection, research, and networking among the projects and mission of the Brothers in the sub-continent. This would also include a documentation of the projects and experiences of the Brothers, which may be used as a resource for Vocation Promotion.
6. Representation of Brothers
Considering the ever-increasing importance of continental meetings in decision making process and the fact that Brothers are seldom involved in such forums, we suggest that mechanisms of representation of Brothers be identified and adopted. We would like to propose that Brothers be invited as observers to the sub-continental meetings of provincial superiors, according to the mechanisms of representation used in the election of Brother delegates to the chapter. Also, we suggest to ensure that Brothers participate in all sub-continental assemblies.
In order to promote the implementation of policies of the Institute concerning Brothers (for example Ratio fundamentalis), we recommend that Brother councillors at circumscription level, and the Brother of the general council at general level exercise an active monitoring function of compliance to such policies.
With a thankful heart towards the Province of Kenya who has warmly welcomed us and to the Provincial Superiors who have supported our meeting, we give thanks to all those who have made this event possible. We met during Easter week... and in what we have shared and observed we have found the signs of the presence of the Risen Lord among us! Upon realising how important this meeting has been for us, we desire that this experience be communicated to our confrères.
We suggest that this continental meeting be held every 3 years, thus we propose that the next time we could meet at Layibi (Uganda) during the Easter week in 2013, in which occasion we commit ourselves to invite Brothers from other continents the next time we meet. Meanwhile, we encourage the Brothers to create more occasions of common reflection and discernment at local and regional level.