Rome, Saturday 15 September 2012
The work of the Intercapitular of the Comboni Missionaries spent two days (13 and 14 September) on the theme “Clustering of circumscriptions.” The Superior General of the Institute of the Missionaries of Africa, Father Richard Baawobr (in the photo), told the Assembly the experience of the restructuring process in their Missionary Institute.
Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie (right in the picture below), assistant general, presented the experience of merging in other two Institutes: the Brothers of the Christian Schools (FSC) and the Comboni Missionary Sisters (SMC). He also mentioned other valuable experiences of the Salesians and of the Jesuits in East Africa which may help the Comboni Missionaries to move forward.
The Intercapitular Assembly of the Comboni Missionaries – which is taking place from 2 to 22 September in Rome – began its work on 13 September by listening to Father Richard Baawobr who, from 2010, is the Superior General of about fourteen hundred Missionaries of Africa, known as the White Fathers, with members coming from 42 countries. Father Richard, a 53 years old from Ghana, has a long experience of mission in several countries in Africa and in the government at local as well as at Institute’s level in the White Fathers. The missionary shared the experience of restructuring began in 1980, underlining the criteria used, the joys and pains of the procedure, and the financial implications of the process. “The restructuring – said Father Richard – has helped us to live our vocation in order to better serve the Kingdom of God in Africa and the world.”
In the second session of the morning, Bro. Daniele Giusti went through the history of the Comboni journey from Chapter 1985 to the Chapter mandate in 2009, pointing out numbers, services, needs, values and difficulties of the possible clustering in the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries. The General Council (GC) wishes to follow what the XVII General Chapter has decided (AC ’09, n. 128-129): “Continents should continue the process towards clustering begun at the Intercapitular of 2006 and should work out concrete proposals for the Intercapitular of 2012. The GC should accompany and supervise the journey of the continents. All progress made should be evaluated at the Intercapitular, passing on then to the action stage. In 2013 when the new Circumscriptions have been formed, new Provincial superiors would be elected. By 1st January 2014 the Institute’s new configuration will become effective.” (AC ’09, no. 128.4). With reference to the individual community the Chapter says: “Over the next six years the GC with the continents and Circumscriptions, should reduce the communities by 10% (around 35), to qualify the mission and balancing our commitments against the decrease in personnel” (AC ’09, n. 129).
Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, assistant general, presented the experience of merging in other two Institutes: the Brothers of the Christian Schools (FSC) and the Comboni Missionary Sisters (SMC). He also mentioned other valuable experiences of the Salesians and of the Jesuits in East Africa which may help the Comboni Missionaries to move forward.
In the afternoon of Sept. 13 there was a time for discussion and debate in the hall, then, just before starting the groups work, Bro. Daniele Giusti, on behalf of the CG, pointed out guidelines, namely very pragmatic suggestions for reflection, both for the circumscriptions that have already decided to or declared a propensity for clustering and for those who have not yet made plans for merging. Three groups were formed according to the degree of preparation concerning the clustering (in the next three years, in the next six years, not yet) and the groups had to answer one common question and two specific ones. The morning of September 14 was devoted to the presentation of the reflections of the groups in the hall.
To the common question – “Thinking as an Institute (not as a circumscription), the processes that took place so far has enabled you to realize that the clustering of a number (not marginal) of circumscriptions of the Institute is a matter of a crucial and imperative urgency?” – the groups said, basically “yes”, or at least they made positive comments.
Specific questions, which were rather pointing to the next steps they intended to undertake in practice, the groups reported proposals and deadlines in accordance with the concrete situation of their circumscriptions. Some interventions underlined the importance of the presence of a member of the CG during the important moments of decision-making, especially during the provincial assemblies. The Superior General, Fr Enrique, showed the availability of the CG to help the provinces and delegations in what they feel necessary.
The group “not ready”, which had the following question: “Given the role of service of authority you are exercising, what do you think that needs to be done so that this awareness – in understanding that a change of mentality will be needed in the near future – may reach our confreres at the base? “, Bro. Daniele insisted on the need to continue with their confreres to reach a discernment free from the preoccupation of numbers, structures or other type of conditioning.
The afternoon and all of Saturday were left free for the CG to meet with the individual provincial superiors. Sunday 16 there will be a meeting with S.E.R. Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of Propaganda Fide, which will be followed by the celebration of the Eucharist.