The continent of Africa has been envisioned as the hope of the future of Consolata missionaries as ninety percent of vocations currently hail from this continent. These were the words of Fr Mathews Odhiambo Owuor, the General Councilor in charge of formation as he addressed the delegates of the African continental assembly on Wednesday December 6th 2023.
The week-long assembly currently being held in Bunju, Tanzania from 5th to 10th December, 2023, has attracted 40 delegates from the nine African countries where the Consolata Missionaries are working.
Fr Mathews who was addressing the delegates for the first time since his election as the General Councilor in charge of formation highlighted the key issues on both basic and ongoing formation that the just concluded General Chapter mandated the General Government to realize.
One of the things that the General Government intends to do according to Fr Mathews is to give continuity to the course on the insertion into the charism of the congregation. “The General Government has scheduled for this course and it will be done from October 1st 2026 to 29th January 2027” he announced.
Fr Mathews said that some of those who will be picked to take this course will serve as future formators. In so doing, the General Government will have what he termed as a “bank of formators” so that when there is need, “we just go and pick from those who are already prepared and we replace” he said.
In addition to this, the General Government has as well organized a sabbatical course for the missionaries celebrating 25 and 50 years of religious life and priesthood. For the ones celebrating 25 years, Fr Mathews said that there will be two moments: the first, in May 2025 and the second in September 2025. “We will write personal letters to you and a copy to your regional superiors” said Fr Mathews, the Kenyan born Consolata Missionary.
Because of the big number of those celebrating 50 years anniversary, there will be three moments: The first will be done in May 2026, the second in September 2026 and the third in September 2027. “All these courses will be done either in Rome or Turin” he added.
Speaking on basic formation, Fr Mathews announced that the General Government will conduct a survey in the whole Institute on the situation of basic formation where all the missionaries around the world will be asked to give their opinion on basic formation. “We shall send you some questionaries to ask you how you feel about our basic formation” he reiterated adding that this exercise will be carried out between May 2024 and February 2026, that is, within the first three years of the current Government’s term and it will be implemented in the last three years.
On an issue that directly affects the African continent, Fr Mathews reminded the delegates that the just concluded General Chapter mandated the current General Government to study a possibility of opening a theological seminary in a Francophone country. This, he said he will leave to Fr Erastus Mgalama, the Continental Councilor for Africa to carry out a visibility study and present it to the General Government when ready.
Quoting Number 48 of the Acts of the XIV General Chapter, Fr Mathews reminded the delegates that all those in basic formation from now henceforth will be required to have a proficiency in either English or Italian. “Because as you can see, when we have meetings like this and if one has no command of either of the two languages, there is a problem of communication”, announced Fr Mathews, the former rector of Allamano House theological seminary in Nairobi, Kenya.
On the issue of the vocations to brotherhood, Fr Mathews expressed a big concern. “It seems that the issue of brothers is a serious one in our congregation, we only have 31 in the whole world” he said. “We cannot assume, said Fr Mathews that this important vocation in our congregation just go and die like that, we should have a serious reflection for them and that’s why there will a full year dedicated for the vocation to brotherhood” he said.
Fr Mathews concluded his speech with an aspect that has raised a lot of questions on basic formation and that is, specialization after the completion of basic theology.
“It has been seen and you are a witness that the world is demanding more, therefore, basic theology is not sufficient for our missionaries to carry out pastoral work, for that reason, we give our students a possibility to do specialization in the areas biblical theology, pastoral theology, liturgy and the church, dogmatic theology spiritual theology, comparative religions, moral theology history, church history and so on”. Fr Mathews ruled out Canon law “because Canon law belongs to special services to the congregation and so they are always discussed”. Not that it can’t be studied, but we already have a good number of missionaries in this area, but is discussed between the regional superior and the DG.
For those students who will not have the opportunity to do specialization, Fr Mathews requested the missionaries present to be ready to receive them in their regions where they will be sent.
“If we ask you to receive one in your region and you say no, we feel very sad because they are our brothers and when they finish you will need personnel. So please collaborate with us” he concluded.
By Fr Daniel Onyango Mkado