Father Antonio Rovelli, the coordinator of the course organized for a group of 16 Consolata Missionaries who are celebrating around 25 years of religious consecration or priestly ordination, fondly referred as “The G25”. This group of missionaries from various circumscriptions, has been in the General House from 28th January and will continue until 28th February. The purpose of the course is to help each missionary to remember his missionary journey, enable him to give thanks to the Lord, and give him the opportunity of receiving a new impetus in the missionary endeavour. Two of our colleagues have not been able to travel so far. Three special moments have marked the beginning of this course: the welcome and introduction by the Superior General, Fr. Stefano Camerlengo and his Vice, Fr James Lengarin; the closing ceremony of the biennium on the person of the missionary and the official opening with the Eucharistic celebration to mark the 122nd anniversary of the foundation of our institute.
On Saturday, 28th of January, at 9:00 a.m. Italian time, in Sala Collone, the 14 missionaries who had arrived so far gathered to listen to the words of the General Superior. Father Antonio Rovelli introduced the group and invited Frs Stefano and James to speak to us. “The protagonist of this course is each one of you,” said Fr. Stefano. “Each one needs three attitudes, as our Founder, Blessed Joseph Allamano, points out to us: “be honest with yourself, go into the depths of your heart and have the courage to face the reality that you live at the moment” he said. After taking us through the various stages of this type of course in the history of the Church, the Superior emphasized that in today’s conception “it is the person who feels the need to be formed, that is, to re-read his life, his vocation and his missionary commitment. Thus, the material of this course is not found in books but in one’s own life, one’s own history and the mission lived up to now.” This course is, therefore, a privileged moment of making a stop in our lives in order to receive a new impetus in our lives; a favourable opportunity to remember the important things in our missionary journey; a time of grace to continue sojourning as missionary-disciples.
In the afternoon of the same day, our group had the privilege of joining the communities of the General House, Porta Pía and the Seminary of Braveta, in the closing ceremony of the Biennium on the Person of the Missionary, presided over by the General Superior who, in his reflexion, emphasized that the biennium had been an important formative moment in the life of the Institute. The biennium aimed at: “giving a strong stimulus to the process of personal and institutional revitalization” and “helping each missionary to designate for Christ the central place of his life and mission.” In the ceremony, where the Nairobi theological seminary and the charism immersion group also participated virtually, the Fr. Stefano concluded his reflection saying: “dear ones, when we return to our mission, we have to practice what we have learnt. After sowing, there comes a time to harvest. Let’s be open to the Word; let’s renew our enthusiasm; let’s keep dreaming. The Institute, our family, is alive… Let us feel part of it and protagonists of its life and mission.” These words, addressed to the entire institute, seemed prepared for us at the beginning of this privileged moment of renewal.
On Sunday, 29th of January, to complete the initiation ‘process’ of the G25 course, Fr Stefano presided over the Mass for the 122nd anniversary of our Institute’s foundation. The General Superior was accompanied at the altar by Fr Godfrey Msumange, General Councilor in charge of the African continent. At this Eucharist, which marked the official opening of the course, Mons. José Luis Ponce, imc, bishop of the Diocese of Manzini, Eswatini, graced us with his presence. The reflection of this day, addressed partly to the 14, partly to the community of the Generalate and partly to the whole Institute, began: “it is beautiful to be a Consolata missionary, despite the problems we have.” While affirming that the mission has changed. Father Stefano stressed that the questions that arise from these changes are important for us as an Institute, for they help us to grow. There are three important elements that we must remember and recover. First of all, to the missionaries who were leaving for the mission, Blessed Allamano would say: “Be charming.” Charm or gentleness has become a characteristic of the Consolata Missionaries, given that it allows us to be meek and to walk with the people we serve. Secondly, whenever our Blessed Founder was sending out missionaries, he would tell them: “Go in the name of Jesus.” “No one goes in his own name, no one goes alone; we go with him, and with him it is easier to build,” Fr Stefano added. “We sometimes go through difficult moments and these make us true Consolata missionaries.” Explaining the third element to recover, Fr Stefano said that “there is a word that is helping me a lot in my life; it’s a word that changes our way of relating ourselves to others. It is the word PATIENCE.” And he encourages us not to fear because “we have Jesus, we have our Mother, we have our Blessed Founder. They are with us. It is enough to have them so as to see the Institute with different eyes. We are a minute presence. May we be happy to be Consolata missionaries.”
By Fr Josiah K’Okal, and Fr Chrispine Okello, imc