South Africa-Eswatini’s Conference: An invitation to commitment in the Lord

Participants of the Delegation Conference. Photos: John Bosco

The first day of gathering for the South Africa – Eswatini’s VIII Delegation Conference of the Consolata missionaries (IMC) was marked by various events. The meeting held in Newcastle started on the 13th and will last until 17 May 2024.

The first half of the day was dedicated for Morning Recollection. This was facilitated by Fr. Mathews Odhiambo, who invited the missionaries to be “committed in the Lord”.

With the example of the covenant between Yahweh and the people of Israel (Exodus 19, 20 and 24), Fr. Mathews meticulously expounded on how impatience and infidelity led the Israelites to break their part of the commitment (covenant). He thus opined that commitment requires a responsible and consistent adherence to the sound set of beliefs that has been laid out as binding principles.

By John Bosco Othieno *

While connecting the theme of “Commitment in the Lord” to IMC spirituality, Fr Mathews reflected on Blessed Allamano’s vision and dream about who a Consolata missionary ought to be. In this regard, he highlighted two elements that were central to Blessed Allamano’s notion of a missionary. Fr. Mathews termed these elements “il di piu” of the missionary.

The first is that for Blessed Allamano, the quality of the missionary takes precedence over everything else. “First saint, then missionary”. Therefore, the sanctity of life becomes a pre-requisite to being a good missionary. The second entails being extraordinary in the ordinary. Fr Mathews added that this element made Blessed Allamano rate the missionary vocation high above other Christian vocations, moreover, even in the current orientation of the Synodal Church, the missionary still ought to give a little more of him or herself than the rest.

Fr. Mathews concluded his reflection with a brief analysis of the current situation of the Institute. He gave the demographics of the missionaries around the world, with special attention to the continent of Africa, which presently has the highest number of missionaries (from Africa are: 524; working on the Continent: 362). However, he challenged the missionaries that the high numbers of African missionaries should translate proportionately to the level of commitment from the missionaries in the continent.

Conclusively, he asserted that the dream of Blessed Allamano solely depends on the commitment of the missionary. This commitment is necessary at all levels; as an individual, community, delegation and Institute. The morning Recollection was concluded with the celebration of the Holy Mass presided over by Fr. Mathews.

Fr. Michelangelo Piovano, the General vice Superior, expressed his gladness on the visit to the Delegation

The second part of the day involved a General Session during which the Delegate Superior, Fr. Nathaniel Kagwima welcomed all the participants of the conference and in a special way the members of the General Direction. He then urged all the delegation members to put in a concerted effort and spirit, so as to successfully plan for the good and progress of the Delegation in the next six years.

From the General Direction, Fr. Michelangelo expressed his gladness on the visit to the Delegation and meeting vibrant missionaries. He then conveyed the greetings of the General Superior, Fr. James Lengarin and Fr. Juan Pablo. He also stated that as the General Direction, they are participating in the conference as observers.

The General Counsellor for Africa, Fr. Erasto Mgalama on his part, highlighted the points of the African Continental project that laid great emphasis on the life of the missionary in the community. He challenged the missionaries to create time for sharing common life in the communities. Fr. Mathews expressed joy and gratitude about the commitment and zeal he saw in the missionaries. He added that this observation was affirmed by how well the Bishops and Christians they interacted with, spoke of the Consolata missionaries who work with them. He however pointed out that the missionary is always in formation; formation for the missionary is an ever on-going process. Thus ordination only ushers the missionary to another stage of formation.

The General Counsellor for Africa, Fr. Erasto Mgalama, highlighted the points of the African Continental project

Finally, the afternoon session was concluded with the confirmation and approval of the conference moderators and secretaries, the Instrumentum Laboris, the groups and the program of work. The day’s activity was eventually sealed with the praying of Vespers.

* By John Bosco Othieno, IMC, Merrivale Theological Semminary, South Africa.

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