CIL Nairobi 2018: RELAF is facing four pastoral challenges
From November 5 to 23, 2018, in Nairobi, the international CIL meeting (Lasallian International Centre) brought together about fifty lasallian Brothers, Sisters and Lay people from 27 countries of the five Regions of the lasallian Family. This lasallian event which is part of the Tricentenary calendar of the birth in Heaven of Saint John Baptist de La Salle is placed under the heading “walking with young people: a gospel adventure”. This was an opportunity for lasallians, during three weeks, to be trained, to reflect, to share, to pray, to celebrate, to visit Nairobi and to have socials and conviviality time together. We have experienced faith and fraternity for the lasallian educational mission. At the end of this very enriching journey, we were invited to pray individually for youth ministry and the pastoral ministry of vocations. In pairs, we had the spiritual experience of the disciples of Emmaus.
The great success of this CIL is praised by all its organizers and participants. This success is in the honour of Lwanga District and the entire lasallian Region of Africa and Madagascar (RELAF). As a participant in this CIL, sent by the District of Gulf of Benin, as a member of the District Youth and Vocation Ministry Commission, and Assessor of the Signum Fidei Fraternity, I would like to share through this article my reflection on four challenges that this CIL gives to RELAF. In the context of the lasallian educational mission in Africa, these challenges concern the culture of vocations, youth ministry, pastoral ministry of vocations and the association with the lay people.
The context of RELAF
In the current context of RELAF, the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools is present in 21 African countries grouped into six Districts and one delegation. According to the data published in Memento October 2018 on this large African lasallian network, 64,774 young people benefit from the lasallian Educational Mission in 96 educational works. For the success of this vast educational mission, 208 Brothers of the Christian Schools share their mission with 77 priests, religious and nuns, including the Guadalupanas Sisters of La Salle, and 3752 lay collaborators including 2724 men and 1028 women. In terms of vocations, the Brothers alone represent 5.15% of teachers; with the other pastoral agents (Priests and Religious), they represent 7.06% of the teachers. These statistics challenge us in the field of youth ministry and the pastoral ministry of vocations. Let’s dream that among the 64,774 young beneficiaries of the lasallian educational mission in Africa, 6,477 young people (10%) become lasallian Brothers and Sisters; 32387 young people (50%) become lay lasallians: Signum Fidei, Volunteers and Associates. Let us also dream that among the 3752 lay collaborators, men and women, who currently share the lasallian educational mission in RELAF, 1878 (50%) are Partners: Signum Fidei, Volunteers and Associates.
Strengthening youth ministry
Given the high number of young people who benefit from the lasallian education, youth ministry is always a challenge in RELAF. The new lasallian vocations that God will bring about are first and foremost the fruits of a good pastoral service with the young. Indeed, the aforementioned Rule says: “The pastoral ministry of vocation is normally based on the educational value of the works and movements in which young people and adults participate”. Two ways are given by this excerpt: the educational quality of lasallian works and the movements of young people and adults. In the CIL, much emphasis has been placed on meeting all the young people, listening and accompanying them in lasallian works and outside. The pastoral challenge in RELAF is to create movements of Young lasallians where they do not yet exist. We need to strengthen these movements where they already exist. We need to develop activities, listening and accompaniment programs for young people to help them make sense of their lives and to discern the call of God. Our young adult collaborators are also concerned.
In the CIL, the sharing on youth ministry in the lasallian Regions allowed us to discover the experiences lived with young people and to understand that the lasallian movements of young people are nurseries of vocations. The communication of Brother Bruno RAKOTOMAVO, responsible of youth ministry in the District of Antananarivo, the testimonies of Mr. Keane PALATINO, International Coordinator of Young Lasallians, and of Mrs. Eleonora MUNARETTO, International Coordinator of Volunteers are very edifying.
Developing a culture of vocations
The context of RELAF is a fertile ground for the culture of vocations. But the term culture of vocations is still very little used. It is still confused, although it appears in the Rule of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Article 84.2 states: “The pastoral ministry of vocations is normally based on the educational value of the works and movements in which young people and adults participate. Promoting a culture of vocations makes each person aware of his gifts and invites him to serve others. “
At this level, the challenge is the clear definition of the concept culture of vocations in RELAF. What do we mean by culture of vocations in a Church Family of God? What are the implications of the culture of vocations taking into account the realities of ecclesial communities still very clerical and which promote little laity? Clarification of culture of vocations in RELAF will facilitate its adoption and promotion; it will allow the promotion of the vocations of Brother, Sister and Lay Associate. In the course of the CIL, the sharing by a Brother of the lasallian Latin American Region (RELAL) on the culture of vocations shows that the definition adopted by the Districts is that of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America and Mexico. In their context, the culture of vocations is considered as a component of the new evangelization, a fundamental axis of pastoral ministry, a continuous process of creativity and socialization: a concept in progress.
In RELAF, we will rise to this challenge, because it is now clear to our Institute that “the promotion of a culture of vocations makes each person aware of his gifts and invites him to put them at the service of others. This applies equally to Brothers, Sisters and lay collaborators.
Rebuilding the pastoral ministry of vocations
Youth ministry leads to the pastoral ministry of vocations. It is based on the culture of vocations and deepens the journey begun by youth ministry. The challenge at this level is first of all an evolution of mentalities through an open mind that welcomes and values all lasallian vocations, without prioritizing or levelling them. The Rule specifies the orientation of the pastoral ministry of vocations: “All God’s people are responsible for the awakening of vocations in the Church. The Brothers make known the charism, show the importance of their own vocation and the specificity of each lasallian vocation. They are available and active as intermediaries of the Lord, to invite and accompany young people and adults who feel called to the various lasallian vocations. »(R, 84)
In my opinion, the CIL has been the place of an experience of valuing lasallian vocations. Among the formators there were five (5) Brothers and three (3) Lay people including two (2) women. The participants were thirty-three (33) Brothers, two (2) La Salle Guadalupanas Sisters and fourteen (14) Lay people including eight (8) women. In the various service groups, all participated in the activities, animated the liturgy and shared experiences of faith and God, etc. But, there is some confusion of identities when there is no external sign, to distinguish Brothers and lay people. Beware of the risk of assimilation, because in the Lasallian Family specific lasallian identities must be expressed and respected in the sharing of charism, spirituality and mission.
The challenge of the pastoral ministry of vocations in RELAF is then the regional coordination and the creation of a communication network of the District coordinators. A regional vocational pastoral plan, adapted to the realities of the Districts, will facilitate teamwork and harmonization. In the CIL, the sharing of the coordinators from the District of ARLEP and the RELAL Region is very instructive.
Moving forward in the association for the mission
This theme was developed in one day by Brother Paco CHIVA. He presented the history of association for the mission and the five evaluation criteria for the association process. The challenge for RELAF is the training and support of lay collaborators to move forward in the process of association. The sharing of realities in some Districts shows that there were experiences of formation and commitment, but disappointments led to discouragement of Brothers and Lay people, even mistrust of one another. The trend is to train collaborators continuously without a clear plan for advancement in the association process.
The Rule specifies that “the association for mission leads the Brothers to welcome and accompany those who wish to share and deepen the lasallian charism’’. (R, 11) A concrete aspect of the challenge at this level can be the accompaniment of collaborators who have started the process for an engagement after a good discernment according to some criteria of evaluation. As in any accompaniment, the Brothers and lay collaborators need to trust each other; the Brothers must be well trained to provide this support and be available to support the collaborators involved in the association process for the mission.
These four challenges are like the four levels of a growth and fertility spiral. They are progressive, interdependent and complementary. The culture of vocations inspires the youth ministry, the pastoral ministry of vocations, and the association for mission, which are areas of application. To meet all these challenges, RELAF Districts have to combine their efforts to have qualified, well-trained and available human resources; set up pastoral coordination teams at District level, composed of Brothers, Sisters and Lay; encourage teamwork; allocate the necessary financial, material and technical resources and set up competent services to support those responsible for youth ministry and the pastoral ministry of vocations.
Br. Jacques MONCHÉBI, Community of Lomé