CIL programme 2019 in Abidjan: reflections from Mary Hyam

What an honour and a privilege it was to be invited to represent the Lwanga District (Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mozambique and South Africa) at the African Regional meeting of the International Lasallian Council (CIL) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in August 2019. The participants represented Lasallian institutions from all over Africa – both English and French speaking countries.

 The delegates of the Region to the International Assembly for the Lasallian Educational Mission (AIMEL) of 2020 in Rome prepared their proposals during this CIL session.

The two-week meeting comprised a period of Lasallian formation followed by reflection on how our districts have carried out the goals of the 2013 AIMEL. We then worked on proposals, which will be submitted for consideration at the next International Assembly in 2020.

Brother Andre Gauthier from Paris asked us to hear the story of De La Salle with new ears. Is it possible for the 300 year old story to be heard in a new way? When the historian/theologian tells it, YES! We were reminded that we are disciples of La Salle and are invited to walk in his footsteps. Our vision needs to grow and keep changing so as we can continue to meet the needs of the realities in our own contexts. La Salle changed his direction when the need arose, he adapted his mission to meet the needs of the times. We were challenged to see our mistakes and failures as opportunities to change and to grow. De La Salle closed his ears to complaints and went from denunciation to annunciation, he announced new ways of doing things when change was necessary. Lasallian teachers have the responsibility to meet the needs of the time and to create welcoming environments that provide an experience of fidelity and hospitality.

Dr Atta Germain is a researcher and lecturer at the university in Abidjan who is animated and enthusiastic. He discussed ways of making the assessment of catechesis more meaningful and more in line with 21st century pedagogy.

Brother Paulos from Christ the Teacher Institute in Nairobi shed new light on the 12 virtues of a Lasallian teacher by taking each one and discussing how to contextualize them in the framework of 21st  century pedagogy, always bearing in mind the elaborate richness of Lasallian pedagogy. To teach in a Lasallian school means to be transformative, to create a learner-centered environment that sets high standards and where every learner is accepted for who he/she is. A Lasallian teacher is a brother or sister to his/her students.

Preparation for the meeting required the participants to reflect on and evaluate the progress made in their districts with reference to the goals of the 2013 Assembly: Lasallian pedagogy, the priority of serving the poor, evangelization and pastoral care, networking and developing community. When sharing our reflections and experiences we saw that despite the differences in our contexts and realities our districts had faced similar challenges, but that we all remain focused on the common goal of educating minds, touching hearts and transforming lives. The meeting culminated with deliberations and discussions on our identity, vitality and transformation and our proposals for the next Assembly. These will be put forward for consideration at the Assembly for the Mission in Rome in 2020.

On a personal level, the experience of living in community and working with fellow Lasallians from other parts of Africa was both enriching and inspiring. The social evenings provided the opportunity to get to know each other and to relax together whilst enjoying the beauty of the summer evenings, the company of the participants and the hospitality of our hosts.  I was humbled by the simplicity of the life we lived for those two weeks and by the warm welcome and sense of fraternity that was extended to each one of us. We ate some interesting food, shared our own stories and my long-lost French began to emerge as the days continued! Merci beaucoup, tout le monde!

Mary Hyam