Rome (Italy). From 24 to 29 August 2023 in Lusaka, Zambia, at the headquarters of Our Lady of Peace Province (AFM), the inter-sector Seminar “For generative animation” was held, aimed at Provincials, Councilors, Bursars, Provincial Secretaries, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians referents of areas of the nine Provinces of Africa and Madagascar, which make up the CIAM Interprovincial Conference.
Present to animate the event, the first of nine organized for the Conferences, were the Superior General of the FMA Institute, Mother Chiara Cazzuola; the Vicar General, Sister Maria del Rosario Garcia Ribas; the Area Councilors: Sister Nilza Fatíma de Moraes, Sister Runita Borja, Sister Ausilia De Siena, Sister Leslie Sandigo, Sister Ena Veralís Bolaños, Sister Ruth del Pilar Mora, and the Visiting Councilor Sister Chantal Mukase.
After the arrival of all the participants, the day of August 24 began with the Eucharistic Celebration on the feast of the apostle Bartholomew, with the renewal of the vows of five young FMA, in the presence of Mother Chiara Cazzuola.
In the afternoon, the participants met for the first time in the room reserved for the Seminar, to learn about the documentation sharing platform. Despite the difficulties of connection, the shared materials allowed the sisters to follow the conferences in different languages.
The Seminar officially opened in the evening, in an atmosphere of joy and fraternity. In her greeting, Sister Cécilia Montanya, Provincial of the AFM Province, thanked Mother Chiara and the sisters of the General Council for choosing Lusaka for this important meeting. Sister Clarisse Mongyumba, President of the CIAM Conference, thanked Mother and her Councilors and welcomed all the Sisters of the CIAM Provinces.
In her presentation, Mother Chiara thanked the Sisters for their warm welcome, underlining the historic event, as it was the first time that all the Provincial Councils, the Coordinators, and the majority of the General Council had met. She also spoke about the special nature of this meeting, which allows CIAM members to get to know each other better. “In a changing world, the Institute looks to Africa,” she concluded.
The Vicar General then spoke, also expressing gratitude and recalling the objectives of the seminar: to adopt a new style in animation and governance that generates life and takes care; strengthen the family spirit; work in the shared mission in synergy, promoting integration between the various areas. To conclude the evening, each Province presented itself in a creative way.
“The service of authority today: opportunities and challenges for consecrated life, the triple mission of serving, animating, and governing” is the theme that opened the Seminar on 25 August. Via videoconference, Sister Maria Ko, biblical scholar and Professor at the Pontifical Auxilium Faculty, led the Lectio Divina on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles 1:8, “You will have the strength of the Holy Spirit and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.”
After the encounter with the Word of God, the participants listened to Mother who illustrated the reasons for the Seminar. “At this time, talking about life-generating authority is important and necessary. Why a Seminar for Interprovincial Conferences? We are convinced that authority is a mission to be accomplished, not a power, not a dominion.” To animate and govern in a changing world, Mother continued, it is necessary to rediscover the profound meaning of consecrated life. “Consecrated life in general has been questioning itself for years about models and the exercise of an authority open to change, hope, and regeneration. Psalm 26, ‘Your face, O Lord, I seek’ offers us a theological and anthropological perspective of reflection. Consecrated life, a pilgrim in search of the meaning of life, seeks the face of the Lord. He is everything! We seek Him, but in reality, it is God who seeks us.”
Mother Chiara then recalled the foundations of authority, a generative authority that must be based on humility, motivated service, and listening. In the perspective of generating life, she recalled the charismatic foundations of authority in relation to the Holy Founders, Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello.
This was followed by a video conference by Fr. Pascual Chavez, Rector Major emeritus of the Salesian Congregation, on the theme “The service of authority today. Opportunities and challenges for consecrated life.” Both Mother Chiara and Fr. Pascual underlined the importance of authority at the service of the growth of the Sisters and communities, with the sole objective of seeking the Lord.
The days took place in a serene atmosphere of personal reflection, group work, assembly moments, and workshops, with an inclusive dynamic that allowed everyone to give their contribution and to be challenged by the proposals of conversion to be implemented.
Sister Maria Ko’s Lectio Divina accompanied the assembly every day to allow themselves to be challenged by the Word and to meditate on the process of discernment of the Apostles in various conflict situations. In her meditations, she reminded the participants of the centrality of life, the importance of trusting the Holy Spirit, and learning from the generative leadership of the Apostles, as well as the charismatic aspects to be experienced in everyday life.
The various presenters: Mother Chiara Cazzuola, Fr. Pascual Chavez, Sister Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops; Bernardo Toro, Head of the AVINA Foundation; and Fr. Jonas John Phiri, National Coordinator of Bible and Liturgy of the Diocese of Lusaka gave a global vision on the generative exercise of authority; on generativity in a complex context that requires the construction of a quality of relationships, not only interpersonally, but also with nature, the “common home”. It needs a change of mentality that requires personal and community conversion, in taking care of oneself and others, in particular those who suffer and are excluded. It is a call to live the Beatitudes and active compassion in ordinary life. From this perspective, the theme of synodality was addressed in all its aspects.
During the seminar, time was also dedicated to reflection by Sectors. The Councilors for Pastoral Ministry, Formation, Administration, and Communication met with the Coordinators for a time of formation and sharing.
The interventions were followed by “generative workshops” in which the participants shared what most touched and stimulated them. After these encounters, each group formulated a beatitude. The synthesis of the nine beatitudes was proclaimed in turn by the Provincials during the concluding Eucharist as a commitment to live active compassion in the course of ordinary life.
Goodnights, evening recreations, and prayer strengthened the bonds of communion in faith and fraternity.
Each Province also had the opportunity to meet again to evaluate the ways in which it manages its activities. The summaries were presented in the assembly. Of all the proposals, the one to “implement a dynamic that allows resources to be shared based on the specific needs of each Province” was chosen, so that all the CIAM Provinces may grow together in view of the educational mission for young people. The creation of a Commission for catechesis at the Conference level was also proposed, given the cultural change in African societies, the widespread presence of terrorism, and the proliferation of sects which are distancing many young people from Christian life.
The final Eucharistic Celebration on 29 August, presided over by Msgr. Cément Mulenga Kabwe, SDB, Bishop of Kabwe, and concelebrated by three other Salesian priests, took place in an atmosphere of celebration and thanksgiving for the experience lived. The Seminar was for the participants a school of life and a verification of the way of living authority, of animating and governing in the African context inserted in the global world with its challenges.