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African Conference -Assembly of Friars in New Forms of life and evangelization

Nairobi (Kenya), 26 February - 3 March

04 March 2024

From February 26 to March 03, 2024, fifteen friars gathered in St Magdalene Retreat House, Nairobi Africa for the first African Conference Assembly in New Forms of Life and Evangelization.  Guided by Ite Nuntiate, and challenged by the message of the Minister General, Br Massimo Fusarelli, the friars shared and reflected on how to live the “new forms” in the context of Africa. Br Victor Quematcha graced the gathering with his words of reminder and inspiration. Br Francisco Gòmez Vargas and Br Dennis Tayo of the General Secretariat for ME animated this gathering, along with Br Hubert Mfouri Nsampe, and Br Clément Boumekpor

The participants started on the first day “to narrate and listen to what the Spirit, is working among them.”  Br Frederick Odhiambo, the Minister Provincial of the host entity in Nairobi welcomed them. Each then shared their existing expressions of “new” life forms in Africa, ranging from helping refugees, caring for lepers, the sick, orphans, street children, youth, and prisons; to a spectrum of communities in urban poor among squatter areas to difficult disadvantaged rural areas in the peripheries. “Conventional ministries” in parishes, schools, and health facilities also involve such forms of social activities. Others shared their experiences running a welcoming house for people in difficulties, and houses of prayers. Dialogue, social media, spiritual assistance, and environmental care were alternative expressions. Identified existing challenges included socio-political-economic instability being a war-stricken continent resulting in poverty, abuses, security threats, and exploitation of Mother Earth. Also mentioned were cultural diversity and religious pluralism, regionalism, materialism, individualism, and clericalism. Ad-intra, the friars feel the challenge of limited resources: human, financial, structures, and the need for a more integrated formation program. Far distances among entities make animation harder. Some felt the lack of support from the Council or the local church. 

The second day was directed “to seeing and judging what the Spirit has worked among them” in the light of Ite Nuntiate and the challenges posed by the Minister General. It emphasized the “fundamentals” of living out this inspiration, as a contemplative fraternity in minority, witnessing the prophetic gifts of the charism in living the gospel in the present context of Africa, by going out, being with, and among the suffering poor. Finally, the last day is a grace-filled moment for everyone, “inspired to form a commitment towards a joint journey they can rekindle” with the following discerned concrete recommendations:

  1. That “new forms” be a commitment of every entity, supporting friars inspired in living out this inspiration. The Minister and his Council promote the continued operation of the existing and/or in the opening of new ones, designating a friar as a “New Forms” Coordinator (forming part of its existing organizational structure) to animate the entity in this regard. Moreover, “new forms” should be included in the initial and ongoing formation (IF/OGF). A critical evaluation is urged to know where the entity is now, where it wants to go, and how it can get, as animated by the Council and guided by the GSME;
  2. That collaboration at the level of the African Conference, should be held yearly, gathering “New Forms” Coordinators from each entity to form a network of support systems. Inspired friars of an entity, (as part of IF/OGF) can go for emersion in another entity having existing new forms, to experience and learn from. The possibility of establishing a common Hermitage/Prayer House for the Conference should be studied, knowing this is the core of doing new forms of presence. Other specific recommendations include opening an urban poor community in Nairobi and a welcoming house for street children in S. Sudan, in collaboration with the Franciscan sisters. The General Secretariat for ME continues to assist, accompany, and animate the brothers in living out this inspiration.; and
  3. That a Commission for New Forms of Life and Evangelization in Africa be formed to animate the conference, mapping out new forms of realities in Africa. The General Secretariat ME, in consultation with the Ministers of the African Conference, should submit four names (2 English and 2 French-speaking) for approval by the General Council to form the commission. This commission can collaborate in the future with other Conferential Commissions for New Forms to share and learn from.

Finally, the last two days of the gathering were spent visiting the urban poor communities where our student friars do their pastoral works, our two fraternities in Nairobi, and some nearby parks. May this landmark assembly be an impetus to move further in living out “new forms” in Africa.

Read the message of the Minister General: Italiano - English - Français - Português

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