Digital Faith Influencers from 52 African Countries Enrol for Inaugural Formation

Poster announcing the African Digital Faith Influencers Formation certificate program. Credit: PACTPAN

All is set for the first cohort of over 100 members of the African Synodal Digital Youth Influencers  (ASDYFI) from 52 African countries, who are beginning their six-month formation programme on Thursday, February 1.

Provided by the Pan African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN), the course, “Africa Digital Faith Influencers Formation”, is aimed at equipping participants with skills to become faith champions among their peers living in what the facilitators of the program have described as “digital peripheries”.

Sr. Josephine Bakhita, an official at PACTPAN’s “Church of Now”, who is part of the coordinating team of the formation program, told ACI Africa in an interview that the training is also aimed at addressing moral issues and promoting hope among the youth thereby making them become more like Christ.

Sr. Bakhita said that the training was inspired by a meeting that was convened by the Pontifical Latin America Commission for the Youth, where Mons. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, the Secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, and Fr. Stan Chu Ilo, a Research Professor in the Department of Catholic Studies at DePaul University in the U.S., among other theologians and scholars were the facilitators.

The Kenyan-born member of the Sisters of Mary of Kakamega (SMK), who lectures at Uzima University of Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Kisumu recalled that during the meeting, the importance of exploiting digital platforms of spiritual formation was stressed.


“We also know that there is a need to equip our young digital faith influencers with the tools they need to understand Catholic Social teachings and become champions in their workplaces,” she said during the Friday, January 26 interview with ACI Africa.

“We hope to make our digital faith influencers here in Africa very active on social media specifically in advocating for good morals among their fellow youths,” Sr. Bakhita said, and added, “This is in line with the message of Pope Francis who has always called the youth to make good use of the social media in advocating for Christ-like living.”

Two participants from each of the 52 African countries have been selected to constitute the first cohort of 104 participants.

Sr. Bakhita says that the participants were selected based on the regional Catholic Bishops’ Conferences that comprise the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).

She says that ASDYFI leaders of the regions of SECAM identified the very active members to make up the first cohort of the PACTPAN formation program.

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“We want to do piloting with our most active members; those who participated in the conversation with Pope Francis, in the World Youth Day, and those who consistently participate in our other activities. We needed someone who would also persevere to the end, taking into consideration the challenges that come with online courses,” Sr. Bakhita said.

The course will cover seven modules. These include: Theories and application of the African palaver and synodal processes, Methods and skills for digital influencing, Principles and practices of Catholic social teachings, Transformational servant leadership, and Spiritual maturity for professional and personal development and discipleship.

Others are: The Church as a family of God, and Practical implementation of digital faith influencer project.

Sr. Bakhita says that the training has brought on board instructors who are knowledgeable on the topics. They include: the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, Dr. Paolo Ruffini; Sr. Dr. Josée Ngalula, Congolese-born member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission; and Fr. Nicholaus Segeja M’hela, Tanzanian-born member of the Vatican Theological Commission of the Synod.

Others are Sr. Leonida Katunge, the Coordinator of ASDYI; Mons. Lucio; and Fr. Stan.


The SMK member tells ACI Africa that each of these instructors who are serving on volunteer basis in the PACTPAN program will take the trainees through one week of instruction per month.

“We have tried to make the course as flexible as possible because our consumers are mostly university students and we wouldn’t want to subject them to too much work on top of what they are already engaged,” she says, adding that the course has been designed to cater for the personal and professional development of those who take it.

The course, she says, has been evaluated by top theologians and scholars in Europe, North America and Africa. “It is very practical and engaging, bringing in different learning styles. It is purely online.”

At the moment, the training is a pilot program, with hopes of expansion in the future.

Those who undergo the training will be awarded certificates from Rome, Sr. Bakhita says, adding, “At the end of the six months, we will identify an African country for the graduation ceremony where participants in the training program will be awarded certificates.”

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Devis Ampereza, a Ugandan member of ASDYFI, who is participating in the inaugural PACTPAN formation program told ACI Africa that the formation program is one of the ways to bring to life the message of Pope Francis during the Holy Father’s conversation with African youths in November 2022.

“Pope Francis told us that we can be influencers of faith in digital spaces where, unfortunately, people are fed with all manner of negative content,” he said, adding that he hopes to get more skills in digital communications from the formation program set to end in August.

“I also look forward to interacting with top theologians in the Catholic Church in the six months,” Devis, who works in Human Resources and assists in teaching at Uganda’s Makerere University said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.