Catholic Nun in Kenya Calls for Aligning Formation Programs “to the signs of the times”

Sr. Clemency Nabishawo (Left) during her presentation on the second day of the biannual Pan African Congress on Theology in Nairobi. Credit: ACI Africa

There is need to revise formation programs for women and men joining Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life, aligning them to contemporary times of Christian living, a Catholic Nun in Kenya has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the July 19-22 biannual Pan-African Catholic Congress on Theology, Society, and Pastoral Life in Nairobi, Kenya, Sr. Justine Clemency Nabushawo said some programs are out of touch with current situations, and that the revisions need to be “according to the signs of the times”.

“The formation programs need to be revised according to the signs of the times,” Sr. Nabushawo said during the Wednesday, July 20 interview.

She explained, “We cannot do the same programs that were there 20 years ago; things have changed, so programs need to be tuned to fit the needs of the times; to fit the Institute and its needs and also to fit the needs of the people today.”

The member of the Sisters of Mary of Kakamega (SMK) in Kenya said that Consecrated Life is meant to offer service to the people and their needs and not oneself, and added, “Our programs need to be tailored according to the needs around us.”


The native of Uganda said that revision of formation programs for Religious need to involve the capacity building of those involved in formation, including understanding and knowledge of contemporary means of communication, because “the incoming candidates for Consecrated Life are people who are exposed to technology.”

“The formator who is handling these candidates or who is in formation must also be someone who is exposed to technology,” Sr. Nabushawo emphasized, adding that for a formator to journey with candidates in formation today, “you need to have the skills and go ahead of them (candidates).”

The lecturer at Kenya’s Moi University regretted the fact that some of the formators are not up to date with contemporary realities and that a section of Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life “have not invested in the training of their formators to match with the growing technology.”

It is not enough that a formator is prayerful, the SMK member told ACI Africa, and explained, “A formator of today should have vast and diverse skills, must have a theological background, must have counseling skills, because this is the only way he or she will be able to journey with the candidates.”

In the July 20 interview, Sr. Nabushawo reflected on the process of initiating candidates joining Religious Life, saying, “Formation houses should seek to heal the wounds of those who come from broken families or families with issues.”

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She underscored the need for those involved in formation to heal from their past wounds. She explained, “We are going to meet with people from broken families; as a sister, how am I going to relate with such people if in my sense I am still broken? This means that I need to be healed in order to heal the other person.”

The Kenya-based Catholic Nun cautioned formators against discontinuing candidates on the basis of their family backgrounds.

She made reference to biblical figures such as Paul, Simon Peter, and Mary Magdalene among others who found favor in the Lord despite their past lives, saying in reference to candidates joining Religious Life, “We should not push them away because it is God who calls and can make the best out of this person.”

Meanwhile, in her presentation during the biannual Pan-African Catholic Congress on Theology, Society, and Pastoral Life that members of the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) organized at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi, Sr. Nabushawo advocated for a critical look at the rise of vocations to Religious Life in Africa.

“Vocation to Consecrated Life in Africa today is on the rise, especially in recent times,” she said during presentation July 20, and posed, “Why this huge rise; and we are asking ourselves, is the quantity corresponding to the quality? And if not, what could be the reason behind this huge rise in vocations to religious life in Africa?”


The lecturer at Moi University added, “It is no more secret that there are many challenges that the family is facing and it is from this family that we are getting vocations. The people we are receiving in Religious Life are carrying these problems.”

“Could there be some challenges that are forcing these people into Religious Life?” she further posed in reference to candidates joining Religious Life in Africa, and added, “The challenge these young people are facing could be that they want a place of security; we are not ruling out genuine vocations but they could be looking for a place of security.”

“When we are carrying out vocation animations, we need to be careful; it is not going to be business as usual,” Sr. Nabushawo told participants in the biannual Catholic Congress that Pope Francis lauded as “a sign of the outgoing African Church” in a video recording.

“We need to scrutinize the intentions of the candidates by having intentional qualifications through probing the candidates on why they are interested in the religious life,” she added during her presentation on the topic, “A Spotlight on Religious Formation in Africa: A Case of Consecrated Institutes of Women in Uganda and Kenya.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.