Vatican Decree to Apostles of Jesus Order Wasn’t “to close, suspend,” Officials Clarify

Some of the members of the Instituted of the Apostles of Jesus who are ministering in the U.S. The Kenya-based Institute is undergoing internal reforms and a re-organization of the life of its members following a Vatican Decree that established a Pontifical Commissariat in June 2018.
Credit: Apostles of Jesus/U.S. Region/Province

The 2018 Vatican Decree issued through the department for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) to the Institute of the Apostles of Jesus was not meant “to close or suspend” the Kenya-based Religious Order but to begin a process of its rehabilitation and reform, two Church officials mandated by the Holy See to oversee the process have clarified.

“The Decree explicitly uses the term: “… to rehabilitate,” and not to “close or suspend” the operations of the Institute,” the Pontifical Commissary, Fr. Raphael p’Mony Wokorach and the Secretary to the Pontifical Commissariat, Sr. Eugenia Campara stated in their co-signed letter dated April 24.

The clarification is based on misinterpretations about the Vatican Decree, which, according to those mandated by the Holy See to oversee the operations of the 52-year-old Institute, “don’t reflect the mind of the Church about the Decree itself and the Institute of the Apostles of Jesus.”

Issues of concern emerged when delegates of the Institute of the Apostles of Jesus gathered for their 2014 Chapter, resulting in the intervention of the Holy See’s department overseeing Religious Orders headed by the Brazilian-born Joao Braz Cardinal Aviz.

A three-year inquiry into the life of the members of the Institute launched in 2015 under the overall guidance of Cardinal Aviz revealed anomalies around leadership, the handling of material property, community living, formation, and fidelity to a life of vows.

In June 2018, following the findings from the inquiry that involved an Apostolic Visitation to the Institute, the Cardinal Aviz-led Dicastery “issued a Decree, which called for internal reforms and a re-organization of the life of the members and of the Institute,” the signatories to the April 24 clarification letter stated, recalling the institution of a Pontifical Commissariat that was part of the Decree.

In the Decree, Fr. Raphael, Ugandan-born Comboni Missionary (MCCJ) was appointed the Pontifical Commissary and Sr. Eugenia Campara of the Daughters of St. Paul (FSP), an Italian national, Secretary to the Pontifical Commissariat.

The two were charged with the responsibility of “running the affairs of the Institute for a time that the Holy See itself will determine” and as they have clarified in their April 24 collective statement, “without in any way alluding to any ‘closure or suspension of the activities of the Institute.’”

The Decree also mandated them to oversee the process of reformation and rehabilitation, focusing their attention “to governance, administration of temporal goods, religious discipline and life in common, and the re-establishment of the formation program for initial and on-going formation of members.”

Their collective letter faulted media reports that have erroneously based their reports on PML Daily that published the news of the June 2018 Decree under the headline “Vatican suspends Apostles of Jesus congregation activities.” 

As an indication that the Institute whose 420 members serve in Africa, Europe, the U.S., among other continents of the world has neither been closed nor suspended, Fr. Raphael and Sr. Eugenia highlight the ordinations and perpetual professions that have taken place.

“The Roman Dicastery permitted the sacred ordination to the priesthood of 14 Deacons of the Institute who were awaiting their priestly ordination on August 19, 2019, and later 16 members in perpetual profession were ordained deacons on March 19, 2020 together with the ordination of five priests,” the Vatican-mandated official of the Institute of the Apostles of Jesus stated.

“The 14 Deacons may become priests sometime later this year,” they further stated and added, “This attests to the hope of a continued life in the Institute through the new members ordained for the missions.”

They assert, in their letter of clarification, that members of the Institute of the Apostles of Jesus who include Priests and Brothers “to date are still actively ministering in their different missions and in their religious communities.”

Fr. Raphael and Sr. Eugenia describe the ongoing process of reformation and rehabilitation of the members of the Institute “a time of special grace from God, willed by the Church, to enable it grow stronger and build a sense of identity with its Charism for a renewed life of witness to the gospel by its members as consecrated persons and servants of the Church.

Founded by two Italian-born Comboni Missionaries, Bishop Sixtus Mazzoldi and Fr. John Marengoni in Moroto, Uganda in 1968, the Institute of the Apostles of Jesus exists “for the evangelization of Africa and the World.”

In Africa, the members of the Institute minister in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, South Africa and Botswana. In Europe, they are in Italy, Germany, and England.

At least 90 of the members practice their ministry in the U.S. Other members are ministering in Cuba, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

“We greatly appreciate the support being offered by the local churches where the members of the Institute serve and of the universal church in achieving these noble objectives stipulated in the directives of the Holy See,” Fr. Raphael and Sr. Eugenia stated in their collective letter.

They have implored, “We pray that partners in mission and all people of good will may come to know and appreciate that this on-going rehabilitation process is with the hope of ushering new life into the Institute of the Apostles of Jesus now and in the future.”

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