, 13 October, 2020 / 9:28 PM
Consecrated persons in Kenya have been encouraged to cultivate and nurture hope, seeking God’s grace to realize their mission of being “signs of hope, Spirit-filled evangelizers” among the people of God amid life’s challenges.
The encouragement came from the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Bert van Megen when he was addressing members of the Religious Superiors Conference of Kenya (RSCK) in Nairobi on Tuesday, October 13.
In his speech that sought to underscore the mission of consecrated persons amid the “new normal” created by COVID-19 pandemic, the representative of the Holy Father in Kenya also encouraged Religious men and women in Kenya to strive to realize their mission of being “prophets of our time” and walking together in “communion of life and of intentions.”
“Being religious we pray each and every day to God that he may inflame hope in us, so that we become signs of hope, and then bring that hope to the brothers in our communities, to the Catholic faithful we assist, and to the entire society of Kenya,” Archbishop van Megen told RSCK members at the start of their two-day annual general meeting.
“When one asks a consecrated person, what is his or her hope, the true answer is: the Kingdom of Heaven,” he said and continued, “the biggest accomplishment for a consecrated person is that of understanding his or her vocation, and putting it into practice as a service to God.”
Another mission for consecrated persons is that of being spirit-filled evangelizers, which they achieve by living an “intense life of prayer,” the Vatican Diplomat said, making reference to the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium in which Pope Francis says, “Spirit-filled evangelizers are evangelizers who pray and work. ... Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervor dies out.”
The words of Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation “should be applied not only to every consecrated person or community taken separately, but also to the overall evangelization work in Kenya,” the Dutch Prelate who also represents the Holy Father in South Sudan said.
Consecrated persons also have a mission to be “prophets of our time,” he further said and noted that for Pope Francis, “the core element that distinguishes religious life as a special vocation is precisely its prophetic dimension” as evident in his November 21, 2014, Apostolic Letter to all Consecrated people.
In the letter, the Holy Father told consecrated persons, “I am counting on you to wake up the world", since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy. As I told the Superiors General: ‘Radical evangelical living is not only for religion: it is demanded of everyone. But religion follows the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way.’"
“This is the priority that is needed right now: ‘to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth... a religious (person) must never abandon prophecy,’" Archbishop van Megen said.
In his final remarks during the October 13 event, the Archbishop encouraged the consecrated persons in Kenya to walk together in “communion of life and of intentions.”
“For the last of my remarks, I would conclude with what relates to one of the important aspects of both our spiritual life and our attitude in facing the challenges of our mission, that of the communion of life and of intentions,” the 59-year-old Prelate said.
He added, “As Pope Francis observes in his latest Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, nowadays we are more alone than ever in an increasingly massified world that promotes individual interests and weakens the communitarian dimension of life (FT 12),”
“But we may conclude that such individualism is pervading not only the business world, or, more generally speaking, the secular society. Sometimes it risks afflicting us: consecrated persons,” the Apostolic Nuncio who serves as the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations Environment Program and Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) further said.
He went on to remind the representatives of Religious Superiors in Kenya of Pope Francis’ 2014 Apostolic Letter to consecrated persons in which the Holy Father noted that Communion is “lived first and foremost within the respective communities of each Institute.”
He also acknowledged with appreciation the “important role” consecrated men and women in Kenya play in the life of the Church, describing them as “witnesses through their life and action of the Kingdom of God on this earth.”
“In this time of COVID-19 the religious play an even more important role as many of you provide health care and are active in the field of education and formation,” the Nairobi-based Vatican diplomat said and added “The theme of this meeting: "The New Normal", has therefore appropriately been chosen.”
Founded in 1969, RSCK represents and brings together male consecrated communities in Kenya through their Superiors and therefore offers “a locus to live out their charism for the good of the Church in Kenya and speaking with one voice for all members.”
The Conference is made up of 79-member Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life ministering in Kenya who represent Religious Priests and Brothers.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa