Advertisement

Religious in Kenya Urged to Limit Commitment to Families, Focus on Evangelization

Poster announcing an online workshop of the Commission for Clergy and Religious of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. Credit: Pontifical Mission Societies Kenya

Commitment of women and men Religious to their families is slowly killing the spirit of evangelization in Kenya, members of the Commission for Clergy and Religious of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) have said.

In a workshop the Commission organized in collaboration with KCCB’s Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS Kenya), various groups of Priests and Religious Sisters highlighted other challenges of evangelization in the East African country, including retrogressive cultures, inadequate formation and catechesis as well as poor structures of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) where evangelization is supposed to happen at the basic level.

Presenting on behalf of her discussion group during the three-day workshop that is expected to end Saturday, September 18, Sr. Winfrida Akumu said that people in Religious Life are spending too much time with their families at the expense of their missions.

“We left our families when we chose Religious life. But these days, it is common to find Priests and Religious Sisters spending every weekend with their families and you wonder whether they have any time left to spend with the people of God in their respective missions,” Sr. Winfrida said.

She added, “We need to commit ourselves to our apostolates and what we vowed to do when we chose to leave our families behind.”

Advertisement

About 70 people participated in the Thursday, September 16 opening session of the virtual workshop that has brought together Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) units, Religious Superiors' Conference of Kenya (RSCK), the KCCB Liaison Committee and PMS Directors from various Kenyan Catholic Dioceses.

The PMS National Director in Kenya, Fr. Bonaventure Luchidio, told ACI Africa that the workshop organized under the theme, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard”, is aimed at bringing together women and men Religious to openly discuss the issues of evangelization and mission of the Church.

“We are here to discuss the challenges of evangelization especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and how our mission has been affected,” Fr. Luchidio said.

“We are discussing all the contemporary issues that affect our mission. Is the Church still relevant? Is our mission still talking the language of the people today? Is the Church reading the signs of time? These are some of the talking points that have brought us together,” the PMS Kenya Director told ACI Africa.

The Thursday session was facilitated by Fr. Luke Bett, a Kenyan Dominican Priest, who provided the key address on the topic, “The Importance of Kerygmatic Announcement of Jesus Christ in Mission Activities Today.”

More in Africa

Kerygma is a Greek word that means “proclamation”, Fr. Bett said, and explained, “In the Christian context, it focuses precisely on the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. In other words, Jesus came to save us and the message we proclaim is about him.”

The message of Jesus, the Dominican Priest said, need not be complex or too long.

“In fact, we ought to be able to tell the saving story of Jesus’ life in a simple manner that can be understood by all,” he said, and added, “The goal of any proclamation of the kerygma is conversion. We want to be instruments of God, so others might have an encounter and response to his grace and mercy, and so become disciples of Jesus.”

According to Fr. Bett, every Christian shares in the Priestly, kingly, and prophetic mission of Christ by the virtue of baptism and are therefore invited to be agents of evangelization and not only the “experts”.

From Kenya’s Meru Diocese, Fr. Kinoti Kithuri underscored the need to move from “an expert Church” to a communal Church that listens to the voices of all its constituents.

Advertisement

“The Church has for a long time been a Priest’s Church. We hear people talk about building a house for a Priest, visiting a Priest and so on. The Holy Spirit left the Church a long time ago in this sense,” Fr. Kinoti said.

He reiterated Fr. Bett’s message that the Church “must become for all the Baptized” and insisted that evangelization must not be left to those who have been labelled as experts.

Key in evangelization, participants of the workshop were told, is the need for proper catechesis and formation.

“You can’t speak of what you don’t have,” Fr. Luchidio said, and added, “As Missionaries, we sometimes don’t know what to speak when we set out for our missions.”

It was also noted that some Priests have stuck to being “Lectionary Preachers” rather than enriching their homilies by reading the Bible.

(Story continues below)

Additionally, the SCCs where Bible reflections are conducted among small numbers of Christians are not properly structured to encourage evangelization, Fr. Luchidio said.

“There are Small Christian Communities, where only one or two people share their reflections on the Bible while the rest remain silent. Sometimes, the word of God is used to attack other members of these groups. They spend very little time discussing the word of God and dwell on other issues such as their contributions to Church projects,” the PMS Kenya Director observed.

In her presentation, Sr. Winfrida also pointed out the politics of money in evangelization, and noted that too much energy was being put on Church finances at the expense of the Word of God.

“The Church is becoming more and more about money,” the Kenyan Catholic Nun said, and added, “The fact that we need to build our Church by ourselves cannot be overlooked. But we shouldn’t centralize money in our work of evangelization.”

Members of the Clergy and women and men Religious were encouraged to collaborate with each other, “bringing all their different charisms on board”, to improve their experience of evangelization.

Participants of the workshop were also reminded to immerse themselves in the different cultures of the people of God, especially those in geographical peripheries. This way, they were reminded, they would easily penetrate the hearts of those who have not known the Gospel.