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Make Religious Communities “homes, schools of communion”: Catholic Bishop in DR Congo

Bishop Oscar Ngoy wa Mpanga of DRC's Kongolo Diocese. Credit: CENCO

Consecrated persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been encouraged to make their respective communities “homes and schools of communion” amid “great crisis of fraternity and recognition of the other.”

In his message for the World Day of Consecrated life marked Wednesday, February 2, Bishop Oscar Ngoy wa Mpanga says, “Our country, the DRC in which you are sent to proclaim the Gospel is going through a great crisis of fraternity and recognition of the other.”

“It is urgent that consecrated persons imbibe the spirituality of communion in order to make the religious communities homes and schools of communion where the awareness of being members of the one Body of Christ is cultivated,” Bishop Ngoy wa Mpanga says in his message dated February 2.

“This involves the recognition of one's own frailties and the request for mutual forgiveness, with the sole aim of forming a single Body from the multitude of members, making it possible to live together without banishing the richness of your differences,” the Congolese Catholic Bishop adds.

The call to live in community, he further says, “requires all its members to embrace the path of continual conversion, of prayer that allows God's will to shine through, of listening to his word that transforms hearts and opens the members of the community to constructive dialogue and the search for solutions that promote your Congregations.”

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Pope Saint John Paul II instituted the World Day for Consecrated Life in 1997 as a day for women and men in Consecrated Life.

The celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord marked on February 2. During the celebration, candles are blessed, symbolizing Jesus Christ as the light of the world.

Reflecting on this year’s event, Bishop Ngoy wa Mpanga says, “This feast is an opportunity for the Church to remind Christians that some of them choose to consecrate themselves to God and to the service of their brothers and sisters for their entire lives.”

“The presentation of Jesus in the temple is also called the feast of the encounter to remind all Christians that the Christian life is essentially a life of encounter,” the member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans - CSSp) says.

He continues, “For each Consecrated person, it is an opportunity to remember his or her first encounter with the Lord, on the day of baptism, and the other encounters that mark his or her life, such as first religious profession, perpetual or solemn profession, the various jubilees, until the great definitive encounter, best seen face to face in eternal life.”

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The Local Ordinary of DRC’s Kongolo Diocese who doubles as President of the Episcopal Commission for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CEIS) in the country further notes that the February 2 feast “reminds us that every consecrated person, in freely accepting to follow Christ, commits himself to continually question the specific charism of his Congregation in order to live it in dynamic fidelity, taking into account the situation of today.”

“This allows one to remain attentive to the Holy Spirit in order to allow oneself to be visited and inhabited by Him,” Bishop Ngoy wa Mpanga says, and adds, “This dynamic fidelity helps us to find our place and role in the Church - the family of God - in which we are sent to announce and proclaim the reign of God.”

Making reference to Pope Francis’ message for the 2015 World Day for Consecrated Life, the member of the Spiritans invites Consecrated persons “to live in joy for where there are Religious persons, there is joy.”

“In our world where darkness seems to persist, let it be said of you, where there are Religious, there is light which emanates from Christ, Light of the world,” Bishop Ngoy wa Mpanga says addressing himself to women and men Religious, and continues, “Do not, therefore, extinguish the light of Christ received at baptism and renewed in religious profession.”

The 57-year-old Congolese Bishop urges Consecrated persons “to keep this light alive in your missionary presence, in your communities, in your commitments and in your surroundings, so as to enlighten others through Christ who lives and acts in you and with you.”

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At a time when the universal Church is involved in the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality, Bishop Ngoy wa Mpanga urges Consecrated persons to “engage themselves fully not only in active participation with all the faithful who are committed to the path towards a more synodal Church, but also in a serious examination of your community life, your style of Consecrated Life and your criteria for recruiting vocations.”

“I entrust you to the protection of the Virgin Mary, our Mother and model of consecration, so that she may present each and every one of you to her Son and implore upon your communities the new breath of the Spirit so that you may be fully dedicated to the service of God and of your brothers and sisters,” the Congolese Catholic Bishop implores in his February 2 message.