Member of Theological Commission of Synod Lauds Jesuits in Africa, AMECEA Collaboration

Fr. Nicholaus Segeja M’hela (right), a member of the Vatican Theological Commission follows a presentation at the theologians colloquium that was organized by the Jesuit Institute of African and Madagascar (JCAM) and the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA. Credit: JCAM

A member of the Vatican Theological Commission of the Synod has lauded the collaboration between the Jesuit Conference of African and Madagascar (JCAM) AND the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), in driving conversations about the ongoing Synod on Synodality.

In a Thursday, March 10 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Nicholaus Segeja M’hela noted that Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar had, specifically, taken the lead in creating avenues for engagement with the Synod on Synodality.

“I am totally impressed with what the Jesuits are doing. They have taken the lead and are bringing people from all over the continent together to engage in Synodal conversations,” Fr. Segeja said, and added, “I highly recommend their collaboration with AMECEA to other church organs that are engaged in the Synod on Synodality.”

The member of the Clergy of Tanzania’s Catholic Diocese of Mwanza who also serves at the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops spoke to ACI Africa on the sidelines of a three-day Theologians colloquium that JCAM convened in Nairobi.

The colloquium that concluded Friday, March 11, brought together theologians from across Africa who explored the element of listening to the Synod on Synodality process from an African perspective.


The in-person colloquium followed a series of webinars that JCAM and AMECEA organized with various groups in the Church, including the youth.

The first webinar that was held in November last year, a month after Pope Francis launched the Synod on Synodality, created a general understanding of the Synodal journey.

In January, JCAM and AMECEA mobilized young people from across Africa for a webinar in which they shared their understanding of the Synod. They described Synodality as a journey, a “reversed pyramid” and an opportunity to create more engagement among the people of God.

Last month, the two Catholic entities had a webinar with lay people who spoke about a Synodal journey that is expected to bridge the gap that they said exists between members of the Clergy and the Laity.

The two Catholic institutions announced in October last year that they had embarked on the joint project to provide resources that they said would enable the local churches in the region and the entire African continent to engage fruitfully and constructively in the Synodal process.

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In an interview with ACI Africa, the Secretary General of AMECEA, Fr. Anthony Makunde, said that collaboration with JCAM had increased the reach of the regional Bishops’ Conference in gathering the views of the people of God on the Synod on Synodality.

“Working with JCAM on the Synodal process has been a very enriching experience. Since JCAM is a continental body while we are regional, we have reached a bigger number of people who are now engaged in this journey, bringing their expertise and experiences on board,” he said during the March 10 interview.

Fr. Makunde said that JCAM first approached AMECEA with the idea to collaborate on the Synodal process shortly after the August 2021 meeting that the two Church entities held. The meeting had been convened by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) to devise ways to approach the journey of the Synod.

At this time, the Church leaders in Africa had a lot of curiosity “as well as fear and uncertainties” on how to go about the Synodal journey, Fr. Makunde said.

“Everyone at the SECAM meeting was very eager to talk about Synodality. At the beginning, there was a lot of curiosity around the process, but we were also worried that we couldn’t meet the expectations of the process in the time that we had been given,” he said.


“We had timelines for April and we knew that with the preparations for Easter that come around April, we wouldn’t have enough time to create enough engagement with the Synodal process at the Diocesan level,” the Secretary General of AMECEA said. 

He added, “It was also a time when COVID-19 restrictions were in place and we were afraid that we were not going to be able to walk around, creating avenues of engagement with the process.”

Fr. Makunde said that the various Church entities were tasked with the responsibility of selecting and building the capacity of Synod coordinators in Dioceses. They were also tasked with finding a common approach to the Synodal process.

He continued, “At AMECEA for instance, we had to come up with an approach that would work for all our 122 Dioceses, instead of allowing each Diocese to do things distinctively.”

Additionally, AMECEA embarked on devising ways to coordinate the sharing of the Synod on Synodality experiences between different countries under its jurisdiction.

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The AMECEA Secretary General says that the collaboration with JCAM presented an opportunity for the two Catholic Church bodies to share resources along the journey.

“Jesuits have the charisma of the Synodal process. Apart from this, they have the expertise in place including theologians to steer Synodal conversations. They have the capacity to reach a wider context of people and they sometimes get to places we can’t get to. Working with them has been very rewarding to us,” Fr. Makunde said.

He said that JCAM and AMECEA have been working in Catholic institutions of higher learning in the region to include students and lecturers in Synodal conversations.

“We also acknowledge that not all Catholic institutions have the faculty of theology. We have been in touch with Catholic professionals in these institutions to identify at least one contact person who will collect the views of other professionals in the institutions by April this year,” Fr. Makunde said.

He said that JCAM and AMECEA are also gearing up for the SECAM meeting later this month to start journeying as a continent in the Synodal process.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.