Africa’s Synodality Resource Team to Develop Training Module for Deeper Engagement

Archbishop Andrew Nkea Ifuanya of Cameroon's Archdiocese of Bamenda speaking during a Synodality Resources Team workshop in Nairobi. Credit: ACI Africa

The newly constituted Synodality Resource Team (SRT) for Africa has started developing a manual to be used in various training activities to deepen the understanding of “a Synodal Church”.

In 2018, the International Theological Commission defined Synodality as “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”

The twelve-member team comprising Catholic Theologians, members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, as well as lay people met in Nairobi for a two-day workshop where they came up with a sample structure of the envisioned Synodality Formation Module.

The two-day workshop that ended on Thursday, March 16 was convened by the African Synodality Initiative (ASI), which is a partnership between the Jesuits Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

Speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the event that was held at Africama House, the JCAM Headquarters in Nairobi, the Secretary General AMECEA said that the Synodality Formation Module was “an effort to live the invitation to be a Synodal Church.”


“Not everyone understands what the Synod on Synodality is about. There is a need to help everyone to understand what it means to be a Synodal Church,” Fr. Anthony Makunde said in the March 16 interview.

Credit: ACI Africa

Fr. Makunde added that the module, after it is completed, will be used in various formation programs in schools, in Seminaries, in Small Christian Communities (SCCs), and in all other communities inside, and even outside structures of the Church.

The SRT members who participated in the workshop identified key elements of the module including topics that will be covered in it, as well as the structure that it will take.

The members were Bishop Willybard Lagho of Kenya’s Malindi Diocese, Fr. Makunde, Prof. Philomena Mwaura, a Lecturer at Kenyan-based Kenyatta University (KU), Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Cameroon’s Archdiocese of Bamenda, Dr. Nora K. Nonterah, a Lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and Sr. Anne Arabome from Marquette University.

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Credit: ACI Africa

Others were Fr. Marcel Uwineza, the Principal of Hekima University College; Sr. Josée Ngalula, a lecturer at the University of Congo; Mr. Pardingtone Nhundu of IMCS Pax Romana; Ms. Dominique Yon of the Vatican International Youth Advisory Board; Ms. Getrude Chimange of the Zimbabwe Community Development Foundation and Dr. David Kaulem of Arrupe Jesuit University.

The members agreed that among other aspects, the formation module would be based on the Working Document for the Continental Stage (DCS), and would provide the spirituality of Synodality, its history, theology, and tradition.

Most importantly, they said, the Synodality Formation Module would be hinged on Pope Francis’ vision of Synodality.

The module would also appreciate and strengthen the roles and responsibilities of Christians, including the Clergy, women and men Religious, and Laity “as Synodal leaders in a Synodal community”.


Participants in the workshop acknowledged the opposition, reservations, and misconceptions that the Synod on Synodality has faced in the past, especially from the Clergy, and underlined the need to ensure that those in Seminaries, especially, are helped to understand their roles and responsibilities in a Synodal Church.

Fr. Uwineza also underlined the need to have a formation manual that accompanies people with various fears, concerns, and anxieties.

Fr. Marcel Uwineza, the Principal of Hekima University College at the JCAM headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: ACI Africa

“We should anticipate the fears of the people and find possible ways to address them in the formation module,” the Rwandese Priest said, and added, “Reading the DCS, you see the fears that the people have expressed. The module should therefore present the possibility of journeying with those with these fears and concerns.”

Among other characteristics, the Synodality Formation Module will be “authentically African”, making use of African expressions, proverbs, and images that foster Synodality, the members of SRT said.

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“We need to use terms that Africans can understand. We need to present Synodality in African languages and the continent’s rich proverbs and expressions to enable people to grasp the concept,” Sr. Ngalula said.

“Translating the Synod on Synodality into languages that Africans understand doesn’t have to be word for word. We have our proverbs, images, and expressions that can facilitate the understanding of synodality in the African context. Expressions such as ‘If you want to go fast, walk alone; but if you want to go far, walk together’ is about synodality,” the Catholic Nun said.

Sr. Josée Ngalula, a lecturer at the University of Congo giving her contribution at Synodality Resource Team (SRT) in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: ACI Africa

In an interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Nkea underscored the necessity of the Synodality Formation Module, noting that for Synodality to be understood, there is a need for formation.

“We cannot have formation in Synodality without a manual. Our biggest problem in Africa has been how to pass across the message of Synodality; first as a way of life, secondly as a spirituality, and thirdly as a moderation of government within the Church,” he said, and added, “This manual will give us a sense of direction in passing the message of Synodality.”

Archbishop Nkea said that the Synodality Formation Module would be a rich manual, incorporating experiences from diverse African backgrounds.

Credit: ACI Africa

“Those of us present here are from various backgrounds and our work together has brought on board various aspects of these backgrounds while sharing our experiences with the Synod on Synodality,” the Archbishop of Bamenda said.

“It has been like the 10 blind men who described an elephant and the one who had the tail said the elephant was like a rope. The one who touched the frame of the elephant said it was like a wall and the one who held the leg said it was like a tree and the one who held the ear said it was like a basin. Each one of them had a different experience much as they were talking about the same elephant,” he said.

The Cameroonian Catholic Church leader added, “As an Archbishop, I have shared my experience with Synodality as a Pastor. Theologians, lay professors, and even journalists here have shared their experiences in their varied capabilities. Yet we have all been talking about the same thing. This is the richness that should be expected from the module that we are going to compile soon.”

Expressing gratitude for having participated in the workshop, Archbishop Nkea said that the workshop had been a “light at the end of the tunnel”.

“After the Continental Assembly in Addis Ababa, I was asking myself ‘what next for the Church in Africa regarding Synodality?’. This workshop for me has been the answer to that question; that there is hope and there is light at the end of the tunnel; that as Africa, we need to reflect on what way forward for Synodality,” the Cameroonian Archbishop said.

Credit: ACI Africa

He added, “What we have done in this workshop is a pledge that Synodality cannot die in Africa. We are adopting it as a style for our Church, as a way for our Church. Synodality is going to enter all the corners of the Church in Africa.”

The SRT constitution had been provided for in the DCS, which has called for the “establishment of Synodality agents and teams” that is, people with expertise in Synodality, who will serve as facilitators, champions, and trainers of trainers.

Credit: ACI Africa

Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator from ASI, the outgoing JCAM President, said that the main purpose of the SRT workshop was for the Synod on Synodality thought leaders “to listen to one another, discern and discuss together ways of developing formation in the spirit and practice of Synodality.”

The Nigerian-born member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) said that once developed, the Synodality Formation Module will be piloted, preferably in places, he said need greater attention and support to grow in the spirit of Synodality.

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.