KENYA:  African Synodality Initiative Institutes Resource Team to Develop Formational Program to Promote Practice of Synodality in Church

By Paschal Norbert

NAIROBI, MARCH 21, 2023 (CISA) – The African Synodality Initiative (ASI) has instituted a Synodality Resource Team to develop a training programme of formation in synodal leadership for the clergy and laity to promote the practice of synodality in the Church.

Meeting in Nairobi at the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), Africama House, from March 15 to 16, the team of experts drawn from both the Catholic clergy and laity who have actively participated at the continental and global Synodal process agreed on the need to develop a training program in synodality for use in the local Church and one, which is reflective of the African identity and Church.

In the two-day workshop, the team discussed a proposed context and content of a synodality formation module that involves the experiences of people, principles and values that inform the synodality process, and the practice and spirituality of synodal leadership.

“Working with the people at the grassroots,” Getrude Chimange advanced “The document should not be too abstract. I am looking at something that is a simplified version of the tool kit.  Very clear in terms of what is intended to be achieved.  Appeals to the person at the bottom. The kit needs to be very user friendly, understanding from their level of how they take things.”

“A module that gives us the vision of Pope Francis.  How does Pope Francis understand Synodality and what can we do about it? The tool kit should be synodal,” explains Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ, convener of the workshop and the outgoing President of the JCAM and Director of ASI.

According to Fr Marcel Uwineza, SJ, the Principal of Hekima University College, the program should adequately address the fears and mistrust that a section of the faithful had expressed of the synodal process so as not to feel left out.

“The Holy Spirit is the protagonist.  Formation in spiritual discernment, spiritual conversations and allowing God to speak to people’s hearts. Among those who have been resistant are priests.  We need to form seminarians and making the priests buy into this formation is key for success,” he proposes.

The thoughts of Fr Uwineza were further supported by Archbishop Andrew Nkea, a member of the Synod Council who highlighted that in the beginning, the opposition to the synod was because it was new and not understood at the grassroots.

He explains “Synodality makes all the difference. We should not take synodality out of communion, participation and mission. Everything revolves around the three concepts. The fear around synodality that power will be lost is not true, people need to understand it. Synodality empowers and does not impoverish.”

The one-of-a-kind workshop hailed as a first in the continent included Most Rev Andrew Nkea Fuanya of the Catholic Archdiocese of Bamenda, President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (CENC) and a member of the Synod Council,  Rt Rev Willybard Lagho of the Catholic Diocese of Malindi, Kenya, Fr Anthony Makunde, Secretary-General of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), Fr Marcel Uwineza, SJ, Principal Hekima University and Sr Anne Arabome,  Associate Director of the Faber Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Marquette University, USA.

Other members were Dr David Kaulem, Dean of the School of Education and Leadership at Arrupe Jesuit University in Harare, Zimbabwe, Prof Philomena Mwaura, Kenya, Dr Norah Nonterah, Ghana, Getrude Chimange, Patron Zimbabwe Community Development Foundation-Trust, George Sunguh, member of Vatican’s Communication Commission of the Synod of Bishops, and Pardingtone Nhundu, Pan African Coordinator of the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) Pax Romana.

The African Synodality Initiative (ASI) is a collaboration of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa & Madagascar (SECAM) and the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

ASI’s goal is to support the formation of the faithful and to convene various groups to reflect critically on synodality from an African perspective.