PAN-AFRICAN MEETING OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH
OF AFRICA AND MADAGASCAR
The Pan-African meeting of the Sisters of St. Joseph took place from the 22nd to the 29th of August 2022 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in the house of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Aoste. There were 20 participants from 7 Congregations (18 present and 2 via zoom)
The theme was : "The face of the Little Design today, and the challenges for the future in Africa".
The Congregations present at that meeting were: Annecy, Aoste, Chambery (by zoom), Cuneo, Italian Institute, French Institute and Lyon.
The meeting began with the prayer to the Holy Spirit composed for the occasion and followed by the opening address of Sr Catherine Barange, Superior General of Lyon.
In her address, she gave a brief historical review of the meeting, what has been done so far in terms of collaboration (the sessions in Le Puy, the inter-novitiate, the union of few Congregations) and she continued with what could be done together in the future. Sr Catherine ended her address by paraphrasing the Pope "Sisters of St Joseph, let us wake up the world, let us be builders of communion".
After Sr. Catherine's address we listened to the address of Sr. Petra, Superior General of the Sisters of Cuneo.
After the various speeches, the meeting began with the presentation of the different Congregations which were present. The major superiors presented their Congregations (date of arrival in Africa, number of sisters, average age, missions and their apostolates...). After each presentation, the participants were invited to ask questions, or to say few words of encouragement or to share what has striked them in the presentation.
On the second day of the meeting, the Congregations were invited to share their experience of collaboration between SSJ’s (the inter-novitiate in Senegal, retreats, initial/professional formation, celebrations...).
Then we were invited to share on the challenges of consecrated life in Africa based on the documents of the Conferences of Major Superiors of our respective countries, and then to look at the challenges we have in common as SSJ in Africa and Madagascar.
The challenges we shared
• The challenge of evangelisation: to be a prophetic witness
• Initial and ongoing formation
• Intercultural and intergenerational community life
• Planning human and material resources in the short and long term
• The use of social media
• The relationship with the biological family
Then we worked in groups in order to reflect on the following question:
How to give a new face to Charism in Africa/Madagascar?
Here are some answers:
• Make community life a spiritual laboratory
• Strengthen collaboration between Congregations in Africa/Madagascar
• Make vocation ministry a priority with the help of a common leaflet
• Train our associates and involve them more in sharing our mission
• To live the experience of a pan-African community
• Responding to the new needs of poverty...
The participants were then asked to plan few activities which would strengthen their collaboration in the short and long term.
In the short term:
• To carry out vocation promotion with creativity (make a common leaflet, create a Facebook account, a website, collaboration in the follow-up of the candidates);
• Where there is only one novice in a Congregation, this novice could join another SSJ novitiate;
• To organise online and/face-to-face courses at all levels (major superiors, community leaders, formators, junior professed sisters, finally professed sisters, lay people...)
• To exchange personnal;
• To respond to the new needs of poverty;
• To collaboration/ to train the laity of the Little Design.
In the long term :
• To create a hospitality centre for self-sufficiancy;
• To set up a pan-African community;
• The union of the Sisters of St Joseph in Africa/Madagascar.
A coordination team has been set up to continue the work which has already started.
The members of the Pan-African Coordination Team
Sr Mélanie, Aoste, Madagascar
Sr Yvette, Italian Institute, RDC
Sr Adèle, Cuneo, RDC
Sr Anastasie, Lyon, Burkina Faso
Sr Christine, French Institute, Sénégal
Sr Elisabeth, Annecy, Gambia
The meeting ended with the closing address by Sr Catherine Barange, Superior General of the Sisters of Lyon.
Sisters Marie Pierre, Elisabeth and Jackie (Annecy)