By Brother Raphael Wanjala | en français
My recent experience from the Integration meeting in Rome has led me to do a critical review of some spiritual resources at my disposal. I have had the privilege to re-read the Generalate Update dated July 19, 2016 in which Brother Edward highlighted some convictions when addressing our Belgian Brothers. The second conviction, Edward writes, “is that we as Xaverian Brothers still have something good to offer others, to each other, to those with whom we come in contact, to our Congregation, to our church and world. We are convinced that God is calling us to use our personal gifts, our desire to serve as best we can whether we are 32 years old, 72 years old, or 92 years old.” This conviction is directly linked to the writings of Joan Chittister, OSB who says that, “old age is not the end of life, it is a stage of life that presents new challenges and calls for new kinds of responses.” I feel that the willingness among the Brothers to embrace the congregational call to renewal, and a transformation process is a much needed new response of our time. In the recent integration meeting that was held in Rome, the process of transformation began to unfold, to take root, and to offer new insights and visioning. The new voices on the Integration Team brought some new energy, new thinking, a new momentum, and a renewed reclamation of our identity as members of One Village.
It became more apparent that our Congregation, like many other congregations, is at graced crossroads, a crisis in terms of mission, community, and stewardship of resources. These graced crossroads have presented a state of dilemma for membership of the Congregation in Kenya, but the crisis is now widely shared as a Congregational challenge, but not an isolated issue for Kenyan Brothers. I am feeling that as a Congregation, we can never be content with addressing/ confronting our regional issues in isolation. We have to be concerned too for the crossroads of other regions of the Congregation, and especially those most in need of accompaniment in the area of mission, community, and stewardship of resources. This feeling and experience intensifies the notion of “one village”- one community of Brothers. It also ties very well with the third conviction from Brother Ed’s letter which stated that, “our living the Fundamental Principles as a community of Brothers is our true mission in the Church. We are being called to be faithful to our charism and to our Fundamental Principles or rule of life so we can manifest God’s compassion to others as Brothers.”
The realization of our present state crisis calls for bold actions, bold questions, and courageous steps to be undertaken at all levels of our life. Again, Joan Chittister writes more boldly about what religious life is going through in the modern society. She says that, “Religious life requires risk now more than caution, more than conformity, more than the kind of conservatism intent on preserving the things of the past rather than the wisdom of the past. Religious life needs older members who refuse to give in to oldness of life and younger members who refuse to give in to oldness of the soul.” The future of our Congregation is not for us to invent—that remains the work of the divine plan of God—but we can, as one village, anticipate co-creatively with the help of the process of renewal and transformation.
I will again close my brief reflection with a quote from Joan Chittister’s book in which she emphasizes the need for Religious congregations like ours to take a risk.
Risk walks with God as its only companion. The Religious Congregation that risks its reputation for the sake of new questions and risks its benefactors for the sake of peace, and its clerical support for the sake of women, and its lifestyle for the sake of the ecological stewardship of the planet, and its retirement monies for the sake of the poor, walks the way of Holy risk. It is not an easy way for religious life to go but there is no other way if the life is to be real, if the fire is to be rekindled from the flame of its past.
Our only way to finding new life, relevancy, integrity and identity in the modern society is to fully embrace the journey of Renewal and Transformation. We are all called today to befriend this process in a more discerning way. We are all invited to accept courageous risk-taking steps with new experiments, and by embracing with deeper wisdom and insight the new patterns struggling to unfold all around us. The Brothers in Kenya and the entire Congregation at large will need great wisdom and courage to discern which apostolic options are likely to serve us best if we are to remain loyal/ faithful to the vision of the founder and relevant in the missionary church in the continent of Africa.