Paths of mission and commitment for a family of apostles

Paths of mission and commitment for a family of apostles.

We experienced intense days of fraternity at the Notre Dame Spirituality Center in Bissau, a center created by PIME missionaries to give Guinean Christians the opportunity to find days of spiritual rest and tranquility in an atmosphere of silence and prayer. Many missionaries pass here every year for spiritual exercises and other moments of formation.

Fr. Gianni Criveller, PIME, coordinator of the team for the on-going formation of PIME priests, Fr. Luigi Bonalumi, rector of the PIME International Theological Seminary of Monza, Fr. Gabriel Amal Costa, responsible for the PIME missionaries of the African Region, in collaboration with the advisor Fr. Jaime Coimbra do Nascimento, organized a week of formation for the PIME Fathers and Brothers, working in Tunisia, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau. The theme was “Inter-culturality and fraternity. Paths of mission and commitments for a family of apostles”.

The Missionary sisters of the Immaculate who live in Guinea-Bissau and a lay family from the ALP, missionaries in Catió, in the south of Guinea-Bissau also were invited to this formative program.

In all, the participants were thirty-five, including men and women missionaries from different countries: Italy, India, Brazil, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines, Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, united by the same missionary spirituality and the commitment to proclaim the Gospel in African land. A unique opportunity to share the joys and missionary efforts and to deepen our knowledge of African culture, of the vision of reality and of the fundamental relationships that bind people to their family, their roots, their ancestors. 

The course lasted five days, from Sunday 21 January to Friday 27 January.

The formator Abbé Benjamin Akotia, a diocesan priest of Togo, professor of Sacred Scripture, Old Testament and vice-rector at the Catholic University of West Africa in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, introduced us to African culture. He started from his expertise as a biblical scholar and anthropologist and through the dialogical method made up of stories starting from his personal experience, and numerous questions posed by the missionaries, inserted into the African reality.    

Every day Abbé Benjamin touched on the typical elements of African culture: kinship, stories, witchcraft and ancestors, dances and rituals, sharing with us the vision of the African man linked to the Traditional African Religion (TAR). He opened up new horizons, provoking us to new ways of being missionaries, showing and explaining how an African sees and thinks about reality, and trying to make us hear the whisper of Africa. 

In the afternoon, he proposed a “lectio divina” from the book of Tobit on the theme of fraternity, linked to what was addressed in the morning with reference to missionary life.

I am very happy to be here for many reasons: the mission is a gift from God, and for just over a year, this truth has been reconfirmed for me, having returned to Guinea-Bissau in January last year, after a time dedicated to my family of origin.

The Lord sends me once again to proclaim the Gospel and to accompany brothers and sisters with respect, without ever taking their place, but allowing myself to be welcomed by them as a guest.

The reflection of these days has led me to review the methods of evangelization. Freeing myself from the deception of thinking that my way of welcoming the Gospel is the only one possible, opening myself up to the people who welcome me with greater trust, I know that, they will be able to make room for the Lord Jesus, so that the Gospel takes root in this land and bears fruit.              

Seeing things from another point of view opens my mind and heart to the other, to seeing my brother, my sister, different from me in mentality and culture, as children loved by God and worthy of esteem and respect. And this also in our intercultural and international communities.  

We are here to proclaim the Gospel, and we are “cheering” the Christians of Africa to respond with their voice, their sensitivity and their way of being to the Gospel, enriching the Church and the world with their own originality. As the parable of the sower invites us: let us proclaim the Word of God without measure, with generosity and commitment, so that the harvest of this land can contribute to its salvation.          

Sr. Ornella Garzetti, Guinea-Bissau



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