With more than 16,000 Jesuits across the world, spread across hundreds of apostolates that involve millions of people, it’s no wonder that the Society of Jesus needs an organizational structure that allows regions to quickly respond to the needs of its people. One of those structures are the ‘Conferences’, groupings of Provinces created to allow those Provinces to share resources and strategies for ministry. Recently, the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar gathered and Fr. José Minaku, from the Central African Province, shared his experience with us.
The 58th Plenary of the Major Superiors of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) took place in Kinshasa, from 23 to 26 April 2019. For the President of the Conference, Father Orobator, the eight Provincial and Regional Superiors, the two Assistants and Father General, this assembly was a moment of happy reunion, especially since it was in 1989, quite some time ago, that the Central African Province (ACE) last hosted a JCAM plenary meeting. That long hiatus was for good reason: the instability experienced by the DRC and Angola has marginalized the Central African Province for several decades. This year, the Jesuits of Central Africa were ready and eager: no detail was left to chance for the success of this meeting.
This JCAM plenary meeting was above all an opportunity to share experiences. Thus, the first day was essentially one of recollection during which we asked the Lord for the grace to live this assembly in an attitude of prayer, discernment and the spirit of spiritual conversation, in order to approach the Universal Apostolic Preferences and other topics with generosity and joy. It was a time of great communion and mutual support for the African Society.
The subject that dominated these discussions was, of course, the recent promulgation of the UAPs. Father General’s address on the subject was the highlight of these days. In summary, the Universal Apostolic Preferences are not a to-do list, but rather they are a spirituality, a way of being that requires depth, collaboration, networking and a constant call to conversion. A strong image punctuated Fr. General’s presentation: we are pilgrims and we have just begun our journey together.
Another important topic during these meetings was the continuation of reflection and discernment on the restructuring of the Provinces. This is an imperative triggered by the configuration of the Society’s mission today in Africa. This discernment has only just begun.
On the margins of these various subjects, the companions shared their apprehensions and prejudices about the Province of Central Africa, and particularly about the Democratic Republic of Congo. The efforts made in this country, despite a difficult context, are a sign of hope and a testimony of courage. Africa can dream of a better future, because the Lord has truly risen!