Pastoral solidarity across Africa

SECRETARIES general from across Africa pose for a photograph at Saint Theresa’s Cathedral Catholic Church in Livingstone recently.

THE customised Bemba idiom “Mu church nimu chuba ndoshi” aptly portrays the church as a possible safe haven for harbouring practitioners of witchcraft, among other evil doings.This is a signal enough that the church, which is supposed to be holy ground, is not immune to the proverbial ‘bad eggs’ or people who can perpetrate evil.
This can further be said to be true especially that a church is not only a place of worship but an institution that requires systematic administration.
Church administration is even more complex with churches whose membership is larger and spread across continents.
The Catholic Church is one such religious grouping whose membership is estimated at over one billion people world-wide and requires an organised and professional system to effectively enable the faithful to worship God accordingly.
It is for this reason that institutions such as the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) have been established within the church to, among others, facilitate ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue in Africa.
According to the SECAM secretariat based in Accra, Ghana, the organisation aims at preserving, fostering and promoting communion, joint action and collaboration among all the Episcopal Conferences of the entire Africa and Madagascar through regional conferences.
Its domains include the continuation of the primary apostolate of first evangelisation of those who have not received the message of Christ and in-depth evangelisation of Africans in their culture and socio-political life.
Others are the promotion and integral liberation of the human person, promotion of institutes of research, pastoral and theological formation, regular consultations on the major challenges facing the church in Africa and the world.
It also includes the organic pastoral solidarity in Africa and nearby islands.
The eight regional conferences of SECAM are Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC), Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region (ACERAC), Regional Episcopal of West Africa (RECOWA) and Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt (AHCE).
Others are the Regional Episcopal Conferences of North Africa (CERNA), Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA), Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA), Madagascar and CEDOI.
Like SECAM, regional and national bodies are spearheaded and administered by secretaries general, whose key duties and roles as outlined by the Catholic Church include being custodians of institutional memory.
Secretaries general are also regarded as stewards of resources of the Bishop’s Conference to manage the human, material and financial resources. They are a fulcrum of operations and think tanks of the conference.
Further, secretaries general are vision-bearers of the mission of the church in a country or region as laid down in the statutes, by-laws and strategic plans.
They are therefore supposed to have an in-depth understanding and provide the necessary documents to the new bishops joining the conference.
“As a channel of communication, the office of the secretary general plays an important role of being a medium of communication between bishops and other stakeholders such as the Holy See [Pope], SECAM, regional and national conferences, government, church and religious bodies, including the public,” says Bishop of Monze Diocese Moses Hamungole.
Bishop Hamungole said secretaries general also act as chief executive officers of secretariats of the Bishop’s Conference and are expected to represent bishops at certain functions and execute certain duties such as signing contracts for middle management and junior staff.
The clergyman however cautions administrators of church institutions to desist from vices such as nepotism as this has potential to “kill” institutions.
Bishop Hamungole said church institutions can be rendered inefficient and redundant if jobs are given on the basis of family and friendship ties and not on merit.
He said church institutions such as secretariats are not charitable establishments of the church and must be run professionally.
Bishop Hamungole said this here recently during the official opening of the SECAM meeting of secretaries general.
The six-day meeting attracted eminent Catholic Church clergymen from across Africa.
“Secretariats are not charitable institutions of the church. Please resist attempts even by some bishops to be bringing in their relatives or people connected to them who do not qualify.
“Keep the secretariats professional for you to provide professional services to the bishops of your conferences. To manage your roles is not an easy task. You not only need to have a set of required skills and competences but also the guidance from above [God],” Bishop Hamungole said.
Bishop Hamungole said there is also need to advertise job opportunities within church institutions and in dioceses for transparency and to cast the net wider.
He said this can enrich the backgrounds of people who serve the church.
“As bishops, we truly appreciate the personal efforts and sacrifices you make to ensure that the Bishops’ Conference is not only surviving but thriving despite the many challenges you encounter along the way.
“Be rest assured that we pray for you and wish you well because your success is indeed our success,” he said.
And SECAM secretary general Father Joseph Komakoma said the meeting served as a platform to learn best practices among delegates and strengthen pastoral solidarity.
Father Komakoma said the gathering also reflected on preparations for the SECAM golden jubilee anniversary celebrations.
“The celebration is scheduled to be launched on July 29, 2018 in Kampala, Uganda, with the permanent committee and in all Catholic churches in Africa and Madagascar, communities and institutions,” he said.
It is important that church institutions and personnel serve as the best example in upholding professionalism and avoid vices that have potential to render organisations inefficient or indeed absolutely qualify the church as ‘mu chuba ndoshi’.

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