Greetings from Bagamoyo! On October 3-24, 2021, more than 100 hundred professed and lay Spiritans gathered in Chapter on the beautiful coast of the Indian Ocean at the birthplace of Christian evangelization in East Africa. Inspired by the story of the first missionaries in Tanzania, where our Spiritan predecessors addressed the evil of the slave trade by liberating slaves, paying the purchasing price. They were settled in Freedom Village in the busy port of Bagamoyo where they received an education before returning home to become missionaries to their own people in the interior.
Rooted in the example of our founders and other Spiritans who have gone before us, we have discussed and reflected on the signs of the times and the needs of the Congregation today. Claude Poullart des Places and Francis Libermann have been our guide and have motivated us by their missionary spirit in looking a fresh at the missionary challenges our world presents to us today.
It is a small miracle that we have even been able to gather at all during the pandemic, overcoming many challenges. Although we initially planned to meet in Poland, we give thanks to God for the extraordinary efforts of our confreres from the Province of Tanzania to make the Chapter possible. They created an uplifting, positive spirit, overflowing with warm, generous, and friendly hospitality, reflective of our Spiritan identity. One of many the highlights of the Chapter was the gathering of delegates and functionaries for prayer and remembrance in the historic cemetery where many of the early missionaries, who died in the prime of their lives, are interred. It was a moving moment as we also prayed for the professed and lay Spiritans who died from Covid-19 since March 2020.
We wish to share with you the excitement and energy we have experienced in our time together at Bagamoyo II. The theme of the Chapter, “Behold, I am doing something new” (Isaiah 43:19), has marked our deliberations and reflections as we opened our minds and hearts to where the Spirit is leading us. The Superior General’s Report and the Instrumentum Laboris informed us of the current situation of the Congregation and the challenges we are facing in our mission today.
Listening carefully to the Spirit speaking through one another, the Chapter reflected deeply on the call to consider new initiatives and the need for conversion in the way we respond to the needs of Spiritan mission today. Focusing on the critical topics of Spiritan Mission, Initial and Ongoing Formation, Intercultural Community, Spirituality, Justice & Peace and Integrity of Creation, Inter-Religious Dialogue, Lay Spiritans, Professional and Ethical Standards, and Organization, all in the context of the needs of Contemporary Mission, the Chapter and the Congregation have been enriched by our common reflections. We are excited about recommending new directions in living our Spiritan mission in the world today.
A new reality since Bagamoyo I in 2012 was the election of Pope Francis in 2013. His signature encyclicals Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti were cited frequently while reflecting on our new way of living our Spiritan mission in 2021. We embrace the critical issues of ecology and living our mission in a diverse world as brothers and sisters rooted in the unifying message of Christ. The Chapter also overwhelmingly affirmed Pope Francis’ call to be a Synodal church, with dialogue, unity, consultation and active participation of everyone at every level all the time, on our journey together toward our shared mission.
We are especially elated to have elected a new Superior General, Fr. Alain Mayama, C.S.Sp. from the Province of Congo Brazzaville. Please consider this election as “something new” the Holy Spirit has done for the Congregation and the mission of the Church. We are thrilled he is the first Spiritan from Africa to hold this position in the Congregation. It is important to note that through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Chapter chose him because of his commitment and dedication to the Congregation. He is eminently prepared to lead the Congregation for the next eight years with his experience of formation in Africa, a growing part of our Congregation, and having served on the General Council the past nine years. We are blessed to welcome him as Superior General. We invite your prayers and support for him and his Council as they begin their work of animating the Congregation.
The work has been intense, and we shared a lot among ourselves, not only in plenary sessions and in small groups but also by socializing. As participants in the Chapter, we recognize the work has only begun. We look to you, our dear brothers and sisters, to help us carry forward, the missionary spirit of the Congregation as we respond concretely to the signs of the times in light of our Spiritan charism. We are energized and inspired by our experience at Bagamoyo II. We are especially grateful to John Fogarty and the outgoing General Council for their hard work and leadership over the past nine years, especially for the preparation for this General Chapter.
As we close our chapter in Bagamoyo, 4,500 young people, families and educators from Apprentis d’Auteuil are gathered in pilgrimage at Lourdes. We see in this gathering a sign of hope for these uncertain times, and we join in prayerful good wishes to all gathered for this celebration.
We invite you to join us in sharing and implementing the vision of the Congregation affirmed as part of this historic gathering. Join us in praying that the Holy Spirit continues to lead us in “doing something new” as we fulfill our Spiritan vocation in living the Spiritan mission in the world today.
Cor Unum et Anima Una!
From Spiritan Roma