With the theme “REVITALIZE OUR SOLIDARITY FOR DEEPER EVANGELIZATION”, God showered blessings upon the Women Religious Congregations in Tanzania who met from 26th August to 4th September, 2017. It was my first experience as an Executive Secretary of the Tanzania Catholic Association of Sisters (TCAS) to co-ordinate and witness the implementation of the plenary assembly. I was very much impressed to see sisters from eleven African countries representing the following organizations:
- Association of Consecrated Women in Eritrea– ACWE
- Ethiopian Conference of Major Superiors– CMRS
- Association of Sisterhoods in Kenya– AOSK
- Association of Women Religious Institutes of Malawi– AWRIM
- Sudan Sisters Association– SSSA
- Tanzania Catholic Association of Sisters– TCAS
- Association of Religious of Uganda– ARU
- Zambia Association of Sisters– ZAS.
These are the members of the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA). The invited guests were the Association of Sisters of Zimbabwe and of Nigeria.
Goals of the Event
The goals of this special event were to
- strengthen unity
- deepen the call as Religious Women in this part of Africa
- vote for the constitution and strategic plan
- elect new leaders for the next three years
- formulate regional action plans for the three years and
- celebrate togetherness.
The 17TH ACWECA PLENARY ASSEMBLY invited other sisters, donors and friends from all over the world. It was wonderful to see different people accommodated at the Catholic Secretariat of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) in Dar es Salaam. For seven days the center looked like a well decorated vessel of flowers: the people of God.
His Eminence João Braz Card. de Aviz, the Prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life was a guest of honor. His Excellency Archbishop Marek Solczyński, Apostolic Nuncio in Tanzania, His Excellency Eusebius Nzigilwa, Auxiliary Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, and His Excellency Renatus Leonard Nkwande the Bishop of Bunda Diocese were also present. His eminence João Braz Card. de Aviz congratulated the consecrated women who came to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to spend a few days together in sisterly communion, reflecting on the theme: "Revitalize our Solidarity for Deeper Evangelization in Today's Complex Reality within the ACWECA Region". He stated that, in light of the Gospel of Jesus, and of what we will be offered by those who will speak to us, this Ecclesial Encounter is a great opportunity to grow together in our lives as people who want to follow Jesus to the end as his disciples, walking on the path of the evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Cardinal inspired consecrated women in the areas of community life, continuous formation, and formation of formators. He also included the human dimension of challenges to the consecrated life, with a particular importance given to the field of the reciprocity between men and women. Even in the church many unilateral prejudices prevented the recognition of the true genius of women (cf. VC 58) and the original contribution of women. This kind of underestimation particularly affected consecrated women existing on the margins of life, in pastoral care, and working for the mission of the church. Thus we should not downplay the commitment of women in the Church, but rather promote their role in the ecclesial community for the wellbeing of the society.
In strengthening on-going formation, TCAS worked very hard to recruit Religious formators from various congregations and many apostolic communities working in Tanzania. Since 2014, 59 formators have been recruited and 30 sisters attend a three month sabbatical program of courses in the Holistic Education Centre, Morogoro. These courses have been very helpful to our sisters as individuals, but also for the flourish of our congregations.
Leadership & Other Priorities
The empowerment of superiors in leadership skills is an essential issue which should be given priority if we wish to obtain reciprocity between men and women in the developed church. With willing heart, I would like to congratulate TCAS who successfully managed to organize a workshop in leadership for all superior generals, provincials and Regional Superiors last year 2016, in Mafinga – Iringa Catholic Diocese, Tanzania. This strengthened the capacity-building of the Superiors of the Congregations. We greatly honor and appreciate the ASEC organization who assisted us in the financial aspects for running a 5-day workshop successfully.
It was very interesting to see how the government works simultaneously with non-profit institutes. Despite the fact that the Tanzanian President could not attend this big official event of ACWECA Plenary Assembly, he delegated Hon. Mrs. Jenista Mhagama, the Minister of Labor and Employment to represent Him. The minister stated that we Tanzanians are most civilized compared to other African countries who still fight or leave their motherland due to security instability. The Tanzania government is the government of the oppressed and the isolated. They lead smoothly without religious, color or tribal segregation. Nuns and other religious are the mirror of the society. Consecrated women contribute a lot to the development of society. Currently sisters play a big role in moral, spiritual and educational support. Many mission schools run by sisters in Tanzania perform well academically. The virtuous and strong collaboration of Women Religious Congregations in Tanzania influence positive changes in healthcare, environmental conservation, and upright leadership. The government will continue to provide support to the religious congregations for the continued development of society and the nation at large.
To produce good bishops, priests, and sisters there is a need to fight against youths’ drug abuse and all evil which distorts the moral and spiritual growth of future generations. Let’s conserve what we have in our beautiful country of Tanzania: peace, justice, security, and harmony, and thus build Tanzania towards industrialization and good governing in future generations, concluded the minister.
Apart from the presentation from various ACWECA partners, each association had a chance to present the National association report. These reports, mostly presented by the secretary generals, focused on the ACWECA strategic plan implemented by various associations of Sisters. The reports showed the solidarity of the sisters associations in their apostolate in their individual countries according to the needs of the local church.
The 17th ACWECA PLENARY assembly taught me that solidarity of the sisters’ associations is vital to the work of deeper evangelization of the people of God at all levels of the church. I believe that in God’s faith nothing is impossible. God is good and that is why ACWECA flourishes with great success in Tanzania, like a decorated flower vessel. God bless ACWECA, God bless TCAS and God bless Consecrated Women in Africa and in the world at large!