Small Christian Communities (SCCs) in Tanzania

NOTE: This is the text of a talk that Sister Rita Ishengoma, STH gave several times in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, USA in August, 2007.

A.  Year of SCCs in the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: 20 March 2006 to 19 March 2007

The network of over 2,400 parish-based Small Christian Community (SCCs) present in the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania gives each parish a special new way of “Deep Evangelization” which turns the parish into a living brotherhood/sisterhood and an apostolic “community of communities.” This way of life starts from the grassroots level up. To enhance this ongoing formation the archbishop, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, announced 2006/2007 as the “Year of SCCs” throughout the archdiocese. It was inaugurated with a solemn mass at the cathedral on the feast day of St. Joseph, the Patron Saint of the Archdiocese (celebrated on Monday, 20 March, 2006 because of Sunday liturgy). To emphasize joint participation in building SCCs symbols were used to demonstrate the importance of working together in evangelization. Every SCC animator (Chairperson) brought a candle that was lit at the end of the mass from the Big Easter Candle to symbolize the Risen Christ in each community. All Parish Priests ate salt given by the cardinal at the end of mass as a sign of spreading Good News to their communities and being the light and salt of Christ to all people.

After this challenging liturgical service, work began anew throughout the year and onwards. SCCs underwent deep evangelization by articulating the Word of God and praying together once a week from home to home, through shared charitable activities, strengthening their families and bringing up together their children with a common vision. This is very successful because all are parishioners without social, economical or special interest distinctions. They are able to help neighboring families to live in the spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood and a sense of spiritual togetherness. There is not a parish in the archdiocese without SCCs and the number is increasing. The way of life of International Small Christian Community Twinning (Sister SCCs or partner SCCs) was introduced in the archdiocese about 10 years ago. See Chapter 23 on “Reenergizing International SCC Twinning” in Small Christian Communities Today: Capturing the New Moment. Twinning has brought about changes. We have friends, brothers and sisters all over the world. We break the barriers of cultures, boundaries, etc. Other means used to nurture the implementation of SCCs are Radio Tumaini, the Archdiocesan Radio Station and the Tumaini Letu, the Archdiocesan Newspaper that continue to broadcast and circulate events of SCCs.

B.  Inauguration of the Book Small Christian Communities Today: Capturing the New Moment (Orbis Books and Paulines Publications Africa)

This was done during the opening mass at the offertory. The book, in Small Christian Communities Today: Capturing the New Moment, was handed to the parishioners to be used as a tool of reenergizing SCCs. Some chapters of the book had been discussed and promoted during various talks and seminars and through questions and comments on the archdiocesan radio station Radio Tumaini. Thus the book reflects not only opinions of the writers but the practical way the SCCs are run, the problems encountered and solutions to the problems.

  C.   National Year of Small Christian Communities (SCCs): May, 2007 to May, 2008

The success of this “Year of SCCs” in Dar es Salaam led the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) to declare the following year as the “National Year of SCCs.” The National Year of SCCs was inaugurated on 27 May, 2007 (Pentecost Sunday) in every diocese. On 1 July 2007 during the Plenary Meeting of the Bishops, major religious superiors and leaders of the laity participated in events at the headquarters in Dar es Salaam especially a solemn high mass concelebrated by all the bishops at the archdiocesan cathedral. The bishops confirmed the implementation of the AMECEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa) “Pastoral Priority of Building SCCs.” In conclusion, SCCs in the eight AMECEA countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) are not only an essential object of pastoral concern, but a main and indispensable subject of pastoral life in each parish. 

Sister Rita K. Ishengoma, STH is a sister of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Congregation with headquarters in Bukoba Catholic Diocese, Tanzania.  Presently she is working at the Msimbazi Center in Dar es Salaam Archdiocese.  She a journalist by profession and has written extensively on SCCs and pastoral topics.  She participated in international SCC meetings in the USA and Bolivia and is a contact person for international SCC twinning. She is a member and animator of several SCCs in Tanzania.

Sister Rita Ishengoma, STH
Theresian Sisters
Msimbazi Centre
P. O. Box 2428
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Email: rishengomak@yahoo.com

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