Promoting Small Communities in Ethiopia in the Light of Pope Francis’ “The Joy of the Gospel”

35 people participated in a National SCCs Workshop on the theme “Promoting Small Communities in Ethiopia in the Light of Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel” at the Galilee Centre in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia from 17 to 19 February, 2014. Participants included representatives from ten dioceses and various departments and movements including Pastoral Coordinators and CARITAS: 20 priests, 6 religious sisters, seven laymen and two laywomen.

It focused on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel. The workshop stressed integral holistic development and joint pastoral planning in the Ethiopian context. This was stressed in an interview with Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, the Archbishop of Addis Ababa, who expressed support for the SCCs in Ethiopia.

The workshop was sponsored by the Pastoral Department of the Ethiopia Catholic Church in conjunction with the Pastoral Department of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA). It is the third of a series of national SCCs Workshops in the nine AMECEA countries. The SCCs Workshop was facilitated by Father Febian Pikiti and Father Joseph Healey, MM.

Abba Hagos Hayish, CM, Secretary General of the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops Conference, opened the workshop and stressed that the variety of small communities in Ethiopia can help implement the recommendations in The Church We Want to Be: Elements for a Common Vision of the Pastoral Action of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia – a Pastoral Letter of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia.

In the spirit of “learning by doing” participants formed three Small Communities with specific Ethiopia-related Patron names: St. Michael (two small communities) and Blessed Gebremichael, CM for three separate sessions in Amharic, the national language:

·         Evening Prayers: Reflecting on No. 5 in The Joy of the Gospel: Gospel passages on joy and rejoicing.

·         Using the SEE – JUDGE – ACT reflection method/process on nine challenges in the Catholic Church and general society in Ethiopia including: “Poverty;” “Unemployment;” “Migration of young people both from Ethiopia and from the Catholic Church;”  “Ongoing Formation;” “Church and Small Communities;” “Inter-religious and Ecumenical Dialog;” and “Marriage and Family Life.”

·         Lectionary-based faith sharing on the Gospel of the following Sunday: Feast of Our Lady of Mercy (Luke 1: 39-56).

Highlights included a participatory and interactive style of teaching and learning focusing on evaluation, revitalization and the joy of evangelization and pastoral ministry; creating a Slogan and Song on the theme “The Joy of the Gospel is my Strength;” and an African-based DVD, The Church in the Neighborhood: Small Christian Communities that included Segment I on “Life and Activities of SCCs” and Segment II on “Services (Ministries) in the SCC.”

Recommendations for action in Ethiopia included:

·         Train selected pastoral agents on The Joy of the Gospel.

·         Plan and schedule Training of Trainers (TOT) Workshops on The Joy of the Gospel on the diocesan and parish levels.

·         Translate The Joy of the Gospel into the local languages.

·         Make a summary of the document and disseminate to communities and parishes.

·         Create fora for discussion, reflection and sharing at various levels. 

·         Establish Small Christian Communities (SCCs) and evaluate and revitalize the Mahber in the dioceses and parishes.

Contact the author at:

Rev. Joseph G. Healey, MM
Maryknoll Society
P.O. Box 43058
00100 Nairobi, Kenya
Safaricom: 0713-028519 (Kenya)
Telkom Orange Wireless: 057-2522977 (Kenya)
Blackberry: 973-216-4997 (USA)