By Paschal Chester, SVD
Small Christian Communities are understood as a new way of being church. Through them parishioners from the same neighborhood come together to form a family where they share their faith and their different experiences. Having being in Kenya for four years, and with the experiences that I have had in the Divine Word Parish, Kayole, Nairobi on the organization of their SCCs, I would like to write this paper drawing insights from the SCCs in Kayole to help in the revival of the St. Theodore Quasi Parish SCCs in the Sunyani Diocese, Ghana.
SCCs were introduced in St. Theodore Quasi Parish in the year 2000. The parishioners in my area used to meet at my family house, but within eight months the whole issue of SCC had died out. What were the causes for this failure?
Reflecting upon it, I have realized that it was due to many reasons both from the parish and in the organization of the meetings. The SCC programs were monotonous (Bible sharing each day) so it did not appeal to the youth and many other people. Only a few people attended and the number kept on decreasing. After having trained the leaders there were no follow up to see what they were doing in their various SCCs. Moreover with the existence of different piety groups (e.g. Legion of Mary and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal), and other groups (e.g. Christian Mothers, Catholic Women Association, and the like), the parishioners found it difficult to find time to attend and participate in SCCs.
I have experienced a new system of SCCs in Kenya. The experiences that I have had in Divine Word Parish have given me some insights that can help in reviving the St. Theodore Quasi Parish SCCs which can go a long way to help the Sunyani Diocese, and hopefully the entire Catholic Church in Ghana.
First and foremost, a seminar needs to be organized for the parish during which the SCCs will be explained to the understanding of each person. The difference between SCC and the other groups needs to be made clear to all the people so that they will see the need to join the SCC in their neighborhood and to find time for SCC meetings.
In a related development there is the need to train SCC leaders. They need to meet once in a while for evaluation during which they can share their challenges and achievements. This will help all the leaders to learn from each other and to be active in their SCCs.
Also the SCCs of the Kayole Parish are divided into different zones that are subdivided into different SCCs. I believe that this way of organizing the SCCs could be applied to the organization of the SCCs in the St. Theodore Quasi Parish. Through it the parish gets to know all the members of the parish. The members of the SCC can decide where to have their meetings e.g. in the houses of the members or on the church compound.
Also the number of people in one group should not be too big, at most 25, so that the members in each group can know themselves and participate actively. This is because the SCC is meant for the parishioners to get to know each other and to live as a family in the neighborhood.
I have realized that the SCCs in the Divine Word Parish keep a register of the attendance of its members. There are people assigned to play different roles in the group, e.g. secretary, promoter, and treasurer. Once SCCs are revived in St. Theodore Quasi Parish, the record of attendance will be kept in a register. Through constant encouragement from the executives I believe that the SCC members will do well in their attendance.
Furthermore there should be diversity in the activities of the SCCs. This is because when there are a variety of activities that appeal to the different age groups, the members are not going to be bored at the SCC meetings. These activities should incorporate all the members so that they all feel that they belong to the group.
Also in order to make the SCCs alive and active, the parish can prepare a weekly roster that will include the SCCs in the cleaning of the church and in the animation of mass. This will encourage each SCC to be well organized in order to serve the church.
Moreover in Sunyani Diocese people come to the Catholic Priest for various recommendations for various purposes. I have realized that in the Divine Word Parish a person cannot get a recommendation from the priest if he or she does not belong to a SCC. This motivates the church members to join a SCC. If that system is introduced in St. Theodore Quasi Parish, I believe that it will go a long way to help in reviving the parish’s SCCs.
Parish SCC Day celebration as I have observed from the Divine Word Parish in Nairobi is another way that the SCCs of the St Theodore Quasi Catholic Church could be helped to revive. This is because during such celebrations as I have observed at Kayole, the parishioners love to participate in that celebration. The celebration unites them as a family and each SCC needs to participate. For them to participate they need to prepare and rehearse. Through the SCC Day celebration, the youth, and children will find the need to join a SCC in their neighborhood.
Also, for the SCC to be revived in the diocese there is the need for the priests to get involved by encouraging their parishioners to join a SCC. The Parish Priest and his assistant at the Divine Word Parish encourage the parishioners to join a SCC in their zone. They also help in celebrating Mass for the SCCs when they are invited. The priests are always present during SCC celebrations and this motivates the parishioners to join a SCC. I have realized that these priests do all these just because they have knowledge and interest in the SCCs. For the priests in Sunyani Diocese to get involved in the SCC, there is the need to introduce a course on SCC in the curriculum of the seminary training. This will help the priests to have sufficient knowledge and interest in the organization of the SCCs.
In conclusion I believe that if the SCCs are revived in the parish, through the SCCs the Catholic Church will be able to reach out to her members easily. The members will be known by the other members of the church. They can share the faith, problems, challenges, joys and sorrows together. It will help the parishioners to discuss and understand better the issues regarding the church, the faith and the Bible readings. It will also help the members of the parish to be active in different fields in their SCCs and they can help the church with those experiences, e.g. we will get dedicated lectors and leaders). It will also help the priest to give good recommendations to the parishioners whenever the need arises. With all these insights I believe that the Sunyani Diocese SCCs can be revived.
Seminarian Paschal Chester, SVD
P. O. Box GP 3285
6 Watson Loop