By Msechu Evance Amani, OFM Cap
Mission has been understood for a long time as going out to evangelize. It has always meant to cross borders to other countries for introducing people to the Christian faith. This understanding of mission has truly limited the whole realm of mission to just the “going out” syndrome. By the efforts of the Vatican II Council Decree on Missionary Activity of the Church (Missio Ad Gentes), the Catholic Church came into realization that she is by nature and essence missionary. This realization gave birth to the core of this short practicum paper.
This work aims to see on how Small Christian Communities (SCCs), having planted the roots of being the church, are currently agents for action and mission towards deeper evangelization in Kilema — Legho Parishes in Moshi Diocese, Tanzania. Being a native of these very places, I find it worthy to write specifically on these two parishes that were the cradle and pioneers of SCCs when this idea was officially initiated by the AMECEA priorities. The Decree Missio Ad Gentes laid the foundations on how every baptized Christian is a missionary by the very fact of being baptized. This invitation to share in the missionary nature of the church can work well and be fruitful in the Jumuiya Ndogo Ndogo spectrum. In this practicum paper the name Jumuiya stands for SCC.
When I go for home leave, I always attend the Jumuiya of the Uganda Martyrs in my home place of Legho in Moshi, Tanzania. As a jumuiya we have been meeting every Saturday — moving from house to house among the member families. It has approximately 16 families who meet for prayers. On 31 December, 2016 I was at home for the holiday and the celebration of the New Year with my family. So I went to the jumuiya in the morning, and after the morning prayers and the rosary the gospel was read and sharing followed.
It is here that I got the theme of this SCCs Course practicum paper on how JUMUIYA is an agent for mission and deep evangelization not only in the church but also in the society at large. The reading was taken from the Gospel according to Luke 17:7-10 about the unworthy servants. Other discussions on various issues including family conflicts and individual issues were all sorted out since it was the end of the year. I took part in everything that was going on together with the otherwanajumuiya. When I thought everything had finished, to my surprise the chairperson stood and asked the secretary to give an evaluation of the year that was ending and also to draw the plans for the coming year. All was done perfectly and profoundly and was really promising. I was told this happens in every Jumuiya in the two parishes.
This experience had a deep “missiological image.” I was so much pleased with the whole program. More so I was impressed by the fact of making an evaluation and setting a plan for the whole year. Among the things that caught my attention was how the SCC members come up with the theme “SCC as the agents of action and mission” and how their evaluation and plan had a great interest to the parish church and the village at large. They took the church as theirs – geared towards a participatory church. To my observation, since 99% of the members of this jumuiya are lay people, my striking insight was how are they promoting missionary awareness and sharing their faith with others.
I felt at home when they pointed out these facts. First of all, they are aware of themselves as missionaries. They use the term utume wetu to mean “our apostolate” such as: visiting the sick members and those who are not members once in a month; they take seriously the activities given in the parish like cleanliness, ushering/animating the liturgy, readings and parental care in the families; promoting vocations every year by supporting one member of the parish or a Jumuiya member who feels the vocation to religious life or priesthood to set off for the seminary; they also support the local government efforts on roads leveling and caning those who go to the local clubs for drinking during the working hours to mention just the few. They do their mission in all these areas among many others. To me I evaluate this way to be the best and it’s a sign of a mature church. Similar actions are done in all the Jumuiya of the two parishes.
The only challenge or tension I see is the lack of appreciation from the clergy and the local government. Some church leaders and even government leaders take things lightly and without appreciation. This kills the spirit of mission.
This reflection has encouraged me and has advanced my understanding of mission. It is not necessary to go out to do mission but through day to day activities in our homes we can participate in evangelization to our own needy members of the society. Just like St. Padre Pio and St. Theresa of Lisieux who were missionaries but never went out of their monasteries. Just as the example of the Samaritan woman and Jesus at the well in John 4: 5-42. The woman became a missionary in her own town and many people came to know who Jesus was. Through this understanding I am going to keep my thoughts realistic and apply this understanding to wherever I will be sent as a priest or as a Capuchin friar. My short-term goal is to keep my missionary spirit. My long-term goal is to reach my full potential in mission as a friar. This has triggered me to write my practicum paper on the “new understanding of mission.” It does not end just on writing, but involves my confreres and my friends and the society at large to partake in this mission reality.
Deacon Msechu Evance Amani, OFM Cap
Tangaza University College
27 April, 2017