Summary of Small Reflection Groups During Tangaza Symposium in February, 2019

Small Reflection Groups

3:10 p.m. to 3:55 p.m.

Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

Tangaza University College

Nairobi, Kenya

 

  1. Selection of the 10 Topics/Themes

There were 10 Topics/Themes for the Small Reflection Groups[1] during the Tuesday afternoon session of the symposium. This February, 2019 symposium built on the themes of the February, 2017 symposium. See Giuseppe Caramazza and Eleanor Gibson, (eds.), Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. Proceedings of the Symposium sponsored by the Institute of Youth Studies (IYS) and held at Tangaza University College in Nairobi, Kenya, February, Nairobi: Institute of Youth Studies, 2018.

Young people on the Planning Committee choose the topics/themes and tried to listen to the concerns and questions of African young people today. Each topic/themes really starts with “Young People and…” The topics/themes were also based on the priorities and recommendations in the Final Document of the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” (October, 2018) http://www.synod2018.va/content/synod2018/en/fede-discernimento-vocazione/final-document-of-the-synod-of-bishops-on-young-people–faith-an.html?fbclid=IwAR141URAAVg-WsCc8YgCwYp_vDUHDprOwRKRfEHvtB0MPwgNh-wbT5ag0PI

 

This small reflection group process is part of “young people peer group small faith sharing communities.” No. 36 under the section “Friendship and Relationship Between Peers” states:

Alongside intergenerational relationships, those between contemporaries are not to be overlooked. These represent a fundamental experience of interaction and gradual emancipation from the family context of origin. Friendship and debate, often within more or less structured groups, offer the opportunity to strengthen social and relational skills in a context in which one is neither valued nor judged. [Small] Group experience is also a great resource for sharing the faith and for mutual help in witness. The young are able to guide other young people and to exercise a genuine apostolate among their friends.

The topics/themes are also contained in Pope Francis, Post-Synodal

Apostolic Exhortation, Christ is Alive, Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 2019. Vatican Website, 2019. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20190325_christus-vivit.html

They relate to what the pope said about fraternal communion and social friendship. Concerning the small reflection group process No. 167 says: “As an African proverb says: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of fraternity.”

The 10 topics/themes of the Small Reflection Groups were displayed on the large screens on Monday and the participants signed up for a special group as they left the hall on Monday afternoon.

  1. Guidelines for Facilitators

Facilitators of the Small Reflection Groups were specially chosen and had prior training in facilitation skills and group dynamic skills. They followed the following guidelines.

  1. Sit in circle (15 people maximum).
  2. Prayer/Song.
  3. Self-introductions.
  4. Choose secretary.
  5. Introduction to Topic/Theme (the content). Prepare ahead of time a key question or statement on the Topic/Theme. An example of a question: “Why are Small Faith-Sharing Communities (SFSCs) important for young people in Africa today?”
  6. Use some group dynamic process to get each person in turn to comment on the Topic/Theme (one minute each).
  7. Open discussion. Short comments. Keep participants on the topic. If necessary, ask a second key question or statement on the Topic/Theme.
  8. Five minutes before the end, have the participants choose two key points/highlights for the secretary to write out and present to the Plenary in the Hall (one minute only).

NOTE: It is important to use the 45 minutes as efficiently and productively as possible. This means gathering right away and starting right away.

III. Summary of Small Group Reflections

There were 14 groups centered on 10 topics/themes.

GROUP 1: ACCOMPANIMENT OF SEMINARIANS AND RELIGIOUS

Religious men and women need to be accompanied in their journey of faith and religious calling. This will enable them embrace their charisms and spiritualties so as to be living testimonies by the witness of their life. Witnessing enables us to be relevant in the modern world thus accompaniment enables one to be active in the modern world.

 AREAS RELIGIOUS MEN AND WOMEN NEED TO BE ACCOMPANIED.

 Factors to consider

  • Age differences in religious communities
  • It is not easy to live together. In a special case the more elderly sometimes judge the young who feel not accommodated
  • It is not easy due to different cultures, it is not easy to harmonize it
  • Lack of openness due to the fact that young people respect the elders and sometimes they find it hard to share

Positive

  • We can learn from them, they have experienced more life situations
  • Can get more values from them
  • Different cultures unite us by bringing religious, moral and religious aspects together

Negative

  • Lack of integration
  • Young people feel denied of their freedom
  • The elderly in most cases want to be listened to but not to listen to others.
  • The shift of period of religious formation is different
  • Young people should be accompanied with regard to the current trends of the modern world

POINTS OF CONCERN

  • Young men and women are formed to be autonomous before joining. When they come to communities they should not be taken as tabula rasa
  • Young people should be taken as active participants and not passive ones. Their freedom should be respected

 

GROUP 2: ACCOMPANIMENT OF YOUNG PEOPLE (LAYMEN AND WOMEN)

 DO YOUNG PEOPLE NEED ACCOMPANIEMENT?

 WHY SHOULD YOUNG PEOPLE BE ACCOMPANIED

  • They are at a time of self-discovery hence guidance and focusing
  • Pitfalls/what to avoid
  • Someone to trust/confide in because of coming from compromised societal values
  • Faced by challenges caused by globalization thereby conflicting cultures
  • The process of transitioning from family dependence to independence (new experiences)
  • Role modelling

HOW SHOULD THEY BE ACCOMPANIED/STRATEGIES

  • Understanding “where they are at” and accompanying them
  • Becoming one of them in order to identify with their language; but with much more experience
  • By listening to them without judging; a presence that is very present (Don Bosco)
  • “Walking the talk” (The aspect of volunteering questioned)
  • Role modelling/living by example
  • Empower them through imparting beneficial knowledge and awareness through youth programs tailored by themselves; appoint them to leadership.
  • Appreciate their efforts thereby encouraging them to make progress/recognition
  • Recreational activities that may act as mobilization platforms
  • Advocacy on their behalf
  • Program support/good will/material/moral support
  • Building self esteem

 

GROUP 3: DIGITAL WORLD (two groups)

 IS IT POSSIBLE TO ENGAGE IN SOCIAL MEDIA IN A GOSPEL CENTERED WAY? IF SO HOW?

Social media is a channel for communication, an avenue for social interaction, and a platform used for entertainment.  The platforms include: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Telegram and Penpal.

Yes. It is possible to engage in social media in a gospel way by using them as a tool for:

  • Sharing short captions of or about God
  • Reminding church members of meetings and events
  • Daily Scripture readings
  • Creating faith-based groups
  • Online congregation. Certain priests help people come close to God by way of preaching – Father Charles Kinyua (Facebook)
  • Sharing of prayers and novenas in Facebook pages like the St. Jude Novena Group
  • Sharing gospel messages
  • Sending/sharing reflections and Scripture readings
  • Reaches many people instantly
  • Sending prayer requests
  • Morning and night prayers
  • Use of YouTube to upload gospel songs and teachings
  • Dissemination of the word in languages across the world
  • Young people use social media to influence fellow young people since we are the highest number of social media users.
  • Young people to be the catalysts of the Christian message through the social media
  • The power of the internet as a tool to spread the gospel

Challenges

Authenticity of the messages/unreliable sources.

GROUP 4: CALL TO HOLINESS

  • A holy person is someone who does ordinary things in an extra ordinary way
  • A holy person is someone who is human, and not self-centered
  • Someone who can live a virtuous life, and able to accept the will of God
  • One who does not engage in immorality.

 

GROUP 5: MIGRATION AND REFUGEES

Political Factors

  • Corruption, not only money but also mental
  • Wars
  • Poor leadership management, both big and small organizations
  • Agencies
  • Political instability

 Economic Factors

  • Poverty (pressure to be rich)
  • Jobs, unemployment (looking for jobs)
  • Better living standards

  GROUP 6: MISSIONARY DISCIPLESHIP

Missionary Disciples are the ones called, trained and sent not on their own but of Christ and it’s a continuous process of learning and sharing

Do we understand the people whom we are going to, especially the youth?

  • Language
  • Needs, concerns and interests
  • Secularized world

Do we really have the aggressiveness, motivation, zeal as well as the skills to bring God to the people?

  • It is the mission of God
  • Facing insecurities, dangers

GROUP 7: VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT AND DECISION MAKING

  1. Vocation and decision making should be taught to the youth. They should be well informed about the process of vocation and discernment
  2. Youth need the level of personal responsibility, good role models and accompaniment in order for them to prosper in life

GROUP 8: SMALL FAITH-SHARING COMMUNITIES

Things that help us to stand out in faith as a Catholic:

  • Sign of the cross
  • sacramentals we use (i.e. the crucifix)

What are Small Faith-Sharing Communities?      

  • Coming together for prayers, helping each other.
  • Helps in understanding the Word of God in a personal level.
  • Smaller unit of the church where the church can grow.
  • Nyumba kumi of the church for helping one another.
  • A way of sharing ideas about God in our small communities (where there are few priests).
  • A church in the neighborhood where we share the Word of God for a better understanding of it and making it practical in our lives.

Importance of the Small Faith-Sharing Communities

  • Helps us form a community of believers once we come together as a family.
  • Uplifting one another by identifying our weaknesses and turning them into our strengths.
  • Transforming the Word of God into actions leading to the development of a holistic person.
  • Helps people to understand more about our faith (via question and answer).
  • Gives the sense of belongingness (unity of purpose).

Challenges

  • The young people are few.
  • The church has not provided enough labor for such forums.
  • Unhealthy competitions among Christians.
  • Discussion about the tasks given by the church.

GROUP 9: SEXUALITY AND AFFECTIVITY – THE CHURCH’S STAND (three groups)

Sexuality

  • relation between me and others (humans and creation)
  • a force that binds a man to a woman
  • it is the whole of ourselves/a person (Emotional, spiritual, physical and social aspects of a person)
  • Recognition of God’s love within me; how God has unveiled/revealed his love within me
  • It is a biological nature of a human being i.e. the expression of being a man or a woman
  • It is the power that move and push us to do something according to the biological nature

Affectivity

  • It is how we control and manage this force (feeling)
  • Who I am attracted to
  • The motivation behind the feeling or attraction towards the other
  • The expression of this love of God with others
  • The need to give myself to the other person
  • Expression of feelings, emotions and attraction
  • Sharing this identity with others in a healthy way.
  • It is part of the human interaction that may or may not be sexual

What are some experiences and what does the church say about it

Ad Gentes – relation

Sexuality in relation to the vow of chastity and celibacy – the show of genuine and pure love for others

Bearing in mind the diverse sexual orientations in our contemporary age. There is a need to respect these people

Need to identify whom I am for example knowing that I am a man and live in that line.  Lack of identification is what has brought about a lot of sexual disorientations like ageism, lesbianism, etc.

Attitudes in relation to sexuality

  • Jung speaks about the attraction between two people, according to him in every man there is a complete image of a woman and the same in a woman. A woman has a complete image of a man. This in a man is Anima while in a woman is Animus.
  • Our responsibility is to advise the youth on how to control themselves until the right moment, e.g. marriage.
  • There is need to broaden our understanding of sexuality
  • Sexual related issues such as, homosexuality, contraceptives, sexual abuse — the Solution is talk about these problems rather than hiding them under the table
  • Transgender issue: Is gender or sexuality fundamentally biological or does it have a social aspect?
  • What is the justification of heterosexuality and others?
  • Homosexuality exists, the challenge is how to deal with it
  • Natural law is the driving force behind the church’s teaching on morality
  • Today we as youth leaders have to help youth by talking about sexuality at the church and at schools

How can we live this out?

  • sexuality is best lived out in relationships
  • We cannot give what we don’t know or have
  • It is a gift which can be abused/misused
  • Having people who are confidants, love, respect, trust, able to be ourselves
  • Loving people for who they are
  • These are not only romantic relationships

 

GROUP 10: UNEMPLOYMENT AND POVERTY (two groups)

Factors contributing

  • Professionalism
  • Capitalism
  • Tribalism
  • Ignorance
  • Corruption

Solutions

  • Training people in job targeted skills not only academic qualification
  • Systems of education to be changed
  • Not to only make the policy but to implement them
  • Manufacture things from our countries
  1. IV. Case Study of the Small Reflection Group on “Small Faith Sharing Communities

 By Francis Njuguna and Joseph Healey, MM

To experience the actual process and content of a Small Reflection Group here is a first person account of one group:

We met in a circle on benches outside on the grounds of Tangaza near the Nuru Building. We were 19 participants – 14 men and five women (university students, seminarians, one religious sister and one priest). There were three facilitators – two young men and one young woman. We found the location quickly, gathered together and began immediately. After the Opening Prayer and Self-Introductions, the facilitator placed a plastic water bottle on the table and spun it around to determine the order of the reflections and comments. First, a man from the left side, then a woman from the right side and so on. The opening key statement was an interesting faith sharing experience: “Name some articles or objects that uniquely identify us as Catholics.” Some answers: Cross. Rosary. Sign of the Cross. Bible.

At this point the reflection group took a different turn. One participant asked for an explanation of the meaning of “Small Faith Sharing Communities.” Two facilitators clearly explained the meaning of these Young People Small Christian Communities (YPSCCs) in the context of the Small Christian Communities (SCCs) Pastoral, Ecclesial Model of Church in Eastern Africa today.[2] Some comments: “They are the Nyumba Kumi Kumi of the Catholic Church in Kenya today.” “Small Faith-Sharing is being the church in the neighborhood.” “Small Faith-Sharing Communities help us to form a community of believers where we transform the Word of God into action and also help one another to understand it.” “Very few young people involve themselves in such communities.”

It was significant that at least 10 participants were taking notes – a sign of their seriousness and engagement. Various people added comments in the context of why SCCs are important for young people in Africa today. There were references to sharing being the heart of SCCs and young people’s need for belongingness. Almost all 19 participants gave at least one comment or question.

Janefiva Momanyi, a Catholic student at Kenyatta University stated: “At the university, we Catholic students and members of St. Dominic Small Christian Community (SCC) encourage our colleagues from other churches to join us in various SCCs activities such as Bible reading, Bible sharing and prayers. We normally question ourselves as to why we should allow our religious diversity to divide rather than unite us, while the same does not happen in learning, sports, etc.” A Catholic sister from South Sudan shared: “In my country the presence of priests in certain parts is rare. So effective community-sharing of the Gospel message is a necessary option.”

A general conclusion was that one way to empower young people to share[3] and to participate in the Catholic Church in Africa today is to provide opportunities for these Small Faith-Sharing Communities (SFSCs) in various contexts and locations: at universities and high schools, in parishes and online.

 

Complied by:

Rev. Joseph G. Healey, MM
Maryknoll Society
P.O. Box 43058
00100 Nairobi, Kenya

0723-362-993 (Safaricom, Kenya)
973-216-4997 (AT&T, USA)
Email: JGHealey@aol.com
WhatsApp: 1+ 973-216-4997
Skype: joseph-healey

 

NOTE: This article was published in the 2019/1-2 issue of the Tangaza Journal of Theology & Mission on the theme “Catholic Church Listens to and Accompanies African Young People Today.”

[1] Additional information on Small Reflection Groups of young people can be found in the free, online Ebook Joseph Healey, Building the Church as Family of God:  Evaluation of Small Christian Communities in Eastern Africa, https://smallchristiancommunities.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Build_new.pdf

[2] More information can be found on the Small Christian Communities (SCCs) Global Collaborative Website (https://www.smallchristiancommunities.org).

[3] It is interesting that in the February, 2019 Poll on the SCCs Website (http://www.smallchristiancommunities.org)  — The best part of my Small Christian Community is… —  the choice with the most votes was: “Safe place for people to share and grow.” The specific results in this Fifty Ninth Round are found at: https://smallchristiancommunities.org/democracy-archives

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