Tororo Archdiocese Hosts Workshop on “Building Small Christian Communities for Grassroots Evangelization in Uganda”

44 people participated in a Tororo Metropolitan (Ecclesiastical Province) Workshop on the theme “Building Small Christian Communities for Grassroots Evangelization in Uganda" at the Benedictine Sisters Priory and St. Peter’s College in Tororo, Uganda from 4 to 7 May, 2014. Participants included representatives from two dioceses in eastern Uganda (Tororo Archdiocese and Jinja Diocese): one archbishop, 16 priests, 24 laymen (especially catechists) and three laywomen.

The workshop was sponsored by the Pastoral Department of Tororo Archdiocese on behalf of the Tororo Metropolitan (Ecclesiastical Province) and the Uganda Episcopal Conference in conjunction with the Pastoral Department of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA). It is the fifth of a series of national and metropolitan SCCs Workshops in the nine AMECEA countries. The SCCs Workshop was facilitated by Father Febian Pikiti, Mr. Joseph Wasswa and two members of the Eastern Africa SCCs Training Team (Father Joseph Healey, MM and Dr. Alphonce Omolo).

In his opening remarks Archbishop Emmanuel Obbo, the Archbishop of Tororo emphasized that “the success of SCCs will be the success of the Local Church in Africa.” In expanding on SCCs as a new way of being church he said, “SCCs are not a project but a life for our Catholic people.” He emphasized the importance of Word of God, but said that Catholics have not yet taken the Bible as their book. Laughingly he said that when we see people carrying the Bibleon the streets in Uganda we say “there go the Born Again Pentecostals.”

The workshop focused on a participatory learning process that included four small groups by diocese and the formation of six mixed SCCs. This “learning by doing” style showed how we can be enriched by each other’s grassroots SCC experiences as seen in the Ugandan proverb One hand washes the other.

The workshop evaluated the development of SCCs “on the ground” in Uganda:

  • The Catholic Church in Uganda really started SCCs 20 years late. Even though the AMECEA Pastoral Priority started with the 1973 and 1976 Plenaries, Emeritus Archbishop James Odongo summarized:

By 1969 the political changes in national governments [in Uganda] made meetings difficult, almost impossible. For almost 23 years gatherings or meetings were virtually banned. The climate was too hostile for any meaningful apostolate… By the beginning of 1993, relative peace was restored in our country. Our Pastoral Council had its first meeting in almost 20 years. We all complained that the history of our country had hindered our own pastoral progress for almost those same 20 years.

  • Workshop participants reports how different models, and even names, of SCCs emerged in Uganda. The name SCCs was popular in Central, Western and Northern Uganda. Arua Diocese and Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese especially developed very good pastoral models of parish-based SCCs. Using mainly the name Basic Christian Communities (BCCs) a form developed in Eastern Uganda that could be called Small Neighborhood Prayer Groups and Activities Groups. They were mainly a structure of the outstation. Bible Sharing/Bible Reflection was not a regular feature. Members of these prayer groups met daily in their homes to pray the rosary in the months of May and October. BCCs as an actvities group met “on need.”

·         Using the SEE – JUDGE – ACT reflection process/method on critical problems/challenges in the general society in Uganda: “Corruption” (two SCCs); “Domestic Violence,” (two SCCs), “Love of Secular Values,” “Poor Leadership” and “Sexual Abuse.” In the Catholic Church in Uganda: “Adultery,” Cohabitation,” “Dual Worship (God and material things),” “Lack of Commitment to the Faith and Catholic Church;” “Low Reception of Sacrament of Matrimony” and “Mass Exodus of Youth from the Catholic Church.”

The concluding “Message” from the facilitators to Archbishop Emmanuel Obbo stated:

Observations and appreciations

·         The warmth and commitment of Archbishop Emmanuel Obbo to the building of SCCs for grassroots evangelization.

·         The neighborhood BCCs that have been popularly considered SCCs can be described as prayer groups or activity based groups.

·         The availability of the infrastructure provided by existing BCCs is important for building parish-based SCCs in the dioceses as the “Church in the Neighborhood.”

·         The commitment of the workshop participants (priests, catechists and youth) to the building of parish-based SCCs in their dioceses.

·         Issues of finances are distinct aspects of BCCs (SCCs).

Recommendations

·         Establish SCCs coordinating teams (diocese and parish levels) to manage the growth of parish-based SCCs.

·         Establish SCCs training teams to nourish and sustain the building of parish-based SCCs.

·         Encourage the lay ecclesial ministries of different kinds of Pastoral Accompaniers in the SCCs.

·         Prioritise the establishment of Youth SCCs (YSCCs) and youth involvement in the coordination and training teams.

·         Emphasise the involvement of SCC members in the social media and the internet especially to attract youth.

·         Arrange training for the pastoral coordinators on SCCs.

·         Discuss and debate how to find a proper method to handle finances in the SCCs.

Prioritised action points by the participants

 

·         To RESTRUCTURE the existing Small Christian Communities in Tororo Archdiocese.

·         To introduce the WORD OF GOD (Bible Sharing) in the Small Christian Community meetings.

·         To introduce the WORD OF GOD and SCCs Masses in Jinja Diocese.

Other follow-up recommendations of the SCCs Workshop included:

·         A scholarship has been awarded to three leaders (priest, catechist, young person) in Tororo Archdiocese to the September, 2015 Lumko SCCs Course in Nairobi, Kenya.

·         Produce a Small Christian Communities Training Manual (with Facilitators Guide) in both print and electronic formats in the next year.

 

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