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Becoming Synodal in Mission, reflection from Africa

Contributed by Fr. Joe Healey, MM, 40 years in Africa and spreading base/Small Christian Communities (SCCs) there

In a webinar on Thursday, 14 March, 2024 on “Church in Africa: Becoming Synodal in Mission,” Bishop Charles Kasonde, the Bishop of Solwezi, Zambia and the Chairperson of AMECEA (the regional bishops’ association of conferences of nine countries in Eastern Africa) spoke on the pastoral care of Catholics in Africa who cannot receive communion (the “Eucharistic Famine”) for various other reasons.

This note is from Fr. Joe Healey, who ministered in Africa for 40 years and remains very active remotely, in Small Christian Communities and supporting youth work there.

  • Those in polygamous unions. NOTE: The Synod has asked the African Catholic Church to discern this challenge and recommend pastoral solutions.
  • Divorced and remarried Catholics (irregular couples). NOTE: This isa worldwide challenge. The “Penitential Path” is one pastoral solution. Blessings of the individuals in such marriages are now permitted.
  • Uncommitted Catholics. NOTE: Again this is a worldwide challenge. Formation, religious education and catechesis are needed. The Small Christian Communities (SCCs) can be helpful in this process.

NOTE: A recording of this AMECEA Webinar can be found on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvrgAEAEdF0 It starts at: 50:05.

We are reminded that there is considerable academic literature on this topic, for example:

Jay J. Carney, “The People Bonded Together by Love: Eucharistic Ecclesiology and Small

Christian Communities in Africa,” Modern Theology 30: 2, April, 2014, https://www.academia.edu/8361392/The_People_Bonded_Together_by_Love_Eucharistic_Ecclesiology_and_Small_Christian_Communities_in_Africa

It is sad to me that Doctorate Theses, Master’s Theses and Long Essays are being written in universities, theological institutes and seminaries in Africa (in French, English and Portuguese) on such topics and folks in the West do not know about them. Here is an example from a Master’s Thesis that I supervised at Tangaza University College in Nairobi, Kenya.

Sylvester Chimenge, “Interview with Jane Njenga on Polygamous Marriages and the

Eucharistic Famine” on 10 November 2015 in Small Christian Communities (SCCs) as a

Platform for Continuous Catechesis in Eastern Africa — Opportunities and

Challenges: Case Study of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish South B, Nairobi, Kenya,

Nairobi: Unpublished Master’s Thesis in Pastoral Ministry, Tangaza University

College, 2016.

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