Report on the Online Young Adults’ Seekers Small Christian Community Gathering Held on Wednesday 9th November, 2022 from 6.

Prepared by: Gerald Mang’era

Members present: Alloys – Kenya, Joe – Kenya, Zenaida – Tanzania, Rabecca – Uganda, Daniel – Mongolia, Ashik – Pakistan, Collins – Kenya, Brenda – Uganda, Mugishagwe – Uganda, Redemptah – Kenya, George – Kenya, Juma – Uganda, Nora – Ghana, Fridah – Kenya, Nimanya – Uganda, Gerald – Kenya, Jenipher, Rafael – USA and Paschal – Tanzania.

The gathering started with an opening prayer from Ainembabazi Rabecca from Uganda. She invited the new members who had joined the gathering for the first time to introduce themselves. Our guest facilitator was introduced by Alloys Nyakundi.

Daniel Lindbergh Lang, Mongolia

Daniel currently working in Mongolia. Before he became peace corps volunteer, he was on mission with St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society in South East Asia.

Norah Noterah, Ghana

Norah Noterah is a lecturer in the Religious Studies Department of Nkwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and a lay Catholic woman in Ghana.

Prof. Rafael Luciani, USA

Rafael Luciani, S.T.D, is a Lay Venezuelan theologian, appointed as Expert of the Theological Commission of the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops. Also, Expert of CELAM (Latin American Bishops Council) and Member of the Theological Advisory Team of the Presidency of CLAR (Latin American Confederation of Religious men and women).

He holds degrees of Doctor in Theology and Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome; Baccalaureatum in Philosophy and Baccalaureatum in Theology from the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome; and Licenciate in Education (with mention in Philosophy) earned from the Jesuit`s Catholic University Andrés Bello in Caracas. He has been engaged in postdoctoral research activities at the Julius-Maximilians Universität in Würzburg, Germany.

He has been Director of the School of Theology at the Catholic University Andrés Bello in Venezuela. He is Full Professor at that same University and Professor Extraordinarius at the Ecclesiastical Faculty of the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College, MA. For over 20 Years, he has taught courses on Christology, Mystery of God, Latin American Theology, Second Vatican Council and Ecclesiology.

Synodality and Synodal Church

Our guest facilitator, Prof. Rafael Luciani defined synodality as a way of being and proceeding in the church. He further stated that synodal church defines the way in which the church is and the church’s acts. He reminded us of Pope Francis’ speech on the 50th anniversary commemoration of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, “…the path of synodality is the path that God expects from the church of the third millennium.” Referring to that speech, he said that relevance of synodality was to introduce us to this millennium with the imagination and creativity of how the church as an institution should be and how it should relate with the social problems and the political realities that we are living in. During the launching of 2021 synod, Pope Francis titled it Synod on Synodality because it a synod in which all of us are to be consulted from the base, people in the communities, to the top. According to Prof. Rafael, counsel and consensus are the practice of synodality because we are in the church that needs to listen and search for counsel to learn. We have to build a consensus from what we have listened and build a communion, and eventually a church that responsibility is shared from elaboration of decisions to the taking decisions.

In addition, Prof. Rafael talked about the institutional model, walking together, that has been stressed in the synod. He mentioned that ‘walking together’ expression has been explicitly defined in the Preparatory Document (No.28 and No.29) of the synod. The Preparatory Document (No.28) states that walking together has to do with the internal life of the local churches and the relationships between the subjects that constitute them. And also, through the participatory bodies that should be created and the communities in which these bodies should be articulated. Walking together helps us to discern if our communities are in places where relationships are built and where participatory bodies and ways of including others are being offered. The Preparatory Document (No.29) further states that the second perspective of walking together considers how the people of God walk together with the entire human family. Based on these definitions, Prof. Rafael explained how inclusion is the core foundation of walking together as people of God in the entire human family.

Furthermore, Prof. Rafael suggested that we should also read a document titled Synodality in the Life and the Mission of the Church that has been written by the International Theological Commission. The document provides a whole theology of synodality and also how the church should be synodal. This document describes synodality as a specific way of living and acting of the church and the people of God. In this case, people of God means that everyone in the church by baptism has the same dignity, duty, responsibilities, and rights in the church. Prof. Rafael also highlighted that as people of God it is important for us to gather together, discern together, and elaborate decisions together. This would ensure in our community everyone is included in the life and mission of the church. Prof. Rafael also talked about how synodality should be practiced and what is needed to work towards the ecclesial model. He said that a participatory church is built through co-responsibility and participation. Besides, creating a synodal church requires listening and learning. By listening we are able to understand the spirit of God that speaks to us through the church. Also, the church as a whole is qualified by means of means of listening processes in which everyone has something to contribute, something to learn, and something to construct consensus.

During the Q&A session, Fr. Joseph Healey asked how can young people have a real voice in decision making in parish pastoral council. In response, Prof. Rafael said that young people should have their own processes of discernment and not to wait for parish pastors to give them space in the parish. He further challenged the young adults in the gathering to write up a document or a letter that expresses proposals and concerns. Through that document young people in the community will have a chance to make their voice public to other people worldwide. Prof. Rafael also responded to questions from Daniel (Mongolia), Nimanya (Uganda) and Ashiknaz (Pakistan).

Prof. Rafael Luciani astute understanding of synodality and synodal church was informative to the Online Young Adults’ Seekers Small Christian Community and even days after the online gathering members continued to share on their Facebook Group the insights they got from the gathering;

Luciani writes: “The experience of Base Ecclesial Communities has shown that communal discernment from below is an effective way to link the processes of decision making and decision taking because, while synodality occurs in the walking, the listening, and the meeting together, it is completed only by the discerning of decisions together.” – Joseph Healey, MM

We are so glad that Rafael Luciani mentioned the importance of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) during our Zoom Call. What he described in Venezuela – “the parish as a communion of Small Christian Communities” – is the same SCCs Model of Church that we have in Eastern Africa (nine AMECEA countries) where we have 190,000 SCCs. – Joseph Healey, MM

Rafael’s insisted on the important role the SCCs/ Base Ecclesial Communities are playing in this Synodal process. He highlighted that people don’t have to wait for Bishops and Priests to organize them but they can organize themselves through the Base Ecclesial Communities.Alloys Nyakundi

Prof. Rafael is well learned personality who has grip on his topic. His words were very easy to understand. As he said that this is first time happening that we are taken as subject rather than object. Pope considering our consent. We need to learn the Church and counsel.  we continuously have to struggle for the positive changes within Church. It is not an easy task but we should keep writing to bishop and priests that what we want. We have to make more and more groups and involved more people with is to clear our stance. Pope Francis wants to hear us so we should put our case to him. We have to work together with clergy as part of the Church. Inclusiveness is the main agenda of Synod so we should not keep ourselves out of it. We all members of the Church are the people of the God.  We have dignity within Church and responsibilities including the same rights. Our contribution is very important for the Church to make decision. We should focus on the participatory Church where we have co responsibilities. Church needs to recognize us. – Ashiknaz Khokhar

The process of listening, encountering, dialoguing, and discerning is essential as echoed by professor Raphael during our last Young Seekers’ gathering on Wednesday 9th, 2022.

Following the sharing, I felt there was a need for sobriety because he spoke a lot of sense by offering guidance on what should be done to undertake the process. It triggered me to reflect on what has been missing on our plate and the approach to take.

Since the synodal process is inclusive of all, it is more impactful because of offering a different experience on how our voices could be heard compared to the synod for the Youth, Faith, and Vocational discernment in 2018. The young people from Kenya were eager to be represented but didn’t have an opportunity to send a representative to Rome.

We have a golden opportunity to be included despite our diversity because the approach considered works for everyone. We should not sit on the margins and hope things work themselves out. We must raise our voices by acting accordingly to avoid being left out.

We are all baptized and sent to make a difference in our undertakings lets march. – Collins Ong’oma

Rafael’s insisted on the important role the SCCs are playing in this Synodal process. In my current parish that is KUCC, we did it so well. He insisted that people don’t have to wait for the clergy to organize them but they can organize themselves. Although in my local church the synodal thing was done poorly, very few people participated. – Redemptah Mutie

My experience with Prof. Rafael is so profound and I do appreciate for his wonderful presentation on Synodality. One thing that I realized in his explanations is that Prof Rafael has got the information on Synodality on his fingertips which is a sign of a high degree expertise on the thoughts of this synod. I curiously joined the gathering to see how the synodal church can be realized and I firmly appreciate the character of Rafael. He is optimistic that we can have a church that is able to move together without segregating one another because of differences in color, race, tribe, talents. A church that is able to teach but also to learn from others. Lastly am grateful for him, when he said that Synodality should not be a method but rather a practice in the life of the church. It is in this that I see the fruitfulness of this Synodality because it will not be something outside ourselves but it will be completely embedded in us. I wish we can have another of that sort prepared by prof. Rafael. God bless you prof. Rafael Nimanya Felix

On Wednesday 9th, I was lucky to be in attendance in our online meeting that was graced by Prof. Rafael, guest facilitator. In recent years, I’ve been coming across the ‘synod’ topic online on some random websites. But listening to Pro. Rafael explaining different definitions of synodality, the important role it plays in church at this age et cetera, was such an enlightening experience. Actually, throughout the session I felt like he was just across the room sharing his wisdom. I was intrigued by his challenge to us that we shouldn’t sit back and wait for invitation from our dioceses for us to be heard. Rather we should develop a document that airs our views on synodality, our concerns and contributions to the topic as young adult seekers. – Mang’era Gerard

The next meeting will be held on 24th November, 2022.

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