Laudato Si

Wednesday was a half day with classes only in the morning, following the pattern of previous weeks.

The morning prayer continued the Easter theme, with a reading telling how Mary turned twice before she recognized the Lord. We reflected on how we find it difficult to recognize the Risen Lord and in what circumstances we find it easier to do so.  The prayer also raised questions as to how our lives have been impacted by the Easter happenings.

The two sessions in the morning focused on Laudato Si. Discussions ensued around how the church, parish and community members are taking responsibility for care of the earth as well as what further steps we could take.  Some were questioning whether the church in general, and our own communities have a focus on care for the earth or are we lagging behind other organizations.

A second session used a video which featured Denis Edwards, Australian theologian, who led us through theological and spiritual aspects of Laudato Si. A second part of this comprised a panel of people teasing out the implications of Laudato Si and giving consideration to moral aspects of care for the earth.  All enjoyed the break in the afternoon for catching up on domestic chores and contacting friends.


On Tuesday 23rdthe Brothers in the Orientation Program welcomed Sr Lynette and Br Michael Godfrey to lead the group in a week of study on Cosmology.

The focus of this week is on Cosmology. The Morning prayer included a reading of the Genesis creation story followed by a viewing of the video “The Dream’.

At the opening of the first session Michael lead a discussion around the Assembly oft repeated statement of a ‘confusion around spirituality’. Some clarifications were made about how spirituality differs from person to person but the Congregation through its Chapters offers pointers to us about our spirituality. The Congregation pointers emphasized that our spirituality is inspired by the evolving universe story as well as by the new understandings of Jesus and the example of Edmund.

Time was given to reflections on ‘The Journey of the Universe’ which focused on how the story we now know of our universe through scientific discoveries has impacted on our theology and our understandings of God and of church doctrines.

In the afternoon Lynette set up a cosmic walk and used the spiral to highlight the evolution of the universe and the place of the earth and the human in this evolving story. Much discussion followed and this was rounded off by viewing ‘The Awakening Universe’. In the evening Michael led us through the sharing of bread and wine, taking the story of Jesus on the shores of Galilee and the disciples catching the great haul of fish as a lead-in to the invitation to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.





The Africa Province Assembly

The Orientation Programme took some time out to allow the Brothers to attend the Africa Province Assembly which took place during Holy Week.  From all accounts, it was a very successful gathering of Brothers from all the Districts of Africa.  In all, 113 Brothers attended.

Harvesting and the CLT

The morning was spent harvesting the learnings from the previous week’s workshops as well as spending time with the Congregation Leadership Team.

The first part of the morning had the Brothers reflecting on what they had gained from the workshops on nonviolent communication and the Edmund Rice mission.  The Brothers had been given a reflection sheet the day before so that they could begin to consider the benefits that they had gained from the week’s inputs.  Then, in the morning they had further time for person reflection before coming together to share the fruits of their time alone.  This was indeed a rich moment of exchange and showed how beneficial the workshops had been.

Then the second part of the morning consisted of a discussion with the newly arrived CLT who are in Africa for the assembly that begins this evening.  Brothers felt free to ask some very important questions to the CLT and the dialogue between both parties was truly generative.

So, for the five days or so, the Brothers on the OP will be away at the Africa assembly, and the OP will continue next Tuesday.

Edmund Rice Mission and Ministry- Day 4

Francis continued his workshop by showing the video of A People Led by the Spirit which outlined the development of the Congregation since its earliest foundation, and leading to the present day.  Then he invited the Brothers to reflect on the message of Philip Pinto, the then Congregation Leader, who encouraged the Brothers to dare to face the new challenges that the agenda of the world was presenting to us.

Later, he continued the conversation on the life in the clusters in Western Province, Zambia and in India, and this lively discussion continued for quite a while.

Then, the Brothers presented the various ministries that they are engaged in and reflected on how these ministries reflect the changing face of the Congregation and the renewed vision of ministry.

In the afternoon, there was an open forum where the Brothers had the opportunity to discuss some crucial matters concerning especially the Africa Province.  This lively discussion was in preparation both for the forthcoming assembly and for the imminent visit of the CLT to the Orientation Programme.

Edmund Rice Mission – Day 3

Francis continued the workshop on Edmund Rice mission by focusing on the framework document where it outlines the mission of the Congregation.  Words like compassion, liberation of the people, the marginalized, mutual transformation and human rights all point to the direction that the Congregation is taking.

Francis invited the Brothers to reflect on the challenges that they are facing in their ministry, and to consider where the Lord is calling them in response to the changing needs of our time.

Francis then introduced a film that described the work of the Good Shepherd Sisters who were working with the poor of Kolwezi who were suffering from the work they were doing in the cobalt mines.  Gradually the Sisters established education centres for the children and women to offer them an alternative to the dangerous work in the mines.

Francis then encouraged the Brothers to reflect on the work of the Good Shepherd Sisters and to make connections with the mission of the Christian Brothers.

In the afternoon, Francis presented a PowerPoint on life in the clusters, and this led to a lively discussion on various aspects of this initiative.

Integration Day

Today, the Brothers went to Dimesse Retreat Centre and Mwangaza to spend the day in quiet reflection on the material that they received over the previous four weeks.  This time of integration focused on the idea of transformation that often occurs in the darkness and silence of one’s heart.  By way of help to deepen their reflection, the Brothers were given a page which focused on this idea of transformation.  Part of the page is reproduced below.

The most significant events in the life of Jesus, – his birth, his arrest, his death, his resurrection – all took place in darkness….sometimes darkness yields the most extraordinary events.
Everything incubates in darkness. Whenever new life grows and emerges darkness is crucial to the process. Whether it’s the caterpillar in the chrysalis, the seed in the ground, the child in the womb, the True Self in the soul, there’s always a time of waiting in the dark. Jesus told us that we have to be born again, but for that to happen there must be a period incubating in darkness during which we are receiving a loving call from God to move into a wider and deeper dimension of the spiritual life. Old religious acts no longer bring the consolation they once did. Former patterns and selves feel like outgrown sweaters.

  1. What newness is God calling me towards?
  2. What are the patterns that need to be shed so that my true Self can emerge?
  3. What are the wounds that need to be healed?
  4. What is coming to birth in me?

Transformation time is a time for nourishing soul, the deepest part of my self, the dwelling place of the divine within. How am I nourishing my soul?

“I beg you ….to be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without then noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Name two big questions from each module you are currently living with. Write these questions down in your journal and allow them to sink down deep into your heart.

What does it feel like to be living with questions for which you do not have answers?
Transformation time involves sitting in the dark with unanswered questions. Is it possible for you to do this?

The Sustainable Development Goals

The day was devoted to sharing information on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The day was facilitated by Sister Lynette Rodrigues who had been intimately involved in the preparation and drawing up of the SDGs at the United Nations.

Lynette outlined the history of the development of the SDGs, beginning with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and showing how the MDGs focused on the developing world, while the SDGs are more inclusive because of the wider focus – care of the planet.

Lynette stressed that the SDGs came from the grassroots instead of being a top-down process.  Two years of discussion and dialogue preceded the final publication of the SDGs, and each year there is a monitoring and evaluation of some countries to check their progress in implementing the SDGs.

Then Lynette went through each of the SDGs, explaining the implications of them, and outlining the action steps that need to be taken to reach certain targets by 2030. She then distributed SDG cards to each of the Brothers and invited them to review each one and see how they fitted into the social, economic and environmental dimensions.

Lynette stressed the universality of the SDGs, showing how they are all integrated and interconnected as they seek to transform people and the planet.  She pointed out that the SDGs seek Peace, and Prosperity for the Planet and People through Partnership (the 5 Ps)

Finally she divided the Brothers into their various country groups and invited them to reflect on what each country was attempting to achieve the various SDGs.  In addition, she challenged each group to see what they could do at the local level to progress the various SDGs.

Edmund Rice Mission

The morning prayer introduced the theme of the Edmund Rice mission where the Brothers reflected on quotations from the Christian Brothers Constitution.

Francis Hall then introduced the theme of the Edmund Rice mission and sought from the Brothers their exceptions for the four-day workshop.

He then outlined some of the salient moments in the life of Edmund Rice, to stimulate discussion on the current ministries of the Brothers in Africa.

Later in the day, the Brothers presented symbols to highlight the various dimensions of ministry and mission in the Africa Province.

With Empathy there is no blame!

On the final day of the NVC workshop, Sunil stressed the importance of laying a good foundation   as we seek to express ourselves and communicate what is alive in our hearts.  As wells as this self-communication, he also pointed out the challenge to connect with what is alive in other people’s hearts.

He then explained the four types of listening when we are hearing messages that are difficult to accept:

  1. We can hear the difficult message of blame and respond with blaming others
  2. We can hear the difficult message of blame and blame ourselves
  3. We can hear the difficult message and be in touch with our own feelings and needs
  4. We can hear the difficult message and be in touch with the feelings and needs of the other person

The Brothers then practised these four ways of hearing using actions and words so as to imbed the idea for future practice.

The morning concluded with Brothers sharing some of the valuable learnings that they acquired over the three-day workshop.