Questions and Answers

The morning consisted of two sessions where the Brothers reflected on the Proposition, and then reviewed their learnings from the week.  The questions and answer session focussed on the Proposition.  Different Brothers sought clarification on the various aspects of Our Way into the Future, and the life of the clusters that have been already established.  And interesting part of the discussion centred on the question of sustainability.  The Brothers wondered about how sustainability could be acheived in the short or long term. Donal chaired this session and offered some valuable insights into the life and spirituality of the Proposition.  There was also some discussion on the Advanced Skills Training that had been cancelled, and some wondered how the Brothers could be better prepared for ministry in the cluster.

The second session involved the Brothers reflecting their learnings from the week.  They spent an hour of personal time on looking back on the week and then came together to share some of the insights they had picked up over the last week.

Orientation Programme Outreach

The Brothers moved out of St. Joseph’s Centre to experience life in Kibera   They first visited Mary Rice Centre which caters for differently abled children and found the experience moving and challenging.  They then walked through Kibera to witness the biggest slum in Kenya with over a million inhabitants.  Next, they went to various placements which they will be visiting on their next trip to Kibera.  And finally, they met with some of the inhabitants of Kibera to listen to their stories as to how they experience life under very difficult situations.  These stories witnessed to courage and love as people care for each other and work together to make like as good as is possible under tying circumstances.

On their return home to St. Joseph’s, the Brothers met to debrief on the experience and to share their various reactions to the day’s visit to an area of real poverty and an area of real human richness.

Human Formation from an African Perspective

Dr Denis Okiya Phd works in Tangaza University and did his doctorate in African religio-cultural studies, and especially in the culture of Maasai marriage.  He has worked with children and youth, and conducts workshops for small Christian communities. He works for the Maryknoll Institute for African Studies (MIAS).  He has also conducted workshops for small Christian communities on the issue of child rights and responsibilities.

He introduced himself by explaining the origins of his name which came from the friendship between his father and one of his friends. He also explained ‘nominal incarnation’ where the names of people are given to their children in order for the deceased person lives on in the name of the newly born in the family.  Denis went on to explain inculturation, a sense of belonging, identity, dialogue and family.

He talked about a sense of belonging where a temporary attachment can be full of contradiction, laden with feelings of rejection and otherness. He went on to talk about identity where the individual’s search for personal meaning in relation to his or her place within the larger social context in which he or she finds him or herself.

Denis referred to the idea of bi-cultural awareness where we are challenged to study and understand the cultural heritage, including the language of the host culture.  The challenge is to make the insights and understanding of the host culture a permanent part of your emotional and mental reality. Such appropriation leads to permanent change and forms our autobiographical memory. Part of this process involves freeing oneself from the ‘jail’ of one’s own culture, opening the possibility of embracing the new culture.

Denis then went on explain culture as  something that human beings create. It includes technical processes for obtaining food and shelter, conventions for interacting with other people, and ideas about the structure of the world.  He quoted Geert Hofstede’s definition of culture as ‘the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another.’  He then went on to give many examples of cultural practices, explaining the significant of them and pointing out how interpretations of various practices can vary considerably in different cultures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cross-cultural Living

Amandi Mboya, Sunday Otieno and Tom Kearney presented this workshop to the Brothers to assist them to become aware of their inner processes when they are called to live in place very different from their own. They described culture as a gift handed down to us by our ancestors.

They then invited the group to notice how people do differently in Kenyan culture. The Brothers shared their responses to this question, and this discussion raised valuable insights into the challenge of cross-cultural living.
The group shared that some aspects of culture are positive while other aspects are negative. Brothers shared how difficult it was for a person to see the negative aspects of their own culture.

Amandi talked about beliefs, myths, values and patterns as constituents of a culture and how each culture has their own beliefs, myths etc. He then went on to stress the need to learn some cross-cultural knowledge to understand and appreciate differences. In order to learn new aspects of culture, the person needs to be curious and non-judgemental.

The challenge is often to avoid carrying one’s own culture to determine one’s interpretation of the other culture. Many find it difficult to avoid constantly referring back to one’s own culture as the yardstick for judging another culture.
Amandi then went on to outline 5 basic steps to cultural competence:

1. Leaving behind our assumptions about another culture. Assumptions need to be checked out.
2. Empathise with the difference you see, and put yourself in their shoes to see and appreciate their point of view.
3. Involvement is important if we are to come to appreciate another culture. We must avoid building a wall, and cutting ourselves off from the foreign culture. We need to begin to establish relationships with the people of a different culture.
4. Avoid a herd mentality. This refers of a closed and one-dimensional approach which we get from my primary group. Such a way of thinking curbs creativity, innovation and advancement as people are restricted in their thinking and engaging with people of a different culture.
5. Sensitivity is also important in the way I behave in another culture so as not to upset the established culture.

Tom then invited the Brothers to reflect on the qualities and skills they need to enter into a new culture. A lively discussion ensued.

In the afternoon, the Brothers visited the Reuban centre and had a very enjoyable time mixing with the staff and the children.  The children performed for the Brothers, showing their skills and abilities.

Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults

Brother Amandi Mboya, a member of the East Africa District, was welcomed to the group to present some sessions on child protection and the protection of vulnerable adults.  Amandi outlined the seriousness of the issue for the Christian Brothers, and more particularly, for those children and vulnerable adults who have been abused by religious.  He stressed that such abuse is a crime and that the crime will be processed and the abuser brought to experience the full force of the law.

Amandi went on to explain what safeguarding means in this context.  He stressed the need to have procedures in place and to ensure that such procedures are enforced. It is about creating a safe environment for children, vulnerable adults and for those working with them. The responsibility of everybody is to safeguard children and vulnerable adults.  This is a shared responsibility where nobody can remain silent if they witness a breach in safeguarding.

Amandi stressed the idea of power, and how the use of power can be detrimental to the safety of the child or vulnerable adult. Amandi then went on to define who a child and vulnerable adult is.  The age of a child is usually someone under the age of 18.  In different cultures this age may change, but for the Brothers on the OP, the age of 18 is the age that separates the child from the adult.

He then went on to describe what abuse of children was: physical, emotional, ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust, or power (World Health Organisation, 1999 and 2002).

A vulnerable adult is someone who can be wounded physically or emotionally.  A vulnerable adult is someone incapable of sticking up for themselves, someone who is not able to make an informed decision or cannot be seen as fully responsible for their choices and actions.  Anyone under the control or authority of influence of another person is in a vulnerable position.

Amandi talked about various forms of power:

Condign power:where the individual is threatened with something physically or emotionally painful. The other person foregoes pursuit

Compensatory power:offers the individual a reward or payment sufficiently advantageous or agreeable

Conditioned power:change someone’s beliefs through persuasion, education or exposureto prevailing practices

The group engaged fully in the discussion and found the presentation very helpful in clarifying the importance of maintaining professional boundaries.

 

All Work and No Play!

This being Saturday, the group took some time off from the intensive work of the Orientation Programme to recreate together.  We set off in the early morning to spend the day walking in the Ngong Hills.  I suppose this location has been made famous due to the story by Karen Blixen where she writes, “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” The day was spent walking these hills.  Some of the more robust Brothers managed to walk the seven hills, while more were content to walk three or four hills.  It was a glorious day affording us a panoramic view of the Rift Valley, the home of our early ancestors.

At the conclusion of the walk, we had a picnic and a time to relax and chat.  Then, towards early afternoon, we returned back to St. Joseph’s, ready to enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Contemplative Dialogue

The morning prayer was organised by Donal who took the theme of the interconnectedness of all creation.

This was followed by a session on decision making where Alba explained that the decision making process helps a community to solve problems by examining alternative choices and deciding on the best route to take. Using a step-by-step approach is an efficient way to make thoughtful, informed decisions that have a positive impact on your community’s  short- and long-term goals. She began with the idea of discernment, explaining that discernment is not magic, nor is it something that can be just turned on when needed. She explained that the gift of discernment flows from a life stance of reflective prayer.To the degree that one allows the Word to have an effect on the events of daily life, one is learning to discern.

David then introduced the topic of Eucharist, basing the discussion on the homonymous letter of the Congregation Leadership Team which stated: The words of Jesus, “Take you and eat” have often been changed in practice into “Take you and adore”. The focus is changed from personal commitment to living in a Eucharistic way to the host in the tabernacle. A good theology of Eucharist is called for today if we are to live the The words of Jesus, “Take you and eat” have often been changed in practice into “Take you and adore”. The focus is changed from personal The words of Jesus, “Take you and eat” have often been changed in practice into “Take you and adore”. The focus is changed from personal commitment to living in a Eucharistic way to the host in the tabernacle. A good theology of Eucharist is called for today if we are to live the sacrament effectively. We rarely take time to discuss the meaning of Eucharist in community or with friends.

A lively discussion ensued where it became evident that further exploration of this important theme will be necessary.

In the afternoon, Sunil continued his presentation of journaling, outlining the value and techniques that can be used in this exercise.

Spiritual Practices, Journaling and Communication

After our centering prayer, the community came again to pray on the theme of cosmic energy and on the power of the present moment. This prayer was led by Sister Alba who invited the Brothers to become aware of how they were in the present.

Then Donal introduced a session on new ways of praying in the light of Our Way into the Future.  He then shared with the group the content of the pen drive with the various spiritual resources contained therein.  This resource is an invaluable help for our spiritual journey.

Donal then invited the Brothers to share on the following questions:

 

  • What is prayer for you?
  • How do you pray?What do you actually do?
  • When do you pray? What is the best time for you?
  • How did your ancestors pray?
  • Do you continue with any of those early practices?

 

The sharing that followed was a rich experience of a growing realisation that each one had their own style of prayer and that prayer styles change at different times of our lives. Donal stressed the importance of being conscious, of being awake.  Each one, he said, has his or her own image of God.  God is beyond description.  The new consciousness underlines the sacredness of the earth where everything is sacred.

Later in the morning, David introduced the topic of community and communication.  He outlined the idea of feedback and the process of communication between sender and receiver.  He went on to present the idea of generative listening where people move from an open mind, through an open heart until they arrive at an open will.  A lively discussion ensued.

In the afternoon Sunil began to explore the idea of journaling as a method of recording the learnings from the OP, and creating a space for reflection on the impact that the OP is having on the person.

The day concluded with a Eucharist.

 

 

 

Standards of Presence

Sunil introduced the group to standards of presence.  The following are the elements of the standards which the group discussed in detail.  Prior to the session, each of the standards had been assigned to dyads who were invited to prepare a short presentation on one of them.  This proved to be a very valuable exercise in identifying how best to benefit from the OP.  The standards of presence are:

  1. Maintain confidentiality
  2. Adopt a stand for innocence
  3. Practise a positive focus
  4. Connect at a heart level
  5. Claim my experience as my own
  6. Listen deeply with honour
  7. Give only authentic and positive feedback
  8. Fully receive acknowledgement and support
  9. Practise self-care and self-responsibility and allow others to do the same
  10. Be fully present

After the morning session, the Brothers had a half day to explore the local area of Karen and downtown Nairobi.

SWOTTING!

After the morning prayer, Donal introduced the personal growth map which the Brothers had been invited to complete.  The first part of the growth map involved S.W.O.T. analysis where the Brothers shared in their community groups what their strengths (S) and weaknesses (W) were.  The then went on to share the opportunities (O) that the OP was offering to each Brother. And then they looked at how they might sabotage the process were they to underestimate the obstacles that they may face over the next twelve week.

Having shared in community groups, the Brothers then came into the large group to discuss some of the difficulties that they could face during their time.  They shared what they hoped to stop doing and what they would do instead.  This proved to be a very useful exercise.

Then in the afternoon, David continued his explanation of centering prayer and prepared the group for the morning’s regular centering prayer community exercise.