Exploring the Congregation Story and OWITF

PIC: Peter Dowling presenting a session on the Congregation Story

11th and 12th Aug

On Saturday morning Peter Dowling led the group in reflecting on the Congregation story and OWITF.  The opening prayer brought us to Moses at the burning bush receiving his new call to action. The video “The Story of a People led by the Spirit” brought alive the Congregation story from Edmund Rice through successive Chapters to the present.

What followed was a lively and honest feedback session. The burning issues included the rich Congregation history with ups and downs …  throughout which transformation has happened. Another big issue was the importance of education in the West African context and how evangelization might be integrated. The question was raised as to how much consultation happened during the creation of the Proposition and OWITF. The group valued the opportunity for open dialogue now during this programme. The Brothers expressed heartfelt thanks to Peter for spending time with them and listening so openly to their questions and concerns.

Sunday saw Brothers heading to all corners of Bo to join different parish communities for the Eucharist. Some later enjoyed the start of the Premier League with locals in town and the chance to support their team. In the evening the Liguori community prepared a delicious meal for all.

Musings from Umtyrkhrang

PIC: Nurse from nearby Mawhati dispensary giving an awareness program on Prenatal care.

The month of May seemed to be buzzing with activities and meetings. Sunil and Ruvan from the TST
visited the brothers here providing pastoral support to the brothers and walking with us in this
journey. Sunil did follow-up sessions on Non-Violent Communication which the brothers on the
whole found very practical in terms of living together as community and also in terms of dealing with
intra- as well as inter- personal issues. Ruvan facilitated two sessions of reflective sharing of our lives
so far in terms of community and ministry. The brothers here found the same very helpful in terms of
mapping our personal journeys in
Journeying Together.


Another milestone achieved with regards to ministry was the forming of the Mission Managing
Committee. The brothers at Umtyrkhang along with Edwin and Mayfereen had a meeting with 20
selected people of the village in order to form the Mission Managing Committee. Bah Lowis, Bah
Tobias, Bah Justin, Lukas, Kong Rosemary, Kong Regina and Kong Cecilia were chosen by the people to
be a part of the Mission Managing Committee along with the brothers at Umtyrkhang and the PMT
based in Jyntru. A sense of hope for the Mission could be felt at this memorable event. I personally
could feel the butterflies in my stomach as the whole process unfolded.


The brothers then attended the Shillong cluster gathering on the 19
th and 20th of May where the PLT
presented the report of the WPT. Another significant moment in the life of the Province as the
brothers reflected and critiqued the report that pertained to the future ministry of our established
schools. The brothers attended another half day workshop on Needs and Rights conducted by Mayfereen and Edwin.


On the 22
nd, Seema and Marinda, two teachers from Sangram, where I had been working earlier,
visited the brothers. They seemed to enjoy the hospitality of the brothers and even the meals cooked
by us. This was also an opportune moment to celebrate Bipin’s birthday which was actually on the
13
th of May. Due to some emergency he had gone home for a few days. These celebrations are a good
reminder to be grateful for the gift of life and for the wonder of our beings.


From the 28
th to the 31st of May, Romeo and Bipin attended a 4-day workshop on Rural Development
organized by the State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD), while Jockey and Roshan attended a
workshop on Engendering Education organized by WISCOM. Both these workshops indicated that we
are not alone in the type of work that we have committed ourselves to.


We were inspired by the people especially the young who are equally if not more committed to the
vision of Jesus in the present context of the world. It was also a good time to network and collaborate
with people who are working in the development sector, a field in which we are novices. The Social
Justice coordinators visited Umtyrkhang on the 31st of May as part of the Advocacy Workshop. A visit to the houses in the village was organized for them where they interacted with the people. They also had an interactive session with Jockey and myself. The questions they asked, I must confess have helped me to deepen my own understanding of my choosing to be here as I unpack for myself a whole new way of
“being brother”.


The month of June saw turmoil and communal violence in parts of Shillong. With curfew imposed and internets blocked people faced trouble with movement and communication. For us being in Umtyrkhang it did not bother us much as we struggle with communication facilities every day of our lives here. It struck me though that the people here do not think of us as outsiders anymore. In our visits to their homes and listening to their stories I have felt very accepted by them.
Con and Mayfereen visited the brothers on 13
thof June incorporating both pastoral and ministerial aspects of the visitation. The Mission Managing Committee met on the 14th and the names of those selected to the committee was announced. Con and Mayfereen also conducted a short Orientation Programme for the newly elected members of the Committee and the whole process was ritualized by the signing of the appointment letters by the elected members. Again a sense of hope seemed to be looming as the members talked and discussed stories of life as they see and experience.


Con stayed on and did two sessions with the brothers on
Journeying Together drawing us to reflect on our lives here in the context of JT. The sessions helped the brothers to voice out their struggles and questions which I feel are very healthy and relevant and draw us to reflection as we strive to lead a new kind of life and a new way of being brother. He also brought to the fore, the physical isolation we experience, and asked us to reflect on how we coped with the same. On the whole I found the processes and conversations helping me to personalise the reason for our being here.


The brothers took a short break and went to Shillong on the 22
nd to celebrate Jockey’s birthday. Romeo stayed on in Jyntru to attend a training programme on Poultry Farming. Another example where brothers are trying to equip themselves better and trying out things which could be relevant to the work of the brothers here inUmtyrkhang.


The brothers continue to stick it out with the physical discomforts, but we nevertheless are happy and grateful for the experiences that we are having in building communities

Opening Ritual of Ndei Liwa

 

Ndei Liwa is the name of the West Africa Orientation Program which began on 8th August at the Formation House in Bo, Sierra Leone. In Mende Ndei Liwa means “deepening brotherhood’ … going to the core or heart of brotherhood.

Eleven Brothers are participating in the programme which is being facilitated by Ruvan Rebello and Francis Hall from TST.

The opening ritual was a Eucharist for the participants, the local Brothers and their friends – clergy, Religious and lay. It was led by Bishop Charles Campbell. The Mende songs led by St Theresa’s choir added much spirit and energy.

The Bishop shared a message of hope for the future and was most encouraging to the Brothers in embarking on such a time of renewal. He promised his personal prayer and support.

Each participant was asked, “Are you ready to begin the program?” and all answered positively. Then there was a blessing and laying on of hands of each participant. Br Peter Dowling, from the Congregation Leadership Team, rounded off the ritual by explaining that such programs are happening across the Congregation. He thanked each participant for taking part in the program stressing how the future of the Congregation depends on each of them.

In the cool of the evening, a delicious meal was served to all, lovingly. prepared by Jeneba, Sally and team. The conversations went on for a long time as friends reconnected and told their stories.

Creating the Ndei Liwa community

8th & 9th August

The group of ten Brothers from West Africa, along with Ruvan and Francis from TST, and Peter Dowling from CLT, gathered in the Formation Centre in Bo, Sierra Leone for the start of the Ndei Liwa programme.

Ruvan led us in prayer, drawing from John Philip Newell’s The New Harmony about the universal desire for unity.  At the Check-in each shared as to how he was at the start of the programme … many hopes were expressed and others were wondering why they were there.

Now down to the challenging task of creating a new community. Francis explained a helpful process called Standards of Presence. which has 10 norms for living a healthy community. In twos the group explored the meaning of each norm for this new community in Bo.

The group named some of the practical tasks that were needed for day to day living. The large group was invited to divide into two smaller communities who would take on the tasks between them. The groups gave themselves a name. One chose “Liguori” in memory of the late Br Liguori Gillespie, who gave so much the Brothers in West Africa. The other group chose “Pinto”, in honour of Br Philip Pinto whose vision contributed greatly to Our Way into the Future (OWITF).

In the afternoon the group started work on creating a site-specific policy for the Ndei Liwa community for the protection of children/vulnerable adults, as well as other adults the group will come in contact with. It was called a Code of Conduct.

The next day began with a prayer using the image of a river for our life’s journey. The story of Stepping Stones helped the group to realize that growthful steps involves dismantling something of our past habits.

Work on Standards of Presence continued and the group finally agreed on its list of norms, which would be reviewed in a week’s time. Later work on the Code of Conduct was completed.

Finally, the group looked at the spiritual practices for Reflective living for the month ahead, such as Journalling, involvement in parish Eucharist. Evening prayer was a group Lectio Divina on the gospel passage about Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman.

Lines from Limulunga

PIC: Signing on for the workshop on fish farming

Greetings from Limulunga, where we seem to have skipped Spring and are facing our four hottest driest months (August – November), with the rains, we hope, to arrive in December. The mango and cashew trees that shade our Royal Village are in flower, and are literally humming with bees and flies, so that’s a promise of fruit in December too.

Last Tuesday saw us load our 70 brave householders (elderly, disabled and female-headed) with 10 kg of fertilisers, a watering can, a sprayer – and 3 packets of precious seeds. And off they went, trudging through the sand in little caravans, the women carrying the sacks on their head, with a child on their back, and their free hand clutching a watering can or an older child.

It all depends on the seeds – and a decent water supply. We’ll be visiting them soon to see how they are going. And then it will be time to distribute the chickens – maybe 600 of them? This will be fun.

Meanwhile, we’ve met with captains and coaches of sports teams interested in our third sports tournament. This one is funded by Misean Cara (based in Dublin), and we can thank them for the prizes and the refereeing gear. We expect to run six competitions (men and women’s football, men and women’s handball, netball and volley ball) – all on the thick bare sand, of course. The locals are very fit – they race around on sand for 90 minutes, if need be. The World Cup teams have it easy!

Moy Hitchen, Aug 5, 2018

Limulunga newsbytes

PIC: Refreshments break for participants in the Tackling Hardships programme

 

Greetings from Limulunga, where the cold dry season is yielding to the hot dry season. Almost all the rain falls in the four months between December and April, then we dry out – first, with cold winds from the south-east, then the heat returns.

We’ve now run three workshops for our 70 participants in the Households Tackling Hardships project, on vegetable farming, village chicken production, and fish farming. Tomorrow, the 60 who’ve opted for vegetable farming will receive their ‘inputs’ (seeds, fertiliser, watering can, sprayer). Our job will then be regular visits to see how they are going, and to deal with specific problems – whether red mites on the tomatoes or the price of fetching water.

We’ve welcomed a visit from the African Province Leadership Team, in the persons of Clement Sindazi and Tony Shanahan, and they joined us for lunch with our 70 participants. A small but feisty group of young women met with the District Commissioner, to follow up our drama performance and public sensitisation on the risks of Child Marriage.

And we have plunged into the organisation of our third sports tournament for over 300 local youth. We’ll be offering football (men and women), handball (men and women), netball and volleyball – all played on thick soft sand! If you play in the tournament, you are also expected to attend the talks we arrange – on making healthy choices about drinking, drugs, sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, and HIV infection.

 

Moy Hitchen, July 30, 2018

Evaluation of the AST Programme


The day was spend with the Brothers taking the first half of the morning to reflect on the benefits that they received during the Advanced Skills Training Programme.  They then broke into groups to share on their personal reflection for the rest of the morning.  Then in the afternoon the group came together to share on the fruits of their individual and group reflections.  This was a very valuable day and produced some interesting suggestions for future ASTs.

Evaluation of the Community Engagement Workshops and Immersion

Monday was devoted to a detailed evaluation of the PPS’s work with the Brothers for almost a month.  The strength of their work was the fact that they were able to connect the Brothers with a community in a village.  The fact that they had been working with this community made it easy to invite the community into a process that was run by the Brothers under supervision from PPS.  It would be fair to say that many Brothers were not fully satisfied with the quality of the teaching from PPS and Mrs Mgula accepted this criticism graciously.  Overall, the Brothers have benefitted  greatly from the time with PPS and certainly are well-prepared to enter into the ministries of the cluster.

A Day Out!

Saturday saw the Brothers departing from Limulunga for a day a the Makapaiella Lodge, some 16 kilometres away.  Because of the limited transport facilities, David made three  trips to the Lodge, taking four Brothers each time.  The day was most relaxing in a beautifully scenic setting overlooking Lake Makapaiella.  This was a moment of community recreation after the intensity of the previous three weeks.  Everyone enjoyed the day, especially the meal at lunch time!

 

Reflection on Action


Following the experience of the Brothers living for a few days in distant Imalyo, Chris invited the Brothers to reflect on the experience from various angles:  the environment, interaction with the local community, the work of facilitation, the facilities, the sense of community life while in Imalyo.  The Brothers took the first part of the morning for personal reflection of the above topics.  Then, in the second part of the morning, they shared the fruits of their reflection, first in smaller groups and then in the wider forum.  This morning’s sessions proved very valuable in integrating the immersion experience into the context of the Advanced Skills Training Programme.