Standards of Presence

 

 

The day began with prayer which took the theme of ‘change is the key’ and concluded with the moving song, ‘Dare to Dream’.  Then the main focus of the morning was the Standards of Presence, a process that enhances learning and provides the learner with guidelines for more effective integration of new ideas.  The idea of the Standards of Presence is an element of the Inspired Learning Model devised by Peter J. Reding.

It offers learners a way to be involved in the co-creative process so that the learning is more easily facilitated.  During the morning five Brothers (Peter,  Joseph, Ian, Ackim and Bill) presented the first five dimensions of the Standards of Presence.

Following their presentation, the Brothers took some private time to reflect on how they could integrate the elements into their approach to the OP.  And finally, the group shared their wisdom on the elements:

Confidentiality

Adopting a stand for innocence

Practice a positive focus

Connect at a heart level

Claim my experience as my own

Cultural Life in Ghana

Today we began with a simple ceremony of welcome to Amandi Mboya who had just arrived the previous day to attend the OP.  Then Donal led us in a prayer which stayed with the theme of the journey.

The main part of the day was devoted to an exploration of the culture of Ghana.  Fr Joshua Gariba, the Director the Tamale Institute of Cross-Cultural Studies (TICCS), was our chief presenter.  Fr Joshua, a Divine Word Missionary priest did his Doctorate on cultural anthropology at the university of Louvain, and offered us a fascinating insight into all aspects of the social, political and religious dimensions of life in Ghana.

Getting to know you!

After some words of welcome from Br David, the day began with the participants introducing themselves, and sharing something of their family and community from which they had come.  In groups of two, they then went on an Emmaus walk with a companion to share how they were feeling about the OP.  The Emmaus theme was continued as the Brothers broke bread and drank wine to remind us of the early Emmaus eucharist.

The next exercise took up the rest of the day where the Brothers took some personal time to reflect on their strengths that they were bringing to the OP, their vulnerabilities, some obstacles that might prevent them from benefitting from the programme, and the opportunities that could arise to grow more deeply into the spirit of Journeying Together.

The Opening Ceremony of the Orientation Programme in Tamale, Ghana

The opening ceremony of the third Orientation Programme took place in Tamale, Ghana on Sunday 17 September.  It was a moving event with the Brothers assembling to enter into this significant event in the life of the Congregation of Christian Brothers.  Guests from the local area added to the celebration.  We were delighted to have Archbishop emeritus Gregory Kpienbaya and the Vicar of the diocese, Fr Matthew Yetiere.  The FMM Sisters and a Sister from the Msola Congregation were present as was a representative of the White Fathers.  Brothers Allan and John from the Presentation Brothers community were also there as well as  Fr Christopher, and Monsignor Andrew, our neighbours at Br Paul Noonan Formation Centre.

It was a real blessing to have a representative of the District Leadership Team from Sierra Leone, Br Andrew Turay, who is visiting the Brothers’ Choggu community.

The ceremony began with dancing from the students of the Brothers’ Secondary School and the ceremony of the calabash where the invited participants were offered water as a way of welcome to the stranger.  The choir from the parish of Saints Peter and Paul provided some beautiful singing at the beginning of the ceremony as well as at key moments of the paraliturgy.

The Brothers who will participate in the OP are: Ackim Lucinda Simasiku, Alysious Yusifu Sefoi, Amandi  Mboya, Bill Colford. Bonaventure Muunga, Dominic  Kargbo, Emmanuel Allieu, Joseph Kapalua, LeoLiyungu, Peter Malama, Clifford Scott Bock and Ian Robertson. Amandi did not make it for the opening ceremony, but we hope he will arrive today.

During the liturgy Br Chris Meehl gave an inspiring talk on the significance of Journeying Together, and each participant expressed their readiness to enter into the process when they were invited for form the inner circle where they brought a lighted candle to affirm their commitment.  The closing of the ceremony had the invited guests extending their right hand in blessing over the Brothers for the OP.  And the choir ended with the song, ‘We are Companions on the Journey’.  Light refreshments followed where people could mingle and get to know each other.

Chris Meehl explains Journeying2gether.


Journeying Together

A JOURNEY OF BROTHERS         

 

Friends. Welcome to our gathering today and thank you all for coming. We are here for a special reason – to support our Brothers here, on their journey – Enter the New Country

You who have recently arrived in Ghana. It is a journey into many unknowns … people, climate. Some of you have lived in Tamale previously and so maybe your journey is to the unfamiliar places of your heart. One thing is certain – stay on the journey and you will find God and each other in ways beyond your wildest imagination. As the two disciples said after encountering Jesus on the road, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us …?”

Why is this journey among Christian Brothers happening now? Let me go back a little and explain …

For most of my lifetime we Brothers have been hearing a call of the Spirit at our Chapter meetings to move and be changed. In 1984 the Brothers heard very clearly the call of Luke 4: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.” This ‘move to the margins’  that is  To live more simply, and closer to people who are poor has been going on throughout the Congregation since then, not least here in Tamale at the school in Kanvilli  Complex

But ‘moving to the margins’ isn’t easy and living there, is even harder. There was a growing realization that there needs to be changes in the way we lived our community and spiritual lives together, if we were to sustain these new communities.

We were most encouraged by Pope Francis in following this risky journey, when he said to Religious: “Don’t be afraid of the newness that the Holy Spirit works within us. Don’t be afraid of the renewal of structures. Jesus teaches us in the gospel the freedom that we need to embrace this newness … to choose new wineskins for this newness.”

A process of discernment as to where the ‘new wineskins’ would be located led to the new communities in Western Zambian and soon in North East India, where there are many needy people living in very poor circumstances, especially in rural communities .The Brothers will be living and working in these communities. In order to prepare these Brothers, a training program was designed which lasts for seven months with three phases … an Orientation Program, a Skills Training program and a local Language and Culture program.

Today here in Tamale, the Brothers are starting the first phase, the “Orientation Program”. This focuses on the learning of a “New Way of Being Brother” through deepening community and spiritual living. We hope that many of you will come back here to the Br Paul Noonan Centre before Christmas (December 21st) when the program ends, and will be able to see the difference!

These men are in for an exciting three months. They will have sessions with experts in the fields of community dynamics and group processes, Christian spirituality relevant to the 21st century, evolving Religious Life and many opportunities for reflection and sharing. They have a wise and experienced Orientation Program Team in Sister Brigit and Brothers David and Donal.

There is a proverb in Africa which says, “It takes a village to raise a child”. I think the wisdom is that for the growth and overall wellbeing of individuals and society, many people need to be involved.

Indeed it has already taken the support and encouragement of many to reach this day. Thank you to all those  Brothers and staff for so much support. Thanks too to our sister organisations … … and fellow Religious from local communities and our Brothers at   Choggu Community – Paul, Patrick, Eric and Victor. Also our dear friends the Presentation Brothers with whom we share a common Founder – Edmund Rice.

There is an African saying ‘A friend is someone you share the path with’. We are grateful to have many friends who share the path with us – a journey to a new country.

I want to end with some more words from Pope Francis. This time from his powerful letter “Laudato Si” or “Care for our Common Home”.

“In union with all creatures, we journey through this land seeking God. Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope?  God’s love constantly impels us to find new ways forward.”

 

 

 

 

The TST Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The TST team comprises Sr Brigit Mathew, a  Presentation Sister who has been  involved            with the Christian Brothers for many years.  She was on the  Province  Renewal Team in Zambia for a number of years, and is now working with the TST in running the OP.  Brother Chris Meehl    hails from Australia and is a member of    TST.  Donal Kirk and David Gibson are also on the TST and have been involved  in  running the previous two OPs in Zambia and India.

Already we are receiving messages of good will from around the Congregation and our hope is that Brothers can follow the daily progress of the OP on the website.  In doing this, the Brothers unite with us as we journey together.

Community engagement workshop

PIC: Fr Xavier Manjooran and Sr Marykutty presented a two week program on Community Engagement

Our facilitators for the week came all the way from Gujarat. Fr Xavier Manjooran, SJ and Sr Marykutty, CM are very experienced trainers in the  Training for Transformation (TfT) approach to Community Engagement. TfT is well known to many of our Brothers in Africa.

TfT aims to develop the participant’s ability to critically analyse the world and make connections between power and interests, people and positions, economics, the social fabric of society and politics – what Paolo Freire called ‘conscientising’.  TfT is an adaptation of Freire’s key principles of education for conscientisation and action, leading to “Education as a practice of freedom”. It is a means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

This sounds “heavy” and serious!  The exercises and sessions which unfolded during the week were far from heavy. They were participative, highly engaging and fun. Yes, the content was serious … as serious as is a thoughtful gospel engagement with our world, its peoples and processes, as Journeying Together sets out to do.

The key focus for the week was: “How do you enter into a new community? What are the things you need to understand and learn regarding that community  to engage yourselves there?”

One exercise listed all the correct attitudes you would hold on entering a new place.. .listen respectfully, be patient, don’t judge etc. This was followed by another simulation exercise when participants arrived in a village not knowing the language or culture and trying to engage with the people there. They could not be understood, were nearly sent away and generally struggled. A telling reflection by a participant was that all the nice talk about listening respectfully went out of the window when they were on the ground faced by strange people! Another telling reflection: “We need prayer and humility for acceptance of another community.”

A major theme covered was “Causes of Poverty”. This included reference to the thinking of Antonio Francesco Gramsci. The two circles game showed how the dominant group which is a rich  and powerful social elite, takes over the people who are weak and marginalized.  Our potential role was described thus: We can deliver our intervention skills to the marginalized people and also to the  middle class through awareness, leadership and networking with like-minded groups to work through the system.

Another theme of equal importance was Gender Justice. After much discussion there was agreement that awareness and sensitization workshops should be done with  Brothers, men, women and youth groups as guidance for gender justice and gender equity.

At the end of the week Fr. Xavier summed up: “We like the group, who are very enthusiastic, They have come up with some creative points. The elders have been very impressive.” Sr Marykutty expressed her viewpoint: “I enjoyed being with the group. Everyone is very expressive and has taken keen interest in the exercises given. I wish you Brothers all the very best for your new journey.”

The week ended with an Integration Day with the help of spiritual direction, to pray and reflect on an eventful week for the Advanced Skills Training participants.

A thought from the week:

“ The Spirit works when we are in the midst of community. At his baptism Jesus entered into the waters of Jerusalem. It means he entered into the lives of people and the answer for us lies there too”  

Journeying Together during the Third Cluster

As the time approaches for the third Orientation Programme (OP), preparations are underway to have everything ready for the arrival of the Brother participants. The theme of the third cluster is ‘Journeying Together’ where we seek to invite the Brothers to engage with the programme fully and actively. The idea of journeying together has many echoes in the Bible, and we hope that the Emmaus story will play a significant part in the whole programme.

During the fourteen-week programme, we will keep you informed each day of what the Brothers are learning.  We request that your prayers accompany us on this sacred journey.

The facilitators for this OP are:  Sr Brigit Mathew, a Presentation Sister, and three Christian Brothers: Chris Meehl, David Gibson and Donal Kirk.

The OP begins on Sunday, 17 September with an opening ceremony to which are invited local religious and priests from our parish.  We will have the local Brothers’ community and that of the Presentation Brothers.

AST Shillong: Advocacy Workshop

PIC: During a presentation by one of the groups during the Advocacy workshop.

From 28th – 30th  August 2017,  the group was taken up with the topic of Advocacy with Br Steve Rocha being the Trainer. He is the Director of PRATYEK, the Christian Brothers NGO  that engages children in advocating for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The group was also blessed with the presence of Mr Habib who works for “RAISE North-East” here in India. This is the umbrella organization for NGOs committed to enabling differently abled young people to access and benefit from mainstream education.

The main objectives to be covered in this three-day training on Advocacy were:

  • Understanding of Advocacy and how it differs from the “charity model”.
  • Importance of advocacy in today’s world for Christian ministers of the gospel/ religious Brother
  • Understanding of a “Rights Based Approach” to community engagement
  • The Kenyan/ Indian context for advocacy with some case studies and stories
  • How to cultivate advocacy awareness when entering a marginalized community
  • Creating a model outline Advocacy Plan for use by the Brothers once in a Cluster

The training started by listing the expectations of the participants. One of the participants asked “ How does advocacy play out in my Congregation and community?”

Then many participatory exercises were done on advocacy: the Problem Tree, Self Evaluation and Advocacy, Advocacy Planning, Human Rights as Needs/ Rights Based Approach, Media Campaigning. The trainer clarified what human rights are and the mechanisms promoting international Human Rights..

Throughout the 3-day training Bro. Steve used the Thich-Nhat-Hanh (bell) method which is a mindfulness exercise which every 30 minutes helps to restore the mind to the present moment and to restore clarity and peace within.

Brother Steve reflected on the Nine is Mine campaign which is a participatory children’s campaign to demand their right to basic health and quality education. The advocacy campaign is to place children at the centre of the promotional effort enabling them to speak in one voice to demand 9% of the Gross domestic product (GDP) to be committed to health and education. He shared how his organization, PRATYEK, has been involved in the advocacy planning and campaigning for the Nine is Mine campaign.

AST Shillong: Understanding Project Cycle Management

PIC: Khilesh Chaturvedi facilitated the week long workshop on Project Cycle Management.

August 21st – 25th was dedicated to Project Cycle Management Sessions facilitated by trainer, Khilesh Chaturvedi who is a free lance consultant in this field, training many agencies and corporate houses all around India and Asian countries.

The main objectives to be covered in this five-day training were:

The participants will develop practical insights into developing projects and a monitoring system, by using the appropriate terminology through practical work accompanied with feedback from the trainer. The participants will also receive practical tips on implementation of projects.

The Trainer, Khilesh, clarified some of the terminologies and conducted the training based on a participatory methodology. Each of the Brothers participated with full enthusiasm. Many questions were raised on how to start work with the community in the first place and what were the methodologies to be used. The plenary and Group Discussions on issues  relevant to the local State of Meghalaya helped each participant to understand the process of Project Cycle Management starting from Situational Analysis – Planning –  Executing – Monitoring – Evaluating. The trainer also reflected on his field experience with different organizations  and how in spite of having many obstacles he along with his team was able to overcome the hurdles and so make the programs effective.

The exercises given to the groups provided in some familiarity with the concepts of the subject, giving some amount of confidence in each one of us to handle upcoming project design.

Regular morning prayers and centering prayer were being done in turns by the table groups of participants. The group is now settling into the Bellefonte Centre and much appreciating the tasty food and friendliness of the Sisters.

The group was happy to welcome Brother Samuel Liana for the workshop. Sam is living in the Brothers’ community in nearby Wahrinong village in the West Khasi Hills.