Growth and Change

The day began with a prayer on imagining how things can be for someone who dreams big.

Then, Donal led a workshop on growth and change, taking the image of the butterfly that evolves from the caterpillar through the chrysalis stage until the butterfly emerges.  He went on to ask the Brothers if they were willing to dissolve ourselves to become fully alive.  He asked, “Can we allow God to grow up within us?”

He pointed out that the future is not a place we are to go.  Rather we are creating the future and while the future is not clear, we make the path as we journey.

He showed how Jesus was calling people to a metanoia – an invitation to a higher knowledge.  He also quoted Bob Dylan who said, “If we not being busy being born, we are busy dying!” In a sense, he was saying that our hearts need to be broken – broken open for growth to happen.

Finally he explained the process of ENDING – TRANSFORMATION – EMERGENCE.

Then, the Brothers were invited in groups, to share moments when they experienced endings and how they managed them.

Our Way into the Future and the Orientation Program

The day began with a prayer of gratitude led by Sister Alba.  She stressed that if we had only one prayer to say, it would be one of gratitude for everything we have, are and experience.

Then Br Julian McDonald offered a reflection on how Our Way into the Future was the result of an evolutionary process, beginning with the Chapter in Johannesburg (1996) where the idea of the four directions highlighted the themes of vulnerability, a call to the margins, internationality and the Edmund Rice Network, all of which can be seen in the Proposition of Journeying Together. The Chapter of Rome (2002) the theme became  The Heart of Being Brother. During this Chapter, seven insights were identified that became invitations to the Brothers to undertake a change of heart.  In summary, the seven insights were:

  • Deepening the Spirituality of Being Brother
  • Healing and Reconciliation – A Need and a Call
  • Seeking New Brothers
  • Educating the Minds and Hearts of the Young
  • The Edmund Rice Network- The Unfolding Story
  • A Prophetic Call to a Quest for Justice
  • New Wineskins for New Wine

Here again these elements can be identified in the Proposition of Journeying Together.

At the Chapter held in Munnar (2008), the document The Spirit is Moving in Our Midst: Be My Disciples expressed the vision of the Chapter  in the four primal elements of earth, air, fire and water, symbolic ways of realizing the vision which invited us to explore the presence of the Divine in all of creation. Here again this insight lay at the heart of the Proposition and of the eight calls of the Nairobi Chapter (2014).

In the afternoon David introduced the idea of the prayer of quiet, highlighting the fact that there are many ways of praying and encouraging the Brothers to spend twenty minutes each morning in any one of these methods.

The day concluded with a Bread and Wine celebration which remembers the many meals that Jesus had with many diverse people and especially with his Apostles and disciples.

Getting to Know You

The first day of the OP involved a process of the Brothers getting to know one another.  Each Brother wrote his name on an A4 sheet of paper and on the other diagonal space wrote a quality that began with the first letter of his name.  When each had completed the exercise, Brothers were invited to choose one of the other qualities that they could see on the pages and share how this could be helpful for their growth.

The daily schedule was explained and folders were distributed.

Then in the afternoon, David led a workshop on  How do I intend to grow during the program.  He introduced the idea of mindsets, heartsets, healthsets and soulsets.  By focusing on each of these dimensions the Brothers spent time reflecting on how they could develop in each of the quadrants.

The Seventh Orientation Program

This was a significant moment in the history of Journeying Together as the Brothers gathered at the Little Daughters of St. Joseph , Nairobi to being their Orientation Program. Alphonce Oroche, Dennis Isaboke and Ismael Juma from Kenya, Clement Kamwe, Moses Kashokela from Zambia, Irvine Sibanda from Zimbabwe, Pious Conteh and Prince Bai from Sierra Leone, Damian Ryan from the U.S.A. and David Curtin from Australia.  These Brothers were joined by many Brothers from East Africa District as well as the East Africa District Leadership Team.  Br Julian McDonald from the Congregation Leadership Team in Rome was the official representative of the Congregation.

All these Brothers were joined by many guests, some of whom will be involved in providing input to the program, or giving group therapy, or acting as Spiritual Directors.

The ceremony was enriched by the presence of the Choir from the Christian Brothers Education Centre, Embulbul, and their signing was most inspiring.

Br Donal Kirk acted as the Master of Ceremonies.  The core of this Ceremony of Welcome involved members of the OP team reading out a short biography of each Brother and concluding with the question:  Are you ready to join the OP? to which the Brother responded, “I am ready”.

The ceremony was followed by some light refreshments as well as a cake to celebrated the birthday of Br Amandi Mboya.

Closure of the Ndei Liwa Programme

The coming to an end of the O.P. in Bo Sierra Leone was a very memorable three days.  There were many moments that brought a lot of joy and laughter, as well as sad emotions around losing the bonds of Brotherhood that had existed among us for the two months of the Ndei Liwa program.

On the first day there was  an evaluation of the program which was simple and enjoyable.  Although it required some brain application and was intensive, the task was well fulfilled by every participant.  This joyful experience spilled over into the evening wherein we had our last social night of food, drinks, fun, music and dancing. There was so much interaction among the group during this in-house gathering. A lesson learnt during this evening was that when brothers decide to use their community house for social nights/recreation, a lot of fun and true brotherhood is shared more than when we choose to go out and sit in places where we will have restricted discussions either because of the sound of music or because of the people that will be sitting close by us.

On the second day we had a group “check in / check out” which was a moment to share the general impact the programme has left in us, both the participants as well as the facilitators. This was another exciting moment, a time to remember as everyone really shared the mark this O.P. has left in his life .  In the evening the whole community went for a meal to Galliness hotel in Bo. This was our last outing and brought together almost all the participants including Paul Luseni and Paul Mendy, hot from the chapter meeting in South Africa. We only missed Cyril Dauda.

The start of the closing ceremony was the pouring of Libation which was done powerfully by Charles, our elder participant, as a sign of saying thank you to our ancestors for allowing this programme to go on smoothly. This was immediately followed by the celebration of the Eucharist which was led by His lordship Bishop Charles A.M. Campbell.  During the mass there was the ritual of Calling and missioning of the participants with blessings and presentation of crosses by Francis and Ruvan.  A powerful reflection on the program was shared by John Faya Bockarie on behalf of the participants. He described the expansion of the participants’ images of God and the journey to discover the “diamond essence” of the divine in us all.

As the mass came to an end, there was an encouraging statement from our district leader Noel Bradshaw. His key message was that participants should use this experience to continue to enrich our community living and spiritual lives. Special thanks went to Peter and Jojo from the Formation House, and to Ruvan and Francis from TST (who we will really miss), for their relentless efforts in making this programme successful. The programme came to an end with item thirteen which was food (including a goat), drinks, music and dance!

The programme was fruitful and we thank God that the Congregation, the African Province and the West Africa District leadership teams planned and enabled this O.P. in Sierra Leone to take place.

 

Ndei Liwa Retreat

 

The retreat came towards the end of the month-long Ndei Liwa programme in Bo, Sierra Leone. The themes for the retreat, presented each morning, emerged from the spirituality workshop led by Br Senan D’Souza earlier in the programme … Silence and Contemplative Brotherhood, My Spiritual Practices & Stage of Faith and the Compassion & Love of God.

The community of participants agreed their own protocols to create an atmosphere of contemplation and keep silence throughout the three days retreat at the Formation Centre, Bo. There was prayer together each morning and evening, along with the opportunity to meet a spiritual director and TST mentor. Otherwise the Brothers chose themselves how to use the time to journey deeper into the God present within.

Though some participants admitted that at the start it had been hard to be silent all day, everyone agreed by the end that the space created was very valuable in terms of self-reflection and the chance to pray. The facilitators were most impressed by the prayerful atmosphere and quiet space which the group created.

An Immersion Experience

At 9am the on the 22NDand 23RDAugust the Ndei Liwa participants set off in three teams for their two days of Immersion in institutions in Bo, Sierra Leone.

One group went to the nearby Police Barracks Clinic. This is their experience …“Our time with both the patients and nurses was a landmark to remember. Though we were expecting to be counsellors with the patients in reality we were more present with the staff in their stories. At first the nurses were very hesitant to share their painful experiences.  Only when we assured them of confidentiality did they feel prepared to share their stories, some very personal and emotional. We realised the need to always treat people with care, especially when meeting them for the first time.

We noticed that the same people who warmly welcomed us with smiles turned out to have some negative emotions to share when in a one to one situation. It left us with the feeling that there is so much pain rotating within human persons but we make a choice to suppress the pain and put smiles on our faces, so others do not know.  We think it necessary to continuously engage people in our ministry places in one to one situations so as to allow them speak out their hurts. The more they speak about them, the more they will release the tensions within. Overall, it was a really worthwhile experience.”

Another group went to the Correctional Centre. “The immersion experience was a great privilege. Talking to the inmates helped me clarify some of my doubts about life in a prison. The inmates saw the officers as their guardian/parents and had generally good relations with them. I saw how conditions have improved over the years with better sanitation and canteen facilities, though still with serious overcrowding.I had very moving and transformative experiences among the twelve inmates I conversed with. One thing that stands out for me was the positive attitude the men had in their God quest, despite their present circumstances that put them into prison. The men were full of hope for the future about once they had finished serving their prison term and how they could be change agents for good. A lesson learned for me would be that the contemporary obstacles that make me feel confined or imprisoned do not have to limit me seeing the brightness of my future.”

The third group went to join the Don Bosco Summer School. “We noticed that each day there was a different quotation written on the board in each classroom. The daily quotations were written by the Summer School facilitator, a Salesian Priest. The children, being touched by the fantastic quotations such as “What you do and say each day affects the world” and “Laugh, play, listen and be compassionate”, asked the priest why he writes the daily quotations on the board. He replied that it is not enough to feed the mind and body, but there is a need to feed the inner souls and nurture the seed of hope planted in each of us. It was key for us that the Camp activities did embrace the desire for the future good of the pupils. We enjoyed being among young people who had so much energy … the children and the team of young adult Animators. The animators showed a most inspiring commitment to the welfare of the children. I hope to find ways of mixing with youth in future.”

In the context of Ndei Liwa (“Deepening Brotherhood”) these immersion experiences served the Brothers well in giving them a greater awareness of the brotherly values of presence, listening, compassion and collaboration, even with such brief encounters as time permitted.

 

The Re-Birthing of God

“The Re-birthing of God”was the title  Senan D’Souza chose for the workshop on spirituality. He based his sessions on material from John Philip Newell, as well as much other material. It proved an inspiring choice as the group was led through familiar themes but opened up in new and creative ways… reconnecting with our journey, spiritual practices, the earth, compassion and love.

A particularly insightful presentation was that on “Stages of Faith”. Based on work by Fowler and Wilber, Senan helped us identify that there are stages of faith, which stage we might each be at and how we see further growth happening. It seemed to help explain why we have some confusion about spirituality among Brothers at the moment.

The final session was a “harvesting” from many rich conversations. Some highlights …

“I came to realise that my inherited images of God have changed … a shift from a punishing God to a relational God”. “I seem to have lost touch with poor people and my spirit of compassion in recent years”. “I’m seeing a ‘bigger God’ present everywhere in the universe”. “My spiritual practices have changed over the years in the Brothers which I’m grateful for”. “How can I move toward an ‘eco’ view which sees all humanity and creation as interdependent, as against an ‘ego’ view where man is dominant?” “I am rediscovering the sacredness of “mother earth” through remembering the beliefs of my grandparents who regarded rivers, mountains and trees as sacred.” “We are all at different stages of faith development and need to respect those at different stages to ourselves. To move to another level requires much selflessness and perseverance. Our CB prayer life is in transition at this time in our history.”

The Journey So Far

From all corners of the wind we came. We travelled by air, sea a
nd road and converged on the International Postulancy at Bo, Sierra Leone. Our purpose was to attend Part Two of the West African Orientation Program that had been jointly planned by Transition Support Team (TST) in collaboration with the DLT of West African District and the local Brothers of the Postulancy Staff.

After a hearty welcome and traditional ritual led by the organizing committee, we settled down to share our sacred stories over the one year since Part One in August, 2018. We came to realise that our stories carried the fabric of how the divine had walked with us.

We were conscious of the fact that some members of last year’s group were not physically present with us for varied reasons. We sent our good energy out to them wherever their life journey had taken them.

Next we looked at how to rebuild community among us by re-visiting the Standards of Presencethat we had jointly crafted in 2018. We agreed the nitty-gritty of our household tasks and the practical processes of how we are going to deepen our brotherhood.

Then it was time to get down to business. David Gibson from TST asked us what topics we would like to cover in order to create Vibrant and Cohesive communities. It became quite clear from the outset, that effective LEADERSHIP is at the core of the process of building Joyful, Vibrant, and Cohesive communities. So we delved into the skills for and styles of leadership, and how leadership has the power of breaking or making cohesive communities.

We realised that all of us in one form or the other have been called to leadership roles, whether designated, psychological or effectiveleaders. We all have to make our unique contribution in achieving cohesive and vibrant communities. Two key words emerged which sum up what all members of any given community have to do in order to transform their community – intention andattention. Each member of that community needs to participate generously in the co-creatingprocess, so that it becomesa sacred place for the Divine to dwell among humans.

One tool that can be very effective in this Co-creating process is honest feedback.Feedback given in  honest and brotherly fashion, has the capacity to transform behaviour and perspective. Feedback can become a mirror in which blind spots in ones’ life can gradually be made smaller. It becomes a process of self-knowledge and self-discovery.

At the community level, feedback, if received in a gracious manner, can be a blessing as it can change behavioural patterns and attitudes. The openness of each member in receiving and giving honest feedback is a powerful tool in transforming the hearts and minds of a community and in setting achievable goals for the community. Feedback will challenge it’s members to relate to each other at a deeper and honest level.

The week ended with looking at the different stages that all communities go through in the process of forming a cohesive and vibrant community. The Pseudo stage has characteristics like pretence, white lies, making generalized statements to one another, avoidance of conflict, denying differences, going with the dominant view point as a way of avoiding chaos. Other stages are Chaos, Emptiness and Real community. The point is that until a community goes through the four phases, it will remain at the Pseudo stage, where it’s members will settle for the status quo and blatantly refuse to engage each one at a mature level.

The reconciling and healing processes that comes from the stage of Emptiness have a powerful influence in making the community “Real”. At this stage quietness and peace might return to the community where it’s members honour the vulnerability of others, have deep respect for one another and learn to live with difference knowing that diversity can enrich community life.

No doubt through our engagement with David Gibson the week was an inspirational one. The group and individual evaluations point to the fact that David is a presenter in a class of his own with his style and methodology. We held a social evening on Friday evening to give David all the accolades that he deserves and sent him on his way to Freetown and later to Dublin to attend his province Chapter.

Augustine Williams

Vibrant and Cohesive Communities

Creating Vibrant and Cohesive communities

 

We started to create community using a useful framework called “Standards of Presence” (adapted from The Foundation for Inspired Learning). Two ‘standards’ stood out … “Be fully present” and “Practice self care and self responsibility”. These have now become targets for the four weeks ahead of the Ndei Liwa program.

Our community building continued by working on an On-site Child & Vulnerable Adult Protection document for the Ndei Liwa Program, Bo Formation Centre to operate during the program. We were able to take on board the latest thinking and documents from the Congregation and the Church.

David then led a lively session on Generative Conversations based on the processes from Matthieu Daum. We agreed to try and practice the techniques during the weeks to come.

Last year during Ndei Liwa Phase 1 David introduced Transactional Analysis and it proved highly profitable. Now he turned his attention to how to create “cohesive and vibrant” communities.

We named what we wanted from the workshop:

To learn new leadership skills and the best style of leadership for community building and in ministry; to learn what adult leadership is about in trying to facilitate compassionate communities; to Identify what might be missing from my community life now; to manage myself when my community is NOT cohesive and vibrant; to relate with Brothers I feel negatively towards in a non-judgemental way.