The declaration by Pope Francis that a Year of Consecrated Life be celebrated throughout the world starting today, the first Sunday of advent, has been described as “timely and important” by Zambia’s Bishop Patrick Chisanga. Bishop Chisanga is the Bishop of Mansa Diocese. Before becoming a Bishop, early this year, he was a formator in his congregation, the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals.
The Year of Consecrated Life will close on 2 February 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life,.
In an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio’s English Service for Africa, Bishop Chisanga said the declaration of a Year of Consecrated Life coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council document, Perfectæ Caritatis. This document promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1965 is the “Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life.” It deals with institutes of consecrated life in Church.
According to Bishop Chisanga, this period should be used by the religious to revisit their call to religious life. ”It is an important moment of introspection. Every religious institution in Africa needs to re-examine and ask itself where they are as an institution, where they are coming from and where they are going. In other words, in this moment in time, what is their place and role in the Church?” asks Bishop Chisanga.
The Bishop was however keen to underline the fact that the year is not exclusively for the religious. “It is not exclusively a year for the religious only. It is a year in which the Church as a whole reflects on the charisms of the religious in the context of new evangelization and in the context of the importance of the family in Africa and in the Church. We must never forget that the men and women in religious life come from families.” Bishop Chisanga emphasised.
Asked about what he sees as the contribution of the religious to the Church in Zambia, Bishop Chisanga says, “The religious and the history of the Church in Zambia are intertwined. We cannot talk about the establishment of the Catholic Church in Zambia without thinking of the religious.” The Bishop says, the religious in Zambia continue to play a significant role in the life of the Church. He adds, “When you talk about quality health care and education in Zambia, you will find that these are always associated with the Church. In great part, we thank the religious sisters and brothers for this. This is the richness of the Church in Zambia and in Africa.” Bishop Chisanga said.
“While all these apostolates are important, we cannot reduce the value of religious life to these external apostolic ministries. More importantly, this special year gives to the religious institution an opportunity to bring out that which prompts them to give quality health care to remote outposts in rural areas. What motivates them as religious people to go to these places? In order to make this introspection, the religious need to go back to their spiritual foundations.” Said Bishop Chisanga.
Bishop Chisanga is also aware of the many challenges facing religious life today in Africa. He is convinced that religious life cannot pretend to be spared of these challenges. He cites the changing times and the consequent secularisation of society as a big challenge. He says, “In a world where faith is pushed aside and spiritual matters are pushed aside, people today are looking for solutions everywhere else other than in the spiritual realm.”
Other challenges he notes, include a Church in Africa which now has to look to itself for both material and human resources. Further still there is the ever-present danger of individualism. “While religious men and women vow to live in poverty or without property, there is a huge temptation that a religious person could easily fall into: This is the world of materialism.” Bishop Chisanga underlines.
In the end, what is really essential is that during this year, the religious continue to witness to that spirit which prompted most of their founders to “leave everything in order to gain everything.” The Bishop concludes.
(Fr. Paul Samasumo)
Listen to Godfrey Kampamba as he speaks to Bishop Chisanga
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