Council Resources

Study Days on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ

Study Days Africa - Initial Proclamation of Christ in Africa 


Conclusions - Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB)

Challenges and Opportunities for SDB & FMA in Africa & Madagascar

Réaction à la communication de Sr Patricia Finn "De la première annonce au catéchuménat"


Presentation on 'Initial Proclamation in the educative environment'


An Overview on the Topic of Study Days:  from Prague to Addis Abeba

Study Days on The Salesian Mission

Study Days on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ

Mary, Mother of the Church


Conclusions - Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB)

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Councilor for the Missions
9 November 2012

    Thanks to all who had contributed to the Study Days and to those who were already mentioned by Sr. Alaide Deretti, FMA - Councilor for the Missions. In a special way I'm grateful to all Provincials of CIVAM for sending their well prepared (and new) Delegates of missionary animation.  And I can't forget all those who helped in the translations both for the written texts of the resource persons and the simultaneous translations during the sharing sessions in the official languages: French, English, Portuguese and Italian.

   These days have brought us into the heart of the Church of Christ. We are educators to the faith of the youth in 43 African countries (some 1400+ SDB and 500+ FMA) who are both Christians or other denominations or believers of other religions. It makes us feel with Don Bosco to be really in the heart of the missionary Church today. In many ways we contribute to the initial proclamation of Christ in our local Churches with our preventive System of Don Bosco. On the other side we recognize our challenge to walk more closely with the local Church in each country!

  The reason for a special appraisal of these African Study Days ? Without doubt Africa is the youngest of the eight Salesian Regions worldwide, has many confreres well prepared on the intellectual level and also the highest concentration of the missionaries ad gentes, ad extra and ad vitam in the whole Congregation. During these days we experienced this double blessing. Probably among the five Mission Study days (Europe, South Asia, East Asia, Oceania, Africa) this experience was the most vibrant, future opened, very honest and serious in reflection.

  The reason to be more and deeply committed in the initial proclamation of Christ. Three basic reasons were shared by the Rector Major in the conclusions of GC26-2008: They are (1) The command of Jesus to go to the whole world and preach His Good News to all the nations (Mt 28, 18-20); (2) Our faith in the Gospel which purifies, perfects and transforms all cultures without exception – hence also all cultures of Africa. In order to be more human we need presence of God amidst our cultures; (3) The pastoral heart of Don Bosco, a heart that is open to all young people of the world, especially those who never met Jesus. Our effort to help the whole Church be more in the state of mission is expressed mainly in this, what we call the 'initial proclamation as Christian Life-Style'.        
    Together with the Japanese 'Faith journey' scroll pictured by Sr. Rosa, FMA I would like to introduce also the 'American Triptych of Aparecida'(Gift of the Pope Benedict XVI) - which is one of the most visible icons of the initial proclamation lifestyle. At the center is Jesus ascending to heaven - sending his disciples to all nations. On the right side are 3 Gospel events of listening the Word of God and on the left side are three Gospel proclamation - witnessed episodes. It's good for all of us!

At the end I want to share some specific points that needs to be highlighted:

1. Many of us stressed the great importance of the lay people missionary witness for the initial proclamation. Concluding our Mission Study days during the Fourth World Congress of the Salesian Cooperators (Rome, November 8-11) we can't forget our Lay Mission Partners, catechists, parents as the first agents of initial formation.

2. I hope that some of you have watched the film 'Des hommes et des dieux - "Of Men and of Gods", a real story of the presence of a religious community among the Muslims in Algeria. The most significant message for us Salesians is the wonderful community witness and dialogue of life lived amongst the Muslims and also a serious community discernment which touches the reasons of missionary presence. The community witness was highlighted  the Second African Synod (2009) intervention of Fr. Guillermo Basañes. He shared witness of one ZMB multi-cultural community in Malawi (four SDB from four different countries) as an icon of true 'reconciliation and peace'.

3. Moreover, the Provincials (and their Councils) are called to share our Study Days experiences with the Delegates of Formation and Youth Ministry and their Team. I hope that our enthusiasm and reflections also reach especially the youth ministry because of your passionate sharing.

    I conclude with a glimpse of the future of the Initial Proclamation which is deeply connected to the Life Witness (Verbum Domini, Benedict XVI - ). The forthcoming General Chapter 27 was convened with the theme: ‘Witnesses to the Radical Approach to the Gospel.’ It is a response to sign of the times that makes us understand the lack of credibility, visibility and consistency of our life and mission. The three icons of the Chapter journey is the invitation of the Rector Major to become more and more (1) mystics and to seek God with all our heart, (2) authentic prophets especially by our fraternal life lived in our communities and (3) servants of the young especially the poorest in our mission as educators and pastors.

I hope that your courageous patient and authentic witness, rooted in deep missionary spirituality help the whole Salesian Congregation launch into the journey indicated in the letter of convocation of the GC27 (Letter of the Rector Major, ACG 413).

I commend the whole journey to Mary, Help of Christians and Mother of all God’s children who inspires, guides and protects us in our journey day by day.

Fr. Václav Klement, SDB


Challenges and Opportunities for SDB & FMA in Africa & Madagascar
Regarding Initial Proclamation”.
Fr. Joseph Minja, SDB

I would like to start my brief presentation by reflecting on some few questions:

  • What is the reality with regard to population of our Catholic Church in Africa today?
  • What are the groups working already as evangelizers in the African Catholic Church?
  • As a Christian, priest, religious or lay person, what is really my role in proclaiming the good news so that people may came to know Christ and remain strongly in faith?
  • As SDBs, FMAs….
  • Where do we belong in the Catholic Church in Africa?
  • Have we really played our role in the initial evangelization?
  • Do we follow the footsteps of Don Bosco in seeking to save the Souls?
  • What are we doing so to strengthen those who are already initially evangelized?
  • Is the Education system (Preventive System) by Don Bosco effective in today’s Church in Africa and help in proclaiming the faith?


Thus, I managed to get the data below to help us in seeing about the Africa-Catholic Church general and religions general data. Looking at the two document we can somewhat direct our minds, sharing towards the future and see where we are going to, what we can propose to be done and how to do it.



  1. HIV /aids. According to UNAIDS, Three –quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide in 2007 were in sub-Saharan Africa, where 22 million people are infected with HIV. We could imagine, if in Africa majority of population is of Youth age, then we could conclude that many who suffer from HIV aids should be youth. How then could we take care of this group affected?
  2. MODERNITY AND SECULARIZATION: Nowadays, many of African Countries have under fallen under modernity and secularization, of which many African families find dangers to bring up the children and youth. Thus, less fear of God and committed in the religious matters.

For instance in Kenya, we have the Following groups:

  • Baha'í Faith: Present in Kenya from 1945, the religion grew to an estimated of 308,000,
  • Christianity

Was brought to Kenya in the fifteenth century by the Portuguese and spread rapidly during the 20th Century, spread by the colonists. Denominations in Kenya are Protestant confessions which make up to 52.73%. They include Anglican Church of Kenya and the Presbyterian, Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and Pentecostal churches.

  • The Roman Catholic Church which represents   about 23.4% of the populations.
  • In Kenya there are also significant non Catholic and non Protestant movements including the Eastern Orthodox Church, New Apostolic Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, United Pentecostal Church International and Branhamism.
  • Islam: Is the religion of approximately 11.2% of Kenyan population.
  • Other Religions, which include: Hinduism
  • No Religion group, which forms about 2.4%
  • Traditional African religions, which are African religions are typically based on natural phenomena and reverence to ancestors.

The above situation remains as challenge to us SDBs and the FMAs, because each group tries to pull in its side. In case of receiving youth who are from different religious backgrounds sometimes they partially fit into our formation (preventive system) but there is no assurance that they will remain faithful to the good practices that they learn.[1]

  1. LACK OF BOOKS AND SCRIPTURE READING: As Salesian trying to do the initial evangelization, we realize that it is very expensive to get the instructing material such as books and scriptures such as the Holy Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church among others. In this situation, it is not easy to many people having the self reading and deepening of the knowledge about the doctrine of the church. People in general will only rely on someone who readings, understanding and being available for sharing.
  2. PRESENCE OF MANY DIFFERENT LANGUAGES: The continent of Africa & Madagascar is blessed with so many languages. However there has been a big struggle in trying to translate, interpret, and making of the exegesis both at the scientific level and at the popular level, of which the effort is required more.
  3. CULTURE / INCULTURATION: Since the Church is a communion, which joins diversity with unity, being present throughout the world, it takes up whatever it finds positive in all cultures. Inculturation, however, is different from a mere adaptation, as it signifies an interior transformation of cultural values through integration with Christianity and the rooting of Christianity in various human cultures.[2]
  4. CONFLICTS AND WAR SITUATIONS: Our continent Africa is still toned apart because of the several conflicts (family, zones, regions, within one country, between one country and another…). People are not at peace with one another …) God seem to be far away or nor more present among people!!
  5. NATURAL CALAMITIES: We have natural calamities such as draught, floods, sicknesses in which at the end of the day leave people devastated and not able to recover from the impacts. The time just passes with the struggle to recover from the situations and the chances to reestablish with God are rare. 
  6. FREE STYLE OF LIFE AMONG THE YOUTH: Cases like the not care attitude, laziness, lack of commitment, reluctance tendencies, wasting time, short cut way of life among others are some of day to day ways of life of our youth. It is likely that this is the life which is taking into roots and which will lead to the diminishing of Families, committed citizens, good faith practices, laisser-faire leadership among others.     
  • LACK AND DECLINING OF THE VOCATION GROTH RATE: It is observed that some of the reasons which has led to the lack or declining of the vocation in the congregation are such as.
  • Lack of genuine motivation in ones vocational journey
  • Personal choice without sufficient reason
  • Request by the formation and/or spiritual guide because of unsuitability.
  • Pressures from the family on economic grounds.
  • Inability to live the demands of evangelical counsels and the community life.
  • INABILITY TO WORK WITH THE LAY PEOPLE OR MEMBERS OF THE SALESIAN FAMILY (COOPERATORS, PAST PUPILS, VOLUNTERS…). If we see the situation of Africa, the number of Religious and Priest is really little. What if we were to form a big unity in order to work together in the area of the initial evangelization?


  1. SOCIAL JUSTICE:  We are invited to work for social justices and fight the hunger and disease, poverty, unemployment, economic and political injustice that afflict millions on the continent (e.g. Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya) under the AFE. It is situated in the far north –western part of Kenya. It serves the majority of the camp refugees originating from Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Congo… In the Salesians run the Parish, substation, Vocational Training Centre, Oratories, Seminars …) these are the areas of which when educating we evangelize.
  2. HOSPITAL, HEALTH CARE CENTERS AND CLINICS: Africa has many people who are suffering from physical sicknesses than perhaps other health problems such as neurosis, psychology… The sickness due to HIV/Aids, malaria, typhoid … could be treated in good hospitals or dispensaries which could be run by the Salesians or FMA. The reason behind the whole scenario is to be able to give hope to the suffering   and hope to meet with their creator in their suffering.
  3. INTER RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE: As SDBs and FMAs we could take more initiatives of promoting the dialogue between Christians and other faith groups in order to find a way forward with regard to the formation of the youth to the proper moral values and encountering with the providence.
  4. THE USE OF THE PREVENTIVE SYSTEM IN FORMING THE CONSCIOUS OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE: Since we have chances of encountering the youth in SDB and FMA (schools, youth centers, parishes, refugee camps, families…) we could use more of the preventive system  values – reason, religion and kindness … in order to help them to take the life seriously with some commitments.
  5. PRINTING, EDITING, TRANSLATING AND WRITING OF THE BOOKS AND SCRIPTURAL MATERIALS:  Like Don Bosco who was able to read and study the signs of his times, we Salesians and FMA working in Africa today, we could intervene and venture more on this area. It was the aim of Don Bosco to print good material in order to be used in nurturing the faith, strengthening and defending of the Catholic faith.
  6. TRAINING OF THE CATECHISTS: As Salesians working in Africa, we just have only one Catechetical Training centre which is run by us. That is Makalala Catechetical Centre in Iringa Diocese in Tanzania. Could we run some more centers of this type?

          In summary, the following subjects are taught:

  • Bible, morality, church teachings /Documents of Vat. II, sprinkling of Psychology and Methodology, Mathematics, Civics, Swahili the national language (Kiswahili) and English, Music, Sacraments, Liturgy,
  • There are also seminars conducted every semester on various topics (Small Christian Communities, Income Generation, Youth Animation, and Youth etc.
  • The students do participate in Pastoral field activities such as (Teaching Religious studies in primary schools which are under Mafinga Parish, visiting the sick, Sunday apostolate/oratory etc).
  • Informally, talk, narrate about the lives of the, Saints through goodnights, homily, group sharing etc.

Evangelization and Catechesis: Art. 34.  “This Society had its beginning in a simple catechism lesson.” For us too evangelizing and catechizing are the fundamental characteristics of our mission.
Like Don Bosco, we are all called to be educators to the faith at every opportunity. Our highest knowledge therefore is to know Jesus Christ, and our greatest delight is to reveal to all people the unfathomable riches of his mystery.
We walk side by side with the young so as to lead them to the risen Lord, and so discover in him and in his Gospel the deepest meaning of their own existence, and thus grow into new men.
The Virgin Mary is present in this process as a mother. We make her known and loved as the one who believed, who helps and who infuses hope.
Reflecting on what the article number 34 of SDBs says, and seeing the real situation in African Continent, how much are we doing for the first evangelization? With the today many challenges that surround us can we say that it is easy to take the same measure which were taken by the early missionaries in many parts of our continent? For example:

  1. PRESENCES FOR THE SALESIANS and FMAs: How are our centers (Schools, Parishes, Youth centers…. ) make impact on the first evangelization?
  2. THE USE OF THE MASS MEDIA: Nowadays it is and can reach many people as faster as possible. With the animation of the some topics, seminars, teachings on the Catechism, church doctrine, many people can be directly and indirectly reached. We should try to qualify own people (SDB and FMA) on mass media, work with the lay people in this field in order to have a big impact on the field of the initial evangelization in the African countries.
  3. EDUCATION AND ONGOING FORMATION FOR THE CATECHESTS: With the help of the catechists, the initial evangelization should be carried forward. They play a big role in the areas where the availabilities of the priests is less manifested.
  4. ASSOCIATION OF THE CATHOLIC TEACHERS: The empowered catholic teachers could remain as a strong tool for the initial evangelization. In the first place, they have already an experience and methodology of teaching the circular studies. Secondly, if they are offered the Religion subject, they could make a big influence in starting following up the non baptized children/youth.
  5. YOUTH GROUPS LIKE, YCS (Young Christian/Catholic Students: Fortunately, we SDBs and FMA have the opportunity of meeting, animating and working with the different groups of the youth in different places and stages. How much can we make the use of them so that the youth themselves will remain an instrument for the initial evangelization?

Ref. AFRICAE MUNUS 165.  If this effort is to be more effective, the missio ad gentes must keep pace with the new evangelization. In Africa too, situations demanding a new presentation of the Gospel, “new in its ardour, methods and expression”, are not rare. In particular, the new evangelization needs to integrate the intellectual dimension of the faith into the living experience of the encounter with Jesus Christ present and at work in the ecclesial community. Being Christian is born not of an ethical decision or a lofty ideal, but an encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Catechesis must therefore integrate its theoretical dimension, which deals with concepts to be learned by heart, and its practical dimension, which is experienced at the liturgical, spiritual, ecclesial, cultural and charitable levels, in order that the seed of God’s word, once fallen on fertile ground, can sink deep roots and grow to maturity.[3]
For example:
Area wise is about 80 km square. The area highly populated.
In 2003, the whole of Tonj had about 76 catechists. They did not have enough primary education. Hardly could they teach catechism effectively. Fr. John Peter, sdb, initiated one method which he called “Apostolic group”. It is the group of those boys interested to go and give good news.
Fr. John Peter could meet them twice in a week (Wednesdays and Thursdays) for the catechism classes of which he was preparing them to go and teach the same thing to all the people in the nearby 6  villages. Children, youth and adults could always come to be taught by these young people.
The methodology which these young people used was of Oratory background. They would go and arrange the time accordingly. They would start with games and later on they would make people sit and teach them Catechism the way Don Bosco did. This practice brought a lot of motivation to the people around and later on the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek asked if the method could be adopted all over.
In 2003 itself when this practice was introduced, about 820 group of children and young people did receive the initial sacraments (Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation). The Bishop of the place by then + Ceasar Mazzollari of Rumbek Catholic Diocese, used to go to Tonj Mission and confirm the youth.
In 2005, during the long holidays, Fr. John Peter organized the Apostolic group to go and stay/live with some catechist in their homes. During this time father bought for them some food items and made some arrangements with the local catechists to be visiting them now and then with the intention of assisting and evaluating the way they were teaching catechism to the people.
Since the distances were long to be covered easily, Fr. John Peter bought some bicycles for them too.
164. The proclamation of the Gospel must recover the ardor of the beginnings of the evangelization of the African continent, attributed to the evangelist Mark and carried on by “countless saints, martyrs, confessors and virgins”. There is a need gratefully to remember and imitate the enthusiasm of so many missionaries who, over the course of several centuries, sacrificed their lives to bring the Good News to their brothers and sisters in Africa. In recent years the Church in different countries has commemorated the hundredth anniversary of evangelization. She has rightly renewed her commitment to bring the Gospel to those who do not yet know the name of Jesus Christ.[4]
For example:

The Starting of evangelization:
Iringa diocese received the first seed of evangelization/ the word of God in October 1896 by the Benedictine missionaries of saint Otilia from Germany. The first places to be reached by these missionaries were: Tosamaganga and Madibira. These missionaries were under the care of Superior of the Diocese of Southern Zanzibar of which it’s headquarter was in Dar es salaam.
Due to the First World War (1914-1918), the missionaries encountered with a lot of difficulties and for that reason they had to abandon the Iringa diocese and went to Pugu prison. After the war, these Benedictine Missionaries did not return to Iringa.

Iringa Diocese under the Consolata Missionaries:
After the Second World War 1919, the Superior of Dar es salam diocese asked His lordship- Bishop Filippo Perlo of Nyeri diocese in Kenya to send some missionaries of his Diocese (Missionary fathers of the Virgin Mary Consolata) to come and work in his Diocese. Four priests came to work in Iringa diocese, of whom they were: Fr. Gaudensio Panelatti, IMC, Fr. Giovanni Ciravegna, IMC, Fr. Dominico Vignoli, IMC and Fr. Giacomo Cavallo, IMC. They reached in Iringa in 1919.
In 1922, the Iringa diocese formed the Apostolic Prefecture of which was under the leadership of Right Rev. Mons. Francesco Cagliero, IMC, who died in car accident on 22nd October 1935 at Mdandu, Njombe-Iringa. He had served in the diocese for 12 years.  One of his works in Iringa diocese was the finding of the local Missionary sisters of the Diocese of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus.
In 1936, Mons. Attilio Beltramino, IMC, succeeded Mons. Francesco Cagliero and on 27th May, 1948 he was ordained Bishop of Tosamaganga Church.
            While Iringa remained an Apostolic Vicariate, on 25th March 1956 his holy Father Pius XII announced that all the missionary churches to became Dioceses or the local church. From this time on His Lordship Beltramino, IMC, became the first Bishop of Iringa Diocese. He worked hard to up bring the Diocese spiritually and physically. 

The local Bishops:
After bishop Beltramino’s death on 3rd October 1965, the first local bishop Mario A. Mgulunde took over from him in 1969. He was consecrated on 15th February 1970. The big responsibility of this first local bishop was to put into implementation all of the second Vatican council decisions. In 1982, he managed to call for the first Synod of Diocese with the theme “… seek what is above, where Christ is  …” (Col. 3: 1).
All the synod preparations were made and given out in 1984. Before the implementation of the synod’s decisions were implemented, Mons.  Mario A. Mgulunde was appointed to be the Arch bishop of Tabora Arch Diocese in 1985. Thus, the synod’s implementations were put into practice by his Lordship Norbert Wendelin Mtega who led the Iringa Diocese from 1985 till 1992. Since 10th January 1993, the Iringa Diocese is under the leadership of Bishop Tarcisius J. M. Ngalalekumtwa. He is also a local diocesan Bishop. He has been working with the help of the missionary and local priests, religious; men and women, lay people and men of good will who always sacrifice their energy, talents, wealth and their vocation for building up the faith for all people.
The above narration shows that the first evangelization of Iringa Diocese was done from 1896-1996. The 100 years were mainly for introducing the Christian faith to the local people.
 From 1996 till 2011 onwards, the second evangelization is taking place. The Major challenges in this Diocese today are such as: Getting enough priests to run up the parishes which are there. This is due to the decreasing of the vocation to the priesthood or religious life. The lack of vocation in the church is not only the difficult  that the Iringa Diocese is facing, but also the neighboring dioceses such as Songea, Mbeya, Njombe, Dar es salaam, Morogoro are facing. Thus, in order to facilitate the teaching of catechesis, the above mentioned dioceses, have come up with the strategy of working more closely with the lay people. Makalala C.T.C has came up then, as the response to prepare the lay catechists so that they go back to work in vary parishes and substations of this diocese and other dioceses in Tanzania.
Secondly, these dioceses are vast in area distances, thus it is difficult to reach in different places for evangelization or follow up the Christians in ongoing formation. If then the catechists are prepared, they can somewhat help a lot in following up the faith.
Makalala Catechetical Training Centre which is now run by the Salesians of Don Bosco with the collaboration of the Teresina Sisters of the Child Jesus (local Sisters of the Iringa Diocese), is located in Mufindi district, which has its head quarters at Mafinga town.
The aim of the training is to enable the catechists to be leaders in their villages, to be able to help the people in the villages, to understand the Christian faith, morals, and specially the Bible. We aim to prepare intellectually, spiritually and pastorally, these young men and women to be leaders and evangelizers of the local church. They should be equipped to strengthen and deepen the faith of the baptized, and then to spread the message of the Good News to those who have not heard about the message of Jesus.
            Basically, our aim is to help them to be catechists and primary evangelizers. They should be able to do this with some amount of confidence, the work of pre-evangelization, evangelization and catechetical ministry. They are expected to be leaders of community prayer and animators of small Christian communities.
            In order to achieve this aim, we hold formal classes, in Bible, morality, church teachings, sprinkling of psychology and methodology, Mathematics, civics, Swahili the national language (Kiswahili) and English. We also do seminars on various topics of relevance and importance. These are done by qualified people in their field.


When I was reading the documents of the second Vatican on human life, I came across the following statement:  “At all times the Church caries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task.  […] we are entitled then to speak of a real social and cultural transformation whose repercussions are felt too on the religious level.”[5]
While pondering on the above words about the situation of man in the world today regarding hope and anguish I tend to say that it is impossible to talk about education and catechism to the youth without tackling the issue of the holistic human being, looking on his material needs and faith or spiritual life. On the other hand, looking on my situations today as I am becoming more aware of the animation work in the congregation; I feel that I will probably continue meeting youth in all situations of life for example youth in social crisis and those whom I have to assist in their spiritual matters. It is young people therefore, who are initially to this discussion. Youth who are entirely body and soul. The material needs for the human being could be like, food, water, cloth, shelter, and clothing which are due to family poverty, natural calamities like drought and flood or war situations. The above circumstances may force a young person to run away from the family, and go elsewhere to try to seek for the better life like Bartolommeo Garelli during the early years of Don Bosco priestly life.[6] Such cases, of material poverty, perhaps are found more in the developing countries and in war affected countries today. When the above material needs are missing one may not easily start thinking of going for education and faith or catechism classes. We should find the way of helping them to meet the material needs. At the other time, we have to go a more step forward and question about the depth of the faith which the young people are supposed to be acquitted with and continue forming them from what they have as a base of their faith. Why are we to worry about the religion or spiritual life of the youngsters? Again, one can ask for instance; is religion important for the life of youth after all? Probably we may have many answers to the above question. Richard J. Gehman in his book ‘African Traditional Religion’ is saying that; “Man has been defined as the incurably religious animal.’ “For everywhere and in every age he has professed some belief in supernatural powers which aid him in life.”[7]
If religion is therefore of giving one hope in this life so that he/she may prepare to meet the higher life, is it then not important to the youth who are walking on the journey towards sanctity? I feel that we should always see the youth looking forward to the higher life. That sense of hope is the most important thing for them and every one of us should be encouraging that.
With regard to the evangelization and education, our Rector Major says: It is true that we Salesians carry out our mission of evangelization by educating and that we educate by evangelizing. It expresses the strict bond between evangelization and education. Education is authentic when it respects every dimension of the child, the teenager, the young man or woman, and it is clearly oriented towards the complete formation of the individual, opening him or her to transcendence. Evangelisation, for its part, has in itself a strong educational worth, precisely because it tends to the transformation of the mind and heart, the creation of a new person, the result of being configured to Chirst.[8]

  • VOCATION Orientation [Vocation to Religious life SDB, FMA…] like Don Bosco.

            Don Bosco was led by the Holy Spirit to start the work for the poor and abandoned youngsters. As he started taking care of them and passing some moments, he found that he could not do much for them by himself. Though he received some help from the lay people, he was also convinced that the people who would offer their lives freely to God and accept to live a religious life could do still better than merely the lay people who were helping him. Thus he started looking and supporting for vocations from his very first youngsters[9] and also taking charge to care for the formation of the diocesan seminarians.[10] This reality of yearning for vocations is also important to us Salesians and FMA today that we continue receiving and accompanying some of vocations sent to us by God and helping them to grow and mature. We must be opened to the signs of times and realize that always these true vocations sent by God will be useful for the Society and for the Church.[11]

    • Recruiting 

From where did Don Bosco get vocations? How about our present moments, do we have vocations coming to us? During the time of Don Bosco we are told that he received the boys of different backgrounds and circumstances. For example he received boys [for apprentices] those boys who were orphan of both parents, poor and abandoned and of years between twelve and eighteen of age and boys [for students] who had finished primary school; to have a good mind and be of good moral behavior; accepted them for two months at twenty four lire per month until he could give them a notes.[12] From the above groups he managed to notes some of whom were showing good signs for vocations and tried to suggest[13] to them to become religious or priests and accompanied them. I believe that, today we still have the same categories of boys and girls coming to us. It is up to us to open our eyes of faith to receive those vocations.

11.2. Accompanying the vocations

I believe that the vocation especially to religious life, priesthood and even other vocations are the gifts from God to us human being. Vocation is something which grows from deep within the heart of a person and the whole being of an individual. One has to struggle to realize this reality. While God still calling the individual to a certain type of vocation, it becomes also the task of this individual to freely respond. However the other people around are to help this individual to respond to God. This journeying together with the formees and helping him to discover his vocation is what I mean by the term accompaniment.[14] How to do the accompaniment then? I believe that we need to form a group/team of people who are willing and believing in the grace of God in accompanying the youth towards their journey of formation and maturing in their vocations.
In our formation houses we need to be prepared to be ready ourselves to live with the youth whom we could know intensively. Also in living with them one possibly gets a chance of knowing about each individual and invents different methods of helping one. I also assume that, this accompaniment creates an atmosphere of trust and love towards the one who is animating them. Thus the youngsters will be free to share about their experiences, worries and difficulties in life. So, in order to have more and good vocations in the congregation, I suggest getting more interested in personnel and working as a team of formatters.

11.3. Witnesses

I have seen the term witness, used in both the letters, “Salesian Spirituality of the New Evangelization, 1990 and in the Strenna 2008”.  I may say that the word witness is used as to teach/remind us that of its meaning for example it could mean: a person who sees an event taking place and is therefore able to describe it to others, confirm that it took place among others.[15] To us what could the term witness really mean? I feel that it is the manner of that joy of the birth of our Savior and His mission which the Rector Major has reminded us in the Strenna 2008 that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the accepted year of the Lord.” (Lk 4, 18 - 19). This reality to us Salesians, it should be our daily witness among the youngsters by our faith, desire of becoming saints, meeting Jesus and others in our celebrating of the Eucharist, in our daily commitments, in forgiving one another, in tolerating each other’s defects and living happily our vows. This life of witness as it is explained above if is lived the way it is suggested it will attract even others to join our Salesian way of life it was during those days of Don Bosco Salesians. [16]
The Salesians arrived in Madagascar during the Project Africa in 1980s and found the Madagascar Mission.[17]
Mauritius is an Inland in the Indian Ocean 850 kms. East of Madagascar with the population of around 1 million. The Salesian mission is found at the Capital Port Louis. The Salesians do the evangelization work especially in specialization works and education to the young.[18]


  • The following challenges are base on Religion realities.[19]
  • MADAGASCAR RELIGION: Has ruled by certain traditional beliefs. According to a recent survey 55 percent of the population abides by the traditional beliefs, 40 percent are Christians and the remaining 5 percent of the population are Muslims.
  • ETHNIC GROUPS IN MADAGASCAR: Are Betsileo and Merina. Betsileo people had been supporters of the Roman Catholicism whereas the Merina people are the supporters of the Protestantism.
  • RELIGION CONFLICTS: The 19th Century was a tough period for the Madagascar as the country witnessed conflict between Christianity and traditional religious beliefs thus leading to the death of many religious followers.
  • RELIGION SUPERIORITY: Protestantism became the religion of the royal and noble families of Madagascar. The Christian Missionaries established the belief of Supreme God and used the term “Andrianmanitra” to define the Christian counterpart.
  • POLITICAL INBALANCE, CONFLICTS: like many other African Countries which were ruled by European countries (in case of Madagascar it was under the French colonial rule), no way this reality can be under looked.  The political ideologies, colonial interests, cultural conflicts and beliefs do bring many conflicts.
  • CULTURAL MIXED UP:  Madagascar is believed to be of descendants of Africans and Indonesians[20]. Perhaps it was not easy to have the same way of seeing the overview of life.



Through the Radio Don Bosco continues with the service for the Madagascar - Salesian Youth pastoral animation. Its competence is manifested in been able to run the pastoral programmes for the Salesian Youth Movement, youth formation, forming the animators, production of the animation materials.
The Salesian Sister and the Salesians have managed to have a common animation for the Salesian Youth Pastoral.  For example, both have managed to have the National Salesian Youth Movement.[21]

  • RADIO DON BOSCO AND Presentation of the programs: This is the powerful instrument which in which as it has been used, it has reached many people.  It could be really the means of sharing about many areas of people’s life as it focuses on the areas with regard to the word of God, the church, education among others which are indicated on the programme below.

Programming of RDB is characterized by a succession of time slots to satisfy their listeners.[22]
Time bands
4.30 – 6.30
Radio Don Bosco invites to make the first thought of the day to God, through the Morning Prayer, meditation, reading and a brief commentary of the Gospel of the day, the deepening of the catechism, teaching of the Church's social doctrine and the history of the saint of the day.

8.00 – 12.00
Every day are offered different programs, regarding some issues of the day. The program is a kind of entertainment, through an original and lively animation, imbued with humor. It consists of several headings (education to love, youth, world culture and show business, educational issues around the role of women and the family, current events), with the aim to inform, entertain, involve the audience, make them think … (via e-mail, SMS, telephone).

14.00 – 17.00
It's a talk show, to entertain the audience, where are included various items both educational, informative, interesting facts, practical advice; all on a fast pace, humorous, involving the listeners through interviews and games.

17.30 – 19.30
In this time band are offered a range of short length programs: on health, on agriculture, on ecology, catechetical insights, and issues of working.

20.15 – 21.30
Here you will find in-depth programs such as: socio-political debates, questions to the priest about spiritual issues, development, better understanding of religious issues, women's world, news…


My impression in looking about the challenges and opportunities we have as the SDB and FMA in Africa and Madagascar in the initial formation is:

  • We have so many in the Church, Congregations, Society, NGOs … writing or pointing out of provoking challenges and the way forward with regard to the initial evangelization in Africa. This in itself is a wonderful exercise. On the other hand how much efforts in implementation of the proposals will be done?
  • It has not been easy to collect the challenges and look about the opportunities which are there for the initial evangelization.  It is only because of the little experience that I have and making a few references that I have come up with this sharing. I hope and trust that during the days of sharing in Ethiopia, we shall be able to have a wider view of many aspects which I could not relate.
  • The Africa Madagascar as a Continent, it is too vast and various cultures.  We cannot really exhaust all the learning about the initial evangelization. Perhaps we come to be more aware about the realities in the closer sharing and hearing from the people who have been in the mission land. 

May God help all of us to deepen and grow on more knowledge on the efforts which have been met with many others especially for paving the way for the initial evangelization in Africa.

[1] From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2012.

[2] MARTIN OREILLY, The Challenge of being Religious in Africa Today: AMECEA Gaba Publications Spearhead Nos. 142-144, 2001, pg. 50.

[3] Africae Munus, 165.

[4] AFRICAE MUNUS no. 164

[5] Austin Flannery, ed. Vatican Council II, and Post Conciliar Documents Bombay: St Paul Publications, 1992, 796.

[6] Cf. VECCHI E JUAN . pg.108.

[7] Dr. Richard J. Gehman, African Traditional Religion In Biblical Perspective, Kijabe-   Kenya: Kesho Publications, 1989, 32.

[8] SALESIANS 2011 (English edition), December 8, 2010. 5.

[9]Cf. WIRTH  MORAND, Don Bosco and the Salesians, Don Bosco Publications, New York, 1982, pg. 39.
[from the same page we read that: He wanted to prepare a great many assistants for the future; priests and clerics who would help him with his project. The scarcity of candidates for the priesthood, a new phenomenon in Piedmont due to the political changes, also worried him very much.]

[10] Cf. LENTI J. ARTHUR, Don Bosco His Pope and His Bishop, Libreria  Ateneo Salesiano LAS Roma, 2006 pg. 109.

[11] Cf. LENTI J. ARTHUR, pg. 109 […the Turin seminary had been closed at the time of the liberal revolution and remained closed until 1863. During this time Don Bosco’s Oratory functioned as a seminary, and while making a significant contribution to the diocese Don Bosco had enjoyed considerable freedom of action.

[12] Cf.  TERESIO BOSCO. pg. 268

[13] Giovanni B. Lemoyne, Biographical Memoirs of Saint John Bosco, Vol. III, 1847 - 1849. (English ed.,),Salesiana Publishers, INC. New York, 1966, pg. 385.
 To see that he suggested to them we are told …Don Bosco called together Buzzetti, Gastini, Bellia, and Reviglio, and said to them, “I need your help at the Oratory. Would you be willing?” …”First, I will prepare you by teaching you elementary school subjects, then, I’ll start you on Latin. If it is God’s will, some day you may be priests..”

[14] CHΆVEZ PASCUAL, Fundamental Aspects of the Strenna 2008.

[15]CROWTHER JOHATHAN. Ed. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Oxford University Press,1998. 1371.

[16] Cf. WIRTH  MORAND, pg. 98,







Réaction à la communication de Sr Patricia Finn "De la première annonce au catéchuménat"
Fr. Joy Sebastian, SDB

- Merci pour le défi partagé de ces idées - pour relancer l'ardeur des débuts de l'évangélisation du Continent Afr. - comme à  l'époque de l'antique Ethiopie 1
- La vraie question: Comment devenir un héraut-témoin toujours plus fidèle de notre Seigneur JC?

Une présentation (GDC) tout à fait claire quoique un peu longue : 4 chapitres + 2 comme introductions

- Le Catéchuménat est une période de formation plus qu'une période d'endoctrinement! 2
- Une rencontre avec Jésus = pré catéchuménat = évangélisation (première annonce) 3
- Puisque les parents sont les premiers éducateurs ... comment pouvons-nous les aider / les former (et l'ensemble de la communauté 4) à être des éducateurs évangélisateurs ? - Ministère de la Famille, appel du pape aux salésiens au CG26?
- EN 18: apporter la Bonne Nouvelle à toute la communauté et à travers elle, de l'intérieur, transformer l'humanité de nouveau ...
- Pré-catéchuménat >> Catéchuménat / catéchèse (apprentissage) >> évangélisateurs - un processus continu d'approfondissement.
- Re découvrir la centralité de la Parole de Dieu.
- Comme éducateurs salésiens, notre tâche est l'initiation chrétienne, pas l'éducation religieuse? Ne sommes-nous pas en train de nous écarter de / ou de "partial"-iser la vision de DB? L'évangélisation et la ré-évangélisation (nouvelle..) conduisent à l'enseignement religieux! Où et quand c'est nécessaire! D'honnêtes citoyens et de bons chrétiens!
- L'initiation chrétienne a la conversion à son ordre du jour, la communauté comme contexte, et le discipulat pour but! --- Une déclaration plutot radicale!
- 10 points pour modéliser la catéchèse sur le catéchuménat et les tâches fondamentales de la catéchèse 5,6 ... un voyage de conversion de toute une vie, et la foi conduisant à la communion / intimité ...

Quelques interrogations qui me traversent l'esprit:

  1. Y-a-il jamais eu une période de grand enthousiasme pour évangéliser le continent africain? Ou s'agissait-ce seulement des colonies de l'Ouest le long de la Méditerranée? Les efforts au 19ème siècle - des Comboni, Lavigerie, Oblats de MI ... entre autres!! -, ont donné la croissance des salésiens quand ils entrèrent dans la première annonce, bien plus que lorsque ils se trouvaient en sécurité au milieu des migrants avec Catéchèse / nouvelle évangélisation!?
  2. Existait / existe-il une nette différence entre la culture orientale et les écoles d'évangélisation (Asie, Afrique) - sinon une annonce plus calme, plus "vécue" au milieu de la communauté environnante! Moins militante, mais plus patiente dans l'annonce? - Témoignage de vie >> ralentissement de la croissance / propagation de la foi chrétienne?
  3. Le Projet Afrique fin des années 1970 et 1980 semble avoir imprégné une humeur évangélisatrice quelque peu aventureuse chez plus d'un salésien : est-ce en train de disparaître?
  4. Comment le modèle catéchuménat - catéchèse peut-il être une aide dans notre travail d'animation des missionnaires salésiens?

Reazione all'intervenzione di Suor Patricia Finn "Dal primo annuncio al catecumenato"
P. Joy Sebastian, SDB

- Grazie per la sfida condivisa di queste idee - di far rivivere il fervore della prima evangelizzazione del Afr Continente - come ai tempi dell'antica Etiopia 1
- La vera domanda: Come diventare un messagero della testimonianza sempre più fedele al Signore JC?

Presentazione (GDC) abbastanza chiaro, anche se un po 'lungo: 4 + 2 capitoli come introduzioni
- Il catecumenato è un periodo di formazione più di un periodo di indottrinamento! 2
- Un incontro con Gesù = pre catecumenato = evangelizzazione  (primo annuncio) 3
- Dal momento che i genitori sono i principali educatori ... come possiamo aiutare / formare (e l'intera comunità 4) di essere educatori evangelisti? - Ministerio della famiglia, chiamata del Papa ai salesiani CG26?
- EN 18: portare la Buona Novella a tutta la comunità e per essa dal di dentro, trasformare l'umanità di nuovo ...
- Pre-catecumenato >> catecumenato / catechesi (learning) >> evangelisti - un processo continuo di approfondimento.
- Re scoprire la centralità della Parola di Dio.
- Come educatori salesiani, il nostro compito è l'iniziazione cristiana, non l'educazione religiosa? Non stiamo andando a derogare / o "parzial"-izzare la visione di DB? L'evangelizzazione e ri-evangelizzazione (nuova..) portano verso l'educazione religiosa! Dove e quando è necessario! Onesti cittadini e buoni cristiani!
- Iniziazione cristiana ha al suo agenda la conversione, la comunità come contesto, e lo discepolato come scopo ! --- Una dichiarazione piuttosto radicale!
- 10 punti per modellare il catecumenato e catechesi sui compiti fondamentali della catechesi 5,6 ... un cammino di conversione de tutta la vita e la fede che porta alla comunione / intimità ...

Alcune domande che attraversano la mia mente:
1. C'è mai stato un periodo di grande entusiasmo per evangelizzare il continente africano? O era solo le colonie occidentali lungo il Mediterraneo? Gli sforzi nel 19 ° secolo - Comboni Lavigerie Oblati di MI ... tra gli altri! - hanno dato la crescita dei salesiani quando sono entrati nel ​​primo annuncio, piuttosto che quando erano al sicuro nel mezzo di migranti con Catechesi / nuova evangelizzazione?
2. È stata / c'è una chiara differenza tra la cultura orientale e le scuole di evangelizzazione (Asia, Africa) - se un annuncio più calmo, più "vissuto" al centro della comunità circostante! Meno militante, ma più paziente nella pubblicità? - Testimonianza di vita >> rallentamento della crescita / propagazione della fede cristiana?
3. Progetto Africa fine degli anni 1970 e 1980, sembra aver impregnato uno stato d'animo d'evangelizzione un po 'avventuroso' in più di un salesiano: è scomparso?
4. Come il modello di catecumenato - catechesi può essere un valido aiuto nel nostro lavoro di animazione dei missionari salesiani?

Reaction to Sr Patricia Finn’s Talk “From Initial Proclamation to the Catechumenate”
Fr. Joy Sebastian, SDB

  1. Thanks for the challenging and spread of thoughts –to recover (relaunch!) the ardour of the beginnings of Evangelization of the Afr. Continent  -- as from Ethiopia of old!!          1
  2. the real question: How to become ever more faithful proclaimer-witness to our Lord J.C.

Quite a clear though lengthy presentation (GDC):  4 chapters +2 as introductions

  1. Catechumenate being a training period more than indoctrination period!                      2
  2. An encounter with Jesus = pre Catechumenate = evangelization(initial proclamation)  3
  3. Since Parents are the first educators...  how do we help/form them (& the entire          4 community) to be evangelizing educators?—Family Ministry, the call of the Pope to the Salesians at GC26!?
  4. EN 18: bringing the Good news to the whole community and through it, from within,   transforming humanity anew...
  5. Pre-catechumenate >> Catechumenate/catechesis(apprenticeship) >>  evangelizers  -- a continuous & deepening process.
  6. Re discover the centrality of God’s Word
  7. As Salesian Educators—task is Christian initiation, Not Religious education?  Are we not deviating from / or ‘partial’-ising DB’s vision? Evangelization & Re-evangelization (new..) leading to religious education! As and where needed! Honest citizens and good Christians!
  8. Christian initiation has conversion as its agenda, community as its context, and discipleship as its goal!  --- quite a radical statement
  9. 10 points for modelling catechesis on Catechumenate & the fundamental tasks of   5,6 catechesis...   a life long journey of Conversion & Faith leading to communion/intimacy...

Some questionings arising in my mind:
Was there ever a period of great enthusiasm to evangelize the continent of Africa? Or was it just the colonies of the West along the Mediterranean?  19th Century efforts of Comboni, Lavigerie, Oblates of MI... etc aside!!  is Growth of Salesians when they went into initial proclamation more than when on safe ground among migrants with Catechesis/new evangelization?! 

Was / Is it a clear difference in the Eastern culture and schools of Evangelization (Asia, Africa)—perhaps a more quiet, lived proclamation in the midst of the community around! Less militant  but longsuffering in proclamation?—witness of life  >> slower growth/spread of the Christian Faith?

Project Africa in the late 1970s and 1980s seems to have imbued some adventurous evangelization mood among many a Salesian, is it dying out?

How can the Catechumenate – Catechesis model help in our work of Animation of Salesian Missionaries?



Sr. Patricia Finn, FMA

Topic: The journey of Christian Initiation from Pre-Evangelization to the Catechumenate in order to ‘recover the ardour of the beginnings of Evangelization of the African continent’.


When one thinks of Africa, one is immediately confronted by its vastness, diversities, complexities as well as its mysteriousness. The Catholic Church in Africa is wrapped up in these factors which need to be unpacked before anyone can understand the reality of the Church on the African Continent.  


When we speak of Africa, we have to remember that North Africa is completely different from Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, each of the regions: Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern differ significantly from each other. Linguistically, Africa is even more complex. Leaving all the dialects aside, we may count about 2,000 different languages and therefore one can imagine the enormous problem of communication facing 62 African nation states today. As one travels from one country to another, the way of life may differ considerably in the livelihood of people, their culture and even their staple food.
It is also important to recall that Evangelization entered the continent of Africa much earlier that the colonial interests. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40, it was the Apostle Philip who baptized the first Ethiopian Christian.
Therefore, the Evangelizing Mission of the Church in Africa and the means of carrying it out, may very well differ from place to place. However, the reality is the same.  The questions that we pose are the same:  How must the Church carry out her Evangelizing Mission?  And How can African Christians become ever more faithful witness to our Lord Jesus Christ?


When referring to catechesis and the model of the Baptismal Catechumenate it is essential that we understand what we are speaking about so as to put into perspective the process by which the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, changed the way in which we do catechesis.

            2.1 Constitution on the Liturgy:  In this document Vatican II was asking that  “the catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps,  be restored and to be taken into use at the discretion of the local ordinary. This means that the time of the catechumenate, which is intended as a period of suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time (#64).

            2.2 Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (#14):  “Those who, through the Church, have accepted from God a belief in Christ are admitted to the catechumenate by liturgical rites. The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher. Therefore, catechumens should be properly instructed in the mystery of salvation and in the practice of Gospel morality, and by sacred rites which are to be held at successive intervals, they should be introduced into the life of faith, of liturgy, and of love, which is led by the People of God […] Finally, the juridical status of catechumens should be clearly defined in the new code of Canon law. For since they are joined to the Church, they are already of the household of Christ, and not seldom they are already leading a life of faith, hope, and charity.
2.3 The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults: In its Decree of 1972  the Congregation           for Divine Worship had this to say: “The Second Vatican Council prescribed the revision of            the rite of baptism of adults and decreed that the catechumenate for adults, divided into several steps, should be restored. By this means the time of the catechumenate, which is intended as a period of well-suited instruction, would be sanctified by liturgical rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time. The Council likewise decreed that both the solemn and simple rites of adult baptism should be revised, with proper attention to the restored catechumenate. (Congregation for Divine Worship 6 January 1972).

            2.4       The Revised General Directory for Catechesis states: “Given that the mission ad gentes is the paradigm of all the Church’s missionary activity, the baptismal catechumenate, which is joined to it, is the model of its catechizing activity. It is therefore helpful to underline those elements of the catechumenate which must inspire contemporary catechesis and its significance”. 
            The Directory points out that there is a fundamental difference between pre-baptismal catechesis and post-baptismal catechesis and in the light of this substantial difference, some elements of the baptismal catechumenate are to be considered as the source of inspiration for post-baptismal catechesis (GDC 1997 #90).
            The Directory then proceeds to expand on which elements of pre-baptismal catechesis are to be considered the norm for post-baptismal catechesis.      

  • The Pastoral care of Christian Initiation is vital for every particular Church
  • The baptismal catechumenate is the responsibility of the entire Christian community
  • The baptismal catechumenate is completely permeated by the Paschal Mystery
  • The baptismal catechumenate is also an initial place of inculturation
  • The concept of the baptismal catechumenate as  a process of formation and as a true school of the faith offers post-baptismal catechesis dynamic and particular characteristics: 
  • Comprehensiveness and integrity of formation
  • Its gradual character expressed in definite stages
  • Its connection with meaningful rites
  • The use of symbols, biblical and liturgical signs
  • Its constant references to the Christian community

The Directory concludes this Chapter with a paragraph which states that, if taken seriously, this vision of catechesis will change the way in which we catechise children and young people:
            “Post-baptismal catechesis, without slavishly imitating the structure of the baptismal catechumenate, and recognising in those to be catechized the reality of their Baptism, does well, however, to draw inspiration from ‘this preparatory school for the Christian life’, and to allow itself to be enriched by those principal elements which characterize the catechumenate” (GDC 91).


            3.1  Initial Proclamation of Christ
The General Directory for Catechesis [1] (#61) says: “Primary proclamation is addressed to non-believers and those living in religious indifference.  Its functions are to proclaim the Gospel and to call to conversion”. It is not only directed towards those who do not yet know Christ but also towards the baptised who have abandoned the practice of their Christian faith;  to those who live in indifference;  to those who only practice the Christian faith occasionally and at certain times during the Liturgical Year.  Those who practice their faith out of habit. 
Basically, primary proclamation, evangelization and new evangelization seek to achieve the same aim:  to bring people to an encounter with Jesus. The Church desires that the first stage in the catechetical process be dedicated to ensuring conversion to Christ (CT 19; GDC 61). It is true to say that initial proclamation is the beginning of the process of  a life-long journey of Faith and conversion. Without initial conversion and initial personal faith catechesis      risks becoming sterile.
In Redemptoris Missio Pope John Paul II  insists that initial proclamation “is the permanent priority of mission” which has a central and irreplaceable role to play in the Church’s missionary activity (n. 44).
3.2 The Period of pre-Catechumenate
This is the starting point, the time of initial conversion. It is a time to check out what the Church is about as well as a time to discern whether the Catholic Church is able to offer meaning and direction for life.  In the Journey of Christian Initiation, this period lasts for as long as it may take the person to come to accept and believe in Jesus Christ and to want to live faith in him as a member of our Church.
What is the advantage of the pre-catechumenate? It is a period for evangelization – an appeal to the heart, the beginning of the person’s affective conversion.  It is a time to respond to the initial questions with which people come to the Church, and removing initial stumbling-blocks of misconceptions that can be easily resolved.  It is a time for them to reflect on their own journey that God is leading them on, and also to hear the stories and testimonies of others.  It is good to be flexible and respond to the needs of the pre-catechumens.  The more systematic content comes in the Catechumenate. 
This is what the RCIA has to say about the period of the pre-catechumenate: “The whole period of the pre-catechumenate is set aside for this evangelization, so that the genuine will to follow Christ and seek baptism may mature” (#36).
Before the Rite of Acceptance is celebrated “sufficient and necessary time, as required in each case, should be set aside to evaluate and, if necessary, to purify the candidates motives and dispositions(RCIA # 43). 

Reflect:  As catechists, what do we do to ensure that children and young people have been evangelized before we bring them to catechesis?

Groups Requiring New Evangelization

Identifying Characteristics

“non-practicing Christians”

Those who have been baptized but lead lives divorced from Christianity

“simple people”

Those who express their deep faith in popular devotions but know little of its fundamental principles

“highly educated” but poorly catechized Christians

Those whose religious formation never advanced beyond that which they received in childhood

Reticent Christians

Those who, for one reason or another, are reticent in public “to give explicit and courageous witness in their lives to the faith of Jesus Christ”.

3.3  The Period of the Catechumenate
At Number 75 of the Ordo it states clearly that “the catechumenate is an extended period during which the candidates are given suitable pastoral formation and guidance, aimed at training them in the Christian life. In this way, the dispositions manifested at their acceptance into the catechumenate are brought to maturity. This is achieved in four ways:

3.3.1 A suitable catechesis is provided, planned to be gradual and complete in its coverage, accommodated to the liturgical year and solidly supported by celebrations of the word […]

            3.3.2 […] The catechumens and candidates are helped and supported by sponsors, godparents and the entire Christian community.  The catechumens learn to turn more readily to God in prayer, to bear witness to the faith, in all things to keep their hopes set on Christ, to follow supernatural inspirations in their deeds and to practice love of neighbour, even at the cost of self-renunciation. Thus formed, the newly converted set out on a spiritual journey […]

3.3.3 The Church, like a mother, helps the catechumens on their journey by means of suitable liturgical rites, which purify the catechumens little by little and strengthen them with God’s blessing […]

3.3.4 Since the Church’s life is apostolic, catechumens should also learn how to work actively with others to spread the Gospel and build up the Church by the witness of their lives and by professing their faith”.


All Christians are responsible for catechesis. This is particularly true because of the responsibility of every  Baptised person to be part of the Evangelizing Mission of the Church.  This principle is re-echoed when the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “it is vital that parish leaders collaborate with one another in catechetical activities at all levels, and collaborate with parents and families in their work with children and youth, for parents are the first educators of their children” (CCC 2223).
Of all the ministries and services that the Church performs “its mission of evangelization, [and] catechesis occupies a position of importance” (GDC 219).
Catechesis is a service “performed jointly by priests, deacons, religious and laity, in communion with the Bishop” (GDC 219).  For this to become a reality there needs to be a stronger conviction among Catholics that catechesis is not something that is the responsibility of a select few. The entire Christian Community is called to be involved in this process.
The words of Jesus continue to give meaning to the Christian life: “I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last” (Jn 15:16).  One of the stumbling blocks towards implementing a catechumenal approach to catechesis is that often the task and responsibility of catechesis falls to a small group of willing and dedicated people.
Evangelization has been given many definitions, but the most simple yet comprehensive is the definition given by Pope Paul VI: “Evangelization is bringing the Good News to the whole community and, through its influence, transforming humanity from within and making it new” (EN 18).
Pope John Paul II understood catechesis “as a very remarkable moment in the evangelization process” (CT 18).  Evangelization and catechesis are interrelated, yet they cannot be identified with each other.  Although the content of catechesis carries the same message as evangelization, which is the Good News of Salvation, the ‘moment’ of catechesis is the period in which conversion to Jesus Christ is formalized and provides the basis for adherence to Christ (CT 26).
Whether catechesis is understood as part of the introductory process of arousing faith in unbelievers, which, hopefully, will lead to incorporation into the Church, or whether it is understood as part of the process which helps the faith of children, young people and adults mature, it always takes place within the context of evangelization (GDC 49).  Those who have been evangelized and catechized, in their turn, are called to become evangelizers.
Catechesis is thus the necessary link between missionary activity which calls to faith and pastoral activity which continually nourishes the Christian Community.  […]  Catechesis is fundamental for building up the personality of the individual disciple” (GDC 81).





Pre-catechumenate /

Conversion and initial faith

“Ad gentes”, a “pre-catechesis”;new evangelisation; “kerygmatic catechesis”

Proclaims the Gospel; calls to conversion; prepares individuals for the catechumenate; begins the catechetical process


Preparation for Sacraments of Christian Initiation

The baptismal catechumenate, which links proclamation to pastoral activity within the community

Offers comprehensive and systematic formation in he faith; provides instruction as well as apprenticeship in Christian living; centers on basic doctrines and essential gospel values

Mystagogia / Ongoing formation in the Faith

Growth in faith / continual conversion

Integration of the initiated into the life of the community; fostering love of God, love of neighbour, and a commitment to evangelisation

Study of Scripture (especially lectio divina); “a Christian reading of events”; Catholic social teaching; liturgical catechesis; occasional catechesis centered on particular circumstances/events; initiatives that reinforce commitment, open new perspectives, and encourage perseverance (e.g. days of recollection, retreats)


4.1  The Word of God as the Source of Catechesis
The GDC dedicates a whole chapter to the norms and criteria for presenting the Gospel message in catechesis.  This means that “at the heart of catechesis, we find, in essence, a person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth” (#98).
In his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini Pope Benedict XVI refers to the biblical dimension of catechesis which he considers to be “an important aspect of the Church’s pastoral work which, if used wisely, can help in rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in catechesis […]” (VD 74).

4.2  The Mission in the Church after  Vatican II
The witness to the values of the Kingdom on the part of the Baptized and Christian Communities is the first proclamation of the Risen Jesus or the kerygma.  (AG 20; EN 28, 49, 80;  RM 32, 48-49; 72).  It is different from catechesis. The evangelizer is a person possessed by the passion for Jesus Christ.  A passion that flows from a heart that is convinced that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.  
The beneficiaries of  first evangelization are the non-Christians and non-believers:  peoples, groups, socio-cultural contexts where Christ and his Gospel are unknown and where there is lack of sufficiently mature Christian communities about to incarnate the faith in their own environment and to announce it to other groups and to promote the values of the Kingdom. (Cf. AG4,5,6;  RM 33-34).
The mission ad gentes commits us to promote the human development by educating the consciences.
All the particular Churches are called to the mission ad gentes, which is the primary missionary activity of the Church, without which the very missionary dimension would be deprived of its fundamental significance and of its exemplary fulfillment. (RM 34, 37; 52-58).
In the Council’s document on Liturgical Renewal (SC) and in Ad Gentes, the document on the missionary nature of the church, a vision of evangelization, catechumenal formation and liturgical celebration was elaborated as the privileged way to revitalize the church’s initiatory efforts.
This renewal has been given flesh in magisterial documents of the past 25-30 years which have gradually elaborated the Council’s vision. Documents on Liturgical Reform, Roman Congregations, Papal Encyclicals, Episcopal Synods, and lesser documents from various departments of the Holy See and individual Episcopal Conferences around the world have sought to implement the Council’s mandates in ways faithful to the Spirit-led vision of Vatican II.
As Salesian Educators, our task is one of Christian Initiation rather than Religious Education.  Christian Initiation is the agenda set before us.

4.3     Christian Initiation
To be initiated in the Church presupposes there is a community which holds within itself a mystery, or a special knowledge.  The Order of Christian Initiation of Adults assumes that the Church is such a community.
Any kind of Christian Initiation has to do with a process of being absorbed into and bonded to a group.  Those being initiated take on a new identity.  In any context, initiation has as its goal to make and form individuals and communities who are committed to the history, symbols, values and celebration of the group.  Any community committed to  Christian Initiation expects conversion to its way of life as a basic criterion for membership.

4.4      Suitable Catechesis
At Number 75, the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults [2] states clearly that the period of the Catechumenate is a time for “pastoral formation and guidance, aimed at training [the catechumens] in the Christian life” (RCIA 75). 
The four parts of this major section in the Ordo  touch on the essence of how suitable catechesis is to be carried out.

4.4.1 Catechesis during the period of the Catechumenate  “is gradual and complete in its coverage, accommodated to the liturgical year, and solidly supported by celebrations of the word. This catechesis leads the catechumens not only to an appropriate acquaintance with dogmas and precepts but also to a profound sense of the mystery of salvation in which they are to participate” (75.1).  The point is that all catechesis is an experience of the mystery of God and results in a growing desire of those being catechized for a deeper participation in that mysterious experience.

4.4.2 The second part of number 75 of the Ordo  gives us insight into how the initiation process is carried forward: “As they become familiar with the Christian way of life and are helped by the example and support of sponsors, godparents, and the entire Christian community, the catechumens learn        to turn more readily to God in prayer, to bear witness to the faith, in all things to keep their      hopes set on Christ, to follow supernatural inspiration in their deeds, and to practice love of     neighbor, even at the cost of self-renunciation. Thus formed, the newly converted set out on a spiritual journey” (75.2).
Children and young people are initiated more effectively by following a community’s way of life than by learning about a variety of religious truths.

4.4.3  The third part of section 75 of the Ordo  describes the importance of ritual experience in the process of initiation:  showing by example how to live a life of apostolic witness. The initiation called for here is a process of forming deeply in love for the work of the Gospel. Caring for the marginalized, political action for justice, readiness to share publicly the reasons for one’s faith, a sense of empowerment for mission rooted in baptism – these are the characteristics of the “way of life” into which our young people should be initiated.
We see in number 75 of the Ordo a powerful summary of the vision of Christian Initiation which should bring about a “paradigm shift” of how Christian initiation of adults, young people and children, at the levels of pre-baptismal catechumenate and post-baptismal catechumenate should take place.
A community that truly understands the meaning of Christian Initiation has conversion as its agenda, community as its context, and discipleship as its goal.

Pope Paul VI stressed the need for authentic catechesis to be “organic and systematic because of the tendency in various quarters to minimize its importance” (CT 21).
Initiatory catechesis is more than passing on knowledge of the faith. It initiates and follows the style of the adult baptismal catechumenate that incorporates “into the community, which lives, celebrates and bears witness to the faith” (GDC 68).
Pope Benedict XVI stressed in his first encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est that “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with … a person [Jesus Christ] which gives life a new horizon and a definitive direction”.
Properly renewed catechesis is centered on the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, all catechetical efforts must be oriented toward communion with Jesus Christ.  If the Christian faith is about an encounter with the person of Jesus, then teaching of the faith must move beyond commandments and rules into something that introduces more directly into knowledge of Jesus, the person.  Catechetical renewal in the church must focus on a transformed relationship with Jesus within a believing, sacramental faith community.
The GDC (#80) stresses that “the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but also in communion and intimacy with Jesus Christ”.
This personal relationship with Jesus is not a vague association, but rather, a developed and mature Christian faith which requires basic knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures. “Catechetical work always entails approaching Scripture in faith and in the Church’s Tradition” (VD 74).
When Pope Benedict XVI refers to catechesis as “permeated by the mindset of the Gospel through assiduous contact with the texts themselves”, (VD 74), he is referring to the fact that the Word of God must inspire every dimension of the life of the Church.
The disciple of Christ needs to be constantly nourished by the Word of God in order to grow in the Christian life and deeper faith. “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17).

5.1 Post Baptismal Catechesis is modeled on the Baptismal Catechumenate:  An ongoing journey of conversion and faith 
Fifty years ago, Vatican II put before the Church the vision of Catechesis understood as an ongoing journey of faith; a process of initiation into the life and mission of Christ.  The ‘newness of this vision is based on the restoration of an ancient practice of initiating unbaptized adults into the church (RCIA pp xiv-xviii).
The RCIA involves more than instruction in knowledge of the faith. It embraces a long process, or journey of faith, marked out by specific rites of passage, celebrations of the Word, anointing and laying on of hands.
This preparation culminates in the reception of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation and insertion into a faith-filled Christian Community who are aware of and committed to their Evangelizing Mission in the Church.  All forms of Catechesis are therefore to be understood as an apprenticeship in the faith (GDC 67).
The restoration of the Baptismal Catechumenate requires adaptation to the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, social and ecclesial conditions among those for whom it is intended (GDC 170).

5.2       How to model all post-baptismal catechesis on the Baptismal Catechumenate
Post Baptismal Catechesis for children and adolescents that is modeled on the baptismal catechumenate is a comprehensive and systematic formation in the faith that normally begins with a period of evangelization or re-evangelization.

5.2.1    All  catechesis is gradual and complete in its coverage, accommodated to the liturgical year and solidly supported by celebrations of the Word.
5.2.2    It encourages accompaniment of individuals by sponsors, godparents and the entire Christian community.  It is a process that takes place within the Christian Community.
5.2.3    It promotes the celebration of appropriate liturgical celebrations throughout the various stages and phases of catechesis.  It takes time and cannot be rushed.
5.2.4    It recommends that suitable opportunities be provided for active apostolic involvement suited to age, culture and circumstances (RCIA 75).
5.2.5    It includes more than instruction; it is an apprenticeship in the faith that promotes an authentic following of Christ, focused on His person. It also helps the disciple of Christ       to accept the responsibilities assumed at baptism and to profess the faith from the         ‘heart’ (CT 29).
5.2.6    It presents a type of catechesis that is permeated by a climate of prayer.
5.2.7    It inserts those preparing for Christian Initiation into a faith community that lives, celebrates and bears witness to the faith.
5.2.8    It prepares for and is open to the mission of the Church (GDC 67-68).
5.2.9    The Sacrament of Confirmation completes the initiation process by making people full members of the Church as they personally commit themselves to continuing the mission of Jesus.
5.2.10  After the reception of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation there is a period Mystagogy or deepening of the faith, which aims at helping the person to be inserted into the Community as an active member of Christ’s body.

Catechesis is always inspired by the way in which Jesus formed his disciples:  He taught them about the Kingdom; He impressed on them evangelical attitudes; He taught them to pray; He prepared and sent them out on mission.
There are  essential elements  or tasks in the process of catechesis. The GDC calls these elements the “fundamental tasks” (GDC 85) of catechesis and states that “when catechesis omits one of these elements, the Christian faith does not attain full development” (GDC 87).

The fundamental  tasks of catechesis  are expressed as follows:

6.1  Promoting knowledge of the faith
Catechesis must lead those being catechized not only to a gradual knowledge and understanding of the faith but also equip them to be capable of articulating their faith

6.2  Liturgical formation
All the faithful need to be brought to a full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy.  Part of catechesis is therefore the task of promoting a knowledge of and understanding of the meaning of the liturgy and the sacraments.

6.3  Moral formation
Catechesis transmits the attitudes of Jesus himself and encourages those being catechized to embark on a journey of interior transformation.  The Sermon on the Mount is an indispensable point of reference for the moral formation which is so important in the lives of our young people today.

6.4  Prayer formation
If the aim of all catechesis is intimacy and communion with Jesus, then those being catechized have to be formed in the different aspects of Christian prayer:  adoration, praise, thanksgiving, filial confidence, supplication and awe.  All these sentiments are summed up in the Lord’s Prayer which is the model of all Christian prayer.  Catechesis needs to be permeated by a climate of prayer.

6.5  Initiation into community life
Catechesis prepares those being catechized to live in community and to participate actively in the life and mission of the Church. Part of this initiation into community life is encouraging fraternal attitudes towards members of other Christian churches and ecclesial communities. 

6.6       Missionary initiation
Catechesis seeks to equip the disciples of Jesus to be present as Christians in society through their professional, cultural and social lives.  Catechesis instils the same evangelical attitudes which Jesus taught his disciples:  seek out the lost, proclaim and heal, be poor in spirit. 
Catechesis also has to educate towards meaningful communication with men and women of other religions and be capable of acknowledging the many seeds of the Word that God has sown in these religions   (GDC 81-87).

Each of these elements must be present in the life of a mature, committed Christian. They must also be in relationship with each other on a permanent basis. Their interaction is the heart of the growth formula for a Christian (GDC 31; 87).
If one or more of these elements is entirely missing from the life of a Christian, it means that a fundamental formation/conversion experience has not been followed. (GDC 22; 53-57).
While many people associate catechesis with ministry to children or with pre-sacramental preparation programs, the GDC clarifies the fact that Catechesis is a life-long process or journey of conversion and faith for all believers (GDC 51-57).

[1] From now on to be referred to as GDC

[2] The Order of Christian Initiation of Adults will from now on be referred to as the Ordo


Presentation on 'Initial Proclamation in the educative environment'
for the Study Days of the Salesian Family on the Initial Proclamation of Christ
in the Africa & Madagascar
November 7, 2012 Addis Ababa

Mons Lisane-Christos Matheos Semahun (Catholic Archeparchy of Ethiopia)

Initial Proclamation
In this presentation I kindly ask you to understand initial Proclamation ‘IP’ generally as ‘evangelization’ or religious education (eg: IP is superficial), although there are many adult baptism in DB works. The term initial proclamation refers to the start of the rich, dynamic, and complex process of integral evangelization. It is the beginning of the pedagogy which introduces people step by step to the mystery of Christ. Initial proclamation is the short but it is a door to the next step and it is an engaging work. It is directed not only towards those who do not know Christ but also to the baptized and who have abandoned the practice of their Catholic faith, to those who are living their faith with cultural and sociological understanding of Christianity, to those who practice the Christian faith occasionally, and to those who practice their faith out of habit, hence this practice has not enabled them to personally encounter Christ as their personal Savior. IP depends on our quality of life (witness), friendly approach. Initial proclamation is the witness and explicit, contextualized presentation of Christ and his Good News to a individual and community which stirs up their interest, inviting the listeners to a personal and communitarian encounter, conversion and fundamental choice for Christ in community (1 Cor. 12,17; Eph 5,23).
Since, proclamation is the permanent priority of mission it is not something to opt for. Because it is made in union with the entire ecclesial community, is never a merely personal act. It is also inspired by faith, which gives rise to enthusiasm and fervor in the missionary In order to be consistent I will use the word Evangelization or religious education while, it may mean also Initial proclamation.
Evangelization is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).
These words from Pope Paul VI perfectly summarize the core of the Church’s identity. She has been given the supreme privilege of proclaiming God’s message of love, mercy and salvation for His people. She is called to be the mediator of salvific grace to the world. Such gifts cannot be hidden. By its very nature they must be shared.

Evangelization and Catholic Schools
Throughout the centuries, the Church has developed many ways, many methods for evangelizing, for sharing God’s saving message and grace. One of the most effective is the Catholic School.
By nature and design, the Catholic School is equipped with the necessary tools for proclaiming the Gospel and ensuring that its students have every opportunity to accept this ineffable gift.
In contemporary society, the Church finds its mission and importance as relevant as ever. People throughout the world hunger for God’s word and His grace through the Sacraments of the Church. Therefore, the Church expends significant resources to build schools to help people learn about God’s love so they might respond better to that love and ultimately share it with a world that needs it so desperately.
In our continent, Catholics expend great effort to ensure that these schools are well staffed and funded, are academically excellent and provide students with activities that help them become well-rounded persons. In fact, these aspects are so important to the well being of a Catholic School, ways have been developed to measure empirically a school’s progress and success in each of these critical areas.
However, none of the areas listed above (funding, academic excellence, and success in extracurricular activities) is the defining aspect of a Catholic school. Most schools strive to achieve success in these areas. The defining aspect of a Catholic School, which separates it from every other kind of educational institution or enterprise, is its Catholic identity.
Running a Catholic school today is challenging for many reasons. On the spiritual level, young Catholics are constantly confronted by values hostile to those of the Church. This causes tension within young people, who are already struggling with issues of self-identity and looking for meaning in their lives.
That is why a Catholic School is perfectly positioned to provide the spiritual guidance that young people so greatly need and which they desperately seek. When a Catholic School fails in its mission to help students grow in love of God and others, the consequences can be disastrous.
The five Essential Mark of the Catholic Schools”,
The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education recognizes this reality by way of admonition and encouragement in its document Education in a Catholic School: ARCHBISHOP J. MICHAEL MILLER, CSB Secretary Congregation for Catholic Education, who is the writer of the book called  “the Holy see’s teaching on the Catholic Schools” in 2006 for the purpose of solidarity association.  has also written an essay with the title “The five Essential Mark of the Catholic Schools”,  which deals on the five elements that necessarily belong to a school's Catholic identity are the principles proposed by the Holy See that justify the Church's heavy investment in schooling.  Like the marks of the Church proclaimed in the Creed – one, holy, catholic, and apostolic – so, too, does the Holy See identify the principal features of a school as Catholic: a Catholic school should be inspired by a supernatural vision, founded on Christian anthropology, animated by communion and community, imbued with a Catholic worldview throughout its curriculum, and sustained by gospel witness. These benchmarks help to answer the critical question: Is this a Catholic school according to the mind of the Church?

I found it to be fitting to the subject I am requested to present to this Study Days.

1. Inspired by a Supernatural Vision
The Church sees education as a process that, in light of man's transcendent destiny, forms the whole child and seeks to fix his or her eyes on heaven. The specific purpose of a Catholic education is the formation of boys and girls who will be good citizens of this world, loving God and neighbor and enriching society with the leaven of the gospel, and who will also be citizens of the world to come, thus fulfilling their destiny to become saints.
If Catholic educators, parents, and others who dedicate themselves to this apostolate fail to keep in mind a high supernatural vision, all their talk about Catholic schools will be no more than "a gong booming or a cymbal clashing" (1 Cor. 13:1).
2. Founded on a Christian Anthropology
Emphasis on the supernatural destiny of students brings with it a profound appreciation of the need to perfect children in all their dimensions as images of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). Catholic theology teaches that grace builds on nature. Because of this complementarity of the natural and the supernatural, Catholic educators should have a sound understanding of the human person that addresses the requirements of both the natural and the supernatural perfection of the children entrusted to their care.
It is a concept which includes a defense of human rights, but also attributes to the human person the dignity of a child of God. . . . It calls for the fullest development of all that is human, because we have been made masters of the world by its Creator. All this says nothing more than: "It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear."
The Holy See's documents insist that, in order to be worthy of its name, a Catholic school must be founded on Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. It is he who, through his Incarnation, is united with each student. Christ is not an appendix or an add-on to Catholic educational philosophy; he is the center and fulcrum of the entire enterprise, the light enlightening every boy and girl who comes into a Catholic school (cf. John 1:9). Many Catholic schools fall into the trap of a secular academic success culture, putting their Christological focus and its accompanying understanding of the human person in second place. Christ is "fitted in" rather than being the school's vital principle.
As John Paul II wrote in his 1979 Message to the National Catholic Educational Association, "Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others”.
3. Animated by Communion and Community
A third mark of catholicity is the emphasis on the school as a community – a community of persons and, even more to the point, "a genuine community of faith." Such an emphasis proposes an alternative model for Catholic schools to that of an individualistic society. This communal dimension is rooted both in the social nature of the human person and in the reality of the Church as "the home and the school of communion." That the Catholic school is an educational community "is one of the most enriching developments for the contemporary school." The Congregation's Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School sums up this new emphasis: The declaration Gravissimum Educations notes an important advance in the way a Catholic school is thought of: the transition from the school as an institution to the school as a community. This community dimension is, perhaps, one result of the new awareness of the Church's nature as developed by the Council. In the Council texts, the community dimension is primarily a theological concept rather than a sociological category.
The Holy See describes the school as a community in four areas: the teamwork among all those involved; the cooperation between educators and bishops; the interaction of students with teachers; and the school's physical environment.
Elementary schools "should try to create a community school climate that reproduces, as far as possible, the warm and intimate atmosphere of family life. Their communion fosters appreciation of the various charisms and vocations that build up a genuine school community and strengthen scholastic solidarity. Educators, administrators, parents, and bishops guide the school to make choices that promote "overcoming individualistic self-promotion, solidarity instead of competition, assisting the weak instead of marginalization, responsible participation instead of indifference."
The Holy See is, moreover, ever mindful of ensuring the appropriate involvement of parents in Catholic schools: Close cooperation with the family is especially important when treating sensitive issues such as religious, moral, or sexual education, orientation toward a profession, or a choice of one's vocation in life. It is not a question of convenience, but a partnership based on faith. They promote solidarity, mutual enhancement, and joint responsibility in the educational plan, and, above all, they give an explicit Christian testimony.
Cooperation between Educators and Bishops
Catholic educators recognize that the bishop's pastoral leadership is pivotal in supporting the establishment and ensuring the catholicity of the schools in his pastoral care. Indeed, “only the bishop can set the tone, ensure the priority, and effectively present the importance of the cause to the Catholic people”. Episcopal responsibility is twofold.

  • First, the bishop must integrate schools into his diocese's pastoral program; and,
  • Second, he must oversee the teaching within them. As John Paul II straightforwardly

affirmed, "Bishops need to support and enhance the work of Catholic schools."
The bishop must see to it that the education in his schools is based on the principles of Catholic doctrine. This vigilance includes even schools established or directed by members of religious institutes.
Interaction of Students and Teachers
The Catholic philosophy of education has always paid special attention to the quality of interpersonal relations in the school community, especially those between teachers and students. This concern ensures that the student is seen as a person whose intellectual growth is harmonized with spiritual, religious, emotional, and social growth. Because, as St. John Bosco said, "education is a thing of the heart," authentic formation of young people requires the personalized accompanying of a teacher.
In measured terms, the Congregation's document Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith describes the student-teaching relationship: A personal relationship is always a dialogue rather than a monologue, and the teacher must be convinced that the enrichment in the relationship is mutual. Also, rapport with the students ought to be a prudent combination of familiarity and distance; and this must be adapted to the need of each individual student. Familiarity will make a personal relationship easier, but a certain distance is also needed.
Catholic schools, then, safeguard the priority of the person, both student and teacher. They foster the proper friendship between them, since "an authentic formative process can only be initiated through a personal relationship."
Physical Environment
A school's physical environment is creating  a pleasant and family atmosphere." This includes an adequate physical plants and adequate equipment. It is especially important that this "school-home" be immediately recognizable as Catholic. The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education sums it up perfectly this way:

From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illumined by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics. The Council summed this up by speaking of an environment permeated with the gospel spirit of love and freedom (Education in a Catholic School, 25).
The Incarnation, which emphasizes the bodily coming of God's Son into the world, leaves its seal on every aspect of Christian life. The very fact of the Incarnation tells us that the created world is the means God chose to communicate his life to us. What is human and visible can bear the divine.
If Catholic schools are to be true to their identity, they will suffuse their environment with a delight in the sacramental. Therefore they should express physically and visibly the external signs of Catholic culture through images, symbols, icons, and other objects of traditional devotion. A chapel, classroom crucifixes and statues, liturgical celebrations, and other sacramental reminders of Catholic life, including good art that is not explicitly religious in its subject matter, should be evident. All these signs embody the community ethos of Catholicism.
Prayer should be a normal part of the school day, so that students learn to pray in times of sorrow and joy, of disappointment and celebration, of difficulty and success. Mass should be celebrated regularly, with the students and teachers participating appropriately. The sacramental vitality of the Catholic faith is expressed in these and similar acts of religion that belong to everyday ecclesial life and should be evident in every school.

4. Imbued with a Catholic Worldview throughout its Curriculum

A fourth distinctive characteristic of Catholic schools is that the "spirit of Catholicism" should permeate the entire curriculum. Catholic education is "intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person." An integral education aims to develop gradually every capability of every student: his or her intellectual, physical, psychological, moral, and religious capacities. Vatican documents speak of an education that responds to all the needs of the human person:
The integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education, includes the development of all the human faculties of the students, together with preparation for professional life, formation of ethical and social awareness, becoming aware of the transcendental, and religious education. Every school, and every educator in the school, ought to be striving "to form strong and responsible individuals, who are capable of making free and correct choices," thus preparing young people "to open themselves more and more to reality, and to form in themselves a clear idea of the meaning of life" [The Catholic School, 31].

  • It is Catholic because it undertakes to educate the whole child, addressing the requirements of his or her natural and supernatural perfection.
  • It is Catholic because it provides an education in the intellectual and moral virtues.
  • It is Catholic because it prepares for a fully human life at the service of others and for the life of the world to come.

All instruction, therefore, must be authentically Catholic in content and methodology across the entire program of studies. If a Catholic school is to deliver on its promise to provide students with an integral education, it must foster love for wisdom and truth, and must integrate faith, culture, and life.
Love for Wisdom and Passion for Truth
In an age of information overload, Catholic schools must be especially attentive in their instruction to strike the delicate balance between human experience and understanding. Catholic educators do not want their students to say, "We had the experience but missed the meaning."
Knowledge and understanding are far more than the accumulation of information. T. S. Eliot puts it just right: "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" Catholic schools do far more than convey information to passive students. They aspire to teach love for wisdom, habituating each student "to desire learning so much that he or she will delight in becoming a self-learner."
The contemporary world urgently needs the service of educational institutions that uphold and teach that truth is "that fundamental value without which freedom, justice, and human dignity are extinguished" [Veritatis Splendor, 4].
Closely following papal teaching, the Holy See's documents on schools insist that education is about truth – in both its natural and its supernatural dimensions: The school considers human knowledge as a truth to be discovered. In the measure in which subjects are taught by someone who knowingly and without restraint seeks the truth, they are to that extent Christian. Discovery and awareness of truth leads man to the discovery of Truth itself.
While Catholic schools conform to government-mandated curricula, they implement their programs with an overall religious orientation. Such a perspective includes criteria such as "confidence in our ability to attain truth, at least in a limited way – a confidence based not on feeling but on faith . . . [and] the ability to make judgments about what is true and what is false." Unwavering commitment to truth is at home in an authentically Catholic school. Alongside love, Don Bosco stressed the importance of reason and religion.

Faith, Culture and Life
A second principle that derives from communicating a Catholic worldview to children is the notion that they should learn to transform culture in light of the gospel. Schools prepare students to relate the Catholic faith to their particular culture and to live that faith in practice.
In The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Millennium,  the Congregation for Catholic Education commented:
From the nature of the Catholic school also stems one of the most significant elements of its educational project: the synthesis between culture and faith. The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation, and coordination, bringing forth within what is learned in a school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history.
Furthermore, young Catholics, in a way appropriate to their age, must also learn to make judgments based on religious and moral truths. They should learn to be critical and evaluative. It is the Catholic faith that provides young people with the essential principles for critique and evaluation.
The educational philosophy that guides Catholic schools also seeks to ensure that they are places where "faith, culture, and life are brought into harmony." Central to the Catholic school is its mission of holiness, of saint-making. It strives to develop virtue "by the integration of culture with faith and of faith with living." The Congregation for Catholic Education has written that "the Catholic school tries to create within its walls a climate in which the pupil's faith will gradually mature and enable him to assume the responsibility placed on him by Baptism."
A primary way of helping Catholic students become more committed to their faith is by providing solid religious instruction. To be sure, "education in the faith is a part of the finality of a Catholic school." For young Catholics, such instruction embraces both teaching the truths of the faith and fostering its practice. Still, we must always take special care to avoid the error that a Catholic school's distinctiveness rests solely on the shoulders of its religious-education program.

5. Sustained by Gospel Witness

A final indicator of a school's authentic catholicity is the vital witness of its teachers and administrators. With them lies the primary responsibility for creating a Christian school climate, as individuals and as a community. Indeed, "it depends chiefly on them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose." Consequently the Holy See's documents pay a great deal of attention to the vocation of teachers and their participation in the Church's evangelizing mission. Theirs is a supernatural calling and not simply the exercise of a profession. "The nobility of the task to which teachers are called demands that, in imitation of Christ, the only Teacher, they reveal the Christian message not only by word but also by every gesture of their behavior." Don Bosco’s educational system is often described as the 'preventive system'. It was an approach built on love and the character of the educator.

Hiring Committed Catholics

To fulfill their responsibility of speaking about the Father, educators in Catholic schools, with very few exceptions, should be practicing Catholics who are committed to the Church and living her sacramental life. Despite the difficulties sometimes involved, those responsible for hiring teachers must see to it that these criteria are met.
When such a policy is ignored, it is inevitable that children will absorb, even if they are not explicitly taught, a soft indifferentism that will sustain neither their practice of the faith nor their ability to imbue society with Christian values. Principals, pastors, school-board members, parents, and bishops share in the serious duty of hiring teachers who meet the standards of doctrine and integrity of life essential to a flourishing Catholic school.
A primary way to foster a school's catholicity is by carefully hiring men and women who enthusiastically endorse its distinctive ethos, for Catholic education is strengthened by witnesses to the gospel.

Transparent Witness of Life

As well as fostering a Catholic worldview across the curriculum, even in so-called secular subjects, "if students in Catholic schools are to gain a genuine experience of the Church, the example of teachers and others responsible for their formation is crucial: the witness of adults in the school community is a vital part of the school's identity."
Children will pick up far more by the example of their educators than by masterful pedagogical techniques, especially in the practice of Christian virtues. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
The central figure in the work of educating, and especially in education in the faith, which is the summit of the person's formation and is his or her most appropriate horizon, is specifically the form of witness. This witness becomes a proper reference point to the extent that the person can account for the hope that nourishes his life [cf. 1 Pet.3:15] and is personally involved in the truth that he proposes.
The prophetic words of Pope Paul VI ring as true today as they did more than thirty years ago: "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses." What educators do and how they act are more significant than what they say – inside and outside the classroom. This is how the Church evangelizes. "The more completely an educator can give concrete witness to the model of the ideal person [Christ] that is being presented to the students, the more this ideal will be believed and imitated."
The same can be said about a failure to give clear witness to the Church's teaching on the sanctity of marriage and the sacredness of human life. Catholic educators are expected to be models for their students by bearing transparent witness to Christ and to the beauty of the gospel. If boys and girls are to experience the splendor of the Church, the Christian example of teachers and others responsible for their formation is indispensable, and no effort should be spared in guaranteeing the presence of such witness in every Catholic school.

Suggestion for schools and oratories to add this value of
Catholic identity privileged space for initial proclamation difficult, are:

  1. Explicit signs are important and effective tools of Evangelization.
  2. All external signs like: The name of the center or the School to be mentioned clearly as Catholic very clearly on the sign board.
  3. Religious Pictures in the compound and in the class rooms. Ex. Holy Cross..
  4. Film show of the Saints Spiritual heroic people
  5. Allow ecclesial movements, clubs, and association to be established voluntarily in the compound. For example:  EYM, AP, MAGIS,YCW,YCS, PL, ETC…
  6. Catechism: Permanently give Catechism class including preparation for the  first communion and confirmation
  7. Train and Mission the Catholic  student in this case we need to give an extra class for the FAITH formation to the Catholic student
  8. Hire a practicing Catholic s in the institute as teachers/workers to be used as instrument for transmission of Faith.
  9. Increase the admission Catholic number of the Student
  10. Awareness training for all the Staff members.

Some of The factors, which make the (initial) proclamation difficult, are:Ethiopia is by tradition a Christian country

  • Our Catholic Christians are threatened
  • The wrong concept of “proselytise”
  • Sometime a wrong concept of “Discrimination”
  • Ignorance of our religious freedom
  • Tendency from discrimination of other religion to the discrimination of the Catholics.


Fr Innocent Maganya, M.afr


I am very much honored to have been invited to participate at these STUDY DAYS. The nature of the study is quite appealing. We have just concluded a synod of Bishops which dealt exclusively with the theme of New Evangelization, and here you want to reflect on Initial evangelization and dialogue with African Religions and cultures. By doing so, you clearly position yourselves in line with the teaching of John Paul II who clearly stated that the Missio ad Gentes is far from being over (Cfr RM). Even when we talk about New Evangelisation, we should not forget about the mandate we have to proclaim the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ to all those who do not know him.
 Since Vatican II, we have come to a wider understanding of what is the mission of the Church or better what the missionary work consist of.  The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church, in its chapter II mentions witness as the first form of Evangelization. This will be repeated in all subsequent documents of the Church. In second place comes the preaching of the Gospel and the assembling of the people of the people of God, and lastly the forming of the Christian community. (AG, 10-18). But  the same document  carefully cautions that the missionary activity of the Church does not end with the establishment of the community. It says “the obligation to carry the work devolves on the particular churches already constituted, an obligation to preach the Gospel to all who are still outside. (AG, 6).   Each time there is a new situation, the Church is called to re-evaluate the pertinence of her missionary presence.

Fifteen years after Vatican II, Paul VI wrote Evangelii Nuntiandi in which he expanded the understanding of the work of evangelization.  With the rise of liberation theology in Latin America, there was a danger to narrow the understanding of the mission of the Church.  The Pope acknowledges that evangelization is a complex and dynamic reality. It includes witness, initial proclamation, catechesis, human promotion. Evangelii Nuntiandi reaffirms the importance of witness, but stresses the fact there is  “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed”. (EN 21-21). The complexity of mission was again reaffirmed by John Paul II in  Redemptoris Missio. John Paul II says that mission is a single and complex reality (RM, 41). But proclamation remains the permanent priority of mission. It has a central and irreplaceable role. (RM, 44). One of the aim of the encyclical was to clarify the relationship between Missio ad Gentes and Inter-religious dialogue. At the time of Redemptoris Missio, there were already some tendencies in the Church that wanted to narrow the understanding of mission to inter-religious dialogue. Though he values positively the dialogue with other religions, the pope strongly proposes “proclamation as the permanent priority of Mission.”    That is why the title of the encyclical gives already the tone: It is about the permanent validity of the missionary activity of the Church.  It says yes to dialogue but proclamation remains essential. Redemptoris Mission defines three concrete situations in which the mission of the Church is carried out.

  • Missio ad Gentes:  This mission is directed to “peoples, groups, and socio-cultural  contexts in which Christ and his gospel are not  known, or which lack Christian communities sufficiently mature” (RM, 33).  Further more, it is directed to “peoples or groups who do not yet believe in Christ, who are far from Christ, in whom the Church  has not yet taken root, and whose culture has not yet been influenced by the Gospel” (RM, 34).  We could refer to this as primary evangelization or initial proclamation.
  • The Pastoral care:  It is directed towards “Christian communities with adequate and solid ecclesial structures. They are fervent in their faith and in Christian living. They bear witness to the Gospel in their surroundings and have a sense of commitment to the universal mission” (RM 33).
  •  The New Evangelization or Re-evangelization: It is directed towards  “countries with ancient Christian roots, and occasionally in the younger Churches as well, where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel.” (RM 33)

Since the mid 80’s there has been a great concern about the decline of Christian practice, especially in the Western Christian world, but also in our mega cities. The recently concluded Synod of bishops’ objective was to see how to revive the Christian faith and practice in a world that is becoming more and more secular.  But as John Paul II mentions in Redemptoris Missio, Initial proclamation, pastoral care and new evangelization are interconnected, they are interdependent (RM 34).  The question is how do we reconcile the necessity of initial proclamation and the urgency of dialogue with other religions, as in our case dialogue with African cultures and Religions? What is the relationship between Dialogue and Mission [1] or Dialogue and Proclamation? [2] Or Where is the Role of Christ and of the Church? [3]  What is the role of other religions in the universal salvific plan of God? What should be our approach to African Religion as we commit ourselves to the work of evangelization in Africa.? How far should we take cultural realities seriously.
In this complex reality of mission dialogue or interreligious dialogue is seen as part of the mission of the Church. This dialogue was initiated by Vatican II.  Dialogue and Proclamation defines proclamation as: “the communication of the Gospel message, the mystery of salvation realized by God for all in Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. It is an invitation to commitment of faith in Jesus Christ and to entry though baptism into the community of believers which is the Church... Proclamation is the foundation, centre and summit of evangelization” (DP 10).   Stephen Bevans and Roger Schroeder see the mission of the Church as a prophetic dialogue. They see the idea of prophetic dialogue as a synthesis of the theologies of mission as articulated in the last half of the twentieth century.

  • Mission as Participation in the mission of the Triune God (Missio Dei)
  • Mission as liberating service of the Reign of God
  • Mission as proclamation of Jesus as universal savior

Admittedly they recognise that there are many challenges and questions that are raised:
“How, for example, can one engage in sincere dialogue, particularly in interreligious dialogue, while also being prophetic in the articulation of one’s beliefs?...Is not prophetic dialogue really a contradiction, and so impossible to practice? [4]  
You have set clearly the objectives of these study days. You want “to arrive at a deeper understanding of the challenges and discover new insights and perspectives in view of renewed missionary praxis.”
I  will articulate the paper in three points:

  • Conciliar and Post conciliar understanding of Mission
  • Mission as dialogue with African Religion and cultures
  • Pastoral implications.
  • Conciliar and Post Conciliar understanding of Mission

         We have just inaugurated the Year of Faith which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II.  As we celebrate the golden jubilee of the beginning of the Council, there are various schools of interpretations of this prophetic event.   I am not going to venture the debate about the interpretation of the Council. Some say that Vatican II was in strict continuity with previous Councils while others see Vatican as discontinuity. [5]  It is not the object of this study.  As far as our study is concerned, we are interested in three major documents of the Council, namely, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, (Lumen Gentium), The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes), The Pastoral Constitution on the Church (Gaudium et Spes), the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) and the Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae).

Vatican II opened new roads to missiological reflection, especially on the concepts of mission (AG chaps.1-2), the values and functions of local churches (AG chap.3), the meaning of cultures (GS 53-63), the fundamentals of interreligious dialogue (NA,2)… [6]
I would like to situate the debate and the relevance of your Study days within the context of conciliar teachings. We could not have imagined the possibility of dialogue with religions and cultures before the Council.  Fr. Thomas Ryan points out four areas where the Council made a significant. [7]

  • There can be salvation outside the Church
  • There authentic God-given values in different cultures
  • The Church can use the positive values of the local culture to spread the Gospel
  • The acceptance of positive values, whatever their source, is for the Church the basis of its respect for cultures and religions.

All these affirmations are still a challenge to us today.  As we have not yet internalized as church, the teaching of the council on these subjects. The reception of the council is always very slow. One of the recommendations would be to get familiar with the teaching of the council. We cannot re-invent the wheel.

    • The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church.

We read in AG 1:
 “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be “The universal sacrament of the salvation” the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder (Mt. 16:15), and because of it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men.”

Here we have a new understanding of the mission of the Church which someone breaks away with the axiom of “Extra Ecclesiam nula Salus”, that is outside the Church there is no salvation. Now the Church defines herself as a sacrament of the universal plan of God to save all humanity.  The same decree affirms that the whole Church shares and participates in the Mission of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (AG, 2).  As Christ has been sent by the Father, so  Jesus sends the Church to continue the same work of salvation, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The  Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church acknowledges that the circumstances in which the exercise of this mission is carried out varies, and the mission might not be exercised  in the same way (AG, 6). It is important to take into consideration the context in which we find ourselves. “In each situation and circumstance a proper line of action and effective means should be adopted.” We can’t apply the same method everywhere. This is very much in line with the whole teaching of the Council which calls for respect of individual groups and cultures. This is more important as we step into new territories or come into contact with groups that have never heard of the Gospel of Christ before. These are like sacred territories in which we have to enter with reverence and respect. As the Sociologist Max warren would say: we have to remove our shoes because we are on a holy ground.”

Chapter II of AG defines what this missionary work consists of.  There are three ways of Evangelizing. The first form is witness. This has been repeated in Evangelii Nuntiandi  (EN, 41) and Redemptoris Missio. (RM, 42).  We know how much the Church has been shaken by all the scandals for the past few years. The lack of authentic witness is the biggest obstacle to the work of evangelization.  Christian witness is paramount in the work of evangelization.  This witness implies “Establishing relationships of respect and love, being part and parcel of the social and cultural life of the community, be familiar with their national and religious traditions of the people.” (AG, 11). 

These are guiding principles for Christians. But in the same line, the council gives some requirements for priestly training. The Council says that the mind of the students must be opened and redefined so that they will better understand and appreciate the culture of their own people. The Council recommends that philosophical and theological studies should help seminarians examine the relationship between the traditions and the religion of their own people and Christianity.  It also recommends that studies for priesthood should be undertaken in close contact with the way of life of their own people (AG, 16). One of your confreres is researching on the inculturation of the Salesian formation. I hope he will come with some concrete material that could help you move forward in this line. AG 22 is even more explicit when it encourages to undertake theological investigations in the words revealed by God in different cultures. The council acknowledges that there is no incompatibility between local customs, concept of life and social structures and divine revelation.  Reconciliation between the two is possible. (AG, 22). This is very important for our topic. We are talking about initial proclamation and the dialogue with African religion and cultures.  So we can dissociate initial proclamation with what we inculturation. “Every time and every culture has to reflect on faith on  its own terms, and needs to use its own lens to interpret Scripture, past doctrinal formulations, ethical practices, and liturgical customs.” [8]

1.2 The Pastoral Constitution on the Church
As we have seen, the Council values positively human culture. It says that whenever there is a question of human life, nature and culture are intimately linked together (GS, 53).  Gaudium et Spes consecrates a whole chapter (chap.2) to the understanding of culture.  And as Evangelli Nuntiandi, what matters in evangelization is “to evangelize man's culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots), in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et spes,  always taking the person as one's starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God.” (EN, 20)

The Council also called for dialogue between all men.  This dialogue requires from the side of the Church some attitudes such as mutual esteem, reverence and harmony, acknowledging all legitimate diversity (GS 92).  But I would like to refer to two articles of GS that I find relevant to our topic of studies.

  • The first article refers to the role of the Holy Spirit in  cultures:

 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called  to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” (GS 22).

What strikes in this text is the reference to all which is repeated three times. This all is inclusive and does not refer only to Catholics.  Then there is the universal role of the Holy Spirit, through which we are all made partners in the paschal mystery.  We can deduce that, African religions and cultures are implicitly recognised in this partnership.  Partnership implies respect, dialogue, collaboration, though each partner keeps to what is singular and particular to him.  So as we encounter the African religion or African cultures we encounter them as partners in dialogue. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  This partnership is well expressed in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church.  Though the text speaks of Islam, I think we could also apply it to African Religion as they relate to the People of God in various ways. It says that “the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator.  Among those who adore the Creator the Moselms are given the first place who together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind judge on the last day. (cf. LG, 16)  

The second text refers to relation between culture and the Good News of Christ.
There are many links between the message of salvation and culture. In his self-revelation to his people culminating in the fullness of manifestation in his incarnate Son, God spoke according to the culture proper to each age. Similarly the Church has existed through the centuries in varying circumstances and has utilized the resources of different cultures in its preaching to spread and explain the message of Christ, to examine and understand it more deeply, and to express it more perfectly in the liturgy and in various aspects of the life of the faithful. (GS, 58).

1.3  Nostra Aetate        
         In a very explicit terms, Nostra Aetate recognizes that outside the Catholic there other groups that have a high religious sense and whose lives are “imbued with a deep religious sense”. In NA 2 the Council affirms that the “Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.  These words are of high significance as we approach the African Religion. We can no longer look at African Religion and culture as a virgin land to conquer for Christ. African Religion deserves the same attitude and respect that we have towards Islam and Judaism. As  Nostra Aetate says, the Church “has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrine which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless, often reflect a ray of that truth that enlightens all men” (NA, 2).
LG 16 : The plan of salvation includes those also who acknowledge the Creator... with us, adore the one and merciful God who will judge mankind on the last day. Nor is God far from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God; for He gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour desires all men to be saved. For those also can attain eternal salvation who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but seek God with a sincere heart, and under the influence of grace endeavour to do His will as recognised through the promptings of their conscience.

  II:  Mission as Dialogue with African Religion and African cultures
         As we have seen Vatican II has a respect for non- Christian religions. Even though the Council does not mention African Religion specifically, we can deduce as we have said, that it opened the way for a positive consideration of African Religions and cultures.  But this does not mean that we have embraced this new positive outlook of the Council on African Religion and culture. Before we engage in any form of dialogue we must get rid of all the misconceptions or misrepresentation and prejudices about African Religion. “These misconceptions or prejudices are well known, but because they are so deeply seated among many, they are very difficult to do away with.” [9] My experience as a lecturer in African Theology has shown me how it is difficult, especially with our African students.
The earliest missionaries to Africa did not have the opportunity to get all the information we have today from Anthropology, Ethnology, History, Geography and even the theology of the Mission. The result was that the adherents of ATR were dismissed as pagans, animists, pantheists, superstitious people, magicians, even devil worshippers. The first catechism book I ever read has ATR worship as the first in the list of mortal sins. [10]
         The first remark is about the reference to African Religion as Traditional.  As you might have realised I have avoided the word “Traditional.” The question:  is what do we understand by “traditional. This seems, apparently, a nice  and polite way of referring to the religiosity of Africans, but still hides the more expressive negative conceptions such as: primitive, savage, fetishism, juju, heathenism, paganism, animism, idolatry and polytheism.  It has been argued by anthropologists, and some missionaries who solely relied on the work of these anthropologists, who labeled African Religion as a primitive religion.  Actually they had to invent, to construct, raise African beliefs to the status of religion, thus creating an inferiority complex or depreciation of African religious values. This inferiority complex is deeply is deeply engraved in the mind of even eminent African intellectuals, including some of my own students.  As if one would say “nothing good can come from Africa”.   It is very easy to associate the word “traditional” with “backwardness” or old fashion, “uncivilized”. This attitude has not yet disappeared.  Magesa points out that the saddest thing that emerges is that an increasing number of African themselves have internalized very thoroughly this misconception about themselves and their culture. That is why Laurenti Magesa says that it is anachronistic to refer to African Religion as Traditional.   Let us look at each of these derogatory terms by which we associate the African Religion.
         African Religion as heathen and Pagan Religion: these two terms are used almost as synonymous. They refer to those who do not believe in one of the major religions namely, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. They also refer to people who do not know God. How can we call AR a pagan religion when African are notoriously religious [11]  and have a strong belief in one God as Creator. Strictly speaking there are no pagans in Africa because “the presence of God permeates all the life of an African.” (Africae Terrarum, 8)   
         African Religion as a fetish and animist religion:  Fetishes refer to objects or articles.  Africans were called animists because it was said that they believe that objects and animals have souls or spirits-anima.  Here is what Paul VI says about African Religion:
Here we have more than the so-called “animistic” concept, in the sense given to to this term in the history of religions at the end of last century. We have a deeper, broader and more universal concept which considers all living beings and visible nature itself as linked with the world of the invisible and the spirit. (Africae Terrarum, 8)
         African Religion and idol worship: In Africa there is a clear distinction between God, ancestors, lesser gods, spirits and so on. There is a certain hierarchy. When African sacrifice, they do not sacrifice to idols. They sacrifice to the One Supreme God, the Creator. Even the reference to African Religion as ancestor-worship does not qualify for the same reasons. Never have the Africans ever deified ancestors. Ancestors are not God.
African Religion as Polytheistic religion:  Across Africa God is revered as Creator and Source of life.  He is the same God who is worshipped in different African Cultures.  It is not because there is a multiplicity of cultures that there is a multiplicity of gods. In fact today African Religion is recognised as a monotheistic religion.  Here I can refer to the most recent book of John Mbiti: Concepts of God in Africa, 2nd edition. He says: “Being the voice of different peoples, these Concepts of God portray a clear monotheism as the central point of reference in African Religion. This seems to have originated from ancient times, as many names of God bear witness.” [12]
         We find the same derogatory attitude about African Religion in the pre-Vatican II Church official documents. I will just mention a few of these attitudes: In Catholicae Ecclesiae, Leo XIII, gives instruction to missionaries in Africa in the following terms: "bathe those inhabitants living in darkness and blind superstition with the light of divine truth, by which they can become co-heirs with us of the Kingdom of God". Benedict XV in Maximum Illud, speaks of  "the numberless heathen who are still sitting in the shadows of death. According to recent statistics their number accounts to a thousand million."  The role of the bishops was "to light the torch for those sitting in the shadows of death, and open the gate of heaven to those who rush to their destruction". To  Religious superiors and heads of Congregations engaged in missionary work were requested after having "successfully accomplished their task and converted some nations from unhallowed superstition to Christian faith and have founded there a church with sufficient prospects, they should transfer them, as Christ’s forlorn hope, to some other nation to snatch them  from Satan’s grasp.   Pius the XI says that it is an act of charity to withdraw “the pagans from the darkness of superstition."  He refers  to non-Christians as savage and barbarians. [13]
         So, we should not take for granted that we know what we are taking about, when we speak about the dialogue with African Religion. There is a need for decolonizing our minds, so that we might appreciate the African Religion what it really is.  There will never be an effective evangelization, if our initial proclamation does not take account of the religiosity of the African people.  We are not preaching a new God to them. They already know him.
“The better ATR is understood by the heralds of the Gospel, the more suitable will be the presentation of Christianity to Africans. By a study of ATR the underlying felt-need of Africans will be identified so that it will become clear how Christianity can meet such needs. In this way, the Church will be more and more at home in Africa, and Africans will be more and more at home in the Church.” [14] 
         Secondly, should we refer to the religion of Africans in singular or in plural? Should we speak of African Religions or African Religion? For me this should not be a subject of debate if we accept the principle of “unity in diversity”. This is also the point of View of Magesa who is astonished that some African scholars still refer to African Religion in plural.  In spite of the diversities of African people and cultures, there are commonalties that allow us to speak of African Religion, in singular.  More and more theologians are using African Religion in singular.  As Magesa says “Varieties in African Religion must not be taken to mean a diversity of fundamental beliefs.” [15]  For me there are advantages to consider Africa as a single geographical and religious entity.  I think we need to rediscover the concept of Pan-africanism of Nkwameh Nkrumah.  To speak of Africa as one, despite of the plurality of languages and cultures, will have far reaching political and social consequences.
Thirdly, is African Religion a World Religion or not. Vatican two carefully avoids mentioning African Religion alongside Islam, Judaism and Budhism.  There are at least three objections that are made to disqualify African Religion as a World Religion.

  • African Religion has no written scriptures
  • African religion is not a revealed religion
  • African Religion does engage itself in proselytism

All this depend on the understanding of what religion is and the way that God reveals himself to humanity.  I would like to emphasise the distinction between the revealed and so called natural religion. When we talk about revealed religion we refer mainly to the People of the Book, as Islam calls them, that is Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Evans Pritchard says that the dichotomy between natural and revealed religion is false and makes obscurity. He says that there is a good sense in which it may be said that all religions are religions of revelation. The world around them and their reason have everywhere revealed to men something of the divine and of their nature and destiny. [16] He quotes St Augustine who said that “What is now called the Christian religion, has existed among the ancients, and was not absent from the beginning of the human race, until Christ came in the flesh: from which time the true religion, which existed already, began to be called Christian.” This is in line with what the letter to the Hebrews says: “In former times God spoke to us through our ancestors…”
         Fourthly, it is now common to hear that, in this era of globalization, African religion is dead, or if it is not dead it will disappear with the advancement of science and technology.  We can find a similar remark with Max Müller who in 1878 wrote:  “Every day, every week, every month, every quarter, the most widely read journal seem just now to vie with each other in telling us that the time for religion is past, that faith is hallucination or an infantile disease, that the gods have at last been found out and exploded….” Or Crawley who in 1905 said about the enemies of religion: “the opinion is everywhere gaining ground that religion is a mere survival from a primitive and mythopoeic age, and its extinction  only a matter of time”.  Evans Pritchard warns against such quick dismissal of the Africa Religion and beliefs. Three aspects must be considered before one can claim that African Religion is a thing of the past: The first one is the question of the number of those adhere to the African Religion, the second one is that traditional world-view is continually reflected in the thoughts and attitudes of many Africans. We can debate about the third point that he makes namely, the rejection of Western systems of thought by African intellectuals. This might have been true at the time of Léopold Seda senghor, Aimé Césaire, Léon Gontran Damas with the Négritude Movement, or the time of Nkwameh Nkrumah and the Pan-african movement or even at the time of Vincent Mulago and  “les prêtres noirs s’interrogent”.  
          However, Evans Pritchard is right when he says that today this rejection is largely repressed because, the  African intellectual has repressed this rejection, and has superficially accepted the Western Scientific point of view and the advantages of modern technology. [17] Magesa says that it is too hasty to assert the disappearance of African religion.  There are two negative consequences:

  • Because of the assumption that African Religion is dying people do not take it seriously enough.
  • It makes practitioners of African Religion ashamed of adhering to a perceived “dying” faith, and this feeling inhibits them from engaging in a mature dialogue with members of other faiths.
  • Pastoral Implications:

         For an effective evangelisation of Africa,

  • The condition for proper dialogue is change of attitude from mutual distrust to mutual trust. [18]

Indeed, since Vatican II there has been a tremendous change in the attitudes of the catholic Church towards African religion.   The first Pope to refer to African Religion in positive terms is Paul VI during his visit to Kampala.

  • The second attitude is that of openness and profound humility. Paul Knitter sees this openness at three levels: [19]
  •  A the theological: while Christians can and must continue to announce Jesus of Nazareth as one in whom the reality and saving power of God is incarnate and available, they will be also open to the possibility/ probability that there are others whom Christians can recognise as sons and daughters of God.
  • At the personal level: It requires Christians to be fully committed to Christ but at the same time genuinely open to others who may be carrying out similar and equally important roles.
  • At the ecclesial level: It means that the churches will go forth into the whole world with a message that is universally relevant and urgent, but at the same time will be ready to hear other messages from  very  different sources that may also be universally meaningful and important.

In the same line David Bosch talks about “bold humility or humble boldness.” [20]
The third attitude is that of respect:
The adherents of African traditional religion should therefore be treated with great respect and esteem, and all inaccurate and disrespectful language should be avoided. For this purpose, suitable courses in African traditional religion should be given in houses of formation for priests and religious. (EAf)
Actually, the big challenge we have today is to respect the African Religion in the same way we respect our Musilm brothers. When we meet with them we do not talk about converting them to Christianity.  All the principles of interreligious dialogue should be applied in the same way to African religion.
         I do not know if I have met your expectations. The language of dialogue is not an easy language because it challenges our attitudes and calls us to think “outside the box.”  For evangelisation to take root in Africa we have to take seriously, more than before, the African cultures and religion.  In this way Africans will become true Africans and true Christians.  It is only through dialogue that we can achieve this. But “how do we maintain the tension between being both missionary and dialogical? How do we combine faith in God as revealed uniquely in Jesus Christ with the confession that God has not left himself without a witness?” [21]      At the end of this presentation, we can only agree with David Bosch, that the language of dialogue is a new language and we do not have all the answers.
“Such language boils down to an admission that we do not have all the answers and are prepared to live within the framework of penultimate knowledge, that we regard our involvement in dialogue and mission as an adventure, are prepared to take risks, and are anticipating surprises as the Holy Spirit guides us into fuller understanding. This is not an option for agnosticism, but for humility. It is however a bold humility – or a humble humility. We know only in part, but we do know. And we believe that the faith we profess is both true and just, and should be proclaimed.  And we believe that the faith we profess is true and just and should be proclaimed. We do this, however, not as judges or lawyers, but as witnesses; not as soldiers, but as envoys of peace, not as high-pressure sales-persons, but as servants of the Lord. [22]  

[1]   The Secretriat for Non- Christian Religions produced in 1984 a document called:  “The Attitude of the Church Towards followers of other religions. Reflection and Orientation on Dialogue and Mission”

[2] In 1991, The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue(PCID) together with the Congregation
 for Evangelization of Peoples and the Propaganda Fide, published  “Dialogue and Proclamation:
Reflections and Orientations on Interreligious Dialogue and Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus

[3] In 2000, The Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith (CDF), under Cardinal Ratzinger published
 Dominus Iesus

[4] Stephen B. Bevans – Schroeder, Roger P., Prophetic Dialogue: Reflections on Christian Mission
 Today, 2-3

[5] See O’ Malley,  Vatican II, did anything Happen

[6] F.A Oborji,  Concepts of Mission: The Evolution of Contemporary Missiology,

[7] See T. Ryan “Catholic Perspectives on Interreligious Relations” Current Dialogue 44, 19-20 see
 also L. Magesa,  Rethinking Mission:  Evangelization in Africa in a New Era, 31-32

[8] Stephen B. Bevans – Schroeder P. Roger,  Prophetic Dialogue, 70

[9] L. Magesa, African Religion in The Dialogue Debate, 44

[10] Denis Isizoh Chidi, “Christian Motivation for Dialogue with followers of African Tradition

[11] J.S Mbiti, African Religion and Philosophy,

[12] J.S Mbiti, Concepts of God, 2nd ed.,  14

[13] Denis Chidi Isizoh, Dialogue with African Traditional Religion in Sub-Sahara Africa: A changing
 Attitude of the Catholic Church[15]

[14] Pastoral Attention to African Traditional Religion: A letter from the Pontifical Council for Inter-
Religious Dialogue, (March 25, 1988)

[15] L. Magesa, African Religion: The Moral of Abundant life, 17

[16] E. Pritchard, Theories of Primitive Religions, 2-3 see also L. Magesa, African Religion: A Moral of
Abundant life, 25

[17]  See J.V Taylor,  The Primal Vision: Christian Presence amid African Religion, 20-21

[18] L. Magesa, African Religion in Dialogue Debate, 182.

[19] P. Knitter, One Earth Many Religions, 35

[20] D. Bosch, Transforming Mission, 489.

[21] D. Bosch, Transforming Mission, 488

[22] D. Bosch, Transforming Mission, 489.


An Overview on the Topic of Study Days:  from Prague to Addis Abeba
Fr. Alfred Maravilla, SDB

Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Missio insists that initial proclamation “is the permanent priority of mission” and that it “has a central and irreplaceable role” in the Church’s mission because “all forms of missionary activity are directed to this proclamation” (n. 44). Thus, during this six year period the SDB Missions department and the FMA area of Missions inter/ad gentes had chosen to foster a deeper reflection regarding initial proclamation through the Study Days in the different regions of our Congregations.
This choice turned out to be providential and extremely relevant: In April 2010 the Rector Major invited Salesians to reflect on “the need for an initial proclamation or a renewed proclamation of the Gospel” so that our youth ministry becomes more missionary (Salesian Youth Ministry, 2.3. AGC 407). Cardinal Filoni, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, recently explained that the Propaganda Fide will celebrate the Year of Faith from the perspective of initial proclamation (30 Giorni, May 2012). Similarly, the Synod on the New Evangelisation last month (October 7-28, 2012) insisted on the importance of initial proclamation [1].
The first of the series of study days was on Salesian Mission in Frontier Situations and Initial Proclamation in Europe Today (Prague, November 4 -10, 2010). Ubaldo Montisci’s presentation was decisive in helping us to understand that from the various terms used in ecclesial documents (first evangelisation, pre-evangelisation, missionary preaching, kerygma, renewed proclamation, initial proclamation, new evangelisation) initial proclamation is preferred especially when referring not only to contexts which was traditionally considered to be ad gentes, but also to contexts where there is an abandonment of the faith or where it is lived in a routine manner.
During the Study Days on The Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ in the Three-fold Context of South Asia(Kolkata, August 7 – 11, 2011) and on The Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ in the Three-fold Context of East Asia (Sampran, August 14 – 18, 2011) discussions led to deeper reflection on the need to see initial proclamation in the light of Asia’s three-fold context: rich cultures, ancient religions and oppressive poverty (FABC 1, Evangelisation in Asia Today). In a context where the majority of young people in our educative settings are followers of other religions and are poorer, dialogue life, human promotion and development through outreach programs and work for youth at risk become important opportunities of initial proclamation. This is seen as the beginning of the process of integral evangelisation. In East Asia the need to better understand traditional religions, major East Asia religions like Buddhism and Confucianism as well as a variety of cultures was discussed. In this context storytelling was considered as a way of introducing people step-by step to the mystery of Christ (Ecclesia in Asia, 20) which is at the same time respectful of their freedom of conscience.
In Oceania the Study Days on The Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ in Oceania in the Context of  Traditional Religions and Cultures and Cultures in the Process of Secularisation  (Port Moresby, August 21 – 25, 2011) reflected on the challenge of new evangelisation in the context of traditional religions and cultures, as well as the modern process of secularisation taking place in Australia and New Zealand which is also transmitted to other countries by the media. These certainly pose great challenges, but they also open new horizons (Ecclesia in Oceania, 17, 20).
Discussions initially centred on whether the topic on initial proclamation is relevant in Oceania where a great majority are baptised Christians. The presentation of speakers and deeper reflection brought to light that at baptism the child received the habitus of the faith (the capacity to believe), but not the personal act of faith (the firm commitment to orient one’s own life according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ). Yet, in the context of Oceania’s traditional societies and secularised cultures today, the initial proclamation a child receives in the family is often not adequate to become the foundation of a robust faith. Without this initial conversion and initial personal faith, catechesis risks becoming sterile. In this light, even Oceania’s Catholics who frequent our parishes and Religious Education classes in our schools as well as other Christians who frequent our youth centres all need initial proclamation of the Gospel in view of developing their faith and personal adhesion to Christ. It is crucial, then, to rediscover the importance of initial proclamation as the first and necessary step towards a new evangelisation in Oceania (Ecclesia in Oceania, 18). This initial proclamation, however, cannot be seen in isolation but is necessarily linked and oriented to the next stage in the process of evangelisation which is the catechumenate and the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).
The last Study Days on Salesian Presence among Muslims(Rome, July 30 – August 4, 2012) reflected on our presences not only in Islamic contexts but also in traditionally Christian areas where there is a growing number of Muslims (e.g. Europe). Similarly Muslims too are present in many Salesian works in all continents. The discussions led to a deeper reflection on the importance in these situations of prophetic witness of life of every Christian, of the Salesian community and of the whole Christian community. Where explicit proclamation is either prohibited or not possible it is witness of life that leads to credibility (Porta Fidei 9). An authentic Christian life engenders a clear witness of love and service (Redemptoris Missio 23). This, in turn, is always an invitation and a challenge to the interlocutor to ask existential questions and search for answers in a more conscious, in a more personalised and in a more profound manner.
During these days we shall reflect on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ  in Africa & Madagascar which, hopefully, will help us rediscover «the ardour of the beginnings of the evangelization of the African continent”  (Africae Munus, 164). In line with the topic of the Study Days, our discussions these coming days will centre precisely on how we can foster initial proclamation in our educative and pastoral initiatives, thus becoming a concrete expression of our missionary dimension of our Salesian charism.

[1] Proposition no. 9 on the new evangelisation and initial proclamation emphasises the continuity between catechesis and the initial proclamation: systematic teaching of kerygma in Scripture and Tradition; teachings and quotes from missionary saints and martyrs, and formation of Catholic evangelisers today


Study Days on The Salesian Mission
and the Initial Proclamation of Christ  in Africa & Madagascar
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia November 5 – 9, 2012

General Objectives of the Study Days
The Study Days are meant to foster reflective discussions and a deeper contextualised reflection on the importance of Initial Proclamation in Africa in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of the challenges and discover new insights and perspectives in view of a  renewed missionary praxis.

Program and Schedule of the Study Days
Part I.            Situation Analysis           (November 5)        
Part II.           Study & Reflection (November 6-8)
Part III.         Formulation of Conclusions (November 9)

November 4           Arrival


Part I.            Situation Analysis
November 5                       Liturgical Animation  SDB & FMA - Ethiopia
            7.00                 Eucharist (Fr. Genaro Gegantoni) with Lauds / Breakfast

8.30                 Welcome: SDB & FMA Provincials
Fr. Václav Klement & Sr. Alaíde Deretti
                        Presentation of facilitators & participants 
                  Presentation of persons responsible of logistics
(Br. Cesare Bullo & Sr. Sr. Rita Varini )
                                   Presentation of the program and Schedule of the Study days


                  An Overview of the theme of the Study days (2010-today Fr.Alfred) 

9.40                 presentation  of the day / Introduction (workshop method)
Moderator of the day: Fr. Alfred Maravilla

10.00               pause

10.30               Presentation of the situation analysis 
(Sr. Ruth del Pilar Mora FMA & Fr. Alex Mulongo SDB)
dialogue with the speakers
                                   personal study of the report
12.30               lunch

15.00               group discussion on the situation analysis:  form your own perspective what do you think needs to be added or underlined to the situation analysis?

            16.00               pause

16.30              group reporting

17.00               Initial Proclamation: Rediscovering its Meaning and Relevance for Africa
(Fr. Alfred Maravilla)
                                               dialogue with the speaker

17.45              group discussion

18.45              group report and / or open discussion

19.15               vespers / Good Night (Sr. Alaide Deretti)

19.30               evening meal

 (20.45            secretariat meeting)

Part II.           Study & Reflection
November 6                       Liturgical Animation  FMA/SDB Africa Anglophone
            7.00                 Eucharist (Fr. Javier Barrientos) with Morning Prayers / Breakfast

8.45                 presentation  of the day / Introduction (workshop method)
Moderator of the day: Sr. Maike Loes
9.00                 Biblical Reflection - (Sr. Maria Ko FMA)

9.30                 Talk: «Initial Proclamation and Dialogue with  cultures traditional
religions and urban societies of Africa and Madagascar »
-  Fr. Innocent Maganya Halerimana, Miss.Afr.
                                               clarification with the speaker

10.30               pause

            11.00               Response to the talk: Implications to the Salesian mission
dialogue with the speakers

            12.30               lunch

15.00               group discussion: discuss the application of the talk to your own context: Challenges,opportunitiesand new insights

16.30               pause
17.00               group report and / or open discussion
            17.45               summarising (workshop method)

18.00               pause

18.10               sharing of experience on initial proclamation
                                   1 participant (Sr. Adriana Pertusi)

18.45               Emerging insights in the discussions today
(SDB & FMA Facilitators)

19.15               vespers / Good Night (Fr. Angelo Regazzo)

19.30               evening meal

 (20.45            secretariat meeting)

November 7                       Liturgical Animation  FMA & SDB Africa Francophone
7.00                 Eucharist (Fr. Lambert Malungu) with Morning Prayers / Breakfast
8.45                 presentation  of the day / Introduction (workshop method)
Moderator of the day: Fr. Alfred Maravilla

9.00                 Biblical Reflection - (Sr. Maria Ko)

            9.30                 Talk: « Initial Proclamation in Educative Settings »
- Abune Lesanechristos Matheos
                                               clarification with the speaker

10.30               pause

10.50               Response to the talk: Implications to the Salesian mission
- Sr. Lucia Cargnoni
dialogue with the speakers

11.20               a brief group discussion: discuss the application of the talk to your own context: Challenges,opportunitiesand new insights

12.00               group report and / or open discussion

12.30               lunch

afternoon - visit / tourism

November 8                       Liturgical Animation  FMA & SDB Africa Lusophone
7.00                 Eucharist (Fr. André Kazembe Nkomba) with Morning Prayers / Breakfast


8.45                 presentation  of the day / Introduction (workshop method)
Moderator of the day: Sr. Maike Loes

9.00                 Biblical Reflection - (Sr. Maria Ko)

9.30                 Emerging insights in the discussions today

9.45                 pause

10.15               Talk: «From Initial Proclamation to Catechumenate»
- Sr. Patricia Finn, FMA
                                               clarification with the speaker

11.30               Response to the talk: Implications to the Salesian mission
- Fr. Joy Sebastian
dialogue with the speakers

12.30               lunch

15.00               group discussion: discuss the application of the talk to your own context: Challenges,opportunitiesand new insights

16.45               pause

17.00               group report and / or open discussion

            17.45               summarising (workshop method)

18.00               pause

18.10               sharing of experience on initial proclamation
                                   1 participant (Fr. Albert Kabuge)


18.45               Emerging insights in the discussions today

19.15              vespers / Good Night (Sr. Roberta Tomasi)

19.30               evening meal

 (20.45            secretariat meeting)

21.00 – 22.00  serata (please prepare an item!)

Part III.         Formulation of Conclusions

November 9           Liturgical Animation  SDB Missions Department & FMA  Ambito Missione
7.00                 Eucharist (Fr. Václav Klement) with Morning Prayers / Breakfast


8.45                 presentation  of the day / Introduction (workshop method)
Moderator of the day: Fr. Alfred Maravilla

9.00                 Biblical Reflection - (Sr. Maria Ko)

9.30                 Talk: «The Opportunities and challenges of Initial proclamation for  
SDBs & FMAs in Africa & Madagascar»  - Fr. Joseph Minja, SDB
                                               clarification with the speaker
                        10.30               pause

            10.50               Response to the talk: Implications to the Salesian mission
– Sr. Charlotte Greer FMA
dialogue with the speakers
11.20               group discussion: discuss the application of the talk to your own context: Challenges,opportunitiesand new insights
12.00               group report and / or open discussion

12.30               lunch

14.30               Emerging perspectives during these study days in view of a renewed
missionary praxis   (facilitators)

            15.00               separate SDB & FMA meetings              

17.00               pause

17.15               General Assembly to inform about the SDB & FMA discussions

18.30               Conclusion: Fr. Václav Klement, Sr. Alaíde Deretti

19.00               evening meal / departure


Study Days on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ

Region of Africa and Madagascar 

Fr. Václav Klement, SDB
Councilor for the missions

Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
November 5, 2012

How are you? I’m coming from Rome, after one week in Japan and two months in Argentina. In few days time experience of four different continent but with the same basic challenge of all disciples of Jesus - to become also more HIS missionaries!
First of all I bring you heartfelt greetings from the Father of the Salesian Family, Rector Major, Fr. Pascual Chàvez Villanueva, just few days after his participation with other 15 SDB and FMA in the Synod about the 'New Evangelization'. I bring his warm greeting and blessing to all of you.

It’s a great gift of God to live as Catholic Christians in Africa. The youngest and growing Catholic communities of Africa contributes in many ways to the World Catholic Church. Every time being in Africa, the family spirit, dynamic faith and outreaching Christian communities committed to the Gospel, gives me a deep sense of joy and hope!
In these days we are called to re-discover the dynamics of the initial proclamation of the Gospel. It's about the first step in the life-long journey of faith, which the whole SDB Congregation pays attention in the coming year. Indeed the topic of the Salesian Mission Day 2013 is focused on the JOURNEY OF FAITH in Africa. This Study Days will help us to make the best of 2013 Salesian Mission Day dynamics as well.

After many months of preparation, we are together here in Addis Ababa: Salesians of Don Bosco and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians from almost all African Provinces. It’s already a third Regional Missionary Formation event since 1999. As in other continents each 6 years the Salesians and Salesian Sisters shared together a formation opportunity on themes:Project Africa - between the challenges of first evangelization and consolidation (Yaoundé May1999, Nairobi May 2000) and Mission Ad Gentes today in Africa (Kinshasa, Nairobi - November 2004. After the GC26 of the SDB (2008) this opportunity is called ‘Mission Study Days’ and the focus is not so much on formation of many missionaries, but it’s more an occasion to reflect deeply on some dynamics in the whole evangelizing mission.            

Tackling the theme of the initial proclamation of Jesus, mean for us Salesians to question the missionary action of the Church and of the Congregation. It’s a crucial question for the whole path of evangelisation and education. At the beginning I invite you to consider some important elements:

  1. All of us are being in touch with some of non Christian youth, hence we are called to discover the opportunities and dynamics of initial proclamation in our daily life;
  2. We are called to confirm the importance of the family and family ministry as a privileged place for the first proclamation of the Gospel. A presence of some Salesian Cooperator amongst us would be a wonderful inspiration for the consecrated Salesians;
  3. At the end we are called to share our own experience of God with others, trying to get into the dynamics of the ‘First Asian Missionary Congress’(Chiang Mai,2006) which is also the topic of the Salesian Mission Day 2012. John Paul II invited the Catholics of Asia to ‘Tell the story of Jesus’ as the best way of Gospel proclamation. In the sense  we try to encourage the ‘storytelling’ as the best way of sharing own experience of faith.
  4. In Africa we are still a young Congregation(s) with few years of history. Probably is very important to learn from the very rich and dynamic experience of the Local Churches in our countries.

The whole Church is by its nature missionary and our contribution as Salesian Family to the Church mission we find mainly the field of education. Our way of living and sharing the Gospel is the way of the Preventive System of Don Bosco.

We are immersed in our busy daily life and mission, and often time we lack time to reflect about our own actions and convictions. These Study Days offer us the chance to reflect together more deeply on our evangelizing mission.

We hope to offer the fruits of our reflection and our intuitions to many brothers and sister of the Salesian Family in Africa - Madagascar, one of the three most vibrant Salesian regions worldwide, by all the communication means!

  I entrust our stay to Mary, Mother of the Church and Help of Christians who was present in the Cenacle with Jesus’ disciples before the first Pentecost. Let’s pray together:


Mary, Mother of the Church,

we give you thanks for your Yes to God and for your journey of faith
as first disciple and missionary of Jesus.
We want to live in communion with all the disciples of your Son Jesus,
together with the pilgrim Church
in order to bring the Gospel to all.
Mary, inspire us with the courage to talk
about the world to Jesus and about Jesus to the world!
Help us, O Mother to follow Don Bosco, a tireless storyteller,
in order to share with humility, patience and courage
the experience of our personal encounter with Jesus
in our communities, among the young and with every one we meet.