Thirty-three representatives from a range of religious institutes that together form part of the Augustinian Federation of Africa gathered together from 6th-10th of March at Saint Monica's House, Mavurunza, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, to convene the (usually) triennial General Assembly
It was the first face-to-face assembly of the Federation in five years, delayed, like so many other events and activities within the Order, because of the pandemic.
Communion, participation and mission
Coming together under the theme of Augustinian Heritage at the service of the Synodal Church in Africa, consecrated men and women aggregated to the Order - or in communion with the Rule of the Bishop of Hippo - had the shared opportunity to reflect on identity, unity and community.
The General Councillor for Africa, Fr Edward Daleng, shared some thoughts drawn from this Assembly. "We each discover ourselves through belonging to a group, and never in isolation or by ourselves. Our individual uniqueness is not absorbed by the group, but preserved and reinforced so that we each recognise ‘me’ within the group. The "I" in the "we" is in mutual dialogue, without either being detached from the group or subsumed by it."
With the Synod of Bishops just around the corner, the Augustinian religious were able to focus on the matter of synodality and its implications "in our houses, parishes and schools", as well as the involvement of the laity and the local Church in the shared task of bringing the Good News to every corner of the earth. "Synodality is something we have been living for a long time as Augustinians", Fr Daleng pointed out, "it is something we need to strengthen.”
The Assembly afforded everyone the opportunity to share their own reflections on the importance, and benefits, of encouraging the reciprocal exchange of pastoral experiences, struggles and challenges. "We Augustinian religious in Africa seek”, Fr. Daleng points out, “to promote our life and to render our service to the Church and to humanity". And, in fact, it was the Assistant General for Africa himself, in his own presentation to the assembled room entitled "Holiness at the service of the Synodal Church through the Rule of St. Augustine", who was able to emphasise what Pope Francis encourages us to do: to go out to the edges to meet ‘the other’, who suffers and endures the vicissitudes of life in a world that is increasingly disbelieving and lacking in hope.
Other notable contributions from a packed schedule included Sr Jacquiline Michel Etou, of Notre Dame de l'Eglise, who spoke on "Fraternal love at the service of the community: An Augustinian approach to the ministry of collaboration among consecrated persons in Africa", and Fr Kolawole Chabi who chose "The common good in the Rule of St. Augustine" for his topic.
"It was a powerful experience, full of collaboration and participation. In the spirit of synodality, we resolved to live and work more in communion through the love of our brothers and sisters as a better way to observe the synod," said Fr Daleng.
It was a powerful experience, full of collaboration and participation. Fr. Daleng
Approval of the statutes
At the Assembly, the Federation's statutes were revised and approved, and new officers were elected to continue the work and to lead the Federation for the next three years years.
The congregations represented at the Assembly were: the Order of St. Augustine itself; the Sisters of St. Augustine of Benin; the Sisters of Notre Dame de l'Église of Togo; the Sisters of the Servants of Jesus and Mary; the Sisters of Mary Kakamega of Kenya and the Augustinian Missionary Sisters.