By Sr. Mufaro Chakuinga LCBL
Hundreds of religious men and women from 25 religious congregations from around Zimbabwe gathered at St. Theresa Cathedral, Gweru on 4 February 2023 to celebrate the vocation of consecrated life. The event was organized by the Conference of Major Religious Superiors (CMRS) which is the conglomeration of all Religious Congregations and Societies of Apostolic Life operating in the country. The gathering was guided by the theme: “Walking together as a community in Christ, in the light of Synodality.”
The event was graced by Bishop Rudolph Nyandoro who presided in the celebration of Holy Mass in honour of the role being played by consecrated men and women in the Church of Zimbabwe.
The coming together was meant to cement relationships and cooperation among religious orders in their service to human kind through the Church. It also serves to explore opportunities for religious institutes in dealing with different issues within the communities in which they serve and to find ways of coping with a myriad of challenges affecting the Church.
This year’s gathering was special as it sought to evaluate religious life in the light of the Synod on Synodality which emphasizes the ideal of “walking together as the church.”
Addressing the gathering, Fr. Joe Ncube (SVD), encouraged consecrated people to have more time for self-introspection, continual conversion, self-examination and spiritual discernment at individual and at communal level.
“We are being invited to self-introspection, to self-examination, to spiritual discernment at individual and communal level. To discern on the “how” of our journeying together. To see what is allowing and what is hindering the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to her, and to see what steps the Spirit invites us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church,” said Fr. Ncube.
The priest said synodality is only possible when people listen to each other as individuals and groups while also dedicating time to listen to the Holy Spirit.
He challenged religious people to enlarge the space of their tents in order to accommodate others in responsible communion through mutual listening without considering race, tribe or culture and bearing in mind that religious life is missionary by nature. Fr. Ncube stressed the need to live in harmony by male and female religious citing that community life was a powerful testimony to the world.
He said: “Living together in harmony as a community of people from different families, tribes, intercultural communities is in itself doing mission. Our communal living is a powerful testimony to the world, especially in our country with a long history of painful and unhealed memories of division along with tribal, racial, political and economic challenges.”
The priest called on consecrated people and priests to make their communities havens of peace. Fr. Ncube reiterated that consecrated persons are not to have doors that close but a perimeter that continually widens.
“If our communities are not synodal, none of us can fully feel at home in this life, I therefore invite you dear brothers and sisters to enlarge the space of your tent, to be more welcoming, more inclusive, more loving to others and the whole of creation,” stressed Fr. Ncube.
Fr. Ncube bemoaned the rifts that are tearing religious and priestly communities apart – rifts of tribalism, racism, the cancer of clericalism, unhealthy competition, clicks and factions leading to the exclusion of others, abuse of power, authority and resources, poor remuneration of religious and evasion of community prayer.
The cleric made reference to the National Synodal Synthesis in which women highlighted male dominance in the church with women religious are treated as subordinates or inferior. He also bemoaned the inhumane treatment that ex-priests and ex-nuns experience.
“The National Synodal Synthesis highlighted that “some women religious have noted that there is a lot of male dominance in the Church with a tendency by some priests to treat women religious as subordinates or inferior.”
“It further painfully notes that ex-priests and ex-nuns are usually left behind and treated as outcasts. We are being invited to enlarge the space of our tent,” said Fr. Ncube.