By Elliott Siamonga
St. Adolf Ludigo Parish Archdiocese of Bulawayo
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference Family and Marriage Commission convened and facilitated an inter-denominational Basic Family Counselling Training seminar from 17 to 19 February 2023. The primary objective of the program was to unpack the need for social cohesion within the family unit through counselling tools and techniques. Eighteen participants drawn from the Archdiocese of Bulawayo, from the Lutheran community and a member from the Pentecostal church attended the training at Emthonjeni Pastoral Center.
As was highlighted by the Family and Marriage Apostolate National Coordinator, Sr. Anuarite Manyahi (HLMC), the training programme aimed at promoting the family pastoral care in response to challenging family situations. Thus, the Family and Marriage commission took the initiative to reach out to dioceses so as to equip participants with counselling skills in their family and marriage ministry. Sr. Manyahi added that, “There are overwhelming figures of people who need counselling services and the demand is great. Hence the need for training of family counsellors to complement efforts by other stakeholders”.
She said: “The challenge of accessibility and affordability of counselling services has created the need to capacitate and strengthen the laity in the family pastoral care ministry, hence the training programs rolled out this year.”
Sr. Manyahi added that the Synodal process, “invites us to involve the family representatives in the pastoral care of families, and there is a lot to be done for and with families, and counselling is one of those interventions”.
The co-facilitator Fr. Limukani Ndlovu focused on joys and challenges faced by families in the current volatile socio-economic and political environment in Zimbabwe. Families form integral parts of the church and community. He went on to define counselling, “as a person-to-person encounter, a psychological process of helping individuals achieve self-direction, self-understanding and mental balance necessary to make the maximum adjustment to the school, home and society. A service by which a Counselor can be of help to Counselee to grow into integrated harmonious personalities.” Fr. Ndlovu also took participants through a session of interrogating different counselling approaches, personal attributes of a counsellor, aims and objectives of the counselling process.
For Fr. Ndlovu, the minimization or eradication of undesirable family conflicts is hinged on counselling, therefore the church right across denominations, as a trusted institution has an important part to play in driving the counselling process without making people feel judged. Counselling, as a psychological process helps individuals achieve self-direction and have a stable life.
One participant commented; “The general socialization of family units is that the value system has been put to test, this has put a lot of pressure on the families, sometimes this leaves other members vulnerable and needing counselling”. Therefore, effective counselling provides support and guides clients into making effective decisions.
Sr. Manyahi further presented a comprehensive programme on the Family Counselling Process which include Premarital Counselling and Family Counselling where the church teaches that the family is the first and vital cell of society, (Familiaris Consortio). It is from the family that citizens come and it is within the family that they also find social virtues that are animated by both natural and divine law.
The training equipped participants with basic family counselling skills based on practical and real life situations. The participants engaged in role plays that exposed dangers of patriarchal tendencies, gender based violence, unhealthy religious and traditional belief systems.