By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
The Pope Francis Awards for Faith and Social Transformation introduced in 2022 by the then Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe, Paolo Rudelli, has attracted the attention of many young people who want to be recognized for their contribution in the Church and society.
This year’s awards which were held on Saturday, 30 September at Arrupe Jesuit University, drew together young people from around different parts of the country who were recognised for their outstanding participation in issues of faith and social transformation through different engagements in their schools, churches and communities.
The awards which were attended by the Apostolic Nunciature’s Charge d’affaires, Fr. Felipe Fabiane, Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro, ZCBC Secretary General, Fr. Tryvis Moyo, Arrupe Jesuit University Pro-Vive Chancellor, Fr. Evaristus Ekwueme, priests, religious and young people from different dioceses, was described as a remarkable feat for positioning young people in the Church and society.
The overall winners in this year’s competition were Rumbidzai Kusemwa and Tashinga Muroma of the Young Neighbours Without Borders who scooped US$1000. The two are instrumental in encouraging church participation at St. Antony parish in Mutoko while they are also involved in many activities that include providing transport for the elderly to go to church on Sundays, livelihood projects such as piggery and poultry.
The second price of US$600 went to Feed One Feed a Nation group for their sterling efforts in providing food for the poor while the Consolation Group from St. Paul Musami grabbed the third prize of US$400 for supporting and visiting the sick in Murewa. Other groups who participated in the competition received certificates of appreciation from the Apostolic Nunciature’s Charge d’affaires, Fr. Felipe Fabiane. They include the National Movement of the Catholic Students Zimbabwe (NMCS) who settled at the forth position, St. Ignatius CLC (fifth position), Marlon Muronzi (sixth position), William Mupangami (seventh position), Christopher Murasi (eighth position), Sithandazile Sibanda (ninth position) and Taurai Shoko who took position ten.
Addressing the gathering at the awards ceremony, Fr. Fabiane said the Pope Francis Awards for Faith and Social Transformation was an annual competition on the teachings of Pope Francis and the Catholic Social Teachings.
“The award is given to either individuals or groups of young people who demonstrate consistency in faith and social transformation in their schools, communities or churches. It is limited to any teachings of the Pope or any Social Teaching of the Church that has brought about social change or transformation in a school, community or church, for instance peace building, care for the environment, child protection, fraternity and so on,” said Fr. Fabiane.
He said it was from this background that the award was not just called, “Pope Francis Award for Social Transformation”, but “Pope Francis Award for faith and Social Transformation,” since there is no Catholic or Christian social work done without faith.
“This is our difference. We are not just doing good things as other social organizations or institutions. We received the gift of faith and our actions are guided by the light of this faith. We know that having been loved by God, we can at the same time love one another, fighting for justice, promoting and seeking the good of creation and the good of all creatures,” stressed Fr. Fabiane.
Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro who was the Guest of Honour at the awards ceremony said the introduction of the Pope Francis Awards for Faith and Social Transformation last year was timely as it sought to respond to environmental and other socio-political and economic crises.
Bishop Nyandoro said: “The award seeks to solicit a response to the global crises by inviting young people not to be bystanders but active participants in responding to global challenges. It is my hope that as we celebrate the winners, we also learn from their creativity and be inspired to create a new society where people’s happiness and well-being comes from serving others and from being good stewards of creation. These awards should inspire the commitment of everyone to live responsibly so that others can live a fulfilling and happy life.”
The Pro-Vice Chancellor of Arrupe Jesuit University (AJU), Fr. Evaristus Ekwueme said young people were a great asset in the Church, hence they need to be supported and recognised for their contribution to the faith based institution. He challenged young people to be active participants who use their talents to transform the church and the communities in which they live.
“You do not have to become a priest or to take vows in order for you to actively contribute to the Church. The reason of the awards is to encourage young people to contribute to the wellness of the church. There is a vision of a new Church, a new Zimbabwe, a new Africa and it will be a shame if you do not contribute in any way,” stated Fr. Ekwueme.
He also challenged the youth to get rid of fear so that they become vibrant Christians who aim at building both the Church and society through the use of their talents and skills.