Synodality and its links to African culture

Cortez Deacetis

Sister Marie Rose Dione believes the Catholic Church should do more to explore the links between and African cultures.

Dione, who is provincial superior of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres (CIC) in Senegal, says that means deepening a theology of synodality on the notion of the Church as the family of God.

The CIC, which were founded in France in 1836, are currently celebrating the 175th anniversary of their congregation’s arrival in this West African country.

The provincial superior spoke with La Croix Africa‘s Charles Senghor about the challenges facing her community, while pointing to the progress being made in the universal Church.

La Croix Africa: Your congregation has opened a jubilee year. What is its objective?

Sister Marie Rose Dione: The main objective of this jubilee is to give thanks to God for 175 years of missionary presence in Senegal. It is also an opportunity to bring us together in joy, to give thanks to the Master of history and life.

The jubilee is a grace to be received in joy and peace! It is a privileged moment to commit ourselves further to a path of conversion through prayer and interior renewal, the gift of self in the mission.

You have chosen as your theme, “Towards the horizon of 175 years of missionary presence in Senegal, let us rejoice for our mosaic of yesterday and today”. Why?

Evoking our rich mosaic of yesterday and today brings a feeling of gratitude to God that dwells within us; gratitude to God for our holy foundress, Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve, for the first four missionaries, Sisters Cécile Bernard, Joséphine Barthes, Louise Raynaud and Paule Lapique, workers of the first hour, and all those who have succeeded one another in the province, from its foundation to the present.

We give thanks to the Lord for the richness, the diversity of the mission, the plurality of gifts, talents and cultures with which God has graced our province, from the beginning to the present day.

As provincial superior, what are the satisfactions and the things to be improved in your mission?

As a satisfaction, we note our great involvement in direct evangelization (catechesis, accompaniment of Catholic action movements, etc.), evangelization through works with the active participation of our congregation in teaching, training and education of children and youth.

There is also education in civic, moral and religious values; the promotion of African women through various activities that bring them out of precariousness and poverty; caring for the sick; listening and accompanying those who live in difficult conditions.

Among these satisfactions, there is the recruitment of many young girls who have become sisters of the Immaculate Conception. What we need to improve is a greater presence in outlying areas to respond to the needs of the poorest.

We are also in the middle of the synod on synodality. What do you think of this moment that the universal Church is experiencing?

This year is a time of grace that the Holy Father gives us with the theme of synodality: communion, participation and mission. As the pope says, “it is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium”.

In order to do this, it seems important to me to listen to all the components of the Church, so that no one feels forgotten or excluded when it comes to giving his or her opinion on life, realities and current events of the Church in this time of ours.

In this great meeting of sharing, Africa has its say and should, for example, seek to explore the links between synodality and African cultures; deepen a theology of synodality articulated with the notion of the Church as the family of God in Africa so that the synod is not only an event but a process and a life.

Furthermore, I dare to believe that synodality is not a parenthesis opened on the life of the Church that will close with the closing of the synod.

We believe that synodality is a path and a process that extends over time and leads to the involvement of everyone for a change in mentality.

By encouraging openness and systems of trust, by changing the mentality of rigidity and by trying to promote a culture of listening that is not afraid to welcome changes, suggestions and constructive criticism, the Church will have taken giant steps and will be renewed from within for better service.

It is holy and sinful, let it just accept the grace of the Holy Spirit who continues its work in the world, and therefore within the universal Church.

Today the Church is in the process of fighting against abuse with the installation of reporting centers. What do you think of this?

It is only justice! But unfortunately, the Church that is in the spotlight represents only a small part of all the human organizations that deserve to be reported for abuses of all kinds: abuse of power, abuse of conscience and trust, sexual abuse…

The world would be cleansed once and for all. However, it is the Church that is visible, perhaps a victim of its notoriety.

With faith, we welcome this time of trial as a means of purification and sanctification. May it be a new era imbued with the love of God and neighbor. Let us remain attentive, vigilant and merciful in helping abusers and victims of abuse to find the remedy of physical and inner healing.

Pope Francis will be in the Democratic Republic of Congo from July 2 to 5. What does such a moment in the life of the church in Africa mean to you?

It is a moment of grace to welcome the successor of St. Peter to one’s country or continent.

The DRC is where people have suffered and still suffers from many ills, but we must also admit that it is in this context that God beckons Pope Francis and calls him to entrust him with a mission, a responsibility.

Today more than ever, God still needs the pope’s hands to continue the his mission. God needs his eyes to see human suffering and to relieve it.

God needs his lips to speak God’s words of consolation, and to restore life; however, the Holy Father will certainly need to speak words of authority as head of the Church in order to help the Church to do some “internal grooming” regarding the demands of Christian life in general, and perhaps priestly life in particular.

I hope that the Holy Father’s visit to the Congo will be an opportunity for everyone to get their act together.

His message as a pastor is awaited not only by the Church, but also by the state authorities, men and women of all religions and ethnic groups, since it is a message of peace and hope for a Congo that is rich and poor at the same time; a Congo that can start again on new paths of justice and peace, national cohesion, prosperity and love.

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