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29.04.2023 17:49:44 1181x read.
MALAWI
DEEPENING OUR COMMUNITY LIFE, APOSTOLATE AND PRAYER

DEEPENING OUR COMMUNITY LIFE, APOSTOLATE AND PRAYER

Why am I a brother in the Congregation of Brothers of the Immaculate Conception? What do I like most about my brotherhood? What do I like or dislike about my community, apostolate and prayer life? These are questions that formed part of the reflection during our provincial recollection at Bethel Community on 26th March 2023. Fr. Jean Pierre Ngemanyi, a discalced Carmelite Priest of Nyungwe Retreat Centre, was the facilitator. 

Apostolate, community and prayer are the three pillars of religious life. Living in community is Biblical, which makes it more divine in nature. A community is a gift. Those living in it are expected to remain faithful to one another, to the teachings of its model (the Holy Trinity), and to prayer life (Acts 2:42). We have to live together as human beings, and have esteem for each other. That is exactly what we are told in our constitutions: to be brothers of one heart and soul (Constitutions Art. 35). In brotherly love we let our feelings of deep affection for one another come to expression and regard others as more important than ourselves (Romans 12:10). We should be able to see God in our communal living. Religious life, on its own, is a quest for God in community. It becomes fruitful when it is fully embraced and when we make it our very own.

 

As human beings, we never choose to be born in a certain family. Neither do we choose who our parents or siblings should be. Religious life is similar. We enter religious life freely and consciously, moved by our motivations. This free choice calls for our responsibility. We are not part-time members in religious life. Our life has to be nourished by these three pillars in order to give it vitality. In so doing, we will be able to appreciate that we are indeed gifts to each other in the community.

Forming a community alone is not enough for a religious. Our availability matters as well. It calls for us to share our talents with other members of the community, and contribute to its growth. We ought to be prepared to give our “all” in any desired place and in the most expedient way, after the example of Jesus (Const. art 22 and 80). We should be known as religious brothers by our attitudes, not our logo or habit. That is why our apostolates are meant not just to be mere works. They should reflect the face of Christ in the people we serve. Our apostolates are works of service and self-sacrifice, and also ways to live out the gospel message. Our first and foremost apostolate is to become witnesses to Christ by our lives. How can we be witnesses to Christ if we are not in union with Him? That is where ‘prayer’ comes in. Our prayer life is meant to unite us with Christ and remain in union with Him in our apostolates and communal living.

As Brothers FIC, we need to cultivate mutual respect, build effective communities that support each other and focus on our common mission. It is not the work we do that matters, but rather who we are. We need to ask ourselves how we respond to the concerns of fellow brothers. Can we confirm that there is mutual trust among us as brothers living in the province? How is our commitment to apostolate and prayer? Do we sometimes feel we lack ‘genuine’ commitment to community life and prayer? Then we have to remember that the fundamental reason for our being religious is our God-experience. This is the deepest bond of our being brother to one another and also of our being brother to many other people.

We have to bear in mind that our prayer life nourishes and complements our community life. A family that prays together, stays together. Prayer helps strengthen the bonds of our communities and fosters a sense of shared purpose and mission. The bonds created through prayer are unbreakable as this brings peace among members of the community because we fully embrace the gift of each other. This helps us respond more positively to our apostolate and makes us different from non-religious. We will be defined by the quality of service we render to others. This will surely show that our apostolate is not just for individuals, but the community.

After two sessions of reflection with Fr. Jean Pierre, we had time also for personal reflections and confessions, and concluded with Holy Mass.

 

Bro. Gasper Kalisto, Malawi








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