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DR Congo: Uncompromising Reflection on Pitfalls and Challenges of Religious Life

The challenges of consecrated life today

His Eminence Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, on 01st February, 2022 gave a conference to us as the Consecrated People in DRC. He reflected on the challenges that the consecrated people need to deal with before they turn into serious crises.  The following are some of them.

First, lack of Joyful participation in the common mission: he believes that there are some community members who lack the joy of participating in the common mission. As a result, we find in many communities, embittered, sad and unhappy members. These members always feel unloved and misunderstood. These are the cases of the people who want to be considered as eternal little children. According to him: “Religious life is not the place where people are infantilized. It is a place where we walk together as adults.”  Let us open the windows to the Holy Spirit to create a climate of joy in our communities.

Second, lack of appreciation for each other: according to Cardinal Ambongo, most of our community members hardly encourage and congratulate each or not at all. We are more inclined to negative criticism. If we learn to appreciate ourselves from within, we would feel safe. “The community is my family. The others are my brothers and my sisters. To avoid suspicion and the tendency to belittle others, to create a climate of joy, of trust, to arouse the feeling of belonging and to make the community a place of celebration and forgiveness, such is our task.”

Third, the spiritual crisis: this is a challenge which affects majority of religious people. He urged all of us to “be rooted in the Eucharist, source and summit of all Christian life, and be nourished by prayer (the liturgy of the hours) and various exercises of piety such as retreats, recollections, sessions of training, lectio divina, meditations, etc.”  As community members do we still value prayers? Or many of us are always out of our communities at the time of prayers. He said “a consecrated person who neglects the spiritual life is indeed like an uprooted plant, and therefore doomed to dryness. This disrupts his relationship not only with God, but also with his brothers/sisters. We thus settle into an identity crisis which touches the very root of the human vocation and which becomes the crisis of the negation of the other.”   

Fourth, the leadership war and the race for power. This is mostly seen while electing a superior or appointing a leader. Many leaders are “succumbing to the models of politicians, our elective chapters have become high places of divisions, tensions and low blows, which negatively influence the serenity of the whole community or congregation”.  He revealed that many consecrated people who would like to become leaders often “devote themselves to nocturnal campaigns, to corruption and even to the buying of consciences.”  Some people are being appointed or elected based on their personal relationships with leaders.

Last, mismanagement and abuse of power: poor management of dedicated personnel, the material and financial patrimony of congregation is another challenge. This can result into the loss of the sense of belonging to a congregation. The hearts of such members are full of selfishness and individualism. These people have very little concern for the protection of the common good. He urged the leaders not to appoint people to various responsibility based on their blind obedience or self-interest.

The cardinal concluded by calling up us to be authentic consecrated people.  We are all called to “to take up the challenge of making a difference in our society and of living as brothers and sisters, participating with joy and self-sacrifice in the life of our religious families and of our Church, which is a synodal and fraternal community.”

Patrick Lonkoy Bolengu, MHM

3 Comments

  1. What a wonderful message. Think positive and where there is just criticism let us offer a way forwards. As Pope Francis opened the Synod, he called for us to ask where God is leading us at this time. “What it is that God wants to say to us in this time – and the direction in which God wants to lead us?” “Let us have a good journey together,” and remain open to the surprises of the Spirit, not missing out “on the grace-filled opportunities born of encounter, listening, and
    discernment.”
    I have just returned from a month long visitation to Kenya and have experienced the great sense of community spirit amongst ‘our Mill Hillers’ with all the ups and downs of living and working together. A positive approach to our way of life as missionaries will be a powerful message as we share our Gospel story with those we live and work with. GS

  2. In my opinion this is an excellent summary of what is required for good community life. It is especially upon the people who can appreciate this to live this towards members who have difficulties with this and have gotten used to a life of criticism and negativity. A positive attitude can help very much and work like a wake up call for everybody.

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