God Invites us to Collaborate: Development and Communications in Action
Every year Provinces and Regions Development Directors and Communications Coordinators in the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) converge in a selected Province or Region in the continent for an annual seating facilitated by the hosts and the JCAM Development Office. This year’s JEDOAM was held in the Rwanda-Burundi Region (RWB) in Kigali, Rwanda, from May 13th to the 17th.
Like most years, the session kicked off with a prayer in the evening upon arrival at the Centre Christus in Rimera, a Jesuit Spiritual Centre that played host for all participants throughout the week. The serene atmosphere, lush gardens and the dewy petrichor of May rains amalgamated Jesuits, and Collaborators from across the continent setting pace for a week of prayer and conversations along the lines of development and communications in the Conference.
Delving into the first day prayerfully, the Director of Development in Rwanda-Burundi Region Fr Patrice Ndayisenga SJ and the Director of the Centre Christus Fr Innocent Rugaragu SJ gave an opening welcome note, followed by an introductory to all participants. The day was dedicated to sharing successes, and challenges in the past year, opening up a platform of learning, sharing ideas in order to promote collective collaboration.
On the second part of the first day, the Provincial of the Rwanda Burundi Region (RWB) officially opened the forum welcoming all to the Region. In his welcome message, Rwanda-Burundi Region is one of the youngest and only independent Region in the Society of Jesus in Africa, 20 years, with 88 members; a majority under the age of 50. A youthful region whose strength lies in a promise to a better and brighter future. The Region has five schools (three in Rwanda and two in Burundi). These are culminated by both primary and secondary schools, and soon will open up a kindergarten. The region also accompanies refugees and migrants through the Jesuit Refugee Service and victims of HIV and AIDS through the Service Yezu Mwiza. He noted that despite the challenges RWB is faced with he believed that the Region is going to develop further “by thinking right because God is with us”. Explaining about the history of the two countries and their post-colonial of war he observed that there is a need for more reconciliation and Jesuits can do a good job in advancing the goal of reconciliation and peace. One way would be by advancing the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) as promulgated by Father General Arturo Sosa SJ, in order to emphasize the spirituality that feeds us as Jesuits and the people who are in need, to awaken those who have lost touch with the spiritual exercises through the UAPs. These will encourage people to get in touch with social teachings of the Church, in touch with families, and the youth.
The JEDOAM participants were blessed to also have present, the JCAM President Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ, whose presentation touched on the JCAM strides in the past year, the relationships built with partners in mission and the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs). It is always a delightful moment to have the President attend such a meeting, and an honour to share in the mission of the Society of Jesus in enhancing the works at the Conference level. Several themes came out of his address which was more of a reflection: That we are involved in God’s mission. God who calls us to this mission also gives us the grace to completion. That there is importance in mission and vision. God invites us to collaborate. We need to tap into opportunities that exist, therefore it is important to maintain relationships, and as we express our needs, we also need to note that these partners also have needs and we should be able to relate and observe that family, goodwill, and philanthropy comes in many ways. Looking deeper into the conversation on the UAPs, Fr Orobator invited all to look at the UAPs as a new way of doing things, to be creative and think about how this conversion and renewal will happen for us as development and communications. The UAPs are giving us a license to be creative, to pursue paths of revitalizations to change our minds, culture and our mindset.
The days that followed, had several presentations lined up, with break-out sessions on development and communications.
Fr Jorge Serrano SJ who has been instrumental for the last 10 years in leading the Society’s “Flagship Project” engaging with Provinces across the globe to understand community outreach and fundraising, presented on “Building Capacity”. In some offices there are already proactive systems of fundraising, and in others, where development work is just at the starting line, without any or well-established systems and processes of raising funds, Fr Serrano has been empowering these offices by helping to bridge the gap as the Assistant Treasurer for Development Resources of the Society of Jesus. This year’s session he brought about an online social profit organization tool that allows development officers to learn, to find local support and resources on fundraising.
Fr Corbian Kyara SJ, Development Director of the Eastern Africa engaged participants on collaboration and networking. An insightful topic which highlighted the various ways in which Provinces and Regions can enhance their work through collaboration and networking by promoting inter-province initiatives.
After long days culminated by sessions on development and communications, Wednesday afternoon, participants left Centre Christus for two schools St Ignatius High School (SIHS) and Ecole Primaire Saint Ignace both are private schools run by the Jesuit fathers of Rwanda-Burundi region, located in Kibagabaga, at the outskirts of the City of Kigali, Rwanda and are founded on the Ignatian Pedagogy. Participants also visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, a resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Rwanda Genocide.