Celebrating the Year 2015 dedicated to Consecrated Life
“Since the children, as He calls them, are People of flesh and blood, Jesus Himself became like them and shared their human nature.”
Heb 2,14 Juba, 11th January 2015
BAPTISM OF THE LORD
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! Peace! In his message sent for the opening of the Year 2015 dedicated to Consecrated Life on the 1st Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis invited all the religious to "thank the Father, who called us to follow Jesus by fully embracing the Gospel and serving the Church, and poured into our hearts the Holy Spirit, the source of our joy and our witness to God's love and mercy before the world."
Pope Francis' message comes to us as a reminder of who we are as consecrated religious by looking at the “past with gratitude, living the present with passion, and embracing the future with great hope.” This is a challenge we have ahead of us to which we cannot remain indifferent but respond with a true testimony of our identity.
We are the windows through which the world around us can see and understand religious life, and experience the richness of the practice of the evangelical counsels through a multiplicity of charisms and gifts for the Church and the society. It is through our testimony today that we show our hope for a future, "conscious that the Holy Spirit spurs us on so that he can still do great things with us."
A recurring word that comes in his messages is "joy", and Pope Francis encourages us to "know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; wherever we are and in whatever we do as a service because this joy needs to be expressed in a concrete way”.
RELIGIOUS LIFE IN SOUTH SUDAN TODAY! The unforgettable year 2014 has gone with all its horrors and through the mercy and closeness of God, our Father, we begin a New Year 2015. The past year has been a time in which we suffered and endured an atrocious violence that broke out in the country on the 15th December 2013. It has taken away the lives of thousands of our brothers and sisters starting from Juba and inflaming the whole country. Beside the thousands death, we have witnessed heavy destruction of property especially in the three states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity. Not only have we lost lives and property to the conflict, but also the social structures, the traditional and cultural relations that existed among our communities have been shattered.
With such a high degree of destruction of property and life during the conflict, it is tragic that the warring parties until today have not agreed to end the violence in the country despite the continuous and desperate calls from all the citizens of the youngest nation, the religious leaders, the Churches, the International community, IGAD and many other stakeholders who have at their heart the destiny and future of this beautiful and difficult country. This is a senseless conflict and must end immediately. The war now continues to consume lives of our innocent brothers and sisters and the two factions are dragged to engage in a war of self interests. As religious we continue to pray and commit ourselves for peace and reconciliation and invite the political and military leaders to put the interest of the nation and of the peoples above personal interests of power and resources to reach an agreement and to end this deadly conflict.
It is in this context and particular time of history of this country and peoples that our vocation and call to religious life is unfolding. What is our particular mission and challenges today personally, communitarian and as Church, in answering to the voice of the Lord?
We cannot remain indifferent to these challenges. Hence, it is a great opportunity during this year to pray, intercede, analyze, reflect, discern, celebrate God through the People we encounter daily with more passion, motivations and awareness that they are the face of Jesus, the Lord who is asking us to go beyond what we see and incarnate ourselves in their history. To be together with Him, with His People that we are here to serve!
THE ENCOURAGING AND CHALLENGING WORDS OF POPE FRANCIS Pope Francis is inviting us to trust in the Lord and at the same time to put at the service of the world our charisms and gifts received freely from the Father through our Founders.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata it is stated: “You have not only a glorious history of your founders to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things”. (No. 110)
Our founders worked tirelessly through prayers of intercessions, preaching the Gospel, works of catechesis, education and their service to the poor, the sick, the children and the young. The creativity of charity is boundless and able to find countless new ways of bringing the newness of the Gospel to every culture and every corner of the world and the entire society.
And through our consecration and vocation, we believe that we are really people who can go against the tide because we believe in God’s plan for humanity with faith and passion.
In his letter to us as consecrated people, Pope Francis has really encouraged and challenged us to go beyond what are the expectations that the Pope and the People of God expect from us. But some of his statements are really a program of life and mission:
“Where there are religious, there is joy!”
“I am counting on you to wake up the world”
“Experts in communion”
“Go into all the world”
“I expect that each form of consecrated life will question what it is that God and people today are asking them”
These are beautiful statements and expectations that demand a concrete answer from all of us consecrated people here in South Sudan. The question we must surely ask ourselves is what we must do to transform these desires and hopes into action, into works, into transforming our life and the life of the people we are here to serve? What are the signs of hope and change that we already see in our midst in spite of many difficulties, poverty and death? What can we do to become a ferment of joy, of hope, of brotherhood and of justice in a reality that wants to make us part of the dynamics of discouragement and divisions?
The Pope is reminding us that “…I am counting on you to wake up the world, since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy!” He said to many of our Superiors General: “Radical evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way.” His advice to each one of us is “to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth…a religious must never abandon prophecy”.This is the priority that is needed right now! This is a strong invitation from the Pope that many times surprises us for his radicalism and vision for the world and the entire Church. And many times, he is much more radical and prophetic than many religious in the Church.
“Prophets know God and they know His People because they are free and they have no interest other than God and His People. Prophets are on the side of the poor and the powerless, for they know that God himself is on their side.” SOME ACTIVITIES FOR CELEBRATING…. As executive members of RSASS we would like to invite all of you, dear religious brothers and sisters, everywhere you are in this young nation of South Sudan to rejoice this year in a special way for the gift of religious and missionary life and to share our call with the People and especially with the young ones. The youth and children in this country are the great majority (almost 70%) and they are the ones who are more attentive to our life style, relationships, service, mission and ministry. They are the present and especially the future of this new nation and especially for the Church and our Institutes. Their vocation has to be very dear to us and our simple witness a challenge to their choice of life. For any vocation and mission to which they are called to be servant of the Gospel of Jesus in this young nation.
We hope that this year there will be more intense relationships between different congregations and exchange of ideas and help among us. To be in solidarity and fraternity is a priority for each one of us who wants to witness the care of Jesus.
We invite you to organize some initiatives among religious spread all over the 7 diocese of the nation. Moments of reflections, sharing, prayer, recollections and retreats that can enrich our religious vocation and to know better the gifts and charism of the others; and maybe to come together in common projects for serving better the People; and of course many meetings with the youth and lay people to let them know the beauty of religious and missionary life at the service of the society and the Church.
A TRIDUUM…. As RSASS, we have organized to launch officially a Triduum (three days focused on the past, present and future) to celebrate this Year 2015 of Consecrated life. In Juba we are organizing on Saturday 31st January 2015 a pilgrimage on foot and in prayer open to all the religious and whoever would like to join us from St. Theresa Cathedral in Kator to Rejaf All Saints Church remembering the past, our ancestors in faith, the ones who have brought faith here in this land and within the celebrations of the centenary of the Archdiocese of Juba.
The following day Sunday 1st February 2015 at St Theresa Cathedral, Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro will celebrate the present with the religious, clergy and the laity, in thanksgiving to God for the gift of religious life to this land loved so much by St. Daniel Comboni, the first bishop of Sudan. And on 2nd Monday February 2015 (Feast of Presentation of the Lord and Consecrated life) at Comboni House, we shall look and pray for the future with a moment of catechesis, Eucharistic celebration and a fraternal supper with religious and other guests.
Our General meeting of RSASS will be in Juba from 28th to 30th April 2015. The first two days will be dedicated to the ongoing formation on Consecrated life in South Sudan today. All the religious are most welcome for this event. Put it in your diary now!
OUR COMMON DREAM We remind you about our common dream, hope and vision that we have decided to achieve together and supported unanimously in the last General Assembly of RSASS of last year 2014: the construction of the Centre of human and spiritual formation, trauma healing and peace building of Kit/Juba. We are at the beginning of the project and we need the efforts of everybody. We invite all the congregations to support this dream with prayers, in solidarity but also financially since this is a common project that we want to offer to the society and the Church of South Sudan. Any offering is welcome according also to the possibilities of each congregation. Other institutions, donors and organizations will give us a help but our small but necessary and important contribution will be our blessing to the People who are going to benefit from the center and the several programs offered there.
This is already our humble and prophetic answer to the needs of the People of God and the Church here in South Sudan. We know very well the great need of spirituality, human formation, healing from traumas of past and present wars for bishops, clergy, religious and common citizens. We have also the dream of a lasting Peace that comes from God but needs actors, lay people, youth and pastoral agents who are instruments to this desire who have to be prepared and formed for their important service and ministry. In this year 2015 there will be several workshops organized by RSASS and other religious on trauma healing and also on being trainer of trainers since the need of passing through these traumas is very high in our country and our brothers and sisters are crying for this ministry.
LET US FORGIVE AND RECONCILE WITH OUR PAST We realize that we have a great mission and responsibility to accomplish. To bring joy, hope and future here in this nation loved by the Lord! Let ourselves and the People not allow our past to control our present and future! Let us seek to forgive and start the journey towards a new beginning as one people and one nation. It is sad that even when in our own Independent nation we still recall the dark days of killings and destruction during the liberation struggle of the two past wars. And now with this civil war which is deadly and clearly a struggle for power and resources for the interest of few. Instead let’s focus on praying, evangelizing and developing our young nation which is the battle we need to fight nonviolently together and not be divided. It is for the common good of the People of God in South Sudan. Let us help each other in this ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation with our past so that we can work all together for a better present and future!
CONCLUSION AND INTERCESSIONS We entrust this particular year to Mary Queen of Africa and in a special way to St. Daniel Comboni and St. Josephine Bakhita who are stirring us up and interceding for each one of us being our ancestors in faith. They have opened the way to the People of God here in Sudan and South Sudan.
May God bless you with a good journey of faith during this challenging year.