Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Unique Way of Life

Sometimes it has been observed by members of other religious congregations that community has a significance for Christian Brothers that is not part of the tradition of every congregation. It has always been crucial to life and ministry. This was certainly true for us in our recent Community Pastoral Placement (CPP).   
Our community consisted of five novices: Elly Sakwa and Amos Kutwa (both from Kenya), Daniel Phiri and Lewis Musonda (Zambia), and Victor Piniau (Papua New Guinea).  For all five of us, the experience was a unique part of our formation experience.
It was a new experience for all of us because although some have lived in community previously – with Brothers or other postulants – here we were living with people from different cultures in a smaller community, and away from the structures of the novitiate site.  We were challenged as a community to take responsibility for ourselves. As far as each member of the community was concerned, life was full of fun, challenges and joy. Each member of the community could feel and experience the real sense of ‘being brother’ to one another in a loving and caring way.
Immediately below: (from left) Elly, Amos, Lewis and Daniel.  Where’s Victor?

We have all been very pleased with the experience of a full week’s work in our respective ministries, whereas last year we were at ministry on just one day a week.  We have been enriched through the daily encounters at ministry and these experiences have really helped us to grow in awareness of the social conditions of the people with whom we are working.  We learned to be attentive and open to the needs of those we minister to. All of us came home each day with experiences that were shared with the community so that our ministry experiences became also central in our community sharing.
Prayer was the centre of our community life and was like the fountain from which we got the inspiration to go into our ministries each day. From our sharing in prayer, each of us was challenged and invited to continue to listen to and for God both in the community and at the ministry site. Each of us brought his gifts and uniqueness into how he facilitated prayer. Each day we were grateful for our experiences of the “Holy Mystery” even though we never understood this “Holy Mystery” fully.
Below: (from left) displaying the Choggu team strip are Victor, Elly, Amos and Lewis.  Now Daniel is lost!

Hospitality was very much part of our community experience. Our door was not only open to familiar faces, but also to people of different creeds. We had Christian and Muslim friends alike coming to our community for a meal and that was a tremendous encounter. Our Muslim friends still talk about how hospitable and open we were to them as young men not only of a different faith but from other cultures as well. One thing that amazes our Muslim friends was how people from different cultural backgrounds could live together in one house and eat and drink as if coming from the same parents. For our community this compliment was indeed a blessing. To us, this is a reflection from others indicating the kind of community we not only live in but a community that we value as a way of life and not just a place.
Each of us have come out of the three months with something very significant to our own growth, spiritually, socially, emotionally and intellectually. We enjoyed the three months – though it was not without challenges – and we look forward to the reality of community living in our respective countries when we pack our bags from Br. Paul Noonan Formation House at the end of 2012.