1.KENYA: AMECEA Pastoral Institute Starts Registration For 2020-2021 Intake Amidst Considerations of Post-Covid-19
As Kenya government authority consider reopening of activities after three months of lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, AMECEA’s Pastoral Institute (API) has started registration of candidates for the September 2020 intake.
Commenting on the development, coordinator of AMECEA Gaba Publication and chief editor of African Ecclesial Review (AFER) Fr Dr Jordan Nyenyembe says, “We look forward to receive applications from the dioceses and Religious Congregations in all Conferences of the regional body, AMECEA, so as to boost the vitality of the institute.”
The institute closed its operation in the middle of March this year, following the outbreak of Covid-19, and in response to the executive order by President Uhuru Kenyatta to shut down all schools and colleges in the country.
AMECEA API, also known as Gaba Institute, is an oasis for academic, spiritual and pastoral renewal owned by the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) which comprises of 8 bishops Conferences in the region: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan/ South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, with Somali and Djibouti as its affiliate countries.
The API was established in 1968 at Gaba in Uganda but due to unfavourable political climate and insecurity during the reign of President Idi Amin, AMECEA moved the centre to Eldoret, Kenya, in 1976.
API offers a unique sabbatical program for pastoral agents in the region so that priests, nuns and catechists “renew themselves by undergoing an ongoing formation program in a context enriched by the Catholic University’s academic programs at Gaba Campus, hence providing the participants with a setting enriched by dialogue among priests, Religious men and women and lay persons
“This reflects the Church as family of God as described by the first African Synod in 1995,” reads a presentation of the institute by AMECEA Secretariat adding, “API is committed to training creative, prophetic and open-minded pastoral leaders and agents of evangelization.”
Fr Nyenyembe shared that currently, the API runs three programs, namely Diploma in Pastoral Ministry (for priests); Diploma in Evangelization and Catechesis (for Religious men and women); and a Spiritual Renewal Program for those on non-academic sabbatical rest.
“The API programs help participants to provide better pastoral responses to prevailing influences such as secularization, consumerism, devil worshipping, political unrest, socio-economic problems and family challenges,” continued Dr. Nyenyembe.
“They also help pastoral agents to make the Gospel relevant to the prevailing situations; to promote better administration of temporal goods, evangelization and self-reliance of the churches; to offer broader perspective on servant leadership,” he added.
For the 2019 and 2020 intakes, the institute received as participants, priests, Religious men and women as well as laity (catechists) from South Sudan, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya and Zambia. However, in the previous year the institute also received participants from Namibia.
2.GHANA: SECAM Appeals for Consideration of Africa to Help Continent’s Economic Recovery Following Covid-19
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) has appealed to various stakeholders for continued collaboration with the African continent during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, asking for debt relief among other pleas to help in economic recovery after recession.
“Judging from its devastating effects, it can be said without doubt that the consequences of the pandemic are tragic. On economic level, recession is evident due to the shutdown of activities especially in key production sectors, tourism, air transport and the hotel industry,” the African continental body of Catholic Bishops says in a statement signed by the President of SECAM Cardinal Phillipe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo.
“The social explosion is to be feared in many countries, and in particular, in Africa that is already burdened with debts and where unemployment continues to worsen,” the statement highlights and adds, “We would like to plead for the massive cancellation of debts of African countries, to enable them to revive their economies.”
Addressing the bilateral and multilateral groups in anticipation of the post-COVID-19 economic situation, SECAM appeals to stakeholders to “take a closer look at the case of Africa, which is currently facing the problem of lack of resources in the fight against the pandemic and those who, working in the informal sector, have had to suspend their activities due to lockdowns.”
In the statement released on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, the Bishops continental body requests the bilateral and multilateral organizations “for substantial aid to be given to the African countries to support the establishment of quality health systems; to promote the emergence of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) aimed at easing unemployment problem; and to support food security.”
The Bishops body further calls “on the business community and the pharmaceutical companies, both formal and informal, not to exploit the situation to make profit but join in the efforts to provide care for vulnerable people.”
According to the Church leaders, COVID-19 which is causing health crisis should be an eye opener for the continent to find ways of getting rid of “diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, which continue to plague the continent.
SECAM also appeals to the African Union “to sensitize member countries to contribute to the creation of a Solidarity Fund, which will be used to improve the health of the populations,” adding that African leaders should ensure “that the limited resources available are used to assist those who really need help, especially the poorest of the poor.”
“We exhort all the Church institutions directly involved in this fight to remain steadfast and to work with other non-Church institutions in the promotion of good heath for all people of Africa and Madagascar,” they added.
The Bishops body further appreciates government leaders in their effort to stem the spread of Coronavirus and also thanked the “health professionals and Religious nuns who have shown extraordinary dedication to alleviating the suffering of the sick.”
“In this time when many are in dire need, let us help them to experience the love of God. In the same vein, let us not stigmatize those who have recovered from COVID-19 disease but accept them warmly and make them feel happy to be back to their families or communities,” the Bishops’ statement concluded.
3.KENYA: ACWECA Postpone Plenary Assembly over Covid-19 Pandemic
The 18th Plenary Assembly of Religious women in Africa that had been scheduled to take place in August in Nairobi, Kenya, has been postponed to next year as the nuns await a “face to face encounter” to hold the assembly following restrictions put in place by various governments to curb the spread of Coronavirus.
The Religious nuns under their regional body Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA), comprise of National Associations of Sisterhoods which is Conference of Women Religious Superiors General from English speaking countries of Eastern and Central Africa.
In an interview with AMECEA Online, ACWECA Secretary General Sr. Hellen Bandiho noted that the plans for the assembly were underway with committees in their advanced stage of preparations but all these have been “put on hold until a later date.”
“The Plenary Assembly was on top of the agenda for almost a year. We had already invited all stakeholders who were ready to attend the assembly. We had already booked the accommodation and a venue for the assembly,” Sr. Bandiho a member of the Congregation of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus disclosed adding that “because of the pandemic at hand, the Board had no choice but to postpone.”
Narrating further on other arrangements that were on going Sr. Bandiho said, “the ACWECA Management together with the host team from Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya had already met and committees were in advanced stages with preparations. A keynote speaker and other presenters had already been identified and they had already accepted to take part in the Plenary Assembly. Invitations had already been sent to member countries, collaborators and partners.”
Asked if ACWECA Plenary could be held using the virtual platforms, Sr. Bandiho said, “The Assembly is an opportunity to share ideas but also to meet physically. Over 250 delegates cannot be adequately accommodated via Webinar.” Besides, “there are some countries like Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan where connectivity is a challenge (and) we need all member countries to participate.”
“A one-on-one meeting will benefit all members without leaving some behind and it is during the Assembly when we elect new leadership. The presence of all delegates to choose their leaders during a face to face encounter makes more sense than a virtual election,” she added.
The assembly is to be convened in Kenya under the theme Re-Awakening the Prophetic Role: A call for Reformation Towards Holistic Transformation in ACWECA Region today. It will still be held at the same venue with the same theme but next year.
In a letter announcing the postponement, the President of ACWECA Sr. Cecilia Njeri, a member of the Little Sisters of St. Francis (LSOSF) congregation further said, “The current Chairperson and the Board Members will remain in place until we are able to conduct the Assembly in August 2021, God willing.”
ACWECA comprise of Religious nuns from 10 countries, namely Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe as an Associate Member.
The Secretary General asked the association members “to continue praying for the Assembly.”
4.UGANDA: Uganda Celebrates Martyrs Day Low Profile Due to Covid-19
On Wednesday June 3, 2020, Uganda has marked the 133rd year of Uganda Martyrs but in a low-profile following government restriction that bar mass gatherings to control the spread of Coronavirus that has so far so many 370,000 lives worldwide.
For the first time since 1920, the two sites of Uganda Martyrs, the Catholic and Anglican shrines at Namugongo, have seen a handful of attendants and pilgrims coming for the commemoration. This is unlike the other years when millions of pilgrims flock from different countries to shrines to pray through the intercession of the 45 martyrs who were killed under the orders of King Mwanga between 1885 and 1887 because of their faith.
The Archbishop of Kampala Most Rev. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, while leading the Mass for the June 3 at the Catholic Shrine Namugongo, congratulated Christians for bravery despite the challenge of not being able to celebrate Mass in churches for the last three months, saying that everyone in their family have stood firm in faith.
Archbishop Dr. Lwanga said like the Martyrs who exhibited love, faith and hope, they too have been killed for the God.
He urged all Ugandans to emulate the Martyrs despite the challenge of Covid-19 saying, “Let there be no anger, selfishness, despair or the spirit of survival of the fittest but a united Catholic Church.
He has also asked government to plan for the after-effects of Covid-19 as many people lack food and other basic necessities since many people are not doing any work to earn anything for the livelihood of their families.
Archbishop of Church of Uganda Dr. Steven Kazimba Mugalu who led a service from the Anglican Martyrs site also encouraged Christians to pray to God to save Uganda and the world from the Coronavirus pandemic.
He too urges government not to forget the frontline health workers, teachers and the most vulnerable.
On his part, President Yoweri Museveni sent a special message to congratulate all Christians on the occasion, saying that they too are like the martyrs who exercised heroic virtues of faith by accepting death yet they stood.
He said the Uganda martyrs are seeds that fell on good soil in the Parable of the Sower; that their example of fortitude and endurance has helped to plant the kingdom of God in Uganda and around the globe.
He urged the Christians in Uganda to allow the spirit of sacrifice and total surrender to God to inspire them in their day to day undertakings.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Masaka Diocese Rt. Rev. Serverus Jjumba who was supposed to preside over the Uganda Martyrs national commemoration at Namugongo has celebrated the festivity with the entire church in his diocese from his cathedral, Kitovu.
Bishop Jjumba took the opportunity to acknowledge the suffering many are undergoing due to the lockdown in the country and emphasized the need for Christian love for every person despite any differences.
He said that as all person are equal before God, there should be equity and equality.
“Let Ugandans strive for peace for all especially the children, youth and mothers who have been so vulnerable during the lockdown due to COVID-19,” he said.
He further said that brutal attacks on mothers and children by spouses and parents leaves a lot of pain, hence calling for repentance so that families may live their lives like the Holy family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in Nazareth.
Encouraging the youth to be the light of the world, Bishop Jjumba has hailed all Christians for having persevered since the churches were closed in March due to Covid-19, urging all to remain in prayer from their homes until the time when the churches will be opened and, above all, to see the world getting a cure for COVID-19.
5.ZAMBIA: Awareness Creation on Covid-19, Key Activity for Religious Nuns in Zambia
As Covid-19 pandemic continues to threaten people’s lives, Religious women in Zambia through Zambia Association of Sisterhoods (ZAS), are in the forefront sensitizing people about Coronavirus and ways to prevent its spread in the country.
“ZAS through the SCORE-ECD (Strengthening the Capacity of Religious women in Early Childhood Development) project, went around the sites where the Sisters are implementing activities to sensitize people about the virus,” the association’s Secretary General Sr. Elizabeth Muleya, told AMECEA online, Thursday, June 4.
SCORE-ECD is a project coordinated by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) with support from Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to promote holistic development of children.
According to Sr. Muleya, “The SCORE ECD Project Manager sourced funding through the Dominican Sisters to help fight COVID-19 and prevent transmission among pregnant and lactating mothers.”
The activities which have been conducted on 6 sites during the month of May, aimed at distributing sensitization materials to all the SCORE ECD sites, observing the activities the nuns are conducting in the community, and to appreciate the challenges being experienced during the Covid-19 period.
“Our sole message was about COVID-19 sensitization, information sharing, and understanding what the community knows about the virus,” Sr Muleya herself a member of Good Shepherd Sisters said, adding that through interaction, they realized some people were ignorant about the deadly disease while others believed Coronavirus is not real.
Sr. Muleya disclosed that the funds received were used to purchase supplies like handwashing buckets, facemasks, gloves, printed materials for sensitization programs, and handwashing soaps which were distributed to all the SCORE-ECD sites managed by nuns from different congregations.
“We taught them how to make hand sanitizers, advised them to disinfect and keep surfaces clean and that they should not cough into their hands,” Sr. Muleya underscored some of the activities they carried out in the community.
“Above all, we advised them to stay at home and avoid visiting others unless there is an urgent matter that cannot wait. Once they go out, they should follow prevention Guidelines such as wearing of face masks, avoiding large crowds, shaking hands and always maintain at least one-meter distance with the next person,” she said.
According to Sr. Muleya, the greatest challenge the nuns faced during the exercise is the fact that most people cannot afford buying hand washing soap or sanitizer and facemasks. Besides, “Social distance is difficult for them to observe given how have people traditionally socialize in community.”
“After sensitization and awareness creation, people are now aware about the disease and they understand that COVID-19 is real and kills,” Sr Muleya told AMECEA Online, highlighting the outcome realized after the Religious women’s visits last month.
ZAS’s Secretary also said, “ZAS is still restructuring some of the project activities in order to design further interventions of COVID-19.”
As at Thursday, June 4, Zambia had recorded a total of 1,089 Coronavirus cases including 912 recoveries and 7 deaths.
6.MALAWI: Catholic Development Commission Donates Personal Protective Equipment to Mission Hospitals
The Catholic Development Commission in Malawi CADECOM which is the developmental arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) has donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to Mtengowanthenga and Madisi Mission Hospitals to fight Covid-19 pandemic.
During the handover ceremony, the National CADECOM Coordinator Mr Chimwemwe Phiri said that frontline heath workers need to be provided with PPEs because they are at high risk of contracting the virus.
“The donation is coming with the background that we are now in a global crisis. This pandemic has hit many countries including Malawi, and so we decided to assist our Catholic health centres with these items,” he said.
Meanwhile, the person in charge of Mtengowanthenga Mission Hospital Sr. Dr. Eva Kangaude expressed gratitude saying that the donation has increased hope and confidence of health workers in their line of duty.
“I was very happy when I heard that CADECOM is coming here to donate Personal Protective equipment. With these, we have gotten the courage to work without fear of contacting the virus,” she said.
Rev. Fr Henry Zulu who is Director of Social Development in the Archdiocese of Lilongwe also commended the Australian government for the support.
The Australian government through Caritas Australia su
7.KENYA: Religious Nun Receives Presidential Award for Exemplary Work During COVID-19
President Uhuru Kenyatta, during the national day in remembrance of Kenya’s attainment of internal self-rule on Monday, June 1, has awarded a Presidential Order of Service Award, Uzalendo Award, to 68 patriotic citizens for their exemplary work in the fight against Covid-19, among whom is a Religious nun who is journalist by profession.
“I did not expect this. It came to me as a shock,” Sr. Winnie Mutuku, a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul who runs Upendo Street Children project in Kenya’s Kitale town told AMECEA online in an interview Thursday, June 4.
“I can’t image how I got the award. I think somebody might have noted the little services we have been carrying out for the street children here in Kitale Diocese especially during this time of pandemic because this time is extra ordinary,” Sr. Mutuku explained adding, “Whoever noticed that might have forwarded my name to government.”
“Besides, this project is well known here in Kitale due to the interactions I had with them. Also, Mitume Radio has covered our adverts three times, and interviewed the children themselves. So, from all these, someone might have heard about us or acknowledged our services,” Sr Winne narrated.
The nun who founded the charity organization which commenced its operations in January this year, said the COVID-19 pandemic made them integrate the children back to their families but not all were integrated.
“After the government directives were issued which included closure of institutions and social distancing among others, we integrated the children back to their homes to be with their relatives or guardians, but we couldn’t do this to all of them because some had nowhere to go to,” Sr. Mutuku underscored.
8.ZAMBIA: If We Are to Prevent Something Worse to Happen Than Gassing Attacks, it is Now, Bishop Lungu Says
Months after gas attacks by unknown criminal gangs, injuries and deaths in the country, Chairman of Bishop Conference Bishop George Cosmas Lungu has urged Zambians to demand for answers for the recent unpleasant occurrences which seem unresolved and may worsen in the future.
“Time is now. We cannot wait any longer, in silence, for explanations and appropriate action. If we are to prevent something worse to happen other than the gassing, it is now we have to do something,” Bishop George Cosmas Lungu told AMECEA online in an interview on Thursday, June, 4.
Gas attacks that sparked widespread panic in Zambia early this year have since stopped but the Prelate’s wish is to ensure it is settled once and for all for the country’s continued peace.
“The gassing has stopped, thanks be to God!” Bishop Lungu of Chipata Diocese continued, “This, however, is not a guarantee that it will not be reignited in the future. It needs to be explored,” for peace to reign since “peaceful nations are loving nations.”
Recalling how the incidents began Rt. Rev. Lungu narrated, “What started as an isolated case in a small location on the Copperbelt sooner than later spread like bush fire to the rest of the country, instilling fear, anarchy and suspicion in the country.”
“Gassing became the vocabulary of the day, losing close to 50 lives in very disturbing circumstances witnessed by innocent children. Never before were our children exposed to such horrific scenes like the one witnessed during the gassing episode,” the Church leader bemoaned.
He wondered what has befell a nation which he terms has been “peaceful” saying, “Can anyone who until now hailed Zambians as ‘peace loving people’ explain why suddenly we became a mob of killers of innocent souls including old people? Why this sudden change?”
He lamented further, “Why were police posts targeted by communities forcing government to deploy military personnel? Why was it allowed to spread so quickly to other parts of the country? These are honest questions seeking honest answers which I am sure until now, we have not been provided with answers by the powers that be.”
“Leaving a sensitive issue hanging such as this one which destabilized people’s normal way of living, is not helpful and leaves us asking more questions for ages to come,” the Chairman of ZCCB since 2018 decried.
Explaining to AMECEA Online, Bishop Lungu related the incident to Pentecost day which was celebrated Sunday, May 31, on how “The life-giving Spirit breathed on the disciples to transform them from a group of cowards to fearless proclaimers of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord.”
“I was therefore reminding my fellow believers that our lives like that of our friends in the Upper Room, have been threatened by so many national issues robbing us of a decent human and peaceful existence. Issues include corruption, threats and intimidation, brutality of some irresponsible officers in the name of keeping law and order, political cadres terrorizing peace loving citizens and suppression of alternative voices,” the Bishop narrated.
Speaking on how the gassing affected families, the Local Ordinary of Chipata has been moved by the life of children who witnessed the incidences and were left in a daze.
“Families have remained traumatized (and) these things happened under the watchful eyes of their children, watching victims crying for help and no help came; stoned to death and torched…We have to teach the next generation about the sanctity of human life. Unfortunately, this will be passed on to the next generation,” he said.
Bishop Lungu connected what happened in Zambia to the current global pandemic saying, “The Covid-19 experience provides a “blue print” if we are to resolve our crises: that we mask all entry points of corruption, injustice and inequality; that we sanitize our governance systems to kill the virus that is at odds with our common good; and that we ensure social distancing from people who would like to make this country “a home for the rich but a furnace for the poor.”
9.KENYA: Bishop Wainaina: Continue Sharing Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic
Chairman for The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB)-Council for Economic Affairs Rt. Rev. James Maria Wainaina has called on Kenyans to continue sharing the dwindling resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Presiding over the Mass at the Holy Family Minor Basilica in the Archdiocese of Nairobi, Bishop Wainaina warned that this is not the time to seek to make unreasonably high profits, but to make sacrifices for the benefit of others.
“We need to remind ourselves of the need to continue sharing our dwindling resources in a just and equitable manner. St. Paul exhorts us to bear each other’s burdens (cf. Gal. 6:2),” he said.
Bishop Winaina who is the Ordinary for the Diocese of Muranga called on property owners, employers, business persons including those in social and political spheres to be honest in order to accommodate and benefit one another.
“The landlords must be ready to negotiate and agree on a way-forward with their tenants, business people with their customers, service providers with beneficiaries of their services, and employers with their employees. There is life beyond COVID-19. The tendency to turn calamities into opportunities for self-enrichment or to exploit others is abhorrent and must be condemned,” he said.
While lauding President Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenya Government for unveiling the economic stimulus package, he appealed for expeditious pay of all genuine suppliers and urgent settlement of money owed by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to faith-based health facilities to enable them continue rendering the much-needed services, in addition to waiving taxes on health service items and other hospital consumables related to COVID-19.
“Since the ‘new normal’ is now characterized by facemasks, PPE’s, hand-sanitizers, hand-washing soaps, cleaning detergents, we call upon our Government to consider waiving taxes on these items and others like ambulances,” he said.
In order to overcome negative effects Covid-19 pandemic, he called on the people to remain united at all levels: in the family, in social life, among all religious faiths, and even at the level of political leadership.
Bishop Wainaina said, problems due to Coronavirus must not bring strife among people, but should be a cause to reason together with understanding.
“Let us make our families the last fortress against Covid-19. The Holy Family of Nazareth is always the model,” he said.
He expressed appreciation to all those who have given generously for the alleviation of suffering due to COVID-19 pandemic