Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ethiopia: On Mission with Ugandan Team

Joseph Alumansi speaking about the personal love of God the Father.
When I visited Ethiopia last spring I had the chance to speak at length with Addis Ababa Auxiliary Bishop Lesanu-Christos Matheos about the needs of the local church, and how Franciscan Mission Outreach might be able to help. He introduced me to several local members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal who have struggled to keep this movement alive and have it grow in the midst of a religious culture overshadowed by the prominence of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and a somewhat isolated political climate. The bishop had tried previously to bring a team from Uganda to help, but was unable to do so for lack of funds.

Some of the more than 100 participants in the two-day general conference.
Because of friendships I have developed among leaders in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Uganda, and because of the generosity of FMO benefactors, I was able to assemble a small team consisting of Fr. David Byaruhanga, a priest-theologian of the Kabale Diocese, Joseph Alumansi, National Coordinator of the Uganda Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and Joseph's wife Serah Alumansi, also very active and involved in the Renewal in Uganda.

Bishop Lesanu-Christos Matheos translating for Fr. David Byaruhanga with charismatic leaders.
We arrived on Sunday evening, October 21, and launched into a very full schedule the next morning. The week began with a two-day mini-conference for general charismatic participants. Joseph covered the background and history of the Renewal, Fr. David provided the Scriptural basis and Serah witnessed to the fruits of the charismatic renewal she has experienced and seen in her own life. The following day we did a condensed Life in the Spirit Seminar, focusing on our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and our life of discipleship in the Church. The day ended with a session of praying for individual participants.

About half of the clergy and religious who attended an information seminar.
On Wednesday we spent an entire day with local leaders of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, mostly sharing the mature experience of that movement in Ethiopia. There was plenty of time for questions and answers and responding to individual concerns. In the afternoon we spent time in Eucharistic Adoration, and again prayed personally with each leader present.

Serah Alumansi (left), one of the Ugandan team members,
with Meaza Yohannes, one of the local organizers.
Thursday was an informational seminar for the priests and religious of the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa in which approximately 55 people participated. Again we provided background information, Scriptural references, statements of the Magisterium and explanations of aspects of the charismatic renewal that are commonly misunderstood. There was a small breakout session to discuss the potential benefits of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the Church, possible challenges to be faced, and concrete steps that could be taken to enable what all agreed was something good for the Church to move forward and flourish.

St. Francis Prayer group meeting in the compound of Christian Care,
a nonprofit organization they established to help feed hungry children
Finally on Saturday morning and afternoon we met with other local Catholic leaders and separately with a general audience of curious and interested people for the purpose of sharing basic information and answering questions. It was an extremely positive week for us, and one we hope and pray will be an ongoing source of blessing for the Charismatic Renewal and the Church as a whole in Addis Ababa.

Bishop Lesanu-Christos (left) with our team (left to right):
Serah Alumansi, Joseph Alumansi, Fr. Herald Brock, CFR, Fr. David Byaruhanga.

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