Catholics Start Self Reliance Assembly

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Roman Catholic Mission in The Gambia has gathered several Catholics at their Diocesan Assembly. The four - day Assembly is to talk on the topic, “A Dynamic Self-reliant Church.” This comes as a way of preparing Gambian Catholics to take ownership of their church as donors are apparently slowing down or not sending donations at all. The Bishop in collaboration with the priests, Religious and the lay faithful have over the past months prepared to face the Assembly. Gambia, like other self Reliant Catholic countries have produced their own Catholic priests and Sisters and the population has grown and have gained a lot of followers as well. The Assembly started on a good footing with Msg. Rev. Father Daniel Kamara from the Diocese of Makeni in Sierra Leone as the moderator.

Fr. Edu Gomez, the Cathedral Administrator in his welcome speech said, “We are here to discuss pertinent issues for the life of our church. It was in 1979 that we had such an Assembly. It is good to look back, it is important but looking ahead is much more important on the theme “A Dynamic Self - reliant Church.” The world was divided into two, he said. They are the world of receivers and the world of givers. There is less receivership now because of the self - reliance in society. Mathama Ghandi said, ‘self help is the capacity to stand on ones legs without another’s help. Fr. Edu further quoted J. E. Dinga on the three types of friends. They are the one that showed him love, the one who hated him and the one that showed him indifference.

We need to reflect on where we are and where we are going. We are here to share and benefit one another, he said.

Bishop Ellison, the Catholic Bishop of Banjul said one man plants another waters and God gives the increase. “We cannot do everything but ‘danka danka japa golor.’ He said that it is good to do things but to do it well.

Good will message from Rev. Norman Grigg indicated that there were not many countries where Catholics invite Methodists in such gatherings. But this is Gambia; I was privileged to attend Bishop Ellison’s ordination. I realized how the Catholic draws up from Rome and blends it with beautiful local hymns that come out spiritually.We (Methodists) value your holding our hand greatly to walk along. Our history is one of strength, united we stand divided we fall. The purpose of mission is, what we can’t take with us can be left behind. The Catholics have allowed us to use their facilities at GPI, Shalom and more. The Anglican Mission wished the Catholic Mission well. Father Cole represented Bishop Telewa Johnson. He said, “I pray as you end the self reliant assembly, coins will stop sounding in your collection plates, amen.”

Bringing the main point to participants, Fr. Daniel Kamara from Sierra Leone introduced points to be discussed and allowed Fr. Peter Lopez to talk on the theme, Evangelization. He said, there are many good ideas but implementation is a problem. GPI has served over the years as a centre for formation. They have trained lots of groups including the Eucharistic Ministers. He talked about Children’s Apostulate. “In the past six years, there has been a steady increase in children’s apostulate. There has been Bible Quiz, songs etc. Children look towards it,” he said. He talked on Confirmation and said many parishes have the confirmation syllabus we are revising it to suit the church.

Fr. Peter further talked about the Biblical and Catechetical Commissions and pointed out how children have been taken on Bible camps to help them. He talked on Vocations Commission, saying it was very important. Talked about Marriage and said it reveals true love that requires husband to love wives and wives to love husbands. He said priests prepare couples in their parishes. “We should get a functional marriage tribunal in the diocese. He mentioned Church Groups, Small Christian Communities, Catechists and mentioned their constrains ranging from the lack of support from communities, in terms of their work. Some parishes want catechists who speak the same language with them. We need to the catechists. We need income for the catechists, salary and up keep including their social security.

The RE/CRE department:

Evangelization in our schools: Teachers are now trained in the college in Bible studies and after completion they are taken as other teachers. Many teachers, he said do not stay as teachers they move to other jobs. Some heads do not seem concern only the other subject matter to them. People borrow books from GPI but never return them.

This session ended with lots of questions and answers.

Communications: Fr. Lopez said it was the miracle of our time. “We must work to discover God, it is about spreading the Word of God. Communication he said is the vehicle that brings us closer to God. “We have programmes on the radios, television. People do not inform us they only tell us to cover the Mass. He pointed out the power of communication and urged every body not to be afraid of it. “It has made small people great.” Pope John Paul 11 became well known because he was not afraid of communication. He pointed out the gaps and look forward for the better. “None of our communication instruments is communication, they are only instruments of communication. They help us better our communication. We should make sure that the technology serves better, let us not make the pastoral goals become a slave of technology. He further spoke a bit on Dialogue with Islam and left it for Fr. Edu Gomez.

As a way forward for Communication, he said within 5 years they should have a radio station in the spirit of St. Paul.

Fr. Dan Kamara, the moderator said Fr. Lopez is stressing that people avoid fear of machines of communication and to be open to communication to make our messages go far and wide.He said the group was to later do group work after lunch.

During the Mass Msg. Daniel Kamara in his sermon said Bishop Ellison had called the laity and religious to come and learn to adapt to practical things. “The programme of the Church remains the same as ever. In Him we can praise the Trinity and transform our country.” Quoting from the Pope said we are searching for the necessary resources to meet the needs to transform our church. We are here to plan the journey ahead of us, we are gathered here to break the bread of God and that we are here to own a local church. When Jesus’ side was pierced there came blood and water thus the ecumenical society. It is the Church of Christ we want to promote to make his name big. This must have its root in the saying, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” It is a change of heart, creating the mentality that we are our brothers’ keepers. He said.

He further said that their church is a communion from their shared vision of faith as one family. The Pope stresses that we see Christ in our brothers to make them be able to share their desire. “We must be convinced that we have a part to play in this process then it will work out easily. This is a new chapter of history that has opened today and we are all part of it.

He further said that the annunciation proves the submission of Mary and her ‘yes’ brought God on earth, becoming man to save man. God has put this yes in our hands, Fr. Dan Kamara said.

The Diocesan Assembly continues from 31stMarch to 4thApril 2008. Bishop Emeritus Michael Cleary, Angela B. Colley and other important personnel were part of the opening ceremony.