General Assembly: SMA, a family faithful to its founding charism

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porcellato supSaturday, May 10, 2019: end of the second week of work of the 21st session of the SMA General Assembly. It has been held in Rome since April 30 and continues until May 24, 2019, at the Casa per Ferie, 134 Via di Val Cannuta, at the Convent of the Sisters of the Compagnia di Santa Teresa di Jesu.

It brings together 44 delegates from four continents (Africa, America, Asia, and Europe) and two lay invitees, one from Ireland and one from Poland. Various services facilitate the stay of the participants and the hosting of the sessions: office of the animation, secretariat, simultaneous translation, media … Prayer, conviviality and fraternity define the general atmosphere that even the unstable weather in Rome, alternating between beautiful weather and rains , does not succeed in altering.

This 21st General Assembly is marked by diversity. “We come from seventeen existing units and nineteen countries, which reflects the largely international character of this missionary family. Ireland is the unit (11% of participants) and the nation (14% of participants) with the most representatives. Nevertheless, for the first time in the history of the SMA General Assemblies, only 36% of the delegates are Europeans. Africa is the most represented continent with 43% of the delegates.

Another element to note is the intergenerational character of the members. The youngest of the delegates is 35 (Charles-Nasser Koudje from Central Africa) and the oldest 82 (Frans Mulders from the Netherlands). 40-49 year olds are the most represented, with 43% participation. It should also be noted that the delegates come from all areas of SMA missionary activity: service of leadership (68%), pastoral (25%), training (4%) and those considered as retired (3 %).

The central theme of this Assembly is fidelity to our founding charism and its adaptability to today’s context: “A family faithful to its missionary charism in the changing and complex context of today”. Several concepts are being discussed, including primary evangelization, the Missio Ad Gentes – Ad Extra, with special attention to the poor and the most abandoned … The fundamental questions arise in the articulation that these concepts and nature of our missionary identity..

In other words, how do we define primary evangelization with the emergence of new fields of mission in Africa and outside Africa? How do we combine urban and rural realities in the choice of our pastoral placements? How do we combine geo-local and geo-social aspects?

The answer to all these questions depends on the re-reading of our missionary history in Africa and on peoples of African origin, and our readiness to respond to the call of the Spirit. It is to this that the methodology employed, called “appreciative discernment”, plays a fundamental role. It is a question of seeking from our strengths, to build a future “more beautiful than before”.

In his opening remarks, the outgoing Superior General traced the path of the future through collaboration of all members of the SMA family: “One of the challenges (…) is to try to maintain and even to strengthen the SMA presence in the old units while keeping our priority in Africa and its peoples (…) “It is also” to maintain or even strengthen our charism of being missionaries “Ad Extra”, “Ad Gentes” and “Ad Vitam.”

The new Superior General will receive, at the end of this Assembly, a clear road-map to continue to build the SMA family, and strengthen its fraternal spirit and internationality. These are pillars of our identity that guarantee both the strength of the institution and the well-being of its members.

To follow the work of the Assembly, you require only one internet address:

André N’koy Odimba

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