Who are the African Religious serving on Congregational Leadership Councils in Rome?

Last month’s Rome conference on Africa Day, organised by African religious men and women serving in various generalates of religious congregations, provided a window into Africa’s contribution to the universal Church. These African religious men and women are providing much-needed leadership not jus

Jun 17, 2024

Sr Anne Falola with Fr. Alain Mayama, who is Superior General of the Spiritans.

By Paul Samasumo
It goes without saying that the presence of such gifted and often highly trained African leaders at the helm of international religious congregations is also a reflection and a nod to the investment made by their institutes in them. Congregations of European origin and others that invest in their African members’ formation, education, and training eventually reap the expertise of quality leadership.

Africa’s presence in the Church and in leadership
Sr Anne Falola, a Nigerian missionary sister of Our Lady of Apostles (OLA), is a member of her Congregation’s Leadership Council. She is also the current President of the Association of Africans and Malagasy Religious, serving in generalates based in Rome. She recently spoke about their work, perspective and leadership role.

“We have about 160 members of our association, based in Rome, and we belong to about 60 congregations or religious orders, both male and female. All are Africans or from the Island of Madagascar. From these, we have about 15 who are Superior Generals. The rest of us are councillors or heads of formation, heads of communications or other responsibilities within the Curia offices of our institutes,” said Sr Falola.

Conversations for evangelisation
Asked about the association’s purpose, which was formed in 2007, Sr Falola said it was initially formed for mutual support. The association is a flexible entity without physical offices.

“Our mission is, first of all, to acknowledge the presence of Africa in the Church and in the leadership of religious institutes in Rome. And also, to kind of support one another on the mission given to us by our religious congregations. We try to bring about conversations that touch on the life of the Church in Africa in dialogue to bring about our own richness and our own perspective as religious and consecrated persons, men and women, especially in the leadership of our international congregations. Most of us have grassroots experience in Africa, so we can merge the two realities of leadership and the reality on the ground in many of our local churches and institutions in Africa,” said the Nigerian religious.

Building and nurturing relationships
Concerning issues or challenges that come up when they meet as African religious leaders of congregations, Sr Falola said there are a few but she spoke about the importance of building relationships.

“One of the issues that we’ve been dealing with is the reality of the difficult relationships which often happen between the local Churches, the diocesan Churches and the religious institutes we represent,” she acknowledged.

Nevertheless, the African religious leadership in Rome is keen to approach the challenge proactively by forging and building lasting relationships and partnerships with dioceses and Bishops in Africa.

“We go out to meet local indigenous Bishops and the priests, the diocesan priests … we engage in dialogue and work at strengthening the good relationships that already exist and are necessary if the church is to grow in Africa,” said Sr Falola.

Congregations committed to Africa
According to Sr Falola, congregations that have a presence in Africa or have invested in the continent’s evangelisation mission see their work in Africa as a pastoral priority rooted in their charism or apostolate.

She said the pastoral work started by pioneering missionaries continues. For this reason, congregations such as her own religious institute, the Society of African Missions, Jesuits, Franciscans, the Comboni, Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, Spiritans, Missionaries of Africa, and many others continue to “have a very strong African commitment.”--Vatican News

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