The Ascension of the Lord year C by Wojciech Szypula


First Reading  Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Second Reading Ephesians 1:17–23; Gospel                      Luke 24:46–53


Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9

Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with loud songs of joy.

For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome,

a great king over all the earth.

God has gone up with a shout,

the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is the king of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm.

God is king over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

Reading the Word

First Reading Acts 1:1–11

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Second Reading: Ephesians 1:17–23

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel: Luke 24:46–53

Jesus said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Hearing the Word

“The Great Transition”

The readings of the Easter season frequently show how Jesus prepared his disciples to continue his mission of bringing salvation to the world. The Feast of the Ascension concludes this time of preparation and commemorates the transition between Jesus and his successors.

The first reading contains the opening section of the book of Acts, where St. Luke makes a literary transition between the Gospel and its sequel, the book of Acts. Luke’s first volume, the Gospel, contained an account of the life and ministry of Jesus, while the second volume will present the work of his successors, the Apostles. Both volumes are dedicated to the same person, Theophilus, probably a new convert to Christianity and a patron who sponsored Luke’s work. To link the two volumes, Luke begins the book of Acts with the same event that concluded the Gospel – the ascension of Jesus.

The account of the ascension in Acts is more detailed than in the Gospel. It begins with Jesus announcing the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit. The disciples wondered whether this event would bring about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. Their question was justified because, according to the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-32), the outpouring of God’s Spirit would be a sign of the arrival of the “day of the Lord” and the final restoration of the nation (cf. Acts 2:17). Jesus enlightened the disciples, stating that the coming of the Holy Spirit would not bring history to an end. On the contrary, it would open a new chapter in history, marked by the apostles’ witness to Jesus. Their mission would be universal, starting with Jerusalem, and then extending to the ends of the earth. These were Jesus’ parting words to his successors, who remained in the world to continue Jesus’ work by proclaiming salvation in his name.

This transition was not easy for the apostles. Luke describes them as standing alone and gazing up towards heaven, as if refusing to accept that Jesus is no longer with them. To move them out of this paralysis, two men in white robes appeared. These were the same men who appeared to the women in Jesus’ empty tomb. Speaking to the women in the tomb, these men asked why they were looking for a living one among the dead. Now, speaking to the apostles, they asked why they are standing still looking up toward heaven. They followed the question with the reassurance that Jesus’ departure is not final. He will return at an appointed time. Their words imply that the disciples ought not to passively wait for Jesus’ return, but to get on with the work that he entrusted to them. The apostles subsequently returned to Jerusalem and began preparations for Pentecost.

The ascension of Jesus marks the moment when the disciples effectively began their independent work in the world. Up to this point, they were Jesus’ disciples. Now, they will be Jesus’ apostles who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will be responsible for bringing the message of salvation to the entire world.

The second reading contains Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, which follows his splendid description of how God acted to save humanity through Jesus (cf. Eph 1:3-14). Paul prays for wisdom and revelation so that the believers in Ephesus might fully grasp and appreciate the immensity of what God has done for them. The apostle first writes about the hope to which they were called. By “hope” he means the prospect of eternal life – the future outcome of their faith and union with Jesus in their present, earthly life. Paul then looks at their current membership in the Christian community, the Church, calling it a “glorious inheritance among the saints”. In this letter, the Church is understood as the living body of Christ himself. The Church, this earthly community of believers, is an extension of the glorified Lord who was raised by God from the dead and set as the supreme authority over the entire cosmos. This cosmic Lord is joined to his Church and fills it with his presence. Moreover, God’s own power which brought Jesus to this exalted state operates now in the Church through him. In this view, the Church is filled with the divine presence and the divine life filling its individual members. Therefore, Christians are already living a glorious life of heaven while still on earth. No wonder that Paul considers belonging to such a community “a glorious inheritance”.

Here, we must remember that the Ephesians had only recently made the transition from the pagan world to this new reality of the glorified life in the Christian community. In this letter, Paul seeks to make them keenly aware that they now belong to a different world. Having renounced pagan beliefs and practices, they entered the Church where they exist in union with the one true God through Jesus. This transition took place when they joined themselves to Christ by faith, a decision that altered their life and status forever.

The Gospel reading contains the conclusion of Luke’s story of Jesus, describing the same events narrated in the opening lines of Acts. Here, Jesus also prepares his disciples for their independent mission in the world, and then ascends to heaven, leaving them to carry out his instructions. These instructions begin with a reminder that, as the Messiah, Jesus was meant to die and rise again. They initially had great difficulties in accepting this truth. Next, Jesus states that repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name are to be proclaimed to all nations. This implies that the disciples, as witnesses to his resurrection, are responsible for carrying this message of salvation to the whole world. Finally, Jesus instructs them to return to Jerusalem and await the coming of the Holy Spirit who will empower and guide them. In his final act on earth, Jesus blesses them. This blessing signifies that God is with them as they begin this new stage of their life and ministry, just as God was with Jesus during his earthly mission. Returning to heaven, Jesus left the disciples in the world as his successors. He prepared them for this moment in the course of his ministry. Now, this transition is complete.

The ascension brought to conclusion a period of intense preparation of the disciples for their independent mission in the world. Jesus taught them extensively during his ministry and then proved to them that he truly was God’s Messiah who brought salvation to the world through his death and resurrection. Thus prepared, they are now entrusted with testifying to Jesus with the aim of bringing people to repentance and faith, which leads to salvation. Those who accept this apostolic witness and become members of the Christian community will enter into union with God and Christ, so splendidly described in the letter to the Ephesians. With the divine life in them and united to Jesus, the glorified Lord, believers can only sing with the Psalmist the hymn of thanksgiving and praise, “for the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.”

Listening to the Word of God

On the Sunday of the  Ascension, we commemorate the transition between the ministry of  Jesus and the ministry of his successors. This invites us to reflect on our calling to share in the mission of Christ. In this context, the Church gives us this Sunday to examine ourselves as Christians who have been chosen and called, not only to benefit from the salvation won by Christ for us, but also to be men and women who transmit the message of Christ to all, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Christ in today’s liturgy is entrusting to us the task of continuing his mission among all people. To carry out this mission we must allow the Holy Spirit to direct us at every step.

The first reading helps us to understand the transition from Christ to his successors, the apostles. However, Christ also passes to us the baton of his mission as apostles of today. In the African tradition kings and great leaders pass on the baton of leadership to their heirs before they leave this world. Before their death they prepare their heirs training them in the traditions and customs of the people, and pass on to them the sacred teachings and secrets of the kingdom. These heirs afterward carry on the mission of the leaders ensuring that the people and their way of life continues. As we see in the scriptures, Jesus also prepared his followers for the mission ahead of them through his teaching and life witness. The mission of saving the world does not end with Christ but continues through us, his followers.

The liturgy also reminds us about the community of saints, that is the believers in Christ. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we were incorporated in the body of Christ and together we are carrying out the will of the head of the body, who is Christ himself. Through this community of believers, God is present and active in the world. The community of saints is a living organism that works together to accomplish God’s goals. The transition from Christ to his followers was not an easy, one but with the assistance of the Holy Spirit the mission of the community of believers continues until today.

In the Gospel, we read about Christ commissioning his successors to go to all nations and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to everyone. As successors of Christ today we Christians are called to witness to what we believe. It is important to evaluate ourselves on how we witness to our faith. Witnessing with ones’ life is an essential important tool that speaks volumes because the way we live our lives confirms and reflects our belief and our relationship with the savior.

The ascension of Christ marks the beginning of the mission of Christ’s followers to all nations. Thus, we are guided by the liturgy to reflect on how we are carrying out the mission of Christ today. This mission requires from us the opening of ourselves to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, so that, in communion with the body of Christ, consisting of other believers, we may bring Christ to those who do not know him.


“When the fire dies, it leaves ashes behind.”



What is the mission I have as a follower of Christ?

Does my witness of life draw others closer to Christ or away from him?

Response to God

In these days I will live in an attitude of thanksgiving for the gift of salvation received through Christ and the gift of sharing in the mission of Christ.

Response to your World

In the coming days, I will make it a point to live at least one Christian virtues – courage, justice, kindness or forgiveness. I will also devote my time to praying for the grace to be a true Christian, especially in challenging situations.

As a group, we shall organize prayer moments for Christians who are persecuted and cannot witness to their faith. This will be accompanied by each member taking it upon himself or herself to pray also for unbelievers.


God Almighty, as your Son ascends to you, grant us the grace to carry out the mission he has entrusted to us, his followers. May we never resist the workings of your Holy Spirit in us. Increase our faith and the courage to live Christian values in our world. May we witness to the gift of your salvation with our very life. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Scripture quotations from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, © 1989, 1993. Used with permission.



Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C: by Wojciech Szypula


Love one another

First Reading: Acts 14:21–27; Psalm 145:8–13; Second Reading: Revelation 21:1–5; Gospel: John 13:31-33,34-35


Psalm 145:8–13

The Lord is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The Lord is good to all,

and his compassion is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,

and all your faithful shall bless you.

They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,

and tell of your power,

to make known to all people your mighty deeds,

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,

and gracious in all his deeds.

Reading the Word

First Reading:  Acts 14:21–27

 After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to Derbe and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.

Second Reading: Revelation 21:1–5

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them as their God;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them;

he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more,

for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Gospel: John 13:31–33, 34–35

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Hearing the Word

“Completing the Mission”

The liturgy of the fifth Sunday of Easter celebrates the completion of diverse stages in salvation history. These moments mark decisive steps towards the final completion of God’s project of the renewal of creation and the salvation of his people.

The first reading presents the final stages of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. Having been driven out of Pisidian Antioch and, subsequently, Iconium and Lystra, by hostile synagogue leaders, the two apostles eventually arrived in Derbe. Their mission in the city was a resounding success. They met no opposition there, with many Gentiles believing their proclamation and converting to the new faith. At this point, the apostles decided to return to their home city, Syrian Antioch, and the community which sent them (cf. Acts 13:1-3). Significantly, they decided to re-trace their steps and to return home visiting the same cities they were driven out of, despite obvious dangers. They knew that it was essential to strengthen the communities they had founded with words of encouragement and further instruction. Their message to the new believers was, “it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God”. The apostles knew full well that the opposition and hostility to this new and revolutionary faith was unavoidable. They did not hide that fact from the new converts, but made them aware that, since Jesus was opposed and killed, they too might meet a similar fate. In the course of these visits, the apostles also put basic leadership structures in place. When they finally arrived home, to Syrian Antioch, the apostles reported “all that God had done with them”. They were keenly aware that their mission was ultimately God’s work.

The successful completion of this first missionary journey by Paul and Barnabas laid the foundations for the spread of Christianity into the Gentile world. Their faithful execution of God’s work, in the face of rejection and danger, opened the door for the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Christian movement on a large and systematic scale. Paul and Barnabas successfully completed their work. However, their achievement was, in fact, only a starting point of a new era of explosive growth and expansion of this new faith.

The second reading contains a splendid vision of the completion of God’s work of salvation which will happen at the end of time. As usual in the book of Revelation, this vision employs symbols to convey its message. The first symbol is that of a new heaven and a new earth, related to the final statement in today’s reading that God makes “all things new”. It means that salvation involves a fundamental transformation of creation into something new and radically different from its former state. The rest of the passage specifies what this change involves.

First, the new creation implies the “disappearance of the sea”. This is a symbol for God’s final and definite victory over evil. Ancient Israelites saw the sea as a symbol of chaos and a dwelling place for the evil forces hostile to God and afflicting his people. The new creation begins with the elimination of the evil that corrupted the old order.

Then, the new creation is symbolized by the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven. This city is compared to a bride. In the Old Testament, Jerusalem was associated with God’s presence, while marriage was often used to describe the covenant between God and Israel. These two symbols combined symbolize the intimate union between God and his people. Thus, God’s direct presence in the midst of his people lies at the heart of the new creation, as is beautifully expressed in another phrase “he will dwell with them as their God; they will be his people”.

Finally, suffering and death will be eliminated. The phrases, “death will be no more; morning and crying and pain will be no more” indicates a fundamental change of the existing world order with the complete removal of suffering in any form.

This vision was intended for God’s faithful facing various afflictions because of their faith. By depicting the completion of God’s work of salvation which lies in the future, the vision seeks to give hope and motivation to those suffering in the present. It assures them that the current world order will give way to a new creation where evil and its works, suffering and death, will be no more. It gives the afflicted ones hope for the final union with God. Above all, the vision reveals that God’s work is, in a sense, already completed, because God has already designed and decided on the shape of this new world. All that remains for his people is faithfully to await its arrival.

The Gospel passage comes from the account of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. Immediately after Judas left the room to complete his work of betrayal, Jesus declared that his work of salvation has been completed. He used the expression, “now the Son of Man has been glorified and God has been glorified in him”. In John’s Gospel the term “glorification” has a very particular meaning. Jesus uses it in reference to his death, resurrection and return to the Father. Jesus’ statement that he “has been glorified”, used in the perfect tense, means that, with Judas’s betrayal and his own decision to go to the cross, his mission is already accomplished. Nothing can now stop his glorification, soon to happen on the cross, and in the resurrection.

Jesus adds that his glorification is also the glorification of God. This means that Jesus acts in complete accordance with his Father’s will and purpose. This mutual glorification highlights that Jesus and God act in complete unison, and for the same purpose of giving life to the world. By fulfilling his Father’s will, Jesus glorifies God by completing his salvific work.

Jesus’ glorification on the cross means that his disciples will remain in this world to complete their own task. Therefore, Jesus gives them his final instruction – a new commandment to love one another. This instruction points out to them the way to complete their own mission of becoming his mature disciples and worthy successors. They were prepared for discipleship by listening to his words and witnessing his works. But the process of becoming mature disciples will be completed only when they will be able to offer their lives to one another in love, as Jesus did when going to the cross.

The completion of God’s work is always a joyful and hopeful event. Barnabas and Paul completed their first missionary journey laying foundations for the expansion of Christianity into the Gentile world. The book of Revelation anticipates, and describes, the completion of God’ salvific work at the end of time, to give hope and strength to his suffering people on earth. Jesus, looking ahead to the cross, declared his work on earth as completed. He left his disciples the final instruction on how to complete their own journey to the fullness of discipleship through the practice of love. In all these cases, the completion of God’s work is, in fact, the beginning of something even greater. The faithful, while completing their God-given work, wait in joy for the completion of God’s salvation project, while praying with the Psalmist, “all your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you”.

Listening to the Word of God

The fifth Sunday of Easter calls to our attention the importance of completing the mission entrusted to us by Christ. Through the liturgy of Eastertide, the Church helps us to make an evaluation of our missionary work as disciples of the risen Lord, through which Christ is glorified and so is the heavenly Father.

First, we recognize the power of the resurrected Christ working in us, a power that urges us on in love and grace to go out and be people of joy, love and fraternity. The first reading presents to us the powerful image of the glorification of God thorough the mission carried out by Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas show us the power and effectiveness of a mission characterized by generosity, humility and selflessness, even in the midst of rejection and struggles.

The idea of mission is not strange to the African context, because everyone is believed to be born for a mission. Some can easily know their mission based on the situation surrounding their birth. For example, if you are named “Mayowa” in the Yoruba culture, it means your first mission is to bring joy to your family. If your mission on earth is not clear to your parents, they will consult the oracle so that you do not wander the earth aimlessly, without achieving the purpose for which you were created by the supreme being.

Like Paul and Barnabas everyone has a mission on earth, and the Lord is glorified when we fulfill our mission. The mission of Jesus was the salvation of the world. Thanks to him we have all been saved from a meaningless life, and eternal death.  We are made a part of the new creation, so beautifully described in the second reading. Our mission as Christians is to live out an active witness to the salvation offered to us by Christ. In Christ we become new people who see a future filled with hope for the final union with God.

The Gospel reminds us of the characteristics of a person who has become a new creation, and what helps in carrying out this mission. The main requirement is love, love that is modeled on that of Christ. Love is accompanied by readiness to lay down ones’ life for others and the sharing of the love received from Christ. To sustain the newness of life in Christ we need a radical commitment to living like him with selfless commitment to the good of others, through which we accomplish our mission. Eastertide is a time to evaluate our journey of faith and see if the love that was in Christ still drives us forward towards the victorious completion of our mission.

There are many reasons to look at the present life as a time of disappointment, suffering and frustration. But it is never a time of hopelessness when, in Christ, we find the inner strength to withstand all that afflicts us and look forward to the completion of our life mission and union with God.


Happiness requires something to do, something to love and something to hope for.



What is my God-given mission in life?

How important is Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection in my life?

Response to God

During this season of Easter, I will daily acknowledge the greatness of God shown in Christ’s salvific mission. I will thank God for making me worthy to participate in this saving mission in my own, be it small, way.

Response to your World

Conscious of the importance of my contribution to God’s salvific plan for the world, I will be conscientious and careful in fulfilling my tasks connected with the mission God has given me.

As a group we shall organize a special moment of prayer in each member’s home to pray for their particular intentions, to encourage them in their struggles and also to thank God with them for their achievements.


Jesus my savior and friend, thank you for this season that helps us to reflect on your suffering, death and resurrection; your mission for our salvation. May we never take your salvific mission for granted, but may we appreciate and live this reality in simple acts of love towards each other. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Scripture quotations from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, © 1989, 1993. Used with permission.



The Feast of the Sheep

Celebrating the Laity in the Church


The Catholic Church is made up of the shepherds and the Sheep of the Clergy and the Laity if you like. After the Second Vatican Council, the role of the laity in the Church has seen a lot of transformation. The lay people have seen their participation in the life of the Church grow from only responses during the celebration of the Sacraments (Passive) to taking part in key decision making bodies in the Church.


Many Religious Congregations including the Society of the Divine Word Missionaries, have incorporated a lay group in the religious families. The Arnoldus family has a group known as the Friends of SVD which is officially recognized and whose role is to boost the outreach of the Consecrated missionaries to the people of God.


The local Churches, i.e. the Dioceses have also amplified the participation of its laity in the life of the Church. The lay people under the leadership of the Pastoral Councils, play a very big role in the missionary life of the Church. Here in East Africa, the establishment of the Small Christian Communities by the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), have given a new impetus to the Catholic Church in this part of the world.


Here in Tanzania, the Catholic Church is marking 50 years of the Council of the Laity. The celebrations began in the parish level in all the Dioceses and right now they are in the Deanery level. The Society of the Divine Word Missionary runs 3 parishes in the Arusha City Western Deanery which has 8 parishes. As part of these celebrations, a number of programmes have been going on which includes ball games, choir competition and Bible quiz.


So far our parishes have been doing well in these events given. The Bible quiz has especially depicted the Biblical dimension in our parishes.


With the advancement in education, lay people are now exposed to the Theological aspect of the mission of the Church and many are able to understand the grammar of the Church especially as defined by the Vatican Council. As the Church also experience a lot of turmoils in the wake of various scandals that have been exposed, an educated laity will play an important role to prevent these embarrassing accusations in the future.

We continue to laud our laity for their role in the mission of the Church to bring salvation to all creatures.

fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD.

From St. Paul to Pope Francis


Consecrated Life in 21st Century


Brief Historical Overview

Christianity has been around in the world for the last 2000 years. We do not know how long it will continue until Jesus returns as he promised (2 Tim 4:1). Here in Africa, Christianity is between 150 and 200 years old depending on which part of Africa you are. Catholicism is one of the major Christian Churches in Africa.

When it was first preached, it was presented as a faith based on a lot of Charity. When the missionaries came, the brought with them a lot of goodies from the West. They built schools, Hospitals, Churches and other humanitarian amenities such as portable water projects, electricity among others. Apart from the fact that education was free of charge, they also sponsored many African young people to study in their home countries. Some of these lucky ones are the ones who brought agitation for freedom and self rule of African nations from the colonial powers.

Slowly the Church grew in the numbers of converts and as new generations were born into Christian families, the African Catholicism began to take root. Religious Congregations started admitting African young men and women into consecrated life. This was not so easy in the beginning because everything Christian including religious life was purely Western.

There were a lot of prejudices and stereotypes against the Africans and their cultures.


As the Vatican II spirit began to permeate and Africans were allowed to inculturate their Africanness into the Catholic Worship, religious congregations began to trust Africans with even leadership positions including African formators. However, the prejudices continued to influence many aspects of religious life.


Today in the 21st Century, things have really taken a huge leap. As the West continue to experience massive secularization, Africa has been experiencing what we can call explosion of Christianity in all its forms. Apart form Catholicism, the Pentecostal and Evangelical  churches have taken a new face. There are so many small Churches all over the World. This has a great deal of confusion that has also spieled into the Catholic Church.

This can be seen in particular among the various pastoral groups in the Catholic Church. Many of them have turned into denominations within the Catholic Church due to the mixing of things. We can say that the Catholic Church has not been keen to define and organize very well the various Pastoral groups. Due to this, many have tried to copy the Pentecostal and Evangelical aspects.

Advancement in science and technology has also wrought a good tidings as well as its fair share of challenged in Christianity and Catholicism in particular. Religious life has not been spared of these challenges neither. In this era of globalization facilitated by easy communication technologies, one needs to be very well trained to sieve good stuff from chaff. This is a big challenge especially when there is so much good and fake information available to everyone on the palm of their hands.

As the saying goes, “Everyone is a Child of his or her time”, we are talking of new religious candidates who are the children of the 21 Century and all this means. Religious life just like all the other aspect of human life, need to adapt very carefully to this era.

What is the Directions to take


It is out of this perceived necessity that the Unity of Religious Congregation in Arusha, Tanzania organized a Seminar on the topic of Religious Life in the 21st Century. I was granted the blessed opportunity to share my experiences and suggestions to 70 young novices from 9 different women religious congregations.

The five-day seminar opened a very interesting forum of discussions towards understanding of the topics on our programme. These included:

Day 1: Consecrated life in the 21st Century –  how the rapid advancements in Science and technology are affecting religious life.

Day 2: Church as a religion and Catholic Church as an institution.

Day 3: Symbols of Consecrated life in the 21st Century (Evangelical Counsels) and what they mean in simple terms.

Day 4: Interculturality and religious life. How is globalization of cultures is affecting religious life.

Day 5: African religious men and women and their contribution to the growth of Catholic Church in Africa.

It was a very intensive week. We had three sessions in the Morning, i.e.,  Input, group discussion and group presentations and two sessions in the afternoon, i.e., Input and open forum (what each novice was carrying in their basket after the day long reflections).


I strongly believe that as the world experience rapid changes that are affecting all the facets of human life, religious life cannot remain stagnant or conservative without revising the things that are obviously affected by the change.  Religious congregations need to advance their candidates with relevant life-skills to face the realities of this new life.

New wine, New wine-skins

The challenge is that many of the people entrusted with the formation of the new religious persons are immigrants to this Century whereas majority of the formees are either natives of the the Century or at least grew up during the beginning of the Century. It is obvious that the life experience of these two characters is very different in many ways. However, I do not think that the young ones are the ones to slow down so that the immigrants can catch up with them. It is the old folks that need to carefully study the life situation of these young ones and adapt formation to their understanding without compromising the fundamentals.


I believe that God continues to call young men and women to religious life and priesthood despite the challenges. Challenges should never discourage but rather incite new beginning s.


Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

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