Sr Josée Ngalula, a professor of the Catholic University of Congo, the Institute St Eugene de Mazenod and a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St André, guided our retreat on the theme “May Jesus set my heart on fire along the road of Emmaus” (cf. Lk 24:13-36).
It is well to point out and clarify the context of this theme. After two months of internship in our various communities in the Blessed Isidore Bakanja province and some time of family holidays, we, a group of scholastics, returned to the Inter-African Emmaus Scholasticate in Kikusa on Sunday 1st September 2019 for the retreat in preparation for the renewal of our temporary vows. This was within the program outlined by Father Jean Willy Mupila, Rector of the Scholasticate, in collaboration with Fathers Augustin Mfwankama, Pastor, and Victor Badji, Spiritual Director. It was on the evening of Monday, 2nd September that our retreat began and closed on Friday, 6th September, during a fraternal meal. The scholastics taking part in this retreat were: Alfred Kumanzembe, Zacarias Cardoso, Christian Mukuwa, Felix Muko, Gérard Mangala, Paul Ndour, Stephane Amoikon, Victor Faye. The spiritual director was always present to accompany us.
Based on the verse from the Book of Revelation of St John 3:24, Sr Josée emphasised the importance of the retreat as a time in which Jesus is knocking at our doors; if we listen to his voice and open our doors, he will enter to dine with us, remain near us and we remain near him. Because of this, the invitation is not to seek Jesus, but to encounter him as we are, for he precedes us and prepares everything for us. Just as he met the two disciples of Emmaus in their discouragement and sadness, he meets us likewise along our vocational journey. We thus express to him our concerns.
Then Sr Josée invited us to live our relationship with Jesus authentically. Along the Emmaus road what freed the two disciples of their sadness was the fact that they told Jesus of their worries: “We were hoping that…” Hearts without understanding, Jesus said to them. In receiving his reproof without complaint, they finally discovered Jesus. In virtue of this, Sr Josée encouraged us to feel the need to have someone to accompany us on our journey. As with the two disciples, the word of God must stimulate in us a thirst that leads to communion with Jesus. Thus, this thirst for God requires a condition of being in communion with him since his words stir up in us the desire to encounter him as our only and unique supreme value. Thus, we must make room for him and because of this, we must live joyously. The love of Jesus for us is the only basis of our joy and this brings peace, comfort and the invitation to conversion. This must be carried out freely because freedom is itself the characteristic of God. Hence, since we make a gratuitous act we shall become the image and likeness of God. For this reason, the Sister proposed attachment to Christ by means of the beatitudes as the means of carrying out what we do freely.
Sister Josée went on to draw our attention to another point: Following the example of the two disciples of Emmaus, the content of our witness is Jesus. In this way, we must carry our mission as members of the same Congregation by being open to internationality. By going forward announcing the crucified and risen Christ we become his lovers. Being Christ’s lovers, we won’t be proclaiming him in a dominating manner, but out of a sense of service; the objective of this is unity in diversity. So, the power of a religious consists in nourishing and watching over his brethren and not in imposing his authority over the heart, body, sexuality and thought of those over whom this power is exercised. Doing this will guard us from every tendency to sexual abuse.
Finally, our retreat culminated in the Mass of renewal of our annual vows on Sunday 8 September 2019 in the parish of the Blessed Sacrament at Binza. This celebration was presided by Father Anaclet Bambala, the Superior of the Province of Blessed Isidore Bakanja. In his homily, he exhorted us to develop intellectually, spiritually and fraternally and to trust our formators. He also invited the parishioners to support us spiritually and financially. After the Mass in the provincial house, we shared refreshments fraternally with the Provincial, some elderly religious and members of the Aggregation of the Blessed Sacrament.
By Brother Alfred Kumanzembe Frays, sss