HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF IMCS PAX ROMANA AFRICA
The history of what we have today as IMCS PAX ROMANA can be traced back to 1887 in Switzerland during the time of the Swiss Catholic Students Association under the leadership of Baron George who later became the first president of the movement and a later chaplain of IMCS.
It is said that if Catholics were not the first to form an international organization, then probably they must have been the first to come up with the idea of creating one.
Under the leadership of Baron George, the catholic students in Switzerland formed the International Union of Catholic Students. The idea was to unit Catholic students in Europe and beyond for the purpose of contributing to world peace after series of wars and battles that had seen Europe torn apart. Baron George made the idea known to the Holy See and was accepted by Pope Leo XIII. Later in 1891, George led a Pilgrimage to Rome for the First Assembly of the newly formed Union.
However, the persistent wars and antagonist amongst European powers gave a mortal blow to the young movement. Although, even at the collapse the movement’s spirit continued to live on especially within the Swiss Catholic Students Association. This Fribourg, Switzerland Union continued to be a great asset to the church and pope Leo XIII used it as a think tank that help him draft the first document on the Modern Catholic Social Teaching-‐Rerum Novarum.
Events leading to the first world war and after saw the need to revive the movement and that is when the International Confederation of Catholic Students was founded in 1921. In June 1921, a meeting was held between the Unions in Holland and Switzerland in Fribourg to plan for and international congress for all National Catholic Students associations and in July 1921 the first Pax Romana Congress was held founded on the theme of peace. The participants in the congress were at the beginning divided because they had come from different warring nations and had either fought in the war or knew people who had fought in the war, but by the end of the congress they had peace among themselves and that is when the name PAX ROMANA was born. The second Pax Romana congress was held in 1922 still in Fribourg Switzerland.
For purposes of global advocacy, IMCS Pax Romana became part of the International Catholic organizations with consultative status at the League of Nations and later on the United Nations.
Due to the second world war, the international secretariat of IMCS Pax Romana was tentatively moved to Washington to avoid interference and continued coordination of the movement’s activities and after the war the secretariat went back to Fribourg Switzerland. While in Washington, contact was established with he Latin America national Movements.
Immediately after the second world war, in 1946, collaboration was established with the International Young Catholic Students and in the 27th Pax Romana international congress in 1947 IYCS founded its international coordination.
In 1947 a major development took place in the existence of IMCS Pax Romana, there occurred the division of the movement in to the students movement; International Movement of Catholic Students-‐ IMCS and The International Catholic Movement of Intellectual and Cultural Affairs-‐ICMICA for the professionals and intellectuals. The IMCS then had to move the secretariat to Paris in France and the ICMICA retained theirs in Geneva.
The 1940s to 1990s saw the movement’s regionalization started. The movement was spread to Asia Pacific with headquarters in Manila, the Philippines, Europe with the HQs in Brussels, Belgium; Middle East HQs in Cairo, North America coordinated from Toronto Canada, Latin America with HQs in Santiago Chile; Africa With present HQs in Nairobi Kenya.
With the brief history, the International Movement of Catholic Students is not new to Africa. Already in the 1950s it was present in many countries, and was already training many of the people who are today directly involved in the realities and challenges of the continent. The IMCS was founded in 1921 as an international movement. Born just after the First World War, the IMCS PAX ROMANA hoped to be a contribution to peace among nations and to constitute a church presence in the university and university presence in the church.
After the First World War, IMCS got a new lease of life and strengthened the process of internationalization. At the end of the 1960s the movement lived through a period of intense self-‐ questioning in the wake of the renewal of the church resulting from the second Vatican council, as well as of the profound transformations that had taken place in the student world.
It is imperative therefore to note that the first Pan African IMCS meeting was held in 1958 in Accra-‐ Ghana and prior to this a few IMCS federations had been founded. Since that meeting various attempts were made to set up some sort of structure of continental coverage but none of these survived. This sense of history should constantly guide us in making us daring while at the same time realistic so that these efforts we are making will not fail us the others did. It is also pertinent to note that the beginning of what we had then: a team of two full-‐timers, one part time and a chaplain began as far back in 1975 at the 28th Inter-‐federal Assembly of Lima (IFA)
That it took five years to materialize, points to the fact that realistic efforts even if gradually and if persistently pursued yields results ultimately.
In the course of the Lima meeting it was noted that the situation of our national federations, much as it was noted that enthusiasm and determination of our federations and their members had a long way to go with respect to the identity and orientation of IMCS. The tasks as identified at Lima were as follows:
- Developing commitment and deepening of faith.
- Creating awareness and sharpening the analysis of our members on the African reality.
- Ensuring that our activities have a transforming impact in the student milieu and on the African reality.
- Developing students’ initiative and commitment to the evangelization of the student and university environment.
To transform that vision into reality it was considered necessary to maintain what we had in our federations but to deepen and question certain dimensions for instance the concept of automatic membership, in that connection the attachment and indeed our responsibility to be open tom all catholic students was indicated but at the same time there was need to seriously consider the development of commitment and involvement.
There was a great challenge in terms of coordination work in the movement at the African regional level. Some of the discussions like on the resolutions of IFA at Lima as indicated above could not be effectively implemented. The discussions of that nature kept on recurring in the history of IMCS in Africa because the people who did such discussions did not have the requisite conditions to implement the decisions mainly because they were full-‐time students with little time for the movement and also as national leaders with minimum scope of maneuver.
THE 28TH IFA
The 28th IFA which was a historical moment took place from 7th July to 7th August 1978. It was the first time, in the history of IMCS and IYCS to hold a joint study session. This experience opened a new chapter in the areas of collaboration between the two catholic student movements. The IMCS Africa delegates who were 20 in number had a great joy after a long period of waiting for such an opportunity. It was a moment of deep reflection and confrontation of worldwide experiences of our movement. A long time was spend analyzing the world situation and the church. The participants were greatly enriched by the interventions made by experts, especially on the then world economic situation, the inflation and its consequent restructuring of capitalism. Another point which was highly a heart probing intervention was during the theological reflection. This intervention was the most challenging moment as it really put into question our faith, the spiritual being of man and the presence of God in the human history.
Since Lima 1975, the African coordination had been keeping the memory of the movement in Africa. Through the courtesy of the Kenya YCS, communication had been kept going with the African federation and the international team. During the directing committee of Banyoles July 1976, the idea of implementing the Lima proposals was revived and accepted, and plans were immediately made to arrange for a Pan African session. This took place in December 1977 in Nairobi and a joint venture for both IMCS and IYCS.
The deliberations of the session gave the African movement the desire to consolidate and concretize their work. That has been shown by the increased contacts and correspondence between the coordination office and federations as well as individuals all over Africa.
Up to the 29th IFA the preoccupation of the coordination had been preparation of African delegation to that IFA. Together with the international team money was sought to finance the delegation. The conscientization of members and federations had been the alternative priority. They wanted to see themselves as the as participants in the creation of a new African society.
The delegates wanted to see themselves as a movement and not to let the status quo prevail. However the challenge to this was the nature of the membership in some federations. Many federations had and still have automatic membership, simply by virtue of being a catholic by baptism. This kind of loose membership was difficult to make the federations have identity of a movement.
It was then the duty of the federation to find the best way a permanent group of members could be created. That did not have to be a very large group. In fact experience had shown that the smaller the group, so long as the objectives are clear, the more meaningful they were committed to the action.
Keeping in line with the resolutions of the African delegates to the 29th IFA, three students from the federation of the University of Nairobi offered to work for the coordination.
COORDINATION OF IMCS IN AFRICA.
The coordination of the movement at the African level has had its own achievements and challenges from a historical perspective. IMCS having been introduced in the continent in the 1950s as noted by the chaplains conference held in Kinshasa from 6th to 12th April 1986, did not have a clear and stable full time coordination. The chaplains also noted that IMCS was not being experienced as a single model in the African context. In some countries it was a “movement” in others it appeared as a “gathering” in the church both of different Christian groups and of isolated individuals and sympathizers in the building of the kingdom. This raised the question of redefining the identity and membership of IMCS.
Up to 1978 there was still the challenge of a clear and elaborate coordinating structure and team. As it was indicated by the editor of the IMCS NESLETTER, Vol. 1 No.1 1979, the interim coordinating team had embarked on an informative activity; Spreading information about the movement in order to make African IMCS coordination a reality. Apparently, much of the coordination work was done through the Interfederal Assemblies (IFA); a regular convention of all the federations from around the globe. It was during the 28th IFA of 1975 that mandate was given to Kenya. Since then the memories of the movement in Africa had been kept through the courtesy of the Kenya YCS. It was during the 29th IFA that a resolution was made by the African delegation to have a separate and independent team to coordinate IMCS Africa for proper continuity. Three students from the federation of the University of Nairobi offered to be working for the coordination. The students who offered to work were; Miss Genevieve Wanjala, currently a professor at the University of Nairobi and a former dean of faculty in the school of education at the university of Nairobi, Mr. Michael Kuria and Miss Martha Gachoya.
It appears that before the 28th IFA in Lima and the 29th IFA in Valladolid, the African coordination team dependent so much on the international team. However in a bid to create an independent coordination, the delegates to the 28th and 29th IFA drafted some terms of references for the coordination and also the African Federation. This must have been the early attempts to draft the statutes of the IMCS African federation. A question was raised during the African IMCS regional directing committee meeting held at the Natural Resources Development Centre on the 7th to 8th January 1980 on whether there was a job description for the coordination team. Yes there was a job description. However it was in the form of reports made by the African delegation to Lima. This included:
- Visitation to federations.
- Helping in the analysis and reflections at team level and federation level during visitations.
- Developing and promoting theological reflections.
- Production of newsletters and documentations.
- Extension of the movements in Africa.
The over dependency of IMCS African coordination team to the international team was manifested in a number of ways:
The international team had to always written the financial projects for the African coordination. The African coordination had always consulted the international team on every small decision that had to be made.
African coordination relied on the international team for visits to the federations. The African coordination received international team suggestions and publications.
The reason for this observation made by the directing committee in 1980 was due to the fact that there were no full-‐time coordinators and the chaplain. In that regard the decisions had to be made in conjunction with the international team.
Earlier in the 1970s up to 1980 the movement did not have any full-‐time coordinating team. This came to the concern of the directing committee meeting in 1980 in Lusaka-‐Zambia that there was a lot of work at the coordination office and the five people who were part-‐time coordinators and full-‐time students could not have time for the movement and that would mean that then movement had to slacken in its activities. It was then mentioned that there were possibilities of getting full-‐time workers from Sudan, Zaire (present DRC), Madagascar and Ghana.
Now, here is another step towards our current statutes and the clause that deals with the choice of coordinators and the specific prerequisites. The criterion was as follows:
He/she must come from a developed movement: Should have attended an international meeting. The movement offering the person must be a movement which is well established and homogenous, especially in relation to our basic orientation-‐OPTION FOR THE POOR.
Must be a Christian: To this effect his/ her Episcopal conference and chaplain should give recommendation.
Academic standing of the candidate must be good enough i.e. he /she must have passed his examinations so as to be a real sign of one having made option for the poor to work for the m0vement, but not as a job opportunity. Here, a worry was expressed with regard to the fact that the same educational system that we criticize so much was going to be used as the standard to determine the person to work in the time. It was however suggested and agreed that if someone had only failed his exams once, he/she could be considered. So the candidate had to send his curriculum vitae to the coordination team. Except in special cases, the person must be single because of the nature of the work involved and perhaps finance would be a problem.
Unlike in the present coordination, the candidate would propose in a letter his/her terms of services and duration in which he or she was going to serve the movement. This could be the reason why there was not clarity in the intervals at which the Pan African Assemblies were held because the duration of service could be determined by the candidates themselves.
In relation to the deliberations of the meeting NRDC in Lusaka concerning the full-‐time coordination, it was reported that Benjamin from Madagascar was prepared to work for the movement immediately on successful completion of his studies in Jnuary1980. He was prepared to work for only seven months. Zaire also had one person ready to start work in December 1980.
The Pan African coordination has since been based in Nairobi-‐Kenya after all the struggle with establishing an elaborate coordination team. However challenges still come to the team. There was an urgent need for office premises and accommodation facility for the coordinators. It is proper to record that at that time the office was shared with the Kenya YCS. IMCS had to search for possibilities of building a small but adequate centre. As for the accommodation, the full-‐timers were initially accommodated by Augustine Ombati until their own accommodation was arranged.
The team would need the services of a chaplain for spiritual and theological reflection and just like the coordinators there was no full-‐time chaplain but a volunteer. Rev. Fr. Michael Drohan had been acting as the chaplain to the team since mid 1970s. It was observed that he had other commitments and the movement needed a full-‐time chaplain. He was the national chaplain of KYCS and YCW as well as a full-‐ time lecturer at the University. After the discussion on the issue if the chaplain in the NRDC-‐Lusaka meeting , it was observed that a full-‐time chaplain would have been hard to find at that time and so Fr. Michael Drohan had to continue serving as the African chaplain while Fr. Bisimwa Ruhamanyi served as his assistant.
CHAPLAINCY IN IMCS AFRICA COORDINATION.
First of all, it must be emphasized that the chaplaincy is not an entity per se but a function, a service within the movement. In our local churches, bishops, priests and the laity freely discuss the importance of chaplaincy in the university milieu. In reality however there appears to be some incompatibility between this purpose and the priests ‘the chaplains’ and pastoral workers’ assignment to student chaplaincy. As noted by S.J.K Parker, one of the coordinators in 1982, there was a shortage of the clergy in the churches, but that alone could not adequately explain the situation. There was lack of effective and coherent knowledge on our pastoral priorities as well as on so issues and challenges posed by the university to the church and its mission in Africa. Parker observed that most of the clergy were over burdened with and could not devote enough time to the pastoral activities of students. All that points to the lack of knowledge on the chaplain’s status and significance in the entire pastoral activity of our churches.
As indicated early, the movement in Africa did not for a long time since its inception have a full-‐time chaplain. There were volunteer priests who apparently had other duties to play within the church. Therefore the Pan African Assembly of Dworp in Belgium 1986 was concerned with the absence of a chaplain within the African team, which was not the case with other continental teams. To fill this void, the South African chaplain was unanimously elected. But unfortunately, without even being able to join the Kenya team, his congregation sent him to take up new responsibilities in Cameroon. It was observed then that a good number of priests were willing to work with the IMCS but the problem was that their superiors or Bishops had other plans for them. In the end, the Maryknoll congregation which also includes the pastoral of the youth and especially university campus ministry, accepted to make available to our movement a priest who had a wide experience in the student world in the person of Rev. Fr. Lionel A. Bouffard, M.M. for a period of four years. However the problem of how to replace him remained, as well as the procedure to follow and from which country.
In 1986, from 6th to 12th April, the first Pan African session of university chaplains was organized by the international movement of catholic students-‐IMCS took place in Nganda Centre, in Kinshasa, Zaire, presently Democratic Republic of Congo. The theme was; “Apostolic accompaniment in the university milieu.”
The chaplains from Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, sierra Leone, south Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Zaire, as well as the members of the IMCS international team, delegates from some IMCS African federations; Ghana, Madagascar and Zambia and members MIEC Zaire took part in the meeting. The session had three major parts:
- a. Conference, followed by plenary debat
- b. Sharing (in the plenary sessions) of apostolic experiences in the university milieu.
- c. In-‐depth workshop discussions.
It is important to note some of the discussions of this session of chaplains especially that which touches the role of the chaplain;
The chaplains noted that the IMCS is a propitious place for the elaboration of a different conception of the church, a church in which all are responsible (through our baptism and confirmation) for the evangelization of the milieu, a church in which we all listen to the word of God and in which we seek a Christian lifestyle. In this way we can argue that the problem of apostolic accompaniment is not just a matter of priests (for chaplains) but for the whole Christian community.
The chaplain is, above all, an educator in faith and in life. His service requires just one major “skill”: faith, not so much from a theoretical point of view, but rather as a mature life in the following of Jesus and his Good News. The relationship between the priest and lay people should not conceal the teacher/disciple one which is essential for the communication of the faith. An education in the faith means, moreover, an education in the meaning of the church. Faith cannot remain an individual adventure; it should be lived collectively in church. Thus, it is important to help students to enter the mystery of the church, to help them discover that the church is only truly a church if it communicates the faith. We should note that it is the community itself that has the mission of accompanying the life of its members. It is the community that questions, interprets, supports, listens, helps consoles, etc. the chaplain simply fulfills this role in a more explicit fashion, both in faith and in the plenitude of life.
The 1986 session in Kinshasa being the first Pan African session, it is necessary to take note of the discussions of chaplains about chaplaincy.
- A. The chaplain’s specific tasks.
The chaplain’s mission is to call forth a spirituality that flows directly from the major evangelical options of the movement. In order to do this, the chaplain must fulfill the following:
- The chaplain celebrates the faith, presides over the Eucharist an initiates students in the sacraments. The liturgy is the first pedagogy and theology of the church; it is an important moment in the spiritual combat that all Christian must wage.
- The chaplain calls forth prayer and helps develop a contemplative attitude towards the loving presence of God in the realities of the world and of history. This allows us to keep a sense of transcendence even in daily life.
- The chaplain ought to fulfill another important task: to link evangelical conviction to the experiences and poverty of Jesus Christ, “who was rich, yet for your sakes became poor ”-‐2nd Corinthians 8:9
- The chaplain must be the memory of the community, and by memory we do not mean the history of the past, but rather a living history as a dimension of the present, giving impetus to the traditions of the faith. This memory is transmitted not only through life but experiences themselves.
The chaplain should foster intellectual and theological training. Many students experience a crisis of faith on entering the university, thus, theological education must be able to respond to the new questions that emerge. In this respect, we cannot but mention that the relative ignorance of Christian culture by many students constitutes a barrier to faith.
The chaplain must accompany the emotional and psychosexual development of students; we know that these issues are often taboo. A good number of Christian students are painfully aware of the gap between their practice and the morality of the church. And this is one of the reasons for their withdrawal from the Christian community. We must carry out a thorough ethical reflection on these questions. The last but not least, the chaplain must understand the value of personal accompaniment, of informal accompaniment (outside official community meetings) and of being close to student life.
B. Initiation and function of new chaplains.
If there is a shortage of chaplains, it is often due to the ignorance of the nobility of this occupation and of the importance of this ministry. The university is not a well understood milieu. The chaplain is often isolated there. He has few opportunities to share his concerns and experiences with fellow priests.
We must also point out the absence of specific places and times allotted to the training of chaplains, which explains the improvisation that tends to exist in this domain. Future priests should already receive training in chaplaincy tasks at the seminary itself.
The lack of a systematic account of the experiences of chaplaincies is also to be regretted. Part of the richness of this work is thus lost and is not transmitted to the church as a whole.
THE PAN AFRICAN ASSEMBLIES
Note that before the 4th Pan African Assembly the regional conventions were termed as sessions. Therefore we have recorded the events with terms that referred to them. Another reason is that these conventions (sessions) were not held at regular intervals of after four years as it is today.
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