PREPARING FOR THE MISSIONARY LIFE
The Missionaries of Africa have a number of training centres for future priests and brothers in Africa, South America and Asia. In other areas, a period of initial training and follow-up may take place in one’s own country, where applicants (perhaps aged 21-30 years) are invited to “come and see” and experience for the first time what community life is all about.
A second step in training is the Spiritual Year (Novitiate) which takes place in Africa and lasts for one year. This is done either in English or French.
A third step is the period of Apostolic Experience which lasts for two years, and takes place in an international community in Africa.
A fourth step is a serious theological preparation in Africa for the candidates’ future ministry, which concludes with the taking of the Missionary Oath, and for the future priests - ordination to the Diaconate and Priesthood. (Usually in one’s own country).
A missionary is someone who is sent.
A Christian missionary is sent in imitation of Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us that he was sent by his Father to proclaim the Good News to prisoners, the sick, the poor, the oppressed…….. The Good News is that all people without exception are invited to experience God’s love. Jesus showed God’s love for all people by his life and invites them to share in it.
Sent by whom?
Jesus asks all Christians to carry on his task. Each man, woman and child baptised in Jesus’ name shares this task and carries it out according to God’s call. We witness to God’s love as husbands and wives, as single people, as children, as neighbours, as friends, in our work, in our leisure time, when we are sick, when we are well. We are sent to be Christ to others in our daily lives. We, Missionaries of Africa, are priests and brothers sent by the Church the Body of Christ, to carry out our common Christian mission in Africa and the African world.
All people everywhere are considered by God to be his children. But how can they know unless someone tells them? Who can tell them if no-one is sent? God needs those who are sent to accept his mission and go.
To do what?
To share the relationship of children of God with those have never heard or have not understood or have forgotten. To offer to our brothers and sisters the best thing we have. It is not imposing beliefs nor despising cultures other than our own. It is offering to share the best we have. We have received freely and must give freely. It would be selfish to refuse to share
By speaking, but actions speak louder than words. To learn the language of another is not enough. To communicate love means to show it in a way understood by the other, in a way relevant to the life of the other. When I was hungry, when I was naked, when I was in prison… what did you do?
Becoming a Missionary of Africa (MAfr).
Deciding what we want in life and what perhaps God wants for us, is not always easy. Choosing alone is much harder. In each country where there are Missionaries of Africa, a Vocation Director is appointed. Their job is to field questions from anyone interested in knowing more about missionary life. Writing to them commits us to nothing. Talking with them often helps to clarify things. Each country where we are is different but the outline of vocation discernment is broadly the same.
You ask about the Missionaries of Africa. They tell you about the life and about the qualifications necessary – health, education, faith, age etc. If both of you are happy with this then a next step would be a visit in person to look at things more closely. Contacts would be maintained for a year or so to see how things develop, with no commitment either side. Visits might include staying with a community for a few days to get a feel of the life. With agreement from both sides, you would spend a longer time (some months) in a working MAfr community with some sort of social involvement and community life including prayer, meals and recreation in common.
After this there would be a time of study of Philosophy (2 or 3 years). Still in a MAfr community but perhaps going each day to University. During this time a Spiritual Director would be appointed to help you deepen your prayer life and discern whether the missionary life is for you. Philosophy studies completed, you would go to the Novitiate (Spiritual Year). This is international and takes place in one of 3 centres in Africa. Two are English-speaking, one is French-speaking. Here you would be helped to make a deeper and more informed choice, listening to God in prayer, through your experiences and with your Spiritual Director.
If you wish, and if you are accepted, you then continue to a two year period working in a MAfr community in a parish (usually in Africa but it could also be in an African context elsewhere). Here you live completely as a member of the community. After this comes the final period of study (4 years) in Africa or in Jerusalem. This involves all the obligatory studies asked for by the Church for ordination, or further professional studies for Brother candidates. In the final year of these studies you would be invited to take the Missionary Oath – dedicating your life to serving the people of Africa as a Missionary. The journey is long because no-one wants to rush into something they may regret. Sometimes people think, “But what if I pull out after several years preparation? Have I not wasted those years?” No. All these years are enriching in personal experience, academic education and occasions for self-knowledge.
At each stage in the formation, there is a full consultation to see if you are happy to continue and if the Missionaries of Africa are happy that you do.. But the Oath is not an end in itself. It is the beginning of a life in God at the service of the people of Africa.
The Vocations Director
Missionaries of Africa
64 Little Ealing Lane
Tel: 020 8799 5012