Initiation to religious life in Africa - A culture of education or formation? (Louise-Marie Diaw)



Initiation to religious life in Africa - A culture of education or formation?  (Louise-Marie Diaw)

On 06/14/2014, Louise-Marie, a Senegalese religious, invites (those present/beneficiaries) to reflect on this important question: Should we educate or form people to consecrated life? Would it not be appropriate to consider, whether, in Africa's current context, we should look more toward the question of initiation to religious life: opening new paths, which would make this last more   meaningful.

Should it be a question of forming the young, or perhaps more of educating them to religious life? Would in not be better to bring another form of response to Africa's actual reality?

  • Introduction
  • Culture of religious life
  1.  Theological foundation
  2. Human foundation
  •  Educate or form?
  1. Cultural designs of education in religious life
  2. Cultural designs of training/formation in religious life
  • The challenges of initiation into religious life     
  1. Youth reconciled/compromised by their reality
  2. A formation adapted to the today's Africa
  • Conclusion


After twelve years of religious life in the following of Jesus, the Savior, a life full of challenges, but exhilarating, "how can I render to the Lord, all the good that has been done to me?" (Ps 115:12). My great desire today, is to see that all religious, men and women, enjoy the beauty of following Christ, in the greatness and in the urgency of the mission of love that has been given to us to follow.

"Our world, in which any traces of God seems to have been lost from sight, feels the urgent need of giving a strong prophetic witness on the part of consecrated persons" (Vita Consecrata, No 85). Challenged by this world and especially by our brothers and sisters in Africa, I have chosen to reflect on the initiation to this religious life, being convinced that everything stems from the foundation, which is the formation. This work constitutes only a simple reflection and a personal sharing, made in simplicity, of some of the elements, which I believe necessary, so that religious life can become credible in today's Africa.



In an Africa wounded to its inner depths and that looks for adequate ways to rise above itself, religious life finds itself challenged by the peoples and is today confronted with a loss of diminished identity. Theologians and experts on religious life are endeavoring to clarify the characteristics and essentials of this life; nevertheless, the crisis deepens, thus the urgency of exploring it in depth.

It would be appropriate to consider, whether  in the current context of Africa, should not the focus be more  on the  question  of  initiation  to  religious  life; open  new  roads,  which  would  render  the  latter more meaningful.  Is it always a question of forming the young, or rather of educating them to religious life? Rather, would it not be to bring another form of response to the current reality in Africa?

Departing from the example of the education of a child, Paul Osterrieth explains  how deliberately and unconsciously,  adults  transmit  to  the  child,  the  usages,  techniques  and  values  that  they  possess  in themselves .    "We  teach  them  to  act  and  think  like  us...we  enrich  them  in  our  ways  of  living, responding"  (1).   The  crisis  in  religious  life  today,  comes  perhaps  from  the  fact  that,  many  young people today have no point of reference.  The adult, that is, the instructor in charge of guiding them is more and more in reality, a teacher in charge of teaching them the principles of religious life, rather than   a way   of   life.     Currently,   however, the   instructor   is obliged to take   account   of   all the environmental factors of the life processes of the person formed.   It is from this observation and after analysis, which we chose to explore this theme.    Several  books,  texts  and  courses  that  we    have received, will serve  us as background  to provide a scrap of a  new  response to this  "feverish outbreak"  in religious life, which loses all credibility.

By launching ourselves into this study, we will try first of all to define religious life with its culture, which requires a behavior, other than the ordinary. We will then try to clarify the ambiguity of the terms "to educate" and "to train" to better penetrate this area of initiation. Lastly, we shall approach what is at stake and the challenges facing this initiation at the beginning of the third millennium.


1.            The culture of religious life

Speaking about the culture of religious life, leads us to confine ourselves to a specific area of this concept. We will therefore speak of this culture in the sense of "the symbolic organization of a group; the transmission of this organization and all of the values underpinning the representation that the group makes of itself, its relationship with other groups, and its relationship with the natural world" (2). We will specify more this sense, as culture seen more from the material angle, that is, concerning language, aesthetic tastes…, we will remain firm. This report is the link which attaches us to the material culture of a people, a culture which, without doubt, follows us everywhere. In addition, from the beginning, "God did not want to sanctify and save humans individually, and without and link between themselves" (Lumen Gentium, No 9).

1.1.        Theological Foundation

Christ in the gospel of St. John, says to this disciples: "You do not belong to the world ...”. By saying this, did he want to specify the type of men that he was calling to follow him? If with the advent of salvation a new social order was established in the world, could we way that the christian life initiated with Christ gave rise to a new culture in the world? In effect, the disciples of Jesus became strangers to this world because they were born of God.

However, a foreigner  is the  one  who  is  not  part of  a  group  and therefore  does  not  share the  same culture.  Thus so with the christians, separated from the world by the Father, (John 17:6), they initiated a new culture, a christian culture.   Baptism  is  the  foundation  of  the  christian  life  by which  we  are reborn, as children  of God  (3} and which  incorporates  us into a  new culture. Also, the alliance made with the chosen people and the instruction that God would gradually make of them a people, a people set apart.  “I will place my law within their being and will write it on their hearts. Then, I will be their God and they shall be my people (...} word of the Lord", as is said in the book of Jeremiah (31:31-34).  Later, in Christ, a new people of God will emerge.   Their law will be a new commandment, that of loving, as Christ himself loved (cf. Lumen Gentium, No 9).

In the  course  of  the  history  of  these  people,  men  and  women  have  wanted  "freely  to  follow  and imitate  more faithfully,  this  Christ,  leader  of  the  chosen  people  (...}  in leading a  life consecrated  to God" (Perfectae Caritatis, No 1).  These christian men and women, make the choice to vow themselves in a  special  way  to follow  Christ  in the way  of  charity, that the  Holy Spirit  pours into their  heart  (cf. Colossian  1:24).  These latter in order to live more fully their new culture/ way of life are sent into the world and express the consecration of their baptism with greater fullness (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, No 5). They leave all for Christ, occupied only with his concerns.

 1.2 Human Foundation (Basic human values)

Raymond Balmes expressing the difference between the cultural and the natural in man says this: "That which is cultural in a person, is that which varies from one group of peoples to another. What is natural in a person, is that which is common to all peoples. The natural is universal; the cultural is what varies" (4).

From this definition, we see how much religious life, as a culture, supposes a difference from the surrounding cultures. If for the world, to love is to do good to one's friends and to ignore one's enemies, Christ's culture asks of us to love our enemies; to do good to those who hate us; to go two miles with a person who asks you to go one mile; to turn the left cheek to the person who strikes you on the right cheek, etc. This type of culture being the sign of a person who chooses to withdraw from the ways of the world, imposing on themselves to make war against nature, and becomes the source of the  highest  human values.  Levi-Strauss will also say, that, culture is the expansion of human nature; "The more we delve into human nature, the more human nature blossoms,  be  it  at the expense of a few sacrifices" (5). This assertion comes to affirm this christian nature, this way/culture of the men and women who have chosen to follow Christ.

Indeed, the mission of Christ in this world was to enhance a person's dignity, and as children of God; to give them the fullness of life, even at the cost of great sacrifice, that of the cross. By this salvation, Christ has elevated mankind to the highest level of vitality, thus also has been begun, the highest culture, eternal culture, divine culture. Men and women, who chosen to consecrate their lives to God, ought to be thus in perpetual tension, that is, striving toward higher values.   In this world, where the atmosphere of culture is the unbridled searching for power, possessions and sexuality, the culture of religious life,  advocates/promotes, service, solidarity and brotherhood.

What  country  is  there  today,  that  does  not  seek  to  dominate  its  neighbor,  to  crush  without  any qualms.  This is the reality lived in Africa today, and that in a general picture, Africa has lived for the last five centuries, gripped by neighboring continents.  This is the case of all men and women, who do not let themselves  be taken  by the  incessant  accumulation  of  wealth,  to the  detriment  of  those  who  have little and who still have to suffer to see themselves  stripped  gradually.  It is still the perogative of all those who, reduced to the state of animals, do not live but by the impulse of the sex market. In fact, these  modern  times,  that  have  developed  individualism  and  globalization,  have  also  little  by  little reduced humanness in the  person. From the moment, that each ones lives for themselves, the law of the jungle is imposed.  When a person stops thinking of the other, it is then, without  a doubt, that the person stops being a human being, as humanness is characterized  in being social, that is to say, to live in a group; that  is part of  one's  nature.   The person who ceases to think of the other, consequently ceases to think of God, the principle of all that exists.   Thus, the person is no longer spiritual, only materialistic and therefore one's humanity is lost.

Religious culture in this context, ought to be the beacon that attracts the attention and points out continuously, the way of higher values and those of the true development of human beings. With St. Francis of Assisi, we say that the goal of this culture is to put love, where there is hatred, joy where there is sorrow, forgiveness where there is discord...; a culture that promises dignity to all peoples, whomever they be, rich or poor, black or white, of one ethnic group or another. In short, it is a culture that is humanitarian, and not narcissistic.

Religious life considered also in its cultural aspect, leads us to examine the methodology of transmission and of the integration of that culture, all the more, we have seem that culture does not have biological phenomena, but rather, learning. Two well used terms, that are part of the field of semantics in culture, that is to say, "education" and "formation", will serve us as foundation in order to treat this theme of transmission.

2.            To educate or to form?

An expression well in vogue in reports between adults and young people is this: "He is well educated or poorly educated." More often, these expressions are said to define, the report of young people with their surroundings, that is to say, if the person lives or does not live an integrated life with those of similar circumstances. On the contrary, to say of someone that they are “well-formed or poorly formed' refers more often to a performance, rather than to a professional activity. The person is shaped according to a certain direction, certain customs, in order to carry out a particular function.

However, religious life is not a profession, it is a LIFE. It requires a whole process of integration. This obliges us to pose the question of knowing, whether it would not be more adequate today to speak of education, rather than formation, because, this does not belong in religious life, that is, to "repeat the information received", but to live it.

2.1. Cultural insight to education in religious life

  When Paul Osterrieth defines education as a "process of integration of young people in a society that proposes to them ways of behavior proper to them" (6), he explains how progressively, the small one, adapts to a given culture. Culture in effect, is acquired by education. It is therefore correct, that we speak of education in religious life. It is to make of the young aspirant, an adult in the life, in which they have freely chosen to become integrated. However, to become of age, one is to acquire a certain maturity in many areas of this life.

How to acquire this maturity? Traditionally, young aspirants who wanted to become integrated into religious life, followed a certain path for a minimum of three years. Today, this time is lengthened to more or less five years in certain institutes for the first phase, before counting five or nine years for the final phase. It is therefore after a maximum of fourteen years, that young people are supposed to have acquired a certain degree of maturity to live maturely, this new culture. Unfortunately, this time is considered practically as a straight and arduous path, which leads to a new stage of life, in some ways, as an "arriving".

However, the fact that this culture is not transmitted biologically, but learned; in anthropological terms, this time should be designated for "socialization" and "enculturation". These two terms constitute two aspects of the same reality; socialization indicates the insertion of an individual in relationships among the members of the group. It also means adapting them to each other within a pre-established behavior, specific to the group and sanctioned by them, that is to say, making one's own, the way of life proposed to the group. On the other hand, enculturation is specifically designed for the human dimension of socialization. It also refers to the process of learning, by which the person assimilates the models of life, specific to their age group, from infancy to adulthood (7). It is to this enculturation, that we would like to take ownership for education in religious life, that is to say, the learning process that should accompany any individual wishing to engage in this way of life.

The complexity of this process stems from the fact, that the future religious will present themselves already as adults and who do not think that they have need of an education. They are already "well educated", and as the saying goes, it is sufficient for them to cross the bridge. While in Christ's culture, the first step to take is to die and be born anew (cf. John 3:1-7). It is thus, that we find that even today, we, like "Nicodemus", ask ourselves, how, being old, an individual can be born again (verse 4)? Jesus answers: In truth I say to you, that unless you are born of water and the Spirit, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God" (verse 5). Jesus also reveals: "If you do not become as little children, you cannot enter into the Kingdom" (Matthew 18:3), this proves, how much the new culture places itself in a plan, otherwise spiritual. This supposes for the individual called to this life, the "beginning of a spiritual life". St. Therese of the Child Jesus said: "At the beginning of my spiritual life, around the age of thirteen or thirteen or fourteen ...” in order to express the awareness of the responsibility of this spiritual life (see an experience of Christ).

It is obvious  however,  that  at  this  age, she  was  already  baptized  and  above  all  had  made  her first communion!  It is this  awareness,  which  will  update  the  contrast  of  the  new  culture  to  which  the individual is called with the culture from which she comes (8).  One must be born again and thus accept the new process of integration.   Let  us  note, that  in today's  society,  despite  the  great  number  of baptized, who supposedly have acquired another culture, secular culture, which is in large part, not in step with christian culture.  We cannot imagine how much this society of globalization, globalizes the minds and behavior, and at the same time: produces, knowingly or not, a considerable number of non-­ adults” (9).  The world has become responsible for the people.   However, the adult is the one who "accepts responsibility for herself, does not expect from others the satisfaction or the achievement of her objective".

Take note, that to speak of education, is also and abode all to speak of educator. In fact, in   order to guide to the stage of adulthood, adults are necessary. Jean Vanier says, that they   should be coherent with themselves, "the child acts more often imitating the adult in whom he has confidence.  If there   is a discrepancy between life and words, the child becomes confused, he is not able to advance"(10). No one will say that there are no children in religious life, but, the process is the same, as it is a matter of being reborn into a new culture. In that initiation, consequently, the initiator ought to be an adult, acquiring a certain maturity in order to gain the confidence of the young, as that virtue is of utmost importance in education. The one being educated must find a model in the person of the educator.   It is that that we have most highly recommended in speaking of enculturation, as "the learning-process, which provides ways of living to a group". Surely, these models have to be lived beforehand by the adult educator.

It is thus that we discover, that education demands a certain permanence. It demands one's whole life, seizes the individual in their totality. By education, therefore, it "increases the dignity of the person and they become capable of living under its laws. The person thus, strives by virtue to live in accordance with ones companions" (11).

2.2 Cultural insight on formation to religious life

Formation, unlike education and in its correct sense, does not generally take into account the whole person.  It shapes the person “according to a certain direction, certain habits, to fulfill a particular function"(12). In effect, in formation, it is often a matter of repeating information.  This is founded on two principal characteristics: performance and long-term maturity.

Two young people of a large school give their testimony before the assembly of men and women   religious and say this: "All our formation has made us preachers, but not receivers. We are taught to be clear, precise, brief, but without depth. We end up (sic) living in the unspoken, by that which touches us the most" (13).This is the reality that surrounds us today: "to please”, “to distinguish ourselves", "to be on top”, with precise evaluations, so as to go on to the next phase.  What do we teach young people in this situation?  How to act in matters of devotedness, prayer, chastity, poverty...?

Truly, we are swimming in a world of results. It is only necessary to understand today's course of technology to prove this. "We must be the best, exceed, be appreciated by one's superiors (...), receive the appreciation and the promotion that leads to get ahead".

However, in initiation to religious life with young people, it is not a matter of developing a spirit of competition, but a spirit of love. Not a spirit of knowing that you are well thought of, but of loving and feeling, that one is loved for oneself, for what they are. St. Paul will remind us of this in his first letter to the Corinthians: "(...) if I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing ..." (13:1-3). Love alone will lead us to love. This is the unique law of the new culture, the christian culture. Jean Vanier says, that admittedly, this competition presents advantages: 'The desire to be first, urges us to make every possible effort (...) but, if a few win, the greater number loses". The same thing happens with initial formation, painfully the greater number get lost. All of our preoccupations regarding the identity of religious life, its credibility, all our apprehensions regarding the authenticity to render, ought there not be errors in this concept of formation that consists in making us transmitters and consequently, leads a certain number to stray? 

Given  that,  it  is  normal  that  initiation  to  religious  life  has  become  a  query  for  those  in  charge  of formation.    All  are  endeavoring  to  find  methods  of  formation,  which  are  both,  appropriate  and practical; a formation  that  takes  into account  the  person in her totality.   Because more often, when formation is limited to performance, it degenerates in one way or another in the search for power, authority, to have more, and unruly affections.  However, it should rather lead to sharing, service, and an unconditional love, that makes the young grow, not only as bearers, but equally as receivers.

We are also aware, that, unlike education, the most important rule is "wasting time", and the rule of formation is to "save time". This aspect of formation should question us. The current method which tends to achieve certain consecutive stages in a precise time, doesn't this contribute to losing one's identity which separates from religious life?   It goes without saying, that the existence of a specific goal, always supposes a long or short term; thus the importance of profound spiritual discernment. This implies, a preparation on the part of the formation person, which enables them to understand the youth in depth, to guide them to walk with their whole being and to be fully men and women of God.  To achieve this, a process is urgent, that takes into account all of the issues that face today's reality.


3.            The challenges of initiation to religious life

In this moment, Africa is in a very difficult situation in its history.  Will this turnabout be well taken or not? It is not up to us to predict the future.  We only know, that the present will influence the latter. This is why we are trying to analyze it.

In effect, the young people that we welcome into our congregations are immersed in a very complex environment from the cultural point of view and consequently the moral.    Helping them to integrate to religious life, therefore demands that, those who accompany them, take into account this reality and all of the dimensions of their lives.

  3.1. Young people compromised by their reality

First of all, let us underline a very striking fact: most of the young people today have a hard time    fitting in with the “old”.  “Biso na Biso” (“Biso a Biso”), in Lingala, national language in Democratic Congo, spoken in Kinshasa, means: “between us”, they say: “What have they done in forty year?”  These are words of people who are frustrated with their history, much more the African, who always sees his Continent under the blanket of neo-colonization and who have not yet assumed their past oppression and the denial of their race.  This is why there are some, who still do not forgive their dictators and corrupt leaders, who only paint a somber future.  I effect, they live only in discontentment and of course, they flee toward music, night clubs, “relationships”, alcohol, drug and movies… In short, they are trying to find refuge in an imaginary world of violence and disorder of every sense and pleasure and relaxation, which inevitably leads to a culture of no value.   Their lives are shaped through this imaginary world, which, as a matter of fact is publicized, through the media and through every possible means of communication.  So under our very eyes, we have young people, wounded, continually running away from, hoping only to find refuge in God.  They live their daily lives with this mal-formed spirituality, growing each day and latching on to each new whim and fancy and at times, even farfetched. Let us disengage just a few fundamental characteristics of this reality.

Today, the fundamental starting point, which should be the family is virtually, non-existent. Don’t we see throughout the city, the number of twelve year old children, for example, who are caring for their younger brothers and sisters? They try as best they can to impose their authority in the place of the parents.  Sadly enough, many families are separated or divorced.  Their schooling is done on the street or by advertising. Even the school which, in some fashion should replace what is missing in the home, is also tinted by the crisis in responsibility and indifference as regards what touches the lives of others. “The law is, each one for themselves”.  No longer having faith in adults, a good number of young people, reject any type of morality enclosed in customs, rather, desire a morality of life/existence, that is to say, an ethics, that comes out of experience (14). Noting that there is a gap between what the “old”, say and do, the young people would like to see, a morality that limits itself to the word, to requirements, to do’s and don’ts, as a substitute for a morality of deeds and witness.

With the short term economic prospect that is crossing all of Africa at this time, the law to follow is the prevailing one, empowered by organized fraud and sustained, through theft and corruption…Moreover, this phenomenon is compounded with the invasion, in the media, the markets of the new and appealing material goods which abound each day, publicized as indispensable and necessary. Thus, there develops in their minds and hearts, the desire to always have more and the best; to be continuously in touch with worldly culture and always through the shortest, the fastest, but always the one with least value.

These two elements are only one aspect of the personality of the young.  However, the human

being is above all, dynamic. The young would do well to acquire their autonomy in the personal, as well as the financial, their (…………..) This dynamism, which will always take them to the desire to be known and loved.  This unsatisfied desire remains more difficult to assume than the need to possess and to govern oneself, it will lead them to a sort of emotional searching for all means.

These findings help us discover, that no law, regardless of where it comes from; can’t do anything before that reality. Some young people say:  “The elders, as authority have nothing to teach us”.

Thus, faced with this type of people, immersed in this type of atmosphere that, religious life is situated. And Christ, in effect, continues to choose disciples from this same group of people, who looking for life, also wish to partake of it.  How can we encourage the development of life in them, so that they in turn can give it?  This is where we find that a new method of formation would be necessary.


 3.2. A customized formation for today’s Africa                            

To harmonize such a culture with that of religious life is proving very demanding. This presupposes, adults, who having reached a certain sufficiently solid degree of human and spiritual maturity will be capable of accompanying the young people.  In other words, the formation person has to fully become an educator, with all that that implies, the will to become and live more fully one’s vocation; to incarnate, the Christ, we so desire to render more present in this world.

As a matter of fact, considerable efforts are underway to train the formation personnel, but there still remains, that they engage in the true sense of the term, in order to become conscious, that in formation, all dimensions of the person offering themselves to the Lord have to be taken into account. Actually, “The current times call for a deepening of our vacation (...) adapted to the requirements of our time”.  These requirements invite us to create a form of our committed life with Christ at the heart of this world”; to thus create an adequate integrated process for this religious life that “constitutes in truth a living memory of the way of living and acting of Jesus, as Word incarnate in relationship to his Father and his brother and sisters” (Vita Consecrata, No 22).  If one must paraphrase Matungulu Otene: What type of initiation is necessary to be with Christ, universal, in solidarity with and co-responsible?  He goes on to say: “this being with” in the strongest sense of the word means, communion, and participation in the lives of those we love.”  We can only live in communion with someone to the extent of taking into account, what is close to their heart” (15). It is thus that we dare to affirm, that initiation to religious life is to introduce communion with Christ and with others; It is also participation in Christ’s life and that of our brothers and sisters and that in a very meaningful and authentic way. It is thus urgently needed to find means to render this existence and the actions of Jesus credible to today’s Africa, that so needs men and women capable of joining her in her concerns.

Our Continent would need young people capable of shaping the future, of submitting to the events without evading the difficulties. The young who would have learned to strongly desire and to give flesh to their desires. As of today, Africa does not need men and women who are fearful, but rather committed adults.

When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” Jesus’ response was: “Go tell what you have seen and heard.  The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk…” (Matthew 11:4-5); that is a committed and concrete answer, and thus should be our response in regards to our realities. This supposes that the young people will also be equally prepared to go to the end of the tasks they have undertaken.  In fact, often overwhelmed by their surroundings, especially the political, which does not take into account their future, they are easily fall. For religious it should not be thus, these latter are called to move about with the people, the masses.

Let us stress again, that the future looks like a time of team work, countless meetings.  Gone is the era of autocracy, of works done by one person…Initiation to religious life ought to take into account all of those factors and plunge (why not from the very first phase) the young into the world of responsibility and co-responsibility.  That is to say, from the beginning of the initiation, introduce them into the working world, where they will automatically be confronted with administration of time, relationships, money and their dependence on all of these. In considering all of the problems surrounding the identity and authenticity of religious life, we notice that the present religious have an adversity to power in the working world, yet are equally sensitive to superiority of one over the other, to any control whatever. However, in this working world, it would be good to initiate them to live under the working order of another and as an adult, to manage their time, to be faced with the management of money, work companions…We can consider this aspect of their work as very important, as we can observe that religious in our African society are considered as persons, who do not need to work.  We must be at their service.  They are people without problems and for whom their needs are always quickly met. The religious is the one who must be there only to receive people from morning to night, as though they have nothing else to do, but to solve their problems, as the “bosses” of our African country, who sit in their offices. Only to the measure that we have owned the reality of the work around us will these images will begin to disappear. The latter in effect, is the engine of development.

If religious life wants to retain its vocation as precursor, as it has always been from the early days of the Church, then, its task is to come forward to give work, its full value and thus contribute to the development of our country. This concept would jeopardize, all of the intellectual formation that the future religious needs, but this too could bring about a solution. This entails a whole other approach to formation. We know people in the city, who have to work and receive a salary, while, at the same time, want to improve their skills, who are forced to take evening courses, so as not to lose their “jobs”.  Would the religious be capable of this?  All of the classes of philosophy, theology, missiology…that are tied together and appear never ending, could they not be given and taken in evening courses.  Some people think that community schedules; bells are adapted to reality.  In fact, in order to keep au courante would mean, without doubt, a complete upheaval.  It is here that we understand that, in the established order of things, Christ rests in continuous “motion”.  It has been given to a certain time, why is it not possible that it be so today?  Let us highlight the fact that being involved in the working world is also to participate in the resources/”self-financing” of the congregation and of the Church.

However, if this process is to take account of all of the dimensions of the person, it must also insist on individual customized formation; that is, to help the young people to discover and fully assume their personal history. This personal integration is basic for the full development, which is sought after by all young people.

Is it possible for a young person who has always fled the authority of his parents because they have never had the right to speak in the family, live authority in religious life? Can a young person who has never had a chance to be recognized and valued in his own environment be able to support the lack of attention and at times often in community life?  Can a young person who has always been on the lookout for his survival, be faced with a lack of material goods, live renunciation, deprivation, voluntary detachment,  characteristic of religious life? There are so many questions that we can ask ourselves for an authentic religious life.  Get to know the environment of the young people, in regards to home life, material resources, surroundings and even religious, so as to be able to help them take charge of themselves in every way.

This constitutes general ideas for formation today, as it would be difficult to discuss all of the aspects of formation in our short investigation, but these few insights will encourage us to continue this reflection.



In the instructions and directives of the bishops of Congo (Zaire at the time) on “Consecrated life in the Church, particularly in Zaire”, No. 266 says: “Renovation adapted to religious life includes both, the continuous return to the sources of all Christian life, as well as the original inspiration of institutes, and on the other hand, the response to the existence of new conditions” (16).

The search for new ways and a meaningful religious life for Africa in 1986, was one of the concerns of our ecclesial authorities.  The beginning of the third millennium challenged us. 

It is worth noting that contemporary Africa is steeped in the world that surrounds it, and is going at top speed in every area:  performance, adaptation, technology….It is an understanding surpassing anything ever seen  since the twentieth century, that adequately  responds to the needs and endeavors of the people.  In addition to the negative elements of these changes, we find some that are very positive, and that consecrated people ought to consider as well. Let us especially take note of the severity of the general problems of the people, adaptation to changes, periodical improvements, the capacity of initiative and ingenuity.

In the history of the Church, religious life has always been at the beginning of social reform. Today, she still has the same mission, always being the living memory of Jesus Christ, the liberator, for all times and all peoples.  This is why Africa cannot have “life to the full” without the love and commitment of these men and women, chosen by God, without their “being at” the heart of its vicissitudes and cries.   And this renewal of religious life, inevitably involves a questioning of our formation methods.

Thus, let us be called forth to shape our vocation and incessantly look to form or better yet, to educate adult men and women, personally brought together; religious who are truly committed to the culture of religious life. People involved, whose words and deeds reflect Jesus Christ, Light that enlightens the way, Africa’s way to fullness of life and that will allow Africa to save herself; be it by the native Africans or by Africans of heart!  For in Christ, there are no peoples, races, or nations.



0.. OSTERRIETH Paul, Faire des adu/tes, 19° ed. Mardaga, Bruxelles, 1992, pp. 17-20.

1.            Encyclopedia universalis, corpus 5, France S.A., 1985.

2.            "Les sept sacrements", art. n• 1213, in Catechisme de l'Egise catholique, ed. Mame/Pion, France,1992, p.266.

3.            BALMES Raymond, Lecons de philosophie , t.1, ed. de l'Ecole, Paris, 1965, p. 76.

4.            Levi-Strauss, cite par Raymond BALMES, Op. cit.

5.            OSTERRIETH Paul, Op. cit.

6.            Cf. MUKENDI Wa Meta, Introduction a l'anthropologie . Notes de cours, s. ed, s.l.

7.            Cf. MUSUMBI Jean Bosco, Introduction a la theologie spirituelle. . Notes de cours , s. ed., s.l.

8.            OSTERRIETH Paul, Op. cit.

9.            VANIER Jean, Toute personne est une histoire sacree, ed. Pion, Paris, 1994, p. 104.

10.          HENRIOT Patrice, Philo dicobac. philosophes , t.2, ed. Belin, Paris, 1992, p. 110.

11.          Larousse encyclodique en couleurs, t.4, ed. France loisir, Paris, 1993.

12.          LICHERI Lucie, Par un simple oui. La vie re/igieuse apostolique feminine, ed. du cerf, Paris, 1994, p59.

13.          REY-MERMET Th., Croire. Pour une decouverte de la morale, t.4, ed. Droguet-Ardent, 1985, p.8-11.

14.          MATUNGULU Otene, Etre avec le Christ chaste, pauvre, obeissant.  Essai d'une spiritualite Bantu des vceux, ed. Saint Paul Afrique, Kinshasa, 1983, p. 7

15. La vie consacree dans l'Eg/ise particuliere du Zaire. Instructions et directives de /'Episcopat , Kinshasa