Formation for Shepherding today Kenya - 2nd July - 14 August 2012
The last of the 3 regional sessions for formators is currently taking place in Nairobi, Kenya. The 54 participants have come from 13 provinces covering Africa, Europe and the Middle East. The group includes 3 sisters of Our Lady of Charity from Kenya.
This session has the widest diversity of participants of all the regional sessions, in fact when we calculated the number of nationalities present we came to the astonishing total of 31. It is hardly surprising then that our discussions on culture have turned out to be particularly rich.
The participants reflected on the positive and negative aspects of our respective cultures and how they have implications for how the formation process is carried out. Positive elements of our respective cultures which were mentioned included hospitality, solidarity with those in need and a sense of God in all things.
We have shared openly and honestly with one another about how our cultures, mainly patriarchal and hierarchical, were played out in our families of origin and the difficulties that can cause for us when we come to religious life. Over and again we heard sharing from many cultures which told us in different ways “I feel inferior because I am a woman”, “women have no voice”, and “you must respect the elders but it is a one-way respect”.
In relation to leadership there was an acknowledgement that our cultural background can cause us difficulties when it comes to exercising leadership. We may seek to perpetuate the model we have experienced where the leader holds all the power; we may even avoid possibilities for leadership because the leader may be seen to carry all the responsibility for the success or failure of any endeavour. An awareness of the impact of culture was heard as a call to conversion for our-selves and as a call to greater sensitivity to the cultural issues that arise as women of many different cultural backgrounds come to our formation programmes.
There is a great willingness to move beyond the encrustations of culture and embrace a Gospel culture for formation based on the values of adult learning, accompaniment and co-learning which is experiential and transformative, process orientated and carried out in a positive learning environment.
We were also very conscious of the fact that many of us have lived through or are currently living through situations of war, conflict and displacement. This is another reality that affects how we relate to one another and how we experience our world. The effects of this experience need to be acknowledged and explored as a reality in the lives of those who we are accompanying in formation.