After the formation of the Catholic Women Organization in IMBISA in April 2015 it was high time that the Steering Committee members meet to discuss necessary logistics and modalities that would help to shape the institution and take it into the future. The meeting objectives were:
The meeting was graced by the IMBISA Bishop President Rt Rev Frank Nubuasah and blessed by the Archbishop of Maseru Arch Gerard Lerotholi
Bishop Frank Nubuasah inspired the women saying “We have come here to light a fire that I hope would spread to all of our countries in IMBISA region. This light is what brought us here. It is the light of Christ”. One needs light only when darkness is experienced. In our region there is a certain darkness in our church when it comes to women. This is the absence of any intraregional organization of women. We want to help change that. The guiding document of Pope emeritus Benedict to the church in Africa, Africae Munus, i.e. the commitment of Africa to work for Reconciliation, justice and peace, is what would give us light.
For the first time in the history of the church, the Pope’s letter addresses different groups by name. We focus on the numbers that concern women in particular (55 -59). Before we can look at what we can take from this document, I would like to share with you what is popularly known as the Church’s best kept secret, the Catholic Social Teaching.
This body of teaching of the Popes over the years uses the social context in which we live our Christian lives. The Popes try to help us contextualize and apply our faith and formulate responses to real concrete life situations. There are principles that underline this teaching.
The Ten Principles of Catholic Social Teaching
Now when we again focus on Africae Munus and what it says about women and their role and participation in life and the church, we can see how the Catholic Social Teaching influences what the Pope is saying to you.
Pope Benedict calls on women to uphold the sanctity of all human beings. At times, one feels the world is losing its mind. Women are to call us back to basics and say, in the beginning the creator did not make us to be like this.
The oppressive traditions in Africa are called to question. We cannot allow the abuse of women and girls under the guide of culture and tradition. Culture grows and tradition improves, we can help bring change (56). But even in the church, there is an unofficial culture of abuse of women and girls. It is my hope that one day IMBISA Women would be able to approach the bishops and say, enough is enough of this abuse. Stop it right now!!!! In some countries, shared ministry is not open to women.
You can say that because we are all made in the image of God. This Imago Dei is what makes us godlike and equal in God’s eyes. We carry something precious that is a sharing in the life of God. How can we sustain, improve and uphold this truth? (57), the document says;
“Bishops should encourage and promote the formation of women so that they may assume “their proper share of responsibility and participation in the community life of society and… of the church” Women will thus contribute to the humanization of society”.
One element of the document that I like very much is the acknowledgement of women as missionaries of faith at home where they can have schools of faith and thus become teachers of faith. This is what the church is asking our women to be.
In number 128 to 131 on the Lay people, the Pope explains some of the CST principles and how they can form and inform our laity. Again a quote is in place:
“It can be helpful for you to form associations in order to continue shaping your Christian conscience and supporting one another in the struggle for justice and peace”. (131)
This is what is motivating us to form IMBISA Women’s group to help shape the Christian life in our countries and region. This is what I would like to see grow and this is what would give voice to our women in the church. You do a lot but speak little. Hopefully, we can begin to hear your voices”.
Bishop Frank stated that the IMBISA Women Steering Committee meeting was in line with the Catholic Social teachings. He noted that documents from the Vatican/Pope are based on the social teachings of the Church. He further stated that the Africae Munus document by Pope Benedict IVX devoted a paragraph to the role of women in the church. He noted that it is the first document in the Church that addresses women specifically.
He concluded his presentation by stating that there is need for the members of the IMBISA Women Committee to communicate and visit one another. He also stated that in the future he expects the IMBISA Women Organisation to have thousands of members and expects the organisation to be able to source for funding for their own meetings and other events.
The meeting also discussed about membership, nature of the organization, constitution, structure, resource mobilisation, and budget, management/governance of the organization, strategic planning, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The meeting concluded by drawing action plans for future development of the organization