Last weekend, Catholic bishops of The Gambia and Sierra Leone ended a plenary meeting held in Banjul with a pledge to enhance and improve pastoral activities in respective dioceses.
The bishops meeting at the Gambia Pastoral Institute from 24 to 30 January 2022, ended their plenary meeting with a communiqué outlining plans for enhancing their presence and pastoral activities in the region.
They commended the resilience and innovativeness of priests and the religious during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is not yet over.
The encouragement of the bishops to consecrated persons comes when the Catholic Church, throughout the world, is celebrating World Day for Consecrated Life which falls on 2 February this week.
“We continue to exhort our priests, religious and lay faithful to be firm in the faith, hope and charity, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant consequences. We are aware of your commitment, sacrifices and contributions in diverse ways to the mission of the church. May the Gospel message find a home in your hearts and lead to the transformation of our communities,” said the prelates.
In ordinary circumstances, regular pastoral programmes of the church require the physical presence of a pastor or a religious sister. With the emphasis on distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19, many pastoral workers initially found themselves at a disadvantage or loss. They have had to cope by being more innovative in pastoral ministry. To continue providing pastoral care, many took to various communication technologies. Depending on availability, this was easier in areas where technologies abound than in rural and some deprived communities of Africa.
Concrete pathways for pastoral activities
Throughout deliberations regarding the pastoral gains and challenges, in dioceses, the bishops said they are keenly “aware of the need to build upon existing pastoral efforts. Their wish is to develop concrete pathways that shape and facilitate improved pastoral activities,” the bishops said.
Part of the reflections, by the bishops, included: practical administrative matters of the conference; issues about major seminaries and formation; the synodal church, evangelisation, the need for effective policies and strategies that safeguard minors and vulnerable adults.
A synod on synodality: consultations
The bishops reviewed progress concerning consultations on the synod convoked by Pope Francis for October 2023 in the Vatican.
“During our meeting, we discussed and shared our diocesan programmes on the Synod. Each diocese has developed structures that will ensure the participation of all the people of God in their ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In this regard, we call on all priests, religious and lay faithful, to fully participate in this synodal process so that nobody is left out. All opinions on this matter shall be given due consideration,” the bishops said.