The Vicariate of Equatorial Africa involves itself in a process of healing of wounded memories

Le Vicariat d’Afrique équatoriale s’engage dans un processus de guérison des mémoires blessées

Can religious and priests have wounded memories? Do they need healing of these memories? When it comes to memory healing, it is often thought that it is the business of others (South Africa with apartheid, Rwanda with genocide, countries torn apart by fratricidal wars, families having problems, etc.). Rarely do we think of ourselves. If the ignorance and contempt of this reality, the refusal or the lack of courage to approach this question were the basis of our community, family and social difficulties! The brothers of the Vicariate of Equatorial Africa (VAE) wanted to seize the bull by the horns.

At the end of the canonical visit of this vicariate made by the Master of the Order (27 November to 9 December 2016), it became indispensable for Brother Bruno Cadoré, OP, to suggest in his conclusions, an assembly of the vicariate whose purpose would be to reflect on a first version of the common vicariate project, to elaborate a project of common apostolic life at the level of the vicariate, and to awaken in the brothers "a strong sense of belonging to one and the same entity ". If necessary, this assembly should also be "an opportunity to carry out a work of healing wounded memories, through gestures and concrete actions, with the help, if necessary, of experienced external brothers in this domain."

In implementing the conclusions of this visit, Brother Jean- Paul Kamaheu, OP, Vicar Provincial of the VAE convoked the assembly of all the brothers of this entity, held from 03 to 08 September 2017, at the Spiritual Center of Bonamoussadi , in Douala, Cameroon. A total of 52 brothers, sons of the vicariate made of three countries (Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville and Central African Republic) took part in this assembly, which had two high points: the assembly itself (from 3 to 5 September), and the workshop on the healing of wounded memories (6-7 September).

Prevented for health reasons, Brother Michel Lachenaud, OP, the provincial of the Province of France on which the VAE depends, sent a letter to all the brothers of the vicariate in which he welcomed the organization of this assembly, wishing "that it should be a real moment of fraternal encounter ... and a place of thanksgiving for the path taken by the Vicariate." The Provincial also wished that this assembly be "a privileged moment to bring back [the brothers] a fraternal climate", beyond "tensions between brothers, resentments, frustrations, disappointments and injuries" observed during community visits but "nothing dramatic". Brother Michel therefore invited the brothers of the vicariate to face these difficulties "thanks to the Gospel that each of the brothers has one day decided to follow. This Gospel, he continues, allows us to believe that something new can be born, that kindness is possible and that a common life can continue despite the wounds. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it broadens the horizons of the future," he concluded.

The workshop on the healing of wounded memories was led by brother Philippe Dénis, OP, from South Africa and Mr. Vincent Sezibera, from Rwanda. Through a fraternal and respectful exchange between brothers of different generations, the brothers made the truth about the sources of their wounds, noted during the first part of the assembly, namely: the institutional functioning, the questions of nationalities and dismissal of the brothers, the management of properties and elections.

At the end of the workshop, there was a general feeling of satisfaction, some regretting for having "quarreled for nothing", others for "having been taken hostage", the brothers elaborated a "charter of brotherhood and healing ". They committed themselves to respecting it in the dynamics of this healing process, foreseeing the future of the vicariate that is heading towards a vice-province with optimism and hope.

After the Vicariate of Rwanda and Burundi in 2015, the VAE in 2017, perhaps the experience will inspire another entity, and why not, a study of the subject in theology, in connection with mercy so dear to the Order of Preachers.

fr. Gabriel Samba, op.


(22 September 2017)