Now it’s up to us.” “It will be a great feast and an historic event as well.” “An important step in the formation of the new generations in Africa.” This is how some youths of the Focolare Movement describe the upcoming Pan-African Gen Congress which is scheduled to take place in a Focolare town in Kenya, known as Mariapolis Piero (27-31 December 2011.)
At The Roots. “Pope Benedict XVI’s recent Apostolic Letter ‘Porta Fidei’ and the upcoming Synod of bishops on the New Evangelization,” the youths continue to explain, “were a strong call for us. We feel it vitally important to respond to the challenge already offered to us by John Paul II in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation ‘Ecclesia in Africa,’ that is, the need for inculturation and the priority he gave to this for a real rooting of the Gospel in Africa.”
It is the first time that the Gen Movement promotes such an event on the African continent with youths arriving from 15 Sub-Saharan African countries, who are very involved in the Focolare as Gen. Some 200 youths between the ages of 19 and 30, will find themselves in a festive but also reflective climate in which they will enter more deeply into the heritage of Chiara Lubich, her spirituality of unity, the life of the Gospel. “Over here where we are, ask the Gen from Africa, “where the youths are more and more quickly being absorbed by the materialistic mentality, is it still possible to make powerful and radical choices?”
The Objective.The over-all project, which includes the Pan-African Congress, will last for a year and include an on-site formation process and day meetings for proclaiming the Gospel life involving the greates number of youths. Then there will be a concluding seminar at the international headquarters of the Focolare, which will culminate at an audience with the Holy Father, a visit to the sites of the first Christian martyrs in Rome and an immersion into the heart of Catholicism. Finally there will be an on-site evaluation and local congresses for the enrichment of local the Christian communities with experiences of life and proposals for new projects.
The Challenge. Gathering 200 youths from countries so far away from each other could seem like an impossible task. As James says: “Most of us are students and those who work have low pay jobs.” The Gen have been working since last year, gathering the monies necessary for travel expenses so that – through a great communion of goods – every geographic region can be represented at the Congress.
Africae munus, which the Pope personally delivered to the peoples of Africa during his recent visit to Benin. There he invited the youths not to be discouraged and not to give up their ideals. “The future is in the hands of those who are able to find strong reasons to live and hope (. . .) it’s in your hands” (Benedict XVI, n.63 Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus).
Focolare president Maria Voce also sent a message to the Gen in Africa: “If you always keep the presence of Jesus among you during the days of your congress, then you will see an explosion of new joy and new life among the Gen who will attend. Forward then, with courage and enthusiasm! Have love as the basis of all that you do, and then every small thing that you do will have profound meaning and will become another stone for the building and growth of the Gen Movement in Africa.”