It was a happy moment at the Claretian Institute of Philosophy Maryland Community Nekede Owerri, Nigeria where Claretians within the first five years of priestly ordination ( those ordained from 2018 to 2022) had their annual provincial on-going formation program (Quinquennium) from the 4th –  9th of June, 2023.  It was a time of beautiful reunion and encounter for the young missionaries who had to see each other after some time of being apart. It offered an ample time for the missionaries to have a break from work as to have some moment of rest and rejuvenation of mind and body.

The activities held during this encounter adequately addressed the purpose of the program as reflected in the documents of the congregation (cf. GPF 511-512). Thus, it was a moment of sharing of the joys, hope and challenges faced in the missions and the different apostolates the missionaries are engaged in. The individual experiences shared at the encounter created an avenue to learn and firmly attune oneself with the dream of the Province.

In addition to the personal experiences of the young missionaries, some experienced and veteran missionaries from the Province also had some moment to share their experiences with their younger confreres, as an African proverb has it that “one who started cooking before the other will definitely have more broken pots”. The sharing helped the young priests to understand that their challenges in the ministry were not just peculiar to them but listening to how their elder brothers had navigated through those roads, left them consoled, energized, renewed, and motivated to continue their service.

Apart from missionary experiences shared, Church documents, Congregational documents, and the letter of the Provincial Superior to the participants which formed the basic texts for the workshops were studied discussed in groups. This approach facilitated understanding, assimilation and internalization of the information contained therein.

The period also presented an opportunity to discuss the exhortation of the VIII Provincial Chapter, especially the Provincial dream and its concrete application to the life and ministry entrusted to the young missionaries. It was a wonderful moment also for the missionaries to pay a courtesy visit to the Claretian University of Nigeria (CUN) to be shown around and to be abreast with the progress of the university.

The opportunity for koinonia deepened more as the young missionaries had a wonderful day out for relaxation and lunch and other merriments that keep the fraternity strengthened. The young missionaries also celebrated daily Eucharist with the Maryland community, shared their missionary experiences with and encouraged the students in initial formation.

The 2023 Quinquennium was indeed a program that many of the participants would always miss. Another interesting experience was that the missionaries who could not participate on-site were able to join online. It was indeed a wonderful reunion.  The goal of the exercise was well achieved as all the participants went back with fresh and renewed missionary zeal to continue their work in the missions, expressing deep gratitude to the Provincial Government for organizing the encounter.

by Fr Jude Nwachukwu, CMF