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Beyond my 'known world.' - 05/02/2012

A Spiritan student on Pastoral Experience Programme in the UK tells it as it is.
Joseph Kiwango, CSSp.

My arrival in the UK, in 2011, for a Pastoral Experience Programme (PEP) at the Spiritan Youth Center, a youth ministry project of the British province, was a new beginning, beyond my ‘known world.’ I had only finished my studies in Philosophy, a while earlier, in Tanzania.

At the beginning, I used to think about my glorious past and wished the programme was to be reversed so that I could go back to my ‘known world.’ But as days went by, I came to meet new friends with different backgrounds and ways of thinking. I began to learn the culture and the language in order to cope with the needs of the time.

This experience reminded me of the culture of ‘missionary flexibility’, a principle highly emphasised by our co-founder Francis Libermann as very important in any community. We often put out our culture as the principle for judging other cultures. Thus one views everything from the perspective of one’s culture. This can affect a community either positively or negatively. This was why Libermann always insisted on flexibility.

I met this challenge when I arrived, but it took me a few days to accept the fact that I am in a foreign mission, thus I had to be open to the new culture and make it part of me. I was impressed with the information I got at the induction programme I attended. I was introduced to the mission life and the expectations. I had an opportunity to share views on cultural issues and challenges which may arise if everyone held on to his/her different cultural patterns. The suggestion came that we need to create a common culture which fits everybody. However, no one tried to figure out what the common culture should be. Everything was left to be created along through prudence and common sense.

Another significant experience is my ministry outreach in schools. I have been to different schools. I have received nothing but a warm welcome in those schools, and I really enjoy my new mission. I also enjoy working with my team members with whom I share support, companionship and a faith journey. There are a lot I bring to the team. I am good at singing, playing football, drama, and especially good at learning new languages: Kiswahili, English, and French.

Our mission in the Spiritan Youth Centre is essentially a mission outreach to the poor and the marginalized, especially the young people. This is in tune with the charism of our Congregation. This is realized in the work I am doing: helping the young people to realize their full potential and offering them Christian values and tools to make informed choices. The concept of God is often of interest to young people, and we offer Christian perspective and spirituality where and when possible. Therefore, I am aware that my presence in the UK does have some positive impact in the society.

Looking back I think I have had my fair share of the turns and twists of life. At 27, I could say that my lowest moment was when I suffered from serious malaria in 2002. But on the flip side, my happiest moment came when I got the result of my degree studies in Philosophy. It was a First Class honours, and the celebrations that followed were truly First Class.

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