Listening to what matters now
Provincial Fr Markus Hau on Africa and Europe
Some are growing, others are shrinking. Some are old and experienced, others young and fresh. Africans and Europeans meet in the Province of the Sacred Heart. Both are at a stage of development where they can learn from each other, as described by Provincial Fr Markus Hau: It is about recognising what is important now.
They are all facing the same problem: while Africans and Europeans need to make intercultural friends, African nationalities are not the same. The challenges in South Africa are different from those in Malawi. Compared to other countries on the continent, South Africa has more European characteristics and a wealth gap, says Father Markus Hau. So there is also a need for exchange, which is practised, for example, through joint training periods.
A reorganisation is also under way in South Africa, says the provincial. “Why are we there? Where are we doing social and charitable work?” is the question being asked there. Father Heinz Josef Schöder is the last German there. In the meantime, many young South Africans are coming and getting to know the country in a completely different way. An opportunity.
Looking to the future with an open mind
In Malawi, on the other hand, structures are being put in place, training is being organised and economic skills are being acquired. The confreres have also learnt to share power and responsibilities and to practise the distribution of roles. They can learn from Germany: “We have matured and grown. We can pass this on to a young unit,” says Father Hau. The young community, on the other hand, can go into the future with an open mind and try out many things that the experienced ones would turn away from.
This is why the Provincial has deliberately initiated a workshop on the future in Nigeria. “The confreres should be enabled to develop their own ideas and visions,” says Fr Hau. They should also develop financial plans, look into fundraising and thus become a self-confident community.
It is crucial to “end the phase in which Friedberg thinks about what is good,” says Father Hau. He wanted to avoid the danger of “imposing” something. In response to the question of what the Pallottines in Nigeria might look like in 2033, five projects were mentioned: firstly, a school; secondly, a clinic project; thirdly, a self-sufficient farm; fourthly, a student hostel; and fifthly, a retreat centre.
What is the way Jesus is calling us?
A spirit of optimism. And what about the Core Province in Germany and Austria? “We have to learn to recognise what is important,” says Fr Markus Hau, quoting the theme of the year: “Becoming decisive disciples, setting priorities, making decisions”. “The Province is getting older and weaker and needs to be reduced. However, so that reality is not the only factor determining what we give up and what we don’t, we need to ask ourselves what is needed in our time. “Where can we find a mission? Where do we accompany people in processes of transformation? Where is the area of apostolate where we can have an impact on society? And: Are we on the path to which Jesus is calling us?”
The Provincial is firmly convinced that the Pallottines need to be recognised in the world, for example through the Vincent Pallotti University. And he is convinced that although the number of people attending Mass is decreasing, the hunger for meaning and support in society is growing. “We have to ask ourselves: What is the foundation on which we stand?” says Hau.
What is important? This is a question that unites Europe and Africa, says the provincial. Structures can be quickly created anywhere, but they are not relevant from a Christian perspective. On the road to independence and new freedom, what is important is what gives strength. That is why he deliberately brings confreres to the intercultural community and to Germany, so that they can give impetus with their vitality. One thing is important in both parts of the world: listening. Only in this way can cooperation succeed over such a long distance.
Of course, it is also a matter of avoiding misunderstandings, identifying colonial backgrounds, recognising financial asymmetries and removing obstacles to exchange. To ensure that the African perspective also has a place in Germany, most of the house councils include a confrere from abroad. “Interculturality is reflected here,” says Provincial Father Hau. That is also important.
The Sacred Heart Province includes the following countries Germany, Austria, South Tyrol/Italy, Spain, Croatia, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa. There are about 170 confreres in Germany and Austria and about 45 in Africa. The entire Province has about 250 members, worldwide there are about 2300.
Text: Alexander Schweda
Photos: Pallottines, Vincent Pallotti University, Josef Eberhard, Br Bert Meyer, Daniela Hahn.
Share this article…