Daniel Nourissat, Chaplain 1996 – 2004

 

If it hadn’t been for the call received in 1995 to take over from Fr Henri Tosté as MIAMSI chaplain, I wouldnt have had the joy of practising my ministry as Fidei Donum in the diocese of Rabat (Morocco) today! I would like to give thanks to God above all for four of the countless graces received by this ministry which I have practised part-time for 8 years (my bishop in Dijon had given me 1/6 of the time for that…)

First of all, the opening up, the experience of “catholicity”. From the beginning of my ministry as a priest, I felt the need to root this diocesan ministry by meeting other ways of living the Gospel, and building the Church, feeling that my Church in France was a bit closed in on itself. 2 months after starting my mission, I was in Santiago, Chile with all the South American MIAMSI (SAL): what a spiritual and ecclesial change of scenery in experiencing a little from the inside the fruits of liberation theology for converting the South American independent milieus; 3 years later, I would have the grace of saying Mass in Dom Helder Camara’s small parish in Recife, and praying with hope on his grave… What emotion to discover the citizenship work of AIM India among the workers in the Kunankurichy mine, or to reflect on the commitment to decent housing for their Creole workers from the members of Foi & Vie in Mauritius, not forgetting the persevering work of the Huenusu community to root out the sources of corruption in Benin… I was renewed in my way of doing theology by Fr Mori, of Rinascita Cristiana in Italy, during the MIAMSI European assembly on building Europe in Strasburg in 1998, but also by the enthusiasm of the Brazilian theologian Davina Moscoso who has been accompanying the SAL for so many years. I loved the prayer deeply rooted in life and the Bible of the Indian Ocean board, on several occasions in both Reunion and Madagascar, whose melodious and gentle hymns had a taste of something I had never heard, in other words, paradise. And I was struck by the perseverance of my friends on the African continent in their desire to work on the birth of an apostolate of people in responsible positions in this continent of the future, which has just been materialized by the birth of the MIAMSI African Board in November 2012.

Then, the collaboration between the laity and the clergy, the deep links forged, doubtless also due to the poverty of our human and material means and the incredible commitment of MIAMSI officials. I have had the grace of teaming up with 3 presidents: Brigitte Devaux, Geneviève Tyack and Daniel Guéry, in the midst of incredible difficulties (the “evil one” seeming to take pleasure in demolishing the plans they had thought up or that had been entrusted to us). But in these apostles, those 3 and many others, I have contemplated the fruits of the Second Vatican Council, taking seriously the responsibility of the laity in the Church and society. Yes, Paul VI had brilliant instinct when he decided to give Marie-Louise Monnet, our founder, the council decree on the Apostolate of the Laity! I have also had much experience of this collaboration in the many journeys I have made on 4 continents, and I have been able to measure how many lay people in positions of responsibility suffer from not receiving concrete support from the local clergy or bishops, so often concerned and overwhelmed by the Church’s domestic life that they cannot realize the urgency of working to change ways of thinking in the world of people in responsible positions. In that regard, I have had to, and been able to, be deeply convinced, but also work on supporting my convictions theologically, both in the theology of the lay state and the Social Doctrine of the Church, a whole ongoing training course essential to staying in the ministry race… “stretching forward” as Saint Paul says…

Thirdly, the incredible daring of the 1st MIAMSI world congress in Fiuggi. It was a little international team, weakened by the illness and death of the one who had dared to think up this congress, Brigitte Devaux, our president from 1996 to 1998, who suggested a meeting open to ALL movement members (and not, as till then, only to elected officials). 1,300 people exchanged views, debated, sought, listened, bore witness, voted, prayed, celebrated, sang, and above all realized concretely the universality and the diversity of the “independent milieus”. The poverty of our human and material means forced us – and not for nothing in the mobilization and great success of that meeting – to make the most of an essential element of the Church’s social doctrine, subsidiarity

  • Dare to convene people from independent milieus on the millennium goals (so face the realities of poverty, bad development, the growing gap between the “North” and the “South”, and have to reflect not from oneself, but from the lives of others, the destitute…),
  • Open a Catholic congress with the exciting testimony of M. Yunus, a Muslim from Bangladesh and discover 2 or 3 years later while on missionary trips the countless microcredit institutions set up by MIAMSI members,
  • Make “North people” aware of the potential and appropriateness of “South people”, and “South people” aware of the ability of “North people” to open up and convert,
  • Organize a meeting where the players were not outside experts, but the expertise of MIAMSI members themselves who exchanged passionate views for 3 days under the leadership and according to the schedule of movement members from 4 continents,
  • Decide on some very concrete and precise objectives, possible to implement, with a very democratic process, and discover a few years later how much the movements really implemented the “ACT” in the life review approach,
  • And above all, had the experience that MIAMSI is a real “rainbow” family, forged from all the cultures and sensitivities of the peoples we come from…
  • this is having the experience of the Pentecostal Spirit which blows where it will, but which especially fans the apostolic fire in the faith, the hearts .. and the hands of MIAMSI members!

Lastly, the brilliant invention of “CITIZEN FORUMS” in Africa. A fruit of the imagination of Dominique Lemau de Talancé and Jean de Dieu Dembélé pursuant to the “group of 8” (which grouped officials of international Catholic action movements) at the end of the 90s, this Citizen Forum was born in Bamako in 2003 and 2004, responding to the call from the first African synod which invited Christians to get involved in politics. I was immediately dragged into this adventure, the basis of which was that MIAMSI and JICI “freely” proposed that people committed in their West African Churches and/or in church movements and wanting to link their faith with their lives, in an international dimension (at least 5 or 6 countries represented),  take seriously the citizenship dimension of their life in society and the Church, take nourishment from the Church’s Social Doctrine and discern lines of concrete action to which they could commit. So it was that we dealt with political life in Bamako in 2004, economic initiative in Cotonou in 2007 and the directions of the 2nd African synod (justice, peace, reconciliation and interfaith dialogue) at Conakry in 2010, the last time with the participation of Muslim associations.

The MIAMSI African Board largely owes its birth to the Citizen Forums, as they enabled us to meet the Church movements that were on the same wavelength as MIAMSI (such as HUENUSU in Benin) or evoke the desire in people in responsible positions to create a movement in their own country to pursue the dynamics generated by the Forums. I was able to meet, even contemplate many African lay people who are active, who take seriously the development of the “whole man and all men”, who work, who change ways of thinking… in other words Africa – Hope!

Yes, I thank God for this ministry as international chaplain which carries on today as the   “representative for Africa” : I had the feeling of “harvesting the grapes” (I’m an incorrigible Burgundian…) of this mission I received with the first meeting of the MIAMSI African Board in Rabat last July! May this good wine stimulate brothers and sisters in the other MIAMSI regions to invent new paths so that people in responsible positions discover that they can live such responsibilities evangelically for the good of all mankind…

 

 

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