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On this Tuesday, June 2, the different representatives of the SMA entities have gathered at the Cartières in Chaponost for the Plenary Council meeting. Through some photos and videos we will live with them this important moment of SMA.

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Here are some of the extracts of the opening speech of the council pronounced by Fr. Fachtna O'Driscol, the Superior General of the Congregation: :

It is my pleasure once again to welcome you to this second Plenary Council gathering of this mandate. We are delighted to receive the welcome of SMA Lyon Province. My thanks to Fr Gaby Noury and his Council for facilitating us here in the beautiful surroundings of Les Cartieres, Chaponost. […]

As always, our world has experienced many joys and sorrows since we gathered in Rome one year ago. The brightest light on the horizon continues to be the witness and extraordinary leadership of Pope Francis. No week goes by when he does not surprise us with some new insight and some new challenge. He continues to challenge the entire church to come out of itself and evangelise the world not through proselytising but through witness. Surely missionaries like ourselves must hear this call and challenge in a deeply personal way. […]

Pope Francis has brought new urgency, new passion and, I would suggest, new authenticity to this mission.

He has a passion for the poor, the immigrant, the forgotten, and the “throw-aways.” He’s got a passion for people on the peripheries, on the fringes and borders of life. He is modelling for us the opposite of what the world models. The world thrives on manipulative, exploitative, competitive power.

The first day images

Our mission world has been especially coloured in the past year by different phenomena: :
- The continuing violence suffered by Christian faithful at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who seem to grow more barbaric by the day.

The Ebola pandemic that afflicted especially the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Personal insecurity continues as a condition of life in our mission territories.

Among the stories of pain there have been many stories of joy and happiness. Most of these never reach a public forum but one event that we all rejoiced in was the ordination of Francois Gnonhossou as bishop of Dassa Zoume, Benin. As I said at the time of the announcement, Benin’s gain is SMA’s loss. The calling of Francois to be bishop is further testimony of the high regard in which SMA missionaries are held. I again take the opportunity of this Plenary Council to wish every blessing to Francois in his new role. I know he will be taking a keen interest on developments here, not least the choice of his successor, which will take place later during our meeting.

Another obvious joy is that we will have twenty five ordinations to priesthood and eighteen ordinations to diaconate and permanent commitment this year. We give thanks to God for this and acknowledge the good work done by our formators.

In conclusion, we are all well in tune with the notion that life is change. Christian life is most definitely about change, as Pope Francis reminds us on frequent occasions. But nobody finds change easy. Even though we may look forward to a change of environment, the change nevertheless brings new realities that need to be engaged with.