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Irish team 1
The Irish Provincial Assembly took place at the African Missions Retreat & Conference Centre in Dromantine, Newry, Co Down from 1 - 20 July 2019. Among the decisions taken by the 27 delegates was the election of Fathers Malachy Flanagan as Provincial Leader, Eamonn Finnegan as Vice Provincial Leader and Anthony Kelly as Provincial Councillor. Fr Malachy served in Ilorin diocese and Kontagora Vicariate in Nigeria as well as Provincial Bursar, Provincial Councillor and Vice Provincial Leader in Ireland.

Fr Eamonn served in Lagos archdiocese, Nigeria in the famous Badagry parish where the SMA (Italian) Missionary - Fr Francesco Borghero - became the first SMA priest to begin the evangelization of western Nigeria in the 1880’s. Fr Eamonn has served in many capacities in Ireland, as FVC Director in three of the five FVC units. He was Superior of SMA Dromantine where he undertook a major renovation and refurbishment of what is now an international Retreat & Conference Centre and during the past six years he did a similar job as Superior of SMA Claregalway. After serving a six year term as Provincial Councillor (2001-2007) he returned to Ajah parish in Lagos to begin the building of the parish church in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The completed church will be officially opened in 2020.

Fr Anthony, as well as serving as SMA Vocations Director in the 1990’s, has served in Ghana, Zambia and Kenya. He was the SMA Regional Superior in Zambia and, following a sabbatical, he was the Spiritual Director of the SMA House of Studies in Nairobi, Kenya, until his election last July.

Fr Anthony’s uncle is one of the giants of the early years of intensive Missionary expansion in Nigeria: Bishop Patrick J Kelly, Bishop of Benin City.

The Assembly was conducted by a South African Christian Brother, Br Michael Burke CFC. It was a divinely-inspired choice. Br Michael facilitated the Assembly in a way none of the participants expected. It was Gospel-focused throughout - with Lectio Divina providing a spiritual basis to the work of each day - and he challenged us, again and again, to keep ourselves rooted in our own experience and commitment to live out the decisions we would eventually make.

At the end of the Assembly we had five major issues to address over the coming six years:

It is important to note that a number of our lay partners and staff were involved in the Assembly. Our Laity Coordinator, Justice Officer and Communications Officer participated fully in the plenary and working group sessions. Other lay invitees presented on different aspects of their involvement as members of the wider SMA family, particularly the members of our Justice and Laity committees as well as Ciaran McShane, representing the FOA - Friends of Africa (a lay based independent youth missionary group founded by Fr Anthony Kelly). The FOA / SMA cooperation in the coming years will be an essential element of achieving what we decided at PA19. We also welcomed Nóra and Joe Robinson who shared with us on their positive experience as FVC Head Sponsors for many years and, latterly, as members of SMALA - SMA Lay Associates.

The Assembly committed, personally and collectively, to five principles:

1. Revisioning Mission: permanently in a state of mission;

2. Owning our Province, with all our heart;

3. Thinking and acting inclusively - opening our hearts and doors;

4. Integrating Justice - living and promoting Justice;

5. Structures for SMA Mission in a Changing World.

The active implementation and achievement of the goals underlying these decisions will necessitate an increased lay involvement, both in a voluntary and paid capacities. The Irish Province has been blessed by a bedrock of lay (volunteer) participation which will assist us as we - members of the wider SMA family - laity and clergy - work together to achieve the strategy decided by the Assembly:

A. to continue the process of articulating an inclusive missionary vision grounded on the founding charism;

B. to extend an invitation to all who share SMA missionary values to partner with us in shaping and living that mission;

C. to undertake a reform of the Province’s structures so as to render them more effective for developing and delivering this mission;

D. and to model it all in practice by the quality and depth of our missionary witness.

I conclude this brief overview of the Provincial Assembly with a sentence from the Assembly Message:

“The work of the 2019 Provincial Assembly will be successful only to the extent that all members of the Province and its supporters respond to it with openness, courage and commitment... may the Holy Spirit ‘who has been poured into our hearts’ (Romans 5:5) help us all translate them into action in ways that continue the mission entrusted to the Founder in today’s world.”

Amen.

Fr. Martin Kavanagh, SMA