The death of Father Maurice Prat - a man whom I was afraid of as a student, but whom I subsequently appreciated - recently it made possible to update the "Little Biotteau" that we could call today the "Little Favier". And I became aware, once again, of the situation of our Province. We are now only 106 confreres; 7 of us are under 70; our average age is 82 years old.

At human views, the future is very dark, we might even say desperate. But in the faith, the future is glorious : still very little time and we will all meet again in the house of the Father; we will see Him face to face, in the light, the One we have served; and we will be able to thank him for having called us, and for having accompanied us throughout our missionary life.

When I received this information about the state of our Province, a meeting of SMA trainers was held at Centre-Brésillac, in Calavi, with the presence of some District formatters, and a vocational animator, as always, this meeting was very international: 1 confrere came from India, 1 from Zambia, 1 from Egypt, 2 from Kenya, 2 from Ivory Coast, 3 from Nigeria, 3 from Togo, and we were 5 from Benin. Fr. Rozario, the General Council was leading this meeting, helped by a confrere sma from Tanzania, Fr. James Shimbala, who is totally dedicated to formation.

I was amazed by what I saw, and I still see it, as everyone goes back to join his community. Even though my tired ears and my ignorance of the English language did not allow me to understand everything, this meeting filled me with joy for several reasons that I would like to share with you:

1. We were between SMA, inhabited by carrying a common project. No animator from outside. This means that today we have the capacity to lead our formatters’ meetings ourselves. There are good, well-trained and competent people here to provide this service. It is the result of a lot of work, done in the past years and continuing today, to form quality formatters, able to ensure, as it should, the human, intellectual, spiritual and missionary growth of our students.

2. I also discovered that the SMA has a real and very consistent training project for anyone who wants to join us. This project consists of forming missionaries who are free, mature, capable of initiative, determined to implement the charism of our Society, missionaries open to the world of today and rooted in faith in Christ Jesus. I was happy to hear that, and to see that this project is shared by all. Up to us work it out.

3. My great joy was to find, as confreres, young people I had once welcomed as seminarians for language courses in Cotonou. In 25 years, they have also gained in age and, little by little, they have come to be in charge of our formation houses in Africa and India, as head of the ICMA (African Missionary Catholic Institute) in Abidjan. I became aware of this reality with a lot of emotion, somewhat like old Simeon. It was a great gift for me.

4. I also felt that the confreres are very committed to their responsibilities, well aware of the problems and difficulties of today, determined to make the necessary discernment in the choice of candidates; and this work is always very delicate. A lot of sharing, spontaneous, marked by freedom and respect. They helped us to highlight some issues, such as the number of students ... Thinking of the General Assembly whose that is going to start in a few months, I told myself that the future of the SMA is in good hands, the spirit that I saw at work continues and develops.

5. I witnessed again this sma spirit we speak so much of, made of simplicity and fraternity. As usual in most of our houses, the meals were festive; and everyone took his turn to help in the services, and no one hesitated to pass on an apron to do the dishes and prepare the dining room. And, apparently, everyone felt comfortable in this humble service. You can be a doctor of law or psychology, and be able to wash the plates and clean the tables. I thought that our founder, the invisible witness of this meeting, is surely happy to see that the family spirit is still present right in the life of his disciples.

During this meeting, I met a young confrere from Côte d'Ivoire, Fr. Jean-Paul Silué, with whom I shared a lot. Ordained in 2012, he was sent on a mission to Egypt, the country of his stage. I saw him as a happy man, well integrated in his country of adoption, knowing Arabic, entering little by little into the Catholic Coptic rite, like some of our confreres yesterday. He said to me: The blood of Egypt flows today in my veins; I am well and I hope to stay there for a long time, if God wills. And I remembered that day when the Province of Lyon decided not to send any more confreres to Egypt, for lack of combatants. In recent years, the SMA has once again become visible in this mission country as 7 young confreres work there, in Cairo and in Upper Egypt. Really, mission does not belong to us: man proposes, but God disposes!

Therefore this meeting that has just ended was a great gift for me. It helped me , once again, to look at the future on the side where the sun is rising. I was not dazzled, but I saw it shining. Yes, I think I can say it: the future is being built ... surely It is quite sure! Let's be happy: the Mission ad gentes and ad extra, which has been ours, goes on and on, and the SMA is doing everything c to prepare tomorrow's missionaries.

Fr. André Moriceau