That was a question I posed to a group of women and men at a recent sodality conference?   All were black as are members of most of the sodality groups in South Africa.  That is of interest for me at this time when aspects of race remain a concern in the church.   For me personally 1979 and our first experience of Marriage Encounter was the first exposure Chris and I had of interacting with people of other races on a common footing.  We were all couples, all family people.  This has been a foundation for our ministry to families all these years.  At first together and these last years mine alone as a widow with MARFAM  where I have cherished my contact with many other widows of all colours and cultures.  However family ministry has not been easy or straightforward because I have also come to understand our different ways of being family and of being church.  MARFAM’s slogan “LIVING IN THE CHURCH MARFAM - Living in the Church in the HomeIN THE HOME’  can be experienced very differently but remains a common experience.

So to the question of Ubuntu and Catholicism.  I am a foreign born, western, white Catholic with a similar background to many of the missionaries who came to bring the gospel to Africa.  I love and appreciate the traditional liturgy especially religious music – mostly western music.  I do, and am happy to, visit a whole range of different parishes and participate in the Mass in their different ways.  I appreciate the differences and know that they are real.

Ubuntu has been an African concept, commonly used in secular discourse but has, to my knowledge, only occasionally been deeply reflected upon in the Catholic church.  Yet the concept is extremely scriptural and oh so Christian.  Ubuntu speaks of our common humanity, our recognition that “I am because we are” with all that implies; compassion and care for others, hospitality and working for the common good.  I believe we can equate it with mercy in its broadest sense, not only as forgiveness, which was such a strong focus in 2016 and according to Pope Francis should continue.

Choosing the theme of ubuntu is proving to be an eye-opener on different fronts especially enculturation.  Can we non-blacks adopt the concept ubuntu and can blacks recognise it in Catholic Social teaching, especially CST principles of solidarity and subsidiarity in addition to mercy? And can we all include a Christ-centred and Marian focus? centred and

As the theme for MARFAM’s 2018 Family Year Planner with the subtheme UBUNTU – FAMILIES DO MATTER  we can unpack it month by month with regard to marriage, parenting, grandparents, sexuality and more. We can unpack the African understanding and world-view for all of us as well as the Catholic beliefs that are so much in harmony with it.   And where else to do this best but in our homes, and from our homes to other families and groups where this experience can be enriching and a tool in the battle to overcome racism in the Church and society.

A suggested first step for parish life could be a Dedication Sunday where parish office-bearers and catechists are commissioned for the year.  Parents and families are the first catechists and so should not be left out.  Resources such as the Family Year Planner and daily reflections around the theme can be promoted.  They do highlight how Ubuntu is Catholic, yes very much so and it begins well when FAMILIES DO MATTER.

The quotation from Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Tutu opens it up even more.

Archbishop TUTU.   . “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”  From “No future without forgiveness. “  Desmond Tutu.


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