A Unique Retreat in COVID-19 Situation

Southern Africa

Originally Published on OMIWORLD.ORG

Click here to see the article en Español

“One of a kind!”, “truly a renewal” are but two among many worthy impressions of the OMISA annual Retreat 2020 which began on Sunday the 23rd of August ending on Saturday the 29th. Inspired by a powerful quote highlighted by Fr General in his May letter on the feast of St Eugene de Mazenod “We were born for times like this” was the theme for our retreat in view of the ever challenging words of the founder for our mission, to “lead men to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and finally, we must help them to become saints”, calling us to a “bold Mazenodian creativity and audacity.”

This retreat was not what we were used to as a province. An online retreat, preached from Fr. Bonga MAJOLA’s YouTube channel saw members congregate around screens and computer monitors daily at 9am and at 3pm to listen to his reflections. Prior to the retreat Fr Bonga had found himself on the repatriation flight from France to South Africa to be with his ill mother (who eventually passed away on 30 September 2020), and so he preached the entire retreat from the comfort of a hotel room in Johannesburg where he was in quarantine. With a few minor glitches in the beginning, the retreat went underway and made for an unforgettable experience.

Different though it was, it provided for some powerful and meaningful ‘virtual’ and definitely spiritual unity of all the Oblates right across the Province, with the exception of one Oblate who could not follow the online retreat from where he was. Some Oblates took initiative and congregated themselves in a retreat house for the duration of the retreat to fully enjoy the retreat experience, but for some, a great number followed the retreat from house communities. As this was the first of its kind in our province, it opened the Oblate retreat experience to a greater number of people. A link was shared to a greater number of people, including our lay associates and other friends of the Oblates, opening for a greater sharing of our life and mission. Fr Bonga was a good Retreat Director whose reflections on the life of our founder in the context of the COVID-19 situation was very refreshing. Our latest newsletter states: “Fr Bonga did not preach to us, but witnessed to the call to the Oblate way of life by passionately sharing his learning and experience” and so true.

On the whole, a powerful retreat that challenged me to look back, evaluate my part in the Oblate mission and move forward fully entrusting myself to the Lord and to the Blessed Mother. All this done in the very grounds that I have been sent to minister. What more could one ask for!