This is the title of the intervention I was asked to hold during this Second African Continental Meeting.
What is a CAM?
Which are CAM’s activities?
Which are the difficulties they have to face?
Which are their future prospects?
I shall try to give an answer to these main questions.
I. What is a CAM?
A session organized by the Episcopal Commission for the Lay Apostolate was held in November 23rd/26th 2000 in the Centre Théresien of Gitega. Various important themes were dealt with. One of them referred to the definition of Catholic Action Movement and was held by H.E. Msgr. Bernard Bududira, Bishop of the diocese of Bururi. He is the most competent person to deal with this theme. So I shall try just to paraphrase him.
This intervention concerning CAM brings to light four characteristics of Catholic Action, namely:
1. care for the Chuch;
2. cooperation with the hierarchy;
3. joint action;
4. action under the hierarchy’s superior direction.
From all this we may derive that a CAM is that Movement whose members share the care for the Church for evangelizing men’s and women’s cosciences through a human and christian formation in all their spheres of life, so as to imbue the various social groups and environments with the Gospel spirit.
This is done with the help of many techniques, according to the Movements’ specificity.
In Burundi CAM are classified as follows:
CAM: Scouts; Guides; Eucharistic Movement; Legio Mariae; Chiro-Xaveri; Young Christian Students; Catholic Working Youth; A.G.I.; Teachers Equipes.
All of them attended this meeting. To these are to be added: Kolping Family; St. St Vincent de Paul and Abana ba Mariya.
Spiritual Movements: Fraternity of Mary Queen of the Hearts; League of the Sacred Heart; Friends of Domenico Savio; Adorators etc.
Ecclesial Movements: Schoenstatt; Focolari; Family of Cana; Movement of Charismatic Renewal; New Life for Reconciliation; Marial Sacerdotal Movement etc.
All these Movements support their members, form them, direct them and their apostolic action in a way as to achieve more important results than if every member acted individually by himself.
CAM’s goal is to announce the Good News and to build God’s Kingdom. The hierarchy has its own righs and duties towards the laypeople and viceversa, with the aim to achieve the members’ sanctification and to enable them to be witnesses: “you will be my witnesses in the world”, as the theme of this meeting says.
How do CAM contribute to building God’s Kingdom? This brings us to speak about CAM’s activities.
II. CAM’s activities
Lumen Gentium No 31, quoted in the magazine CHARITE’ No 3 issued on Easter 1972, at pag 16, says:
“It is laypeople’s proper task to search God’s Kingdom through dealing with the temporal affairs and orienting them according to God’s plan… There they are called by God to contribute, as a leaven, to the sanctification of the world”.
This task is daily fulfilled by CAM, thanks to their organization of charitable, apostolic, development activities. Moreover by organizing the formation of their members and leaders, who are helped in this by joining one Movement or another and according to the specifity of every Movement..
II.1 – Charitable activities
More or less, in all their reports, CAM mention many activities towards the poor: drawing water, looking out for wood, cultivating their fields, building or restoring the elders’ houses, visiting and helping – both on a moral and an economic side – the sick in the hospital or in the house, taking care of the children whose parents are in the hospital, organizing merrymakings for the sick, planting the fields with vegetables, sweet potatoes, or manioca… whose harvest is devoted to the needy, organizing games for the children in difficult situations (orphans, street urchins…), literacy campaigns etc…
Moreover, thanks to the yearly themes, collections of money are organized. In 1981 it was given out to the handicapped and since 1993 up today to disastered people.
II.2. – Apostolic activities
Most of CAM’s members are engaged in:
– animating the liturgy;
– forming acolytes and masters of ceremonies;
– taking care of the vestry;
– committing themselves with the conversion of non-Christians who are followed by CAM ‘s members up to the Baptism.
The godfathers and godmothers of the converted people become CAM’s members.
In the schools, the pupils who behave badly are admonished by CAM’s members who rouse them by their good example.
CAM participate also in the Parish Councils and in coordinating the Catholic Action at all levels.
II.3. – Activities for development
In Burundi, activities for development were organized since the eighties, after the 1st National Conference of the UPRONA Party. At the end of this event, all Burundian people, with no exception, were urged to get down to work for building the Nation. In fact also in the various international conferences (among them the “Afroforum” in Bukavo on April 13th-20th 1970), CAM were regularly urged to participate actively in developing their own countries. To this regard we wish to quote the following resolution; in full, that speaks by itself: “Let all the Movements participate in working for the civic education and for the development of their country, and in the initiatives undertaken in this field by the governments of their different nations in view of the common good”.
For this reason, camps of work and formation were systematically organized. Some press-cuttings bring news about the following camps for:
– building schools for basic-education;
– manufacturing briks;
– building multipurpose halls;
– preparing the ground for building schools or play-grounds;
– water pipes etc…
III – Difficulties met with by CAM
In the first place we censure four of them, which were also pointed out by H.E. Msgr. Bernard Bududira in his intervention held in November 2000 in Gitega.
1. Lay people are not aware of their fundamental vocation to evangelize as Christ’s believers. As a matter of fact, many laypeople, in good faith, think that the apostolic activity is a matter of the priests, the religious or the catechists. Now, announcing the Good News of the Salvation is the mission of every baptized, according to everyone’s particular life condition.
2. Distance and indifference: many lay Christians feel uncomfortable in being considered as direct or indirect Agents of direct or indirect Evangelization
Direct Evangelization refers to the apostolic activities. Indirect Evangelization means to witness faith through life, to infuse the evangelic spirit in daily professional and social life.
This challenge should be answered to by a clear and resolute engagement in Church’s life.
3. A partial and incomplete outlook and practice of the life of faith. There are those who think that Christian life is bounded to prayer and cult. They forget that faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead (Jm 2,14-17). This challenge should be faced through a commitment aimed to transform our family, social and ecclesial environments.
4. Fear to take position against unjust attitudes, behaviours and structures. Face to this great fault of the Christians, we bear witness to Christ in our spheres of life if we imbue them with truth, social justice and solidarity.
Furthermore we wish to point out the following:
1. Lack of Permanent Offices as well as of permanent staffs.
2. Inadequacies in material and financial means (aids, means of communication: telephone, fax, postal box, files, aids for animating the various sessions etc., lack of small equipments for the offices: paper, envelopes, wiriting machines etc…)
3. Resistance met with in promoting justice, truth and peace in our spheres of life.
4. Working in scattered groups.
5. Risk to work in closed vessels with no opening to the outside world.
6. Lack of parish and diocesan Assistants duly formed for this role.
7. Insufficient formation concerning: theology, Bible, liturgy, cathechesis, Church’s magisterium, animation of groups etc…
IV. Future prospects for CAM
1. Keeping alive and effective the option for a permanent Christian and human formation through additional sessions of formation and re-training, duly programmed.
2. Choosing to form a laity who is co-responsible and engaged within the parishes.
3. Analysing through which ways and means CAM can achieve an organic autonomy fully respecting the cooperation with the hierarchy
4. Evangelizing the intellectuals’ environment. It is too easy for them to talk about the Christian base-communities. Also in this case commitment is necessary to achieve good results.
5. Continuing and increasing assistance and urgent interventions in favour of the needy: it is a duty of charity.
6. Educating those who receive assistance to participate in their own development (DELTA Project to be spread among all CAM). This option should be more resolute and needs means to be realized.
7. Being firmer in organizing the youths (formation through crafts and followed by post-formation).
CAM’s and CA’s experiences and projects differ according to the different environments. We can however say that their balance is positive considering the material and socio-economic conditions in which they usually work.
As a matter of fact, since their setting up in one country or another, CAM and CA always suffered owing to financial problems. The lack of financial means and of means of transport affects the activities at all levels in a negative way.
This situation influences the organization of every activity even if leaders, both intellectually qualified and professionally trained, are present in one or another CAM or CA.
Voluntarism has its own limits in a world characterized by an unlimited and unloyal competition. Owing to this a well-thought re-arrangement of CAM’s and CA’s programmes and activities shoud be drawn up.
Nevertheless the political and religious authorities, who look upon CAM’s and CA’s favourably, trust them and are contributing to their expansion.
We wish to thank them very much. I hope that in future we will both continue to cooperate, so that the ideal of CHARITY may triumph and spread in the world in general and in Burundi in particular and that the Holy Spirit will inspire us.
So we will be witnesses of Christ in Africa!
II African Continental Meeting
YOU WILL BE MY WITNESS IN AFRICA. Reality and prospects for the laypeople’s formation. The contribution of Catholic Action/2 – Bujumbura, August 21st/25th 2002
- Térence MBONABUCA - CAM’s leader and Xavery leader in Burundi