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Horizons Programme, Nyungwe

24/03/2009: Malawi

The Horizons Programme that has been going on at Nyungwe in Malawi, since mid January 2009 has came to the end on March 12, 2009. Brothers John Bwanali and Arthur Ganiza interviewed the two brothers who are in-charge of the Programme: Bro. Barry Burns who is from New Zealand and Bro. Antoine Kazindu from Rwanda.

Brothers, what is this programme called Horizons and what has necessitated it?
The Horizons is a programme offered to the Institute by the Religious Life Commission. Its aim is to consolidate the vocation of young adult finally professed Marist Brothers between 30 and 40 years of age who can benefit from it.
It can be seen as a concrete response to the deep longing for a “fulfilment rooted in the religious ideal” (FG 381) at this particular stage of life.
It is the fruit of a reflection and review of our ongoing Formation. In response to the call of the XX General Chapter, the General Council organized a Review of the Programmes of Ongoing Formation in 2006. Provincials, recent renewal programme participants and Renewal Teams were involved in this Review by means of a questionnaire.
From this review, it appeared clearly that in many provinces of the Institute, there is nothing organized between the time of final profession and the midlife programme.

What were the initial expectations?
The consolidation of vocational growth and Marist Identity and Religious identity was the main reason of creating this new programme. It is a real need in many administrative units of the Institute.

How would describe your experience at Nyungwe in relation to this Horizons Programme?
Nyungwe, is a very special place with regard to its location and its changing climate. When we arrived at the place, our first impression was negative: an isolated place between hills. It took us some days to make it really our home for the rest of the nine weeks we were supposed to spend there.
Later, we realized that the fact of being isolated made it an ideal place for personal reflection and prayer. There are no attractive activities or places nearby. It was definitely among the best places for the Horizons programme. Lilongwe or Blantyre could have offered more advantages but also more inconveniencies.

Why was the number of participants reduced to almost half the target?
Being the first programme organized in Africa, it would have been great to have had a higher number of participants. However, it is already great that one province succeeded to send 7 participants. It is commendable!
Because of different school calendars in different parts of Africa, it is difficult to find the best time for all administrative units. Congratulation to the Southern Africa Province for making a great effort to release a good number of participants!

What difference does it make to have this programme at Nyungwe in Malawi and not Manziana in Italy?
For the team, the difference is great because Manziana is our home and everything is set to welcome Brothers who follow renewal programmes. When brothers come to Manziana, we receive them not only to the programme but also in our house, a familiar place for us.
The fact of having it in Malawi (Nyungwe) has the advantage of lessening the expenses and meeting the actual needs of the participants. That is why it was designed in collaboration with provincials. For this first programme, Brother Lawrence helped in finding some key presenters who are familiar with the context and culture.
There was less time wasted in adjusting to new environment for many participants. As consequence, we did not spend unnecessary energy at the beginning and during the programme. This probably facilitated the involvement of participants in the different activities.

From your point of view, has the programme met the set objectives and the initial expectation?
According to the community dynamics, the involvements of participants in the programme and the quality of presenters, we can say that the objectives were achieved.
While it is difficult to speak of real and lasting change occurring during a programme of nine weeks only, it is surely certain that the programme has sowed some seeds.

What could you recommend to our Superiors in relation to future plans of programmes like this one?
* To find a suitable place where 2 or 3 provinces can easily send participants.
* To explain very well the nature of the programme to Brothers and communities and to ask for their clear response.
* Nyungwe is very far from Lilongwe mainly for presenters coming from outside of Malawi.
* This programme helps the Brothers to know one another better and broaden the horizons of the understanding of their vocation, ministry and community life. It could be profitable for more brothers between 30 and 40 to be given the opportunity of attending the programme.

Any other final comments that you would like to make?
* Being the first programme of this kind, we could hardly imagine how brothers would receive it. The only reference we had was the evaluation of the team at El Escorial that led the first Horizons Programme in the Institute last year.
* Having participants who already know each other made the beginning relaxing and easy.
* Many thanks to the Southern Africa Province which took the responsibility of hosting the first programme of this kind in Africa. It has been an enriching experience.

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