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Ushering African Women into the Year of Faith: Reflection on Motu Proprio Data

Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Data, on the Door of Faith, invites all the faithful, women and men alike to enter through the “door of faith” and set out on a lifelong journey that we began at our baptism into the life of communion with our Triune God. He speaks of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm for the encounter with Christ. The theme for this year of faith namely “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” is very significant to African women who look forward to playing an active role at various stages of its planning, implementation, etc., at their local churches.

One of the striking points of this Letter is the citing of the Samaritan woman, of Lydia, and of Mary the Mother of God as women of great faith. Benedict XVI’s choice of the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman seems to point to the special role women have played throughout the history of the Church in fostering and witnessing to their communities about their faith in Jesus Christ. In this narrative, the Samaritan community is portrayed as having known the person of Jesus Christ through the faith of one of their nameless women. Furthermore, just like for the Samaritan woman, “wells” or “rivers” for African women, serve as places of meeting and rescue; a place where they have found solace while sharing their stories.

We also note that Jesus destroyed the basis for any hatred between Jew and Samaritan a move that makes the story more relevant to the Continent of Africa, a continent that has been torn by tribal and ethnic hatred. It also points to the need to appreciate more the role of women in society as well as in the church. The imagery of a woman as used in the text is encouraging to African women and it points to the need to challenge and eradicate the biases and the stereotypical attitudes projected onto women. It also shows the power of the marginalized to challenge, to bring us closer to God, and to remind us about solidarity and the preferential option for the poor. African women can thus draw strength and courage from this narrative in witnessing to their people, knowing that Jesus Christ who transforms their lives also calls them to discipleship. Thus, Motu Proprio Data challenges us to emulate Jesus’ paradigm and include women, not only in celebrating the “Year of Faith”, but in various stages towards its celebration. Admittedly, the Samaritan woman’s courage and faith are a wake-up call for African women to have faith in themselves and to believe that they have what it takes to actively contribute towards the “Year of Faith” at various levels.

Veronica Jemanyur Rop is a member of the Assumption Sisters of Eldoret, a local congregation based in Kenya. She is a doctoral student (PhD/STD/MT) in the Faculty of Theology, Department of Moral Theology at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Kenya. Veronica is also a receiptant of a CTEWC Scholarship for African women. She is also one of the contributors for CTEWC Newsletter African FORUM.