“We renew our faith in the word of the Lord which invites faithful families to this openness [to the gospel]. It invites all those who want to share the prophecy of the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God!” Pope Francis during the World Meeting of Families, Philadelphia, USA.
The family unit is central to society and the church; the challenges facing the family unit worldwide are dire. In 2013 Pope Francis convoked a series of special meetings for clergy and ordinary people to discuss challenges facing the family and to pray intensely for families worldwide. This would come to a close with the Synod of Bishops that recently ended in October 2015. With this in mind and to support the Holy Father, the University Chancellor, Bishop Echevarria (Prelate of Opus Dei) declared 2015 a Marian Year of the Family, during which all would pray through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Jesus to strengthen families and family life.
At Strathmore University, the University Chaplaincy has led the community in celebrating this important year with different initiatives to ensure a spiritual journey to support to enrich family life. To kick off, a special mass for all families was celebrated in January 2015 and similarly a mass was celebrated to close the year in November. The attendance of these celebrations was open not only to staff and students, but also to family members and the community around the university.
During the year, in liaison with departmental teams, plans were made to schedule mass for departments on a monthly basis where students and members of staff actively participated in preparing for the masses, readings during mass, serving and giving gifts for offertory. The masses started in February with the cafeteria staff, followed by the housekeeping staff in the following month, School of Finance and Applied Economics the month after, School of Accountancy, Strathmore Business School, @ILab Africa Research Centre, Faculty of Information Technology, School of Law, School of Management and Commerce, and finally the Administrative staff in the month of November.
The homilies during the year were centered on themes to support family life, and professional careers of different departments, such as accounting, law and business with special emphasis on principles of justice, ethics and industriousness in correspondence to ones’ Christian values. The masses were important because they cultivated the spirit of prayer and offering sacrifices while serving as a channel for committing families to God throughout the year.
Every Tuesday, the Rosary was prayed after lunch time mass in the chapel, with the aim being to pray for intentions of families, and once a month, the rosary would be prayed at the shrine of the Holy Family. The students would lead these sessions.
During the year, other initiatives to reinforce family life included short videos starring members of staff with their spouses and children. In these videos, people discussed what family means and those values that contribute to the success of families.
The Pope has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy 2015-2016 beginning December 8th 2015. We pray for its success and a renewal of the church.