The Inter-regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa, “IMBISA”, gathered at St. Padre Pio Retreat and Conference Centre, Rietvallei, Gauteng, from 15th to 19th August 2022. Invited were Bishops, Priests and Sisters from the Southern African region. The Theme of the meeting highlighted the importance of Psycho-Spiritual Counselling for Church and Pastoral workers. Fr. Dumisani Vilakati Director of the IMBISA secretariat, in his opening address, stated that the theme was a follow-up of the IMBISA Plenary held in Maputo in 2019, that identified the need for human formation for the clergy and religious that often leads to abuses in the Church.
The workshop was officially opened by Bishop Joseph Sephamola OMI, of Lesotho who is a member of the IMBISA Standing Committee and in charge of the IMBISA Secretariat Pastoral department. In attendance were five Bishops from IMBISA region, as well as 32 Priests, brothers and Sisters from the English-speaking conferences of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana; and Portuguese-speaking conferences of Mozambique, Angola and Sao Tome and Principe.
Experts from the region were brought together to facilitate the workshop. Their fields included Psychology, Theology and Safeguarding. Topics covered were:
- Psycho-Spiritual Counselling (Fr. José da Cruz Muluta);
- Theological Foundations for Psychological Counselling (Fr. Rafael Sapato);
- Holistic Nature of the Human Person (Fr. James Juma);
- Vulnerability among Catholic Pastoral Agents (Br. Fortune Chakasara);
- Unhealthy Psychological Consequences (Sr. Otsetswe Musindo);
- Management of the Impacts of Covid-19 on Consecrated Life and Evangelisation (Sr. Maria Gabriela Brito André).
What emerged strongly was the importance of the integration of Psychology and Spirituality that addresses the holistic nature of the human person – mind, body and soul integrated, not compartmentalised. The following recommendations were made:
- Establish an Association of professionals in the region with expertise in Psychology, Spiritual Direction and Psycho-Spirituality. Draw up a data-base of such persons.
- Accompaniment for leadership (Bishops, Superiors, priests and Religious) on self-awareness and self-knowledge (Personality types, emotional intelligence, assessments for seminarians and religious candidates.)
- Having a liaison Bishop from IMBISA for Psycho-Spiritual Interventions and the development of an IMBISA centre/ programs for such interventions.
- Integrate psychology in seminaries, that is multi-dimensional: educational, developmental, therapeutic and for assessment taking into consideration the African worldview.
- Ongoing formation in form of training and workshops in the fields of Psychology, Psycho –Spirituality.