NAIROBI, Kenya — A young Kenyan and a young refugee from Congo sitting next to one another may not seem to have much in common. The same could be said of a Rwandese girl sitting alongside a Ugandan.
But it’s their Catholic faith that brought them together with 60 other young people during a five-day retreat in early December planned by the Taize Brothers Community at the National Catholic Youth Center in Nairobi.
The retreat and the religious community’s other ministry outreach efforts have helped young people better understand their faith, study the Bible, pray and discern what God is calling them to in life.
Brother Luc and three other brothers coordinate the ministry to young people for the Taize community, which has been in Kenya for 10 years since being invited by the country’s bishops. He told Catholic News Service the effort is meant to help young people integrate faith into daily life.
The Taize Brothers Community is an ecumenical monastic order, incorporating both Catholic and Protestant brothers. While ecumenical, it is strongly influenced by Catholic theology. The community has about 100 members drawn from 30 countries and its communities minister around the world.
The outreach in Kenya has gained a strong following among young Catholics, many of whom are refugees from neighboring countries. Others involved are students, including those enrolled in universities, and young people with physical disabilities.
“It would seem we are out there to fill up a missing gap in the pastoral mission among the youth in the church,” Luc said.
The retreats are meant to gather young people in a quiet setting to learn and share the Catholic faith. But ongoing activities in small groups outside of the occasional retreats help participants understand the importance of living their faith constantly, Luc explained.
He credited Pope Francis for inspiring youth ministry leaders to continue their work of building a church of missionary disciples who live their faith with joy. The upcoming Synod of Bishops in October to discuss young people and vocations is an example of the pope’s leadership for the entire church, he said.
Young people involved in the community’s ministry have come to appreciate the brothers’ work.
Kenyan Samuel Kamau said the brothers have taught him to meditate and pray, study the Bible and discern the message of what he has read. “In addition, I have learned how to associate and live with other people outside my immediate community and country,” he told CNS.
Charity Apio of Uganda said she learned about the brothers’ ministry from a priest and was glad she became involved in programs to learn about God. “I plan to continue to attend their activities, meetings, seminars, retreats whenever possible,” she said.
Christian Wandox of Rwanda also said the retreat helped him understand God a little better.
“I have tested their spiritual fruits,” he said of the brothers. “They are sweet and I would like to continue to benefit from them. I am what I am today, spiritually because of them. They have really shaped me, spiritually. May God bless and continue to bless them for their spiritual work among the youth.”