My name is Alain NZADI, a Congolese Jesuit, ordained as a priest on 14th July 2013. In September 2014 I started at the Research Centre for Social Action (CEPAS), a Jesuit centre founded in January 1965 in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo). I first started with CEPAS to work on their Congo-Afrique journal, the centre’s organ of communication which publishes articles on topics such as; the economy, politics, and social and cultural life. As such, my work with CEPAS had always been limited to the journal, and I had little to no direct involvement in “social engagement” besides editing articles sent for publication.
However, in September 2015, when the Father Provincial of the Jesuits of Central Africa appointed me Director of CEPAS, the level of my social engagement took an unexpected turn, one I would never have imagined when I first arrived at the centre. From then on, I no longer defined myself by my work with the Congo-Afrique journal, but by my relationship with CEPAS as an institution, and I became engaged on a number of “social fronts”: accompanying young people, lobbying political decision-makers, reflecting on societal issues (justice, democracy, citizen participation, etc.) by organising Social Days, etc. What impact has this social engagement had on my Christian faith in general, and on my ministerial priesthood in particular? Social engagement from then on became part of my ministerial vocation and simply the way I live my faith. Within this social engagement, I profoundly experience my vocation as a priest of the Lord at the service of the many brothers and sisters I encounter in my ministerial priesthood.
I revisit all the experiences I have had with the many young people who visit our centre. I am amazed by the potential they show. At the same time, I share the concerns of many young people whose future is still caged by the bleak socio-political and economic situation in my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. I see in their eyes a permanent look of anxiety that verges on disorientation. When they leave university, they have the impression that their future is one of closed doors and that society has left them by the wayside. As far as possible, I hold them in my prayers and in everything I can do to contribute to social change. Seeing this mass of young people unsettled by their future prospects, I feel summoned in my ministerial priesthood to become, each day more, an agent of change and a disciple of Christ capable of contributing to the liberation of those to whom God’s mission calls me. Working in such a disheartening socio-political environment for young people, I ask the Lord to help me each day to practice my ministerial priesthood differently, not only by trying to find the words of liberation, but by becoming, in my daily choices, an agent of change and liberation.
That is why Christ came to us; that is why I became a priest. I pray that the Lord may fill me with confidence of His presence at the heart of my social engagement, where I am called to fulfil my priestly vocation and simply my Christian faith.