An investigation of inculturation of religious life in two female Roman Catholic congregation of Zambia

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Inculturation is an approach or method that has been used by the Roman Catholic Church to indigenise Catholicism especially in Africa and Asia. Inculturation is the encounter or dialogue between the Christian message and cultures. The study sought to investigate the inculturation of women.s religious life in Zambia. Two women congregations, one missionary and one local were sampled for the study. The study was carried out in four provinces of Zambia namely; Central, Copperbelt, Lusaka and Southern. Domestication of the Catholic faith has evoked different responses in the Roman Catholic communities, theologians, scholars of religion and critics of varying dispositions. It has brought about two schools of thought. There are those who see inculturation as a valuable and effective tool for evangelisation of the Gospel in Africa, and those who see it as threatening the core values of Catholicism or diluting them. The study used the qualitative case study design. The research design targeted a population of 89 participants. It included 55 sisters, 2 bishops, 10 priests, 8 former sisters, 4 former brothers and 6 practising Catholics. Data was collected through interviews, focus group discussions, observations and document analysis. The data was analysed using the thematic approach and presented in a descriptive manner. The findings revealed that there was a degree of implementation of inculturation of religious life in some areas such as liturgy, prayer, religious ceremonies and some aspects of community living and dress mode. However, the process of implementation has been slow and no implementation has occurred in the area of evangelical counsels (vows of chastity, poverty and obedience). The study also established that there were particular reasons that hindered or slowed down the inculturation of religious life in Zambia. These included conservative leaders in both congregations and the Church, cultural diversity, non appreciation of African values by some religious persons, lack of knowledge of the Zambian culture, ill understanding of the concept of inculturation, fear of diluting the Christian message and religious life, and rigid Canon Law and Constitutions. Consequently, the study identified a number of measures to address the challenges contributing to hindering or slowing down of the process of implementation of inculturation of religious life. The measures include educating the religious persons on the significance of inculturation of religious life, putting in place deliberate policies that would encourage the sisters to take the risk of embarking on the process of inculturation, having qualified personnel in formation houses, carrying out more research on inculturation of religious life. It was further recommended that the Church and congregation leaderships should be more flexible and give freedom and encouragement to those interested in domesticating religious life. Overall, the researcher argues that, since the Synod of Bishops on Consecrated Life gave a directive to inculturate religious life, the onus is on the religious persons themselves to realise the significance of integrating religious life with local cultural values. This is because inculturation cannot be imposed, rather it is spontaneous and it requires reflection on the part of sisters themselves to find a way of living an inculturated religious life.
Religious life of women-Zambia , Africa, religious life and customs , Christianity and culture-Zambia , Inculturation of religious life-Zambia , Christian ethics-Africa