Malou Hameidat

married, ccn, Montagnieu

8 juin 2024

Foundation in Ivory Coast

Charismatic Renewal and community life

All it takes is a YES for the Lord to work wonders: this is how the Chemin Neuf Community came into being in Côte d'Ivoire.

In the 80s, the Charismatic Renewal was very active in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly in Abidjan, where prayer groups were multiplying. Some of the leaders felt the need for spiritual formation to better guide the participants. On the recommendation of Sister Agathe La Flèche, a sister of the Daughters of St Mary, Father Laurent Fabre, Founder of the Chemin Neuf Community, was invited to preach two retreats in Abidjan. He arrived in August 1986, accompanied by François Xavier Getti, then a seminarian. Agathe La Flèche had met Father Laurent Fabre during a stay in France.

Following these retreats, François Zongo and Victor Adangba, who had a call to the priesthood, left for the Congo and Les Pothières respectively. Eugène and Malou Hameidat also chose to spend a year of biblical and spiritual formation and discernment at Les Pothières. During that year, their small Charismatic Renewal fraternity, who stayed behind, supported them with their prayers.

In July 1987, at the end of this year of training, Victor Adangba joined the Jesuits, while François Zongo continued his training in Congo to become a priest of the Chemin Neuf Community Institute. Later, his vocation led him to work with street children in Abidjan. As for Eugène and Malou Hameidat, they returned to Côte d’Ivoire with the desire to live a community life within the Chemin Neuf. Their journey aroused the interest of several brothers and sisters who were already looking for a deeper spiritual experience. This led to the creation of a fraternity to discern the call to community life, and this group has grown over time. Some of its members felt the need for further formation, travelling to France or the Congo. The Community in France supported the start-up of this small group through regular visits.

Events evolved in 1989, when the Diocesan Office for Charismatic Renewal asked the Community to lead a three-week training course at the Anyama Seminary. Several participants in this training course were touched by the very enriching times of sharing and the work that the Community was doing.

The story took a new turn with the Cana sessions. A priest from the diocese of Bouaké, who had himself experienced a Cana session, told his bishop about it, and the bishop decided to organise one in his diocese. Father Laurent Fabre told Cardinal Yago, who also requested a session for the diocese of Abidjan. In 1989, two Cana sessions were organised, one in Bouaké and the other in Abidjan (Bingerville). A Spiritual Exercises retreat was also preached in Bouaké. Subsequently, many couples became involved in the Cana fraternities and helped launch Cana in other countries such as Guinea, Burkina Faso and Chad. The Cana Espérance and Fraternité Cana Espérance sessions were also successfully launched.

Brothers and sisters in Abijan,1992

The harvest was abundant, and around fifteen people felt a call to community life during Father Laurent’s second visit. They needed guidance, and it was Hasso Beyer who came to take charge of the beginning of this journey, while Henri Rakotoarisoa, who was accompanying Laurent, was still pursuing his studies. Henri returned in 1990 for the second Cana session, preceded by the first Cana retreat in Jacqueville. Henri then served at Saint Michel Parish in Adjamè and was ordained a deacon in 1991 at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Abidjan. This was also the date of the first Jericho in Côte d’Ivoire.

In 1992, thanks to the intervention of Aline Gbettie with Father Bogard, priest in the Saint Michel parish of Adjamé, Cardinal Bernard Yago, Archbishop of Abidjan, assigned the young workers’ hostel to the Community and entrusted it with the management of the CAM (Missionary Welcome Centre). However, this proved to be a heavy burden for the Community, which led to its resignation two or three years later. The life fraternity could then begin at the Foyer with Eliane Bossoh, Emma Hameidat, Brigitte Yayi and others. Previously, meetings alternated between Henri’s office and the Hameidat home. In January 1997, a second life fraternity was created in Bouaké with the families of Thérèse Ehouzou and Julie and Martin Souli. The Yessohs were involved in a neighbourhood fraternity, and Frans Van Beers was responsible for the Bouaké Community.

These years were marked by abundant fruit: in 1993, the first prayer group was launched in Cocody. In 1994, the first commitment was made by an Ivorian couple, and the fraternity of servant was launched. In 1995, the first commitment to celibacy and the first lifelong commitment. In 1998, the commitments in the Communion and in 2000, the first cycle A was organised in Tiberias…

However, the Ivorian Community has not been without its trials. The first was the departure for the Lord of our brother Sylvain Logon in 1995, around whom the Community lived a beautiful fraternity. However, his wife left the Community shortly afterwards.

A question arose as to the status of the Community in Côte d’Ivoire, whether to remain under the aegis of Chemin Neuf in France or to become an independent African Community, detaching itself from the sponsorship of the members of the original Community. As time went by, some brothers left the group to set up their own Community, while others were involved in parishes.

Tensions also arose between the Charismatic Renewal and the Community because Eugène Hameidat wore two hats. He was both the national shepherd of the Charismatic Renewal and a committed member of the Community. Eventually, Eugène left the coordination of the Renewal.

As the Community grew, the Charismatic Renewal also grew and sought to define its own space, hence the need to clarify and separate the Community’s mission from that of the Renewal. Before the arrival of the Community, the Charismatic Renewal organised sessions for couples. However, with the growth of the Cana sessions, the Renewal feared that the Community would take away what had been set up for couples before its arrival in Côte d’Ivoire, in particular by developing the Cana sessions. During these years, we have experienced God’s fidelity and the presence of the cross in the history of the Community: the cross of unity in the Church, the cross of the unity of peoples.

Finally, we give thanks to the Lord: the Community in Côte d’Ivoire began with a committed couple, and today has 180 brothers and sisters in the Communion and 185 in the Community. ■ M. H.

Cet article fait partie du numéro 078 de la revue FOI

CHEMIN NEUF CELEBRATES ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY

september-october-november 2023

Vie de l'église   Vie de la Communauté  

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