ASPECTS OF WOMEN’S RELIGIOUS LIFE IN ZAMBIA: FORMATION, MINISTRIES, EDUCATION
The study “Women’s Religious Life in Zambia: Formation, Ministries and Education” represents the collaborative effort of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), the Zambia Association of Sisterhoods (ZAS), and the GHR Foundation (GHR).
It is intended to spur conversation among multiple stakeholders—religious, educators, donors and others—and to lead to more productive investments in women’s religious life in Zambia and beyond.
The study of Zambian women’s religious congregations was conducted in two stages. In both stages, researchers set out to listen to the voices of congregational members and to develop a greater appreciation and understanding of the forces that affect congregational planning and effectiveness in Zambia. In particular, the study was designed to help congregations reflect on the changing context of mission and the implications for formation, the choice of ministries and education and training. Through conversations about these areas, the challenges the congregations experience, and the ways in which they deal with them, the study documents good practices that can be shared with other congregations. The study also identifies ways to build capacity and to maximize investments in the education and training of sisters in order to create greater and more sustainable ministerial impact.
The first stage of the study was a questionnaire sent to all member congregations of ZAS seeking information about numbers and how congregations handled key areas of
The second stage centered on eight congregations chosen from ten who volunteered to engage in an in-depth conversation about issues raised in the questionnaire. These eight congregations represented over 600 sisters. Six were diocesan congregations and two were international congregations. The numbers in any one congregation varied from a total of 34 in two of the diocesan congregations to 201 in the province of one pontifical institute (of whom 153 were assigned to Zambia). The age distribution of sisters in these congregations shows that the median age is between 30 and 39. This reflects a large proportion of young Zambian/ African sisters. Some local congregations are only now beginning to have sisters over 60 and, therefore, living on pensions.
The interviews from the second stage are summarized here under three themes which outline the main concerns of the congregations: formation in charism, ministry choices, and education and training.