The African Synodality Initiative (ASI) held a formation workshop on synodality with the Discalced Carmelite (OCD) nuns on 2 and 3 August 2023 in Kisii, Kenya.

These cloistered nuns have dedicated themselves to a life of contemplation and prayer for the Church and the world. The workshop was a response to their desire to know more about synodality. When Sr. Chiara Therese Mbom, the superior of the community, reached out to Caroline Kavita (ASI Programme Coordinator), she told her: "We are Contemplatives and have limited contact with the outside world. We know the synodal process is ongoing, but we would really like to know what it is all about, the aim, and how we as Contemplatives can be part of it."

The two-day workshop was aimed at giving the nuns a comprehensive understanding of synodality so that they could fully and prayerfully participate in the process. By deepening their knowledge and clarifying their role, the workshop sessions were intended to assist the Sisters in aligning their contemplative mission with the needs of the Church and the world to truly be in communion.

For ASI, this was a unique experience as it was the first contemplative group to work with. It was a blessed opportunity to advance the goal of incarnating the practice of synodality, through the formation of people in ministry and the People of God, especially at the margins. Prior to the workshop, ASI sent various synod and ASI materials to the Sisters so that they could familiarise themselves with the process and some of its outcomes. During a session on the contributions Contemplatives can make to the synodal process, the workshop facilitator, Ndanu Mung'ala, also shared with them two letters written in 2021 by Cardinal Mario Grech (General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops) to women and men called to the monastic and contemplative life. In his 28 August 2021 letter, Cardinal Grech exhorted them in the following words: "Our Holy Father Pope Francis often repeats: "pray for me!". Today I, as an interpreter of the meaning that the Pope wants to give to the synodal path, ask you: "pray for the Synod!"

The Sisters were very touched by these letters that remind them of the vital role they played in supporting the Church and her mission. Despite the fact that they belatedly received the letters during the workshop, they wanted Cardinal Grech to know that they deeply appreciate them and they requested ASI to give him their sincere thanks for remembering them. As Sr. Mary Joyce Sagwe said: "It is not too late because the process is not over; it is a journey and it needs our prayers still." Sr. Marie Therese Nangole added: "By listening and accompanying those who come to us, we realise that their visitations are more for deeper spiritual needs rather than the material needs they first talk about."

Using the Spiritual Conversation Method in small groups, the Sisters reflected on their vocation and role in synodality, through prayer, discernment and providing their contemplative lives and traditions as support and direction, especially as inspired by their foundress, St. Teresa of Avila, who exemplified being "a daughter of the Church." The nuns were concerned too with sustaining the momentum that had been built in the last two years of the synod. It was evident that they were firmly anchoring themselves on the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. In giving feedback from their group, Sr. Catherine Muchemo summarised: "Through prayer and contemplation, there was an extension of the tent; our hearts expand. We were then able to accommodate others. Through silence, the Holy Spirit spoke to us, allowing for conversion, allowing us to journey together."

The Sisters also agreed on some practical activities they could do to promote synodality, including: praying the synod prayer in the community and initiating more prayer sessions with other faithful; adding current synod processes to their monthly mass intentions; using the Spiritual Conversation Method in their weekly Gospel reflection and organising their own local prayer vigil in solidarity with the Church on 30 September 2023, as Pope Francis had invitedthe Church to do, all before the start of the 16th General Assembly in Rome. They also promised to discern together on a prayer they could contribute to the Pray for the Synod website. Finally, the nuns pledged raged by Sr. Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ (Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops), through a renewed commitment to their vocation, their community and the Church.