The International Missionary Benefit Society (IMS) celebrated its 50 years of presence in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) from 8 to 10 September 2017. After the Eucharist led by Monsignor Séraphin ROUAMBA (Archbishop of Koupela, Burkina Faso), Monsignor Joseph SPITERI (Apostolic Nuncio, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire) opened the ceremony, repeating the words of Pope Francis: “everything that is shared multiplies”. Meetings and conferences were then chaired by Monsignor Séraphin ROUAMBA and Monsignor Bénoît ALOWONOU (President of the Conference of bishops of Togo).
The IMS, an association governed by Swiss law was created in 1965, resulting from the wish by French monks/nuns to benefit from a health care coverage system abroad. As recalled by Sister Elisabeth AULIAC, Vice-President of the IMS, the principle of solidarity grew quickly in Africa with the creation of local sections and a very clear objective:
To make available to superiors and bishops a system able to meet their canonical obligation, aimed at ensuring the good health of their members. At his public audience of 13 May 2015, Pope Francis moreover spoke, saying:
“I reserve particular greetings for the members of the International Missionary Benefit Society. Dear friends, I strongly encourage your service in the Congregations and Dioceses to facilitate access by their members to health care and thus promote their dedication to the mission”.
Father Michel MENARD, President of the Association is able to appreciate the path travelled: today 770 congregations and dioceses (nearly 29,000 priests, monks and nuns) maintain the IMS’ spirit of solidarity, a “daughter of the church”, according to the words of Monsignor Bénoît ALOWONOU. They pay a contribution that is adjusted in line with the particular country and receive assistance following each health care procedure provided for their members (medical consultation, hospitalisation, eyewear, pharmacy, etc.).
This Golden Jubilee of the IMS West Africa section therefore brought together a hundred people from Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Niger, representing the dioceses and religious congregations of these countries.
The specific needs of the members of this region and how best to adapt the services were recalled at this meeting. The partnerships with hospitals providing hospital care, mainly in Abidjan were particularly commended, such as the quality of care. One of the objectives of the next few years will be to expand this high-quality care network in the countries of the region and to continue to make the IMS known to the autochthonous dioceses and communities, trying to align it as much as possible to the needs and the budget of the persons concerned.