Congratulations to Fr. Jean Messingue, SJ, new Doctor in Psychology

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By Michel Istas SJ

Monday, 22 October 2018. Fr. Jean Messingue, SJ, of the Institut de Théologie de la Compagnie de Jésus in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, has defended his doctoral dissertation at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). The title of his dissertation is:

Practicing Multidimensional Contextual Counseling with Africans: a critical Appreciative Inquiry of a Counseling with African Single Women.

In twenty minutes, the candidate first made a presentation of his work. He explained how he became interested in the subject, the method he used, and the results he obtained.

How this thesis deal with the issues raised

Five professors next examined the candidate: three from the VUB, one from the University of New Hampshire, and one from the UCL (Université Catholique de Louvain). Each professor asked two questions, and Jean Messingué clarified how his thesis dealt with the issues raised. Questions and answers often used a very scientific terminology, particularly of constructivist theories. One more personal question was whether he had experienced some opposition from his colleagues when presenting spirituality as an option. Jean pointed out that in the process of counselling, a therapist cannot impose his views. But people in Africa always consider there is something behind, or responsible for giving meaning, and this introduces the dimension of sacredness, which is always socially constructed.

Two professors at least pointed out that Jean’s thesis was about single women, and asked whether his study and the method he used could also be applied to other marginalized people. Jean pointed out that single women indeed are often marginalized. Christianity mostly considers that women are either married or consecrated. When they are neither, they have no proper status. In African traditional cultures, single women face a similar problem. The stress resulting from this is also experienced by other people who do not fit in current social categories. So, the same methodology can certainly be applied when dealing with, for example, immigrants.

After two hours and thirty minutes, the professors retired to deliberate. It was revealed, afterwards, that they spent most of that time, discussing the specific difference between sacredness, religion and spirituality! The deliberation itself took a very short time. The professors came back after twenty minutes, and in a short, formal ceremony, declared that Jean Messingue is now Doctor in Psychology.

Congratulations to Jean!

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