of the Missionary Sisters of
Our Lady of Africa
At the Service of the Kingdom - Like Yeast in the Dough
n° 2 June 2012
Editorial: Gisela Schreyer
At the Service of the Kingdom - Like Yeast in the Dough
We Truly Walk Together, Bunamwaya Community
The Beauty of a God Who is Close, Ghislaine Dubé
Dates and Various Fruits, Françoise Dillies
Re-enchant the World, Pierrette Pelletier
Meeting Points with Others, Gumo Community
For the Love of Christ and Africa, Carol Garcia Murillo
Drops of Water in the Ocean, Alice Bangnidong
Turning Life Around, Marion Carabott
SOWING THE WORD GENEROUSLY
JOINING THE IGNATIAN COMMUNITY
The Last Page : Looking out of the Red Tent
Have you ever baked bread? It is a worthwhile experience! Into one or two kilos of flour you add just a spoonful of yeast; you knead it with oil and water into dough. Then, you wait for an hour or so, depending on the warmth in the place, and you see the dough has doubled in size! Amazing, isn’t it! The heavy lump you put there in the first place has become fluffy, like an inflated balloon. The Gospel tells us that the Kingdom of God is like that…
The Liturgy of the Church after Easter has accompanied us with the Acts of the Apostles. We have seen how the disciples of Jesus told their experience of the Risen Lord in the synagogues of the Jews. Progressively, they spoke up in the market places of the “gentiles” and shared the Good News with individuals, many of them poor and sick. The community kept growing as the message touched hearts and as the disciples’ witness attracted new members into a multicultural faith community. It is the interaction of giving witness and touching hearts that resembles so much to the yeast in the dough. We know it is there but how and when exactly it “works” we cannot determine.
Jesus had sent them to Galilee to meet him there after his resurrection. Now Galilee was a region in which the whole known world of that era was represented. It was a multicultural, multi religious and also partly agnostic region. It became a metaphor even for our modern melting pots of cultures, religions, and people of all backgrounds. It is there that the disciples never tired giving an account of the hope that was living in them. (1 Peter 3, 15)
As this issue of Sharing Trentaprile is filled with articles written by sisters from our three provinces, the comparison dawned upon me: here we are writing our “MSOLA acts of the apostles.” As in the time of the early Church, our communities are situated in “Galilee,” in multicultural, multi religious, secularized contexts, or those indifferent to religion. It is there that “wherever we are,” we untiringly tell our experience of the risen Lord. We share our experience of being Church and our ways of joining hands with others, of reaching out to believers of other religions and cultures, to “all people of good will.”
Thus, in multiple ways, we are “yeast in the dough.” Proclaiming the Message of liberation, we contribute to and hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God: In health structures, in Parish ministry, in spiritual accompaniment, in visiting the parents of children entrusted to us, in visiting the sick, neighbours and friends, in “translating” the language of art into shared (faith) experience, in helping children who live in the streets to find a place of hope in an environment hostile to their growth, in supporting people who definitely want to change their lives in spite of the temptation to take the “easy road” of crime to make their living, in walking resolutely a road of suffering in discipleship, in carrying forward contacts across countries and communities and keeping memories alive …
In the language of theology, we are at the age of the mission cum gentibus, a step following the ad gentes and inter gentes. This missiological concept is born from the experience of the Church in Asia, where Christians with their leaders, have reflected on their reality: Christianity is a tiny minority within the vast populations of Asian countries. In order to be alive and give a living witness of Jesus Christ, Christians are compelled to reach out, to dialogue, to create common spaces, to let the Spirit blow! Like a tiny bit of yeast in the flour they contribute to make the Kingdom grow.
Being a faith community in a minority position is also our experience in a good number of countries where we are in Africa, and–more and more–in Europe and North America. The Catholic Church is not or is no longer the group that “sets the tune,” most evidently in moral matters. All the more, our way of being Church is to be like the yeast mixed in the dough.
The life of the Church happens where people celebrate Eucharist together, where people share life, where people simply are. Many times it is small events that encourage us and take us a step forward. At times, step after step, it becomes a way. The experiences of the disciples with Jesus had a lasting impact; today we add our experiences and have an impact. God works together with us (cf Acts 15, 4) and invites us to be for one another like “good bread.” (Mother Marie-Salomé)
WE TRULY WALK TOGETHER
The MSOLA arrived in St. Gyaviira Parish, Bunamwaya, (Kampala, Uganda) in 2009. The parish has been developed by lay people and has grown from a prayer centre to a full parish with an active Parish team working in collaboration with the laity. The sisters join the people’s efforts by their presence and activities in and out of the parish. The call for a new evangelisation, highlighted by Fr Innocent Maganya, MAfr at the Africa Province Post Capitular Chapter in Nairobi November 2011 is for them a sign of the times to which they want to give their contribution in their different apostolates.
Christine Bahati Safi (DR Congo) is a pastoral worker. She shares:
When we came to Bunamwaya, I was asked to conduct a survey of the whole parish so that the real needs can be addressed... The challenge was to visit all the people living in the parish - regardless of whether they were Christian or not. I have visited six out of the seven sub-parishes. It has helped me learn Luganda, the language of the area, and also encounter the various religious groups. I have been touched by the welcome I have received everywhere, in all the families of many different faiths.
Carrying out practices of African Traditional Religion and consulting witchdoctors is very much alive even among Catholics. This is not only in Uganda; it is everywhere in Africa. Politicians, Catholic religious and priests, as well as people from other denominations, are practicing witchcraft. This sometimes involves human sacrifice.
All this challenges me to ask myself: “Who is God for me and how do I relate to him?” It invites me to deepen my and our people’s understanding of what it means to be a Christian. It also challenges me “to enlarge my tent”.
Evangelisation begins at a very early age; that’s why I started a Sunday School. I am helped by Jane Frances our Ugandan postulant, and other Sunday school teachers, to lead a Sunday School Programme for the small children. We help them to meet and know Jesus in the Gospel, and from an early age, to practice his values, because today, “shallow evangelisation” is a real threat.
Marie MacDonald shares about the importance of her ministry of Spiritual Direction:
The retreat ministry gives me an opportunity to make a small contribution towards ‘evangelisation in depth’. At first, my retreatants were mainly religious sisters and a few priests, but more recently, I’ve had the joy of collaborating with Fr Evert van Oostrum MAfr to accompany some lay people for eight day silent retreats at a Charismatic Renewal Centre. It is touching to witness the thirst of these people for a deeper prayer life. At the last retreat we accompanied, there were 40 applicants – far too many for us or the centre to cope with. The retreatants come from all occupations; among those I accompanied were bankers, lawyers, teachers, nurses, civil servants, social workers, and a mayor. One of the women had been kidnapped and held captive for three months by a group of Kony rebels. I have really witnessed the Spirit at work. I am grateful to them for their trust and openness. We truly walk together.
Lea Bucumi has recently come to the Parish from Burundi and is discovering the new milieu; her challenge is to learn both English and Luganda as well as the computer. She visits the people in the Parish to get to know the language and the culture and belongs to the church-choir, which she enjoys. It is all new for her. In Uganda, she sees many challenges for a “new evangelisation”, as much as in her home country Burundi. It is good to be with the people and to journey with them.
Agatha Sagalini and Jane Frances Namaganda our postulants give a compassionate witness as they care for elderly people in a local home. Redempta Kabahweza is a counselor and is able to assist people facing difficult moments in their lives. In this way she represents the healing presence of Jesus. Love and service are key factors for today’s world.
Marlis Gaul has worked in Uganda for many years and was instrumental in setting up the Joint Medical Store in Kampala. This Centre provides medical drugs to all the Church medical facilities in Uganda. Our work, when well done ,becomes a challenge to all.
Agnes Nakiguli is a nurse in a Medical Centre; she has many occasions to bring a deeper evangelization.
Caring for the sick at St. Magdalene Health Centre, I am in touch with people of different tribes, religions, cultures, and with problems of poor governance, abuses of human rights, and unjust distribution of resources.
In my ward one day when returning to duty and greeting the patients I found a Muslim woman whose hand had been cut off by her former husband. She had received no treatment and was suffering terrible pain. “Be compassionate as the Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36) came to my mind.
Having looked after her treatment, I followed the case and she received free medical services. I identified with her and became her voice. It was not easy. The same incident improved our relationships at the hospital with other Muslims. Eventually the woman recovered and was able to have an artificial hand.
There was also a conflict with other staff members who wanted to profit from the sale of medicine. I was looked upon as a spy for the administration. My community supported me and this gave me courage to face the situation. I knew I was not alone as I belong to a Body. Oscar Romero’s words remain with me: “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning… an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter in and do the rest... We are prophets of a future not our own.”
Our deepened vision embraces the whole of our lives and all creation. The sacred and the secular are one. Words without action are ineffective. We are called “to widen our tents”. A great challenge!
Bunamwaya Community, Uganda
"Behind this dramatic growth of Christianity in Africa
there is a very shallow evangelization;
hence the need for a new evangelization”
Fr Innocent Maganya, MAfr
THE BEAUTY OF A GOD WHO IS CLOSE:
ART, ONE WAY TO ANOTHER’S COUNTRY
In our Capitular Acts of 1999 a passage, a first appearance in “our scriptures,” gives a different and precious note to this approach that we want to develop: "Everything we do to develop in our communities and around us, the knowledge and appreciation of the cultural riches of Africa, art, music, wisdom, literature, film, theology, will be an expression of our charism." There is quite a challenge here, a new direction which plunges us into a world where we are invited to celebrate the mystery of the other and beauty through multiple modes of expression.
Since I arrived here in 2009, I made the acquaintance of several artists, primarily from Algeria. Through my meetings, I was able to penetrate deeper into this world where art becomes a place for sharing, for silence and contemplation, a place of relaxation before the unexpected, the newness and the unique reflection of the work contemplated. A real challenge! A place that speaks of the beauty of God in all his Creation, the beauty of persons, the richness of our differences, the beauty of nature "re-invented and reshaped" by the artist. An art that reveals a people, its culture, its sensitivity, its sufferings too, and its thirst for life; an art that helps beautify the world and enrich it with its newness.
"Sagesse d’un pauvre” (Wisdom of a poor one) by Eloi Leclerc speaks about how to approach another who is different and valuable in the heart of God. "To evangelize is to tell the other, 'You are loved by God' ... and not just tell him, but really believe it ... to behave with that person so that he feels and discovers that there is something in him that is saved ... You can only do that by offering your friendship, real friendship, selfless, without condescension, made of deep trust and respect. It is a delicate task”...
And in this exchange between the artist and the other, an opportunity emerges to expose oneself to a new world view. The artist is eager to express a reality, his faith, a feeling, an emotion. And at the same time he feels urged to create harmony. It takes shape on the canvas to tell of beauty, of truth through the colors, the shapes, the lines. There is a commitment here, a mission for the one who creates, and a challenge for the one who looks and sees.
Sometimes it is a cry that arises. In our world of violence and war, how can we overlook the artists who, by their works, denounce situations of injustice, such as this young Algerian student whose vivid colors on a background of steel blue resemble a cry. He paints this cry! And with what tenacity! Delicate brushstrokes trace deathly white faces and show young people with distorted features in deep crisis, reminiscent of the tense atmosphere of Edvard Munch's painting "Le Cri." What to say to someone who comes to me with these images of profound suffering? I was very moved. How to comfort him? I looked long in silence at his works and invited him to return to the library to chat. "Look well into those blues. Perhaps it is a tear, a trembling, it may be a fountain ... And, through the magic of this violent tenderness, one comes again to hope ..." Malek Haddad referring to the Algerian painter Issiakhem.
Art: "participation and communication." "Everyone learns to live with one another," (Au pays de l’autre, Maurice Pivot). In 1999, John Paul II spoke to artists in a letter of 11-pages: "To all those who, with a passionate devotion, looking for new 'epiphanies' of beauty as a gift to the world in artistic creation". He continues: "No one better than you artists, ingenious builders of beauty, can intuit something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. (...) Like the artists of all time, fascinated and full of admiration for the mysterious power of words and sounds, colors and shapes, you have contemplated the work of your inspiration, perceiving there the echo of the mystery of creation, in which God, the sole creator of all things wanted to somehow involve you. "
On February 17th, we were three artists to exhibit our works of art at the Dar es Salem Home (House of listening and hospitality for migrants). This was in response to an invitation from Caritas to the collaborators from different organizations. Through a BD (comic strip) of his creation, Vali, an artist from Ivory Coast recounts his long journey as a fugitive, his stays in various refugee camps, his tribulations in the palaver with smugglers and others, the turbulence of a long journey across the desert, etc. Besides this comic strip taking shape, he paints masks with warm colors like the dunes of the Sahara. One afternoon, he told me about some of his experiences, his flight, his journey, a true "way of the cross." I listened with compassion, in respectful silence, to what he wanted to share with me. Vali comes to challenge us, to make us aware of the most basic rights of migrants.
To expose oneself like this requires courage and confidence. Words, looks, gestures, drawings, all combine to prove what happens to us. We need to see, to feel the needs expressed in words and artistically. May this comic strip coming out of the shadows help him get the respect and dignity he needs to continue the journey.
As for Jogona, an artist from Kinshasa (DRC), his paintings are truly an ode to woman. He painted with great tenderness. Elegant lines and sleek silhouettes seem to move across the canvas, disappearing softly into a background of brown and beige. In other paintings, red, blue and yellow unite happily to form figures to contemplate. Jogona studied art in Algiers. Several galleries have exhibited his work. He feels at ease in Algeria where he contributes generously and with talent to open new horizons in the field of painting and sculpture.
"The more the artist is aware of the gift he possesses, the greater the incentive to look at all creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, raising to God a hymn of praise. Only in this way he can understand himself thoroughly, and understand his purpose and mission." (Pope John Paul II, 1999)
I met Aisha for the first time two years ago, when she drew a portrait outdoors and was installed on the bottom steps of a staircase leading to the market. I stopped to greet her and compliment her on her work. "I earn my living," she said! But one day, I saw her clothes on a clothesline against the walls of the staircase. I was perplexed. Much later I learned that she was abandoned at birth and placed in an orphanage run by sisters. When the latter had to give over the orphanage, she asked to leave, and with materials for drawing, she then left. She had meanwhile discovered her talent! Since then, she lives by her art on the street, rain or shine. Neighbors in the market help her by keeping her art materials and portraits. She tells me that sometimes she is assaulted by men, then she becomes like a lioness! I witnessed it a few days ago. I offered to exhibit her works in our library, but she said she did not have enough paintings. Another time!
"The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Every morning, he wakens my ear to listen like a disciple." Is 50.4
I see art as a meeting place, a place for listening, for sharing, a place to live the Gospel attitudes. Like Jesus, look, listen, empathize! Everything is in the way I look on the other who is different, and whose mystery I want to respect: yes above all, an invitation to respect.
Gys Dubé, Les Palmiers, Algiers, Algeria
"You have made me known to friends I did not know.
You made me sit in homes that were not mine.
One who was far, you have brought close,
And from a stranger you have made a brother, a sister."
DATES AND VARIOUS FRUITS
It is almost two years since Françoise Dillies left Algeria, Algiers-Palmiers, where she spent 10 very happy years, and joined the community of Paris-Gay Lussac for the service of provincial secretary.
After the pain of this departure, what a change here! Parisian life with all its richness but also its miseries, our international, multicultural and intergenerational community and the task that awaited her. All that upset her quite a bit ... but she entered into it with all her heart.
It must be said that the Maghreb is present everywhere in Paris. Even the so-called 'Arab' phone works well alongside the cell phones, the sms, emails and Skype that encourage relationships. So I have the joy of meeting Algerian acquaintances and friends, some I had known for a long time.
What touches me in these sharings is the constant testimony given by women and even men, of how the education received from the sisters - beyond the solid instruction in our schools - brought them so much and it is still present today in their lives. Moreover, it is transmitted to the young generation. They envy their parents, even to the point of telling them, “but that was paradise!” A recent example: at the funeral of Lucette Guy, some former members of the “Ruche” (the "Beehive") kept repeating to anyone who would listen, that these years with the sisters were the best of their lives ...
Recently, a Berber Language Professor at the University of Bejaia, came to Paris for a symposium at the Institute of Oriental Languages. She told us how much she had been marked in her career and her research by what she had received from the sisters and especially from Sr. Madeleine Allain, with whom she had worked in her linguistic research. And, she added, “My students today, after 50 years of Independence, tell me: ‘Madam, you are not like other teachers, you are demanding, firm and passionate about your teaching and research …’” and she concluded, “To myself I think: these are the universal values instilled in me by the sisters ...” And you can even hear it said, “If the sisters could reopen schools in Kabylia and in Algeria, parents would be eager to send their children there!”
These compliments and expressions of affection continue to surprise us ... we did not realize this impact! We can only give thanks to God while enjoying the local produce which we never fail to receive from our visitors - cakes, each one better than the other, dates and various fruits… and other gifts of the country.
The broader vision of the Mission, so concretely lived in our universe where we constantly rub shoulders with people of the entire planet.
Françoise Dillies, Paris
RE-ENCHANT THE WORLD
Solidarity, dialogue and communion are aspects of the broader vision of the mission proposed by our 2011 General Chapter which the sisters in Canada pursue in connection with various groups in society and the Canadian Church today.
The Association of Religious for Women's Rights (ARDF) has fixed its action plan in line with current challenges experienced in society and in the Church. The rise of conservative ideology in Canadian politics, religious fundamentalism and their impact on the lives of women here and elsewhere, have been described, analyzed and countered by the various means at our disposal: marches, petitions, letters. Vigilance and voice remain significant for the 60 members in the region.
Our solidarity with indigenous women is manifested by an increased interest, in supporting their demands for justice and a financial contribution for the ecological project "Let us adopt a tree", which supports a Community House of healing for families. In the lodge "Outarde" in the Bay of St-Paul, ten pine trees of the 5,000, are growing, carrying a plaque with a female biblical name. This touristic space is available to us.
The path of solidarity guarantees our hope. The globalization of our demands and our hopes in our interconnected world cannot go unnoticed. The same slogans, from the World Charter of Women for Humanity (2005) are found again in the Social Forums, in the correspondence of our sisters in Africa: another world is possible and we are able to build it. If we remain silent we are co-responsible for the violence: - While you are hesitating, we are dying! (Abused Aboriginal Women)
Sit together before God - Dialogue with the Interfaith Group:
Interculturalism, secularism, freedom of worship emerge spontaneously from socio-cultural discussions in cities like Montreal where Muslims are increasingly numerous and visible.
And we, a congregation born in Muslim Algeria, clearly feel the call to keep our city in interfaith friendliness. For 6 years, one of our modest contributions is holding monthly meetings on spiritual themes of common interest. Jewish and Baha'i, were added to the Muslims and this expands the dimension of our sharing in our Interfaith Group.
After viewing the film of the monks of Tibhirine, our group went to greet the Cistercian monks in their new monastery at Val Notre Dame. Dom Barbeau, who makes a link among these monasteries, came to meet our group, reminding us that from now on there is among us, "a table spread," a mystery written and continually to be deciphered. Something is already being celebrated of the feast ordered from all eternity to gather us together in God’s House. (Christian de Chergé).
At the time of the visit of Archbishop Teissier for the event Sufi Bentounès / Abd El Kader, we were also very involved. In May, we will extend the "Meeting of Assisi" in our own way at the sanctuary run by the Capuchins and will recount the millennium meeting of Francis with the Sultan Malik al Kamil ... during the Crusade.
Search to find, and find to continue the search (Augustin)
Friendly support to Africans born here:
- A Congolese couple who had twins and was preparing for the arrival in Canada of a brother who had been held in a camp in Malawi following the conflicts in DR Congo
- A young family from Benin who sent three children to study in Montreal and Quebec
- An African-Haitian household with two children
- A Burkinabe family in which there was death, baptism, disease ...
- A Malian priest from a family we knew in Bamako-Jikoroni, just obtained a doctorate in bioethics…and several others that we meet here or at home to their delight and ours.
The time for "reverse mission"
The large number of African priests as pastors now in our parishes reminds us of the phenomenon of "reverse mission" the south evangelizing the north because we have again become mission territories and women from Syria and Egypt catechize our children helped by Orthodox and Maronite friends. The mission is no longer a one-way movement. It is acceptance of one another, with our differences, and the richness of our cultures and our very being.
The meeting of all cultures can re-enchant the world (Abdou Diouf).
Peoples have come into relationships of interdependence, reciprocity, equality, where they demand this freedom to live in the same Common House in the same interconnected global village.
Will we recognize the time we live in? That which Jesus wanted, to gather all the chicks under his wings? The time for mission in the way of Jesus?
Pierrette Pelletier, Montreal
says Raphael Liboneye with pride. He became a chaplain in the Canadian army and soon after that, a deacon. His wife, Anastasie Mukarwego, Rwandan, formed by the charism of Lavigerie and Mother Salome, continues to proclaim the Good News through catechesis among military children, as she did in West Africa. Today, their children Ignatius and Nadia, confirmed by Bishop Donald Theriault, Bishop of the Military Ordinary of Canada, at Halifax (eastern tip of Canada) are already lectors and give their Christian witness.
MEETING POINTS WITH OTHERS
In our context of mission today, we notice that we are involved in one or the other aspect of our enlarged vision of the mission.
In our apostolate at St. Charles Lwanga Roman Catholic Primary School as well as in the “Tampe-Kukuo” and Tamaha Nursery School and Kindergarten, we collaborate with parents, teachers and other partners such as our partners in Germany, managing authorities (Ghana Education Service), the Church through the Archdiocese, and NGOs to ensure that holistic education is provided to the pupils.
With the preparation of the Golden and Silver Jubilees of St. Charles Lwanga Primary and Kindergarten, we are even more connected with many people. Since we have started planning the launching and the climax of these jubilees, partnership and collaboration have even increased on an almost daily basis: Parents, former students of the school, friends and many other people of good will are involved.
With the “N MALI SHELI” women’s group we recognise that communication is becoming very important and the knowledge of the local language is “a must” if we desire to have an impact on the people around us. We cannot expect quick results, but we need to go at the pace of the people in order to discover and tackle their real needs. Without learning the language we cannot achieve much.
We see the need to introduce the women slowly but surely into the globalised world through teaching them reading and writing. Many have mobile phones but they do not know how to read the numbers or how to use their phone beyond receiving calls. At the same time, reading and writing is not a priority for the ‘N MALI SHELI’ women. Commitment to responsibilities is not a value for many. Our big challenge is to find or create a meeting point in our values and the commitment to follow up things from the grass root level.
In our context, we live a constant dialogue with culture, with religions and with the poor; we are so to speak at the heart of “CUM GENTIBUS”. In fact, we are not only going towards people bringing them Good News, but in our daily encounters we find ourselves being evangelised by the simple people, e.g. in appreciating their good values. We encourage what is good and urge people to abandon what does not promote life. There are beliefs that certain illnesses cannot be treated in the hospital; as a result sometimes, people die out of ignorance. So we simply try to educate them, although it is not easy to convince people to change their mentalities. In everything we do, we strive to promote life, love, unity and tolerance.
Concerning religious beliefs, we encourage the people we are working with to respect each other’s faith, and live in tolerance guided by ’the Golden Rule.’ A good example is the school: In Tampe-Kukuo R/C and TAMAHA we have more than 840 pupils; among these only five percent are Christians, the majority are Muslims, and very few traditional believers.
When it comes to the many poor and needy, we quickly reach our limits to respond. In order to give adequate responses, one needs to slow down to create space and time. For instance our apostolate in the school requires us to collaborate more with parents and other partners in order to tackle problems hindering the progress in the education of the children. We often do not manage to reach all the families of our pupils. But in order to collaborate with the parents we would need to visit the families of our pupils, come to know them and the environment in which they live, the problems they are facing; and then see how to help them. It is a challenge to create this time...
Lack of collaboration in our mission is indeed a challenge because we see how it hinders progress in whatever we want to do. We are dreaming of more collaboration and commitment in our community and apostolate. The Word of God that continues to speak to us about the enlarged vision of mission is from Jn.10:10: ‘I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ Whatever shape our charism and apostolate take in our globalised world, we feel invited to promote life in everything.
Gumo Community, Ghana
FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST AND OF AFRICA
"Love Africa though you have to suffer for her"
(Cardinal Charles Lavigerie)
If someone had told me a few years ago what my present life would be like, I would have said that I did not have the strength to face it… Today, I am grateful for it.
When I received the invitation to make my Missionary Commitment with the MSOLA, as an Associate Member, I thought there was very little I could offer the Congregation. Certainly, my poor health did not allow me, nor does it allow me now, to carry out any physical tasks... But, however true it is, I refuse to accept this statement, and in my times of prayer, a sentence resonates within me: "I will carry on giving Him thanks for counting on me in the same way He did on the first day. I offered myself to Him with all the consequences ... and as always, I leave everything in His hands.”
I know all too well that there is no possibility for me to live a very active missionary life because of my weakness, but I certainly do have enough trust and strength to carry on living for the Gospel, even from my wheelchair; and all this in order to stay in communion with you, my sisters, with my favourite continent and with all her people.
Today, I continue praying with the Constitutions of the MSOLA family. Usually, whenever I pause in my prayers, I stop at the same sentence: “The love of Christ and the love of Africa unite us in the same vocation.” ... and I let it echo within me.
At my commitment on 18th February 2012, I stated publicly:
"I offer my illness and my prayer, to remain a witness of Jesus - of Jesus who was born in a manger; of Jesus who in his time of anguish said: "Father, not my will but yours be done," and of Jesus who died and rose again with love for all Humankind..."
My health is fragile. But it does not stop me from finding him alive. From this, my place, I am willing to be in profound communion with all of you so that, together, we can make His message of hope known to all peoples; especially on the African continent. My faith is far from being fragile... and my enthusiasm to share the "wealth" of all our African brothers and sisters increases every day.
One of my favourite passages from the Gospel is this: "You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world..." (Matthew 5:13-14). Salt and light are essential elements for the daily life of any human being. I ask God, that as "salt” and “light" I might learn to keep, to savour, and to make known His Word, in profound communion with this our missionary family.
When Jesus spoke to his faithful disciples on the mountain, there were only 12 of them... Can we, then, let these words sink into our hearts and let them drive us to make His love known, whatever our mission is? What an extraordinary choice of dedication and commitment to the growth of the Kingdom of God!
Elements of Jesus’ life inspire me… I still follow His Star, step into His Sandals, wear His Tunic, share His Bread and Wine… I wish to keep going forward, learning from his attitudes: acceptance, service and complete trust despite pain and uncertainty.
My friends and neighbours at Almacelles, my village, still remember February 18th as a "magic" day... the celebration with 16 priests, beloved representatives from the Congregation and about three hundred people gathered around the Bishop of the Diocese... I told them during the Mass how my respiratory condition and everything associated with it has frustrated my vocation a great deal and it has not been easy to discover that God had other plans for me. However, silence, prayer and His tenderness confirm in me that I had offered myself to Him because of love; and when love is the main reason for any decision, there is nothing to fear... for nothing can prevent us from being able to benefit from everything our Lord gives us along our path.
There were some touching moments: the reading of my commitment, receiving the Cross from the hands of Mª Carmen Ocón, the Homily of Bishop John Piris, the anointing with the Holy Oil in the Sacrament of the sick. I have received this sacrament on other occasions: in Algeria, later at home and, recently, although I do not remember it, in the Intensive Care Unit during my last stay in hospital...
On this great day in February, I received it from the hands of a good friend: Marc Vilarassau SJ, himself having a delicate health condition and totally embracing the Cross. He too has received the Sacrament in hope and with gratitude.
In my situation, apparently a sort of “prison”, I feel free, and I hope to learn to be open to the needs of others; to carry on being available for everything I can do and which is within my capabilities. I want to be attentive to those around me so that I can listen and understand “the cry” of those who suffer in silence. As far as I can, I keep within me an “active” determination which gives me strength, and I will not easily be held back…
I continually give thanks for this “love” which overflows and increases ever since my Commitment and my receiving the MSOLA Cross: “I continue to love Africa, offering my suffering and all my love for her.”
I do not tire of thanking Him ...
When I look around me, and I see and feel the hands of those who love me doing for me
the simplest and most essential things of life ...
When the pain seems unbearable yet simultaneously strengthens me ...
When the doorbell rings, and I welcome friends who are true companions on the journey...
When I cry confused because things do not go as I had planned...
When I smile at those around me and I enjoy every moment that I live despite the circumstances...
When discouragement drives away my hope ...
When I desire justice and I pray for a world more sincere for everyone without exception ...
When some ignorant people think that suffering makes no sense ...
When the day breaks and evening grows dim and, near Him and with Him, I pray and give thanks...
When all this happens, I do not tire of thanking Him for all the blessings I have received.
Carol Garcia Murillo, Almacelles, Spain
Carol Garcia Murillo, joined our congregation in 2001. Full of zeal she gave herself totally in her time of initial formation in Spain, England, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Algeria.
A severe asthmatic condition caused her to discontinue her formation during the novitiate. Nevertheless, Carol has never ceased feeling one of us. This is the reason why the General Council proposed to her to make a missionary commitment as an associate member.
Because we do not doubt her great commitment in our one Mission she received the symbol that unites us, MSOLA, wherever we are: our cross.
The General Council
DROPS OF WATER IN THE OCEAN
“Whatsoever you do to the least of my people you do unto me…” (cf Mt 25, 40)
Most of you know that I work with an NGO that deals with the Protection and Rehabilitation of street children, a marginalized group of the society here in Kinshasa, DR Congo. My commitment here is in line with the invitation to respond to new calls, to be in solidarity, and to collaborate with others in order to hasten the longed-for Day of a reconciled Creation.
The aim of ORPER (“Œuvre de reclassement et de protection des enfants de la rue”, i.e. A Centre for reintegration and protection of street children) is to protect the children living on the streets, to reconcile and to reunite them with their families, or to reintegrate them into the socio-professional arena free from sexual, racial or religious discrimination.
It is like the vision of the prophet Isaiah: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them”. (Is 11:6)
To staff its operations, 63 persons are employed of whom 22 are women. In addition to this, there are 14 auxiliaries on a part-time basis. All these workers are coming from different races, though the majority of us are Africans, of which most are Congolese who are also coming from different ethnic groups and religions, just like the street children themselves. In this great variety of races, religions and backgrounds I find myself living the mission “inter gentes” and “cum gentibus”.
ORPER networks with local and international NGOs and also has as partners some religious congregations and some individuals.
The “all to all” of Saint Paul which is also at the centre of Cardinal Lavigerie’s spirituality, has opened a path for me at ORPER: its multicultural characteristics, our different levels of education, our various religious and cultural backgrounds, and our collaboration as priests, sisters and brothers from different religious institutes/congregations.
Our dream in ORPER is to show these children a better image of the world of adults. At the same time, we try to stimulate their abilities and creativity to enable them to eventually improve their living conditions. This is where I came in with the project of tie & die and batik. It is a therapeutic activity which helps to develop their talents and their sense of concentration. In fact, this is one of the dreams I have been able to initiate for the children at ORPER.
The staff needs to receive continuous formation. My proposal to the committee to include sessions on integral development was taken up, and my co-workers appreciated the sessions we received. As a result of this, it was easier to implement also another proposal concerning the environment. I have been given several opportunities to share with my colleagues issues concerning “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation”. As a practical step in caring for the Planet, we introduced a project known in all the centers as the “Rubbish Management Project”, a project of separating and recycling waste.
The difficulties and challenges I encounter at ORPER are the follow-up and evaluation of some of the projects I initiated. The Director seems to find me useful almost everywhere at ORPER, so he keeps changing me from one service to the other. I believe that everything can contribute to the coming of God’s Kingdom in this part of the world-- all are ‘drops of water in the ocean’.
Alice Bangnidong, Kinshasa
The ORPER was created in 1981 by Fr. Frank ROELANTS svd in Kinshasa, the capital of D.R. Congo (over 6 million inhabitants).
At the beginning, it was an answer to about ten young boys living on the street; they came to Christ the King Parish asking for shelter, so as to escape the soldiers who were chasing after them in the night in order to force them to join the army.
Due to the lootings of Kinshasa and all over the country, between 1991 and 1993, the socio-economic, health, and education infrastructures in the country were destroyed, and the number of street children increased. Many children are accused of witchcraft.
ORPER decided to open transit shelters and centers of accommodation for the young people in precarious situations.
Today, more than 20.000 children aged 0 to 18 years wander in the streets of Kinshasa.
TURNING LIFE AROUND -
EX-OFFENDERS IN SOUTH LONDON
About two years ago, Fr. Malachy Keegan, a Prison Chaplain, gave a conference in Ealing Abbey. He said that, for a good number of prisoners, the time they spend in confinement can be a time of grace. They have time to reflect and many resolve to turn their lives around. The problem is that they do not have the support they need.
He then asked for volunteers to join a BaCC (Basic Caring Community), which provides genuine support to prisoners leaving prison, so that they do not commit further crime. The BaCC group is made up of volunteers motivated by their faith and an ex-prisoner who has freely chosen to participate, but is not required to declare any faith. The group provides a warm human experience of community and practical help and support. A contact, either by phone or meeting, takes place with one member of the group every day of the week, and the whole group together meets the ex-prisoner once a week. In this way, there is a daily support for an agreed length of time.
I was among those who volunteered after this conference. Full training was provided over a year. In this training group there were Christians of all denominations, Muslims and Agnostics. Finally, at the end of this course, our BaCC was chosen and formed: two men and three women volunteers, one of whom is Nigerian and a “ROBERT” (the name by which we refer to all ex-prisoners in order to respect their anonymity.)
The “Robert” assigned to our community was released on the 8th September 2011 and two of our group went to meet him at the prison gate. This is a very crucial moment. Coming out of prison can be a frightening and lonely experience. Our “Robert” walked out of the prison gate with no one to welcome him back into the world. His family felt let down and dishonoured by having a member of the family in prison. Very often, those who come to welcome ex-offenders when they are released from prison, are members of the gang or drug dealers who had contact with the person previous to their conviction… their aim is to integrate them back into their circle. This highlights the importance of the presence of some of the BaCC members at the gate. Every “Robert” knows that once they are in the grip of their former “friends”, there is then no alternative but that of setting out again on the way of re-conviction. In fact 3 in 5 prisoners are re-convicted within two years of leaving prison.
After his release our “Robert” was accompanied to a hostel where he was given accommodation for two nights. He came out of the prison gate with a black plastic bag containing his few personal belongings and £40 (about 49 Euros). He was then accompanied to administrative offices where he registered for probation and for benefits while waiting to get a job. One cannot get far with £40 in London: in fact the whole amount was paid for his accommodation of the two first nights and so one of our members went shopping with him to get him some food and warm clothes.
Our BaCC group meets with “Robert” once a week at a railway station café, where we have a cup of coffee and a snack together. This gives him the opportunity of talking and explaining his problems, and we discuss the various situations he finds himself in. We try to be supportive, challenging, encouraging, non–judgmental and to help him grow in his life. Soon after he left the hostel, he could not find any accommodation and he had to sleep out in the cold for a whole month… This was a crucial time when he often remarked that he had been better off in prison where he had a roof over his head and three meals a day. He was tempted to rejoin the gang he had belonged to, as he would then have accommodation and money. He needed a lot of encouragement to keep to “turning life around”.
We contacted many organizations who help ex-offenders and finally we found one which had a room for him to rent. This was a great joy and our group celebrated this with Robert by having a meal together in a simple restaurant. Each BaCC member tried to help him to furnish his room, and our MSOLA community could offer some blankets, cutlery, an armchair, an alarm clock and also a TV that we had just received. Within a few days his room was furnished and Robert’s reaction to this was: “Now I feel like a king with a roof over my head and a key to get into MY room”.
Unemployment is rife at the moment in Britain, and in spite of Robert’s visits to the job centre every week he did not manage to find employment… so the days seemed very long to him. The benefits he received were not adequate to pay his rent and buy clothes and food. We visited interesting places with him to dispel his loneliness, but we became acutely aware of the difficulty of keeping straight when one does not have the basic needs. Unfortunately, his family did not show any enthusiasm to integrate him back into their circle in spite of the fact that they must have realized that he is doing his best not to re-offend again. This is a great cause of suffering for him.
A few weeks ago we managed to get him on an apprenticeship for a cookery course. He started the apprenticeship with great enthusiasm… However being in a prison for a long time institutionalizes people and he has great difficulty with punctuality in attending the courses in college and at the restaurant where he gets training. The positive thing is that he has managed to keep to his resolution of “turning his life around” and of not reoffending for the past 8 months, but he is presently facing difficult problems of re-integrating into normal life and getting used to work conditions in today’s world. It is difficult to know how things will work out for the future… and so we confide him to the Lord. Robert has been surely sustained by his deep conviction that God is with him and that He cares about him and will help him.
This is an engaging and challenging ministry. It has been very enriching to meet Robert and to hear all he has to share about his life, his experience and his hopes. The members of the community are very committed persons from different walks of life and the contacts, reflections and collaboration with them has been wonderful and inspiring. Whatever happens to our first Robert (and let us hope and pray it will turn out for the best) our support group thinks that he will at least remember that five persons had a genuine interest in him, trusted him and supported him in difficult times.
Marion Carabott, Montpelier Court, London
SOWING THE WORD GENEROUSLY
Missionary efforts had already conquered America long before our first community was installed in Québec in 1903. We were brought up with the story of the Canadian martyrs who gave their lives to preach Jesus Christ. Adelaide Morin was the first Canadian to cross the Atlantic to Algiers, even while the Cardinal wanted to dissolve our congregation. She left in 1885 at his appeal relayed by the Canadian bishops. More than 500 Canadian families gave their son or daughter to Africa through our two missionary institutes. How the times have changed!
In Montreal, we are fortunate to have at the head of the Diocesan Pastoral Missionary Institute one of our sisters, Colette Joubert. She gathers together representatives of the various missionary congregations. She distributes the parishes to them for their missionary appeals and oversees the on-going formation of the homilists. As we look ahead toward 2013, we foresee the Congress of the Americas that will be held in Venezuela. There will be a large delegation of missionary-disciples. We see this as an instrument for awakening the faith in Quebec and in the whole Canadian Church. This will be an opportunity for a wonderful collaboration between us and the media.
The Pontifical Missionary Institute is also part of Colette’s work with the high point being: World Mission Sunday. With all the diocesan groups for the family, youth, catechesis, social ministry, she feels she has really entered into the “cum gentibus.”
Marcelle Morin shares: My collaboration with Colette in missionary animation tauught me much through all these intercultural and interfaith contacts with people of all ages, who stop at our booth for very enriching conversations.
The direction I give my homilies has changed since our General Chapter: the new missiology encourages me towards our new vision. I insist on the cum gentibus; I understand it as a 'doing together' resulting from the gifts that people make of themselves and their time for others, to whatever extent possible.
The Christians really appreciate when we speak to them as missionaries and they discover themselves to be missionaries!
'I never understood before hearing you, how I am a missionary in what I do for my parish community; and I do a lot', said a man of a certain age.
A lady said to me: 'Finally, for once, I understood everything in the homily and many things touched me. Now together we are missionaries in Quebec. ' Yes, our homilies still do a lot of good.
Dolores Lavoie participates in the catechetical program in our parish in a multicultural area of Montreal. A dozen parents from countries as diverse as Haiti, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Syria, Vietnam ... meet with Dolores while their children are preparing for the sacraments. This is an important opportunity for these new Quebecois to meet with local Christians, to discuss the profound questions of their life, and understand what their children are learning in the catechetical program.
Dolores says: 'These meetings help us to build a faith-community among us. I must say I feel great joy in joining this group every Sunday. My thirty years in Malawi help me to understand some aspects of their culture. I feel at ease and still in mission among these immigrants. '
While preaching in a Polish parish, she had the good fortune to be very well received and to practice the Polish language.
Dolores, a native of Manitoba, 2,400 km from Quebec, went to her Province to meet various youth groups in schools and parishes for MVA. To the north of the province in Flin Flon mining center, in the diocese of Keewatin ('north wind' in Cree language) she found everywhere a lot of admiration for the work of our sisters in Africa.
Hélène Marchand: I am responsible for planning homilies for eight dioceses including 7 in Quebec and one in Ottawa, Ontario. Besides administrative work and contacts, I assure the homily in a dozen parishes. Thanks to the pastoral agent in the parish of Our Lady of the Snows in Montreal, this year I was able to meet four groups of young people preparing for the sacraments. I am available to greet parishioners after Mass and the people who have known Africa spontaneously come to speak to me about it. We sow, perhaps one day others will reap.
I myself began to think of the missionary vocation, when I was very young. In primary school I heard a missionary tell us about the little Chinese children and he sang the Ave Maria in Chinese.
The faithful Latinos represent an immense hope; I found youth and enthusiasm in a parish contacted recently.
The Capitular Acts encourage and inspire us to continue to open ourselves to collaborate in bringing our charism to today's youth. Thank you for the reminder of the importance of frequent prayer in community for MSOLA vocations.
Hélène Marchand, Dolores Lavoie, Marcelle Morin, Colette Joubert, Canada
JOINING THE IGNATIAN COMMUNITY
Our community in Morelia has lived many changes in the past months; several sisters have left while others arrived. MVA continues intertwined with the adaptations we live, we continue to answer the calls to visit schools: to give witness, to talk about Africa or to animate a retreat.
At the same time, some of us have joined an Ignatian community started recently here in Morelia by the Jesuit vocations department in Mexico. Often the group meets in our house or in the homes of other members.
Our encounters take place twice a month. The group is formed by young adults who want to live ¨more¨ (magis), or discover the Ignatian spirituality in their daily lives. We established a program of formation in which each member participates actively. Once a month or so, we have a workshop animated by some Jesuit scholastics; we organise camps open to people from outside the group guided by Jesuit students or by young lay people who have already lived those camps.
For us this is like an “in-service-training”, it helps to see how formation for young people is done today. This is important for us as we continue our reflection on our apostolic project for youth in Mexico (cf AC 2011, p 35).
Our contact with the youth of the Ignatian community has allowed us to discover Ignatian networks, for example the IAN, Ignatian Accompaniment Network formed by some 15 congregations of Ignatian spirituality. They accompany young women who have come into contact with the Ignatian youth movements; these sisters accompany in the name of IAN and not that of their own congregation. We are in the process of joining their networks for accompaniment and for formation.
The community of Morelia
Appointments of the sisters who made their first profession 29th April 2012: (read more)
Nathalie Sedogo from Burkina Faso to Gitega, Burundi
Kamila Gaworska from Poland to Oran, Algeria
Floride Kazungu from Burundi to Deli, Chad
Neli Maria Cañada Hernandez from Mexico to Kalabankura, Mali
Hélène Bikwe Kavula from DR Congo to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
Word of thanksgiving of the newly professed:
We thank God for the privilege to make our first vows together with the celebration of the centenary of the MSOLA presence in Burkina Faso.
100 years ago, 8 of our sisters left everything in order to reach this country. Women of great simplicity, women of faith and prayer, the 8 came to embrace the culture they didn’t know yet, led by the desire to be close to the people and to bring them the Love of Christ. We have that same desire today, as we are sent and finally will be able to live what we have received from our elders, becoming “all to all”.
Looking out of the Red Tent
Picture: Renée Kahn, from Internet
Enlarge the space for your tent,
spread out your tent cloths unsparingly;
lengthen your ropes and make firm your stakes.
For you shall spread abroad
to the right and to the left…
Sharing Trentaprile is published 4 times a year by the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, Viale Trenta Aprile, 15 - 00153 Rome, Italy
Editorial staff: Maria del Carmen Ocón (GC), Gisela Schreyer (Editor), Hildegunde Schmidt (archivist) - Translations: Nicole Robion,
Computer layout: Gisela Schreyer—Mailing: Patricia D'Ortenzi