The Religious Sisters of Charity recently opened a new foundation in Nigeria. Here Sr. Micheline O'Donnell tells us about the new foundation and the two events which marked its beginning:
"On Friday 5th March, the three sisters who were to form the new community, Srs. Micheline O'Donnell, Laeticia Amadi and Augustina Alozie set out for Bomadi in the Niger Delta, accompanied by Sr. Imelda O'Brien, the Regional Leader.
As we travelled one hundred kilometres from Okpara-Inland and from Ozoro, we were aware that we were entering the Riverine area as we crossed many bridges and passed over many streams and rivers.
We were very grateful that two years ago, a vast bridge was built making access to Bomadi much easier than making the crossing of the river by boat. As we approached, we could see the town of Bomadi, situated on the banks of the Forcados River, which flows out into the sea in the Bight of Benin.
As we drove into the town, accompanied by Ozoro community, we had a sense that it was an impoverished area. We approached Our Lady of the Waters Mission compound and were met by the Cathedral Administrator, Fr. Emmanuel Akpos. As the compound was waterlogged, we parked our pick-up truck and walked the rest of the way down to our new house, where we were met by Srs. Freda Ehimuan and Uche Ojukwu who had prepared the house for us. They had also cooked a lovely meal which we all enjoyed. Just as we were taking up residence in Bomadi, we heard of the death of Sr. Petronilla Akugwu in Okpara-Inland. We had a strong feeling that our mission in Bomadi must surely be blessed: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground...”
Later in the day, Bishop Hyacinth Egbebor arrived to welcome us and to say how grateful he was that we had come to work in Bomadi Vicariate.
We settled into to our new home and began our community life together.
Gradually, we got to know some of the local people who made us feel very welcome. There is a simplicity about the people and their life-style. The lives of the people are very much centred on the river, in fishing and also in small-scale farming.
The ministry which Srs. Laeticia and Augustina will take up is the running of Our Lady of the Waters Nursery/Primary School with almost six hundred pupils.
Sr. Micheline will take over the Primary Health Centre and Maternity Clinic. Both ministries are centred in the Cathedral compound.
On 20th March, Bishop Egbebor celebrated a Mass to welcome the sisters officially to the Vicariate. All the sisters from the communities in Port Harcourt, Ozoro and Okpara-Inland came to join us, as well as some of the sisters from Lagos communities. Bishop Egbebor, in his homily, warmly welcomed us to Bomadi and wished us well in building up the ministries of education and healthcare in the area. He spoke of the great needs in the Niger Delta and of his dreams for the growth and improvement of the area.
Sr. Imelda then commissioned the new community, using the symbols of a bowl of soil, seeds and a jug of water. The soil is already there, the seeds of the charism of the Religious Sisters of Charity have been planted and with God's help, will be watered and, in time, bring growth.
We then had light refreshments in the Church Hall with the parishioners before going to the sister's house to enjoy a meal there.
The Niger Delta is the oil producing part of Nigeria and yet it is one of the most impoverished areas of the country.
We look forward to working herein and we hope to make a difference in the lives of the people of Bomadi, by working with them to offer good quality education and affordable health care to the people in greatest need."