On the 19th of January four postulants entered our Congregation in Nigeria and three weeks later, Sr Geraldine Hamukale, who had travelled to Nigeria for an International Formation Team meeting had the privilege of meeting them. She asked them what attracted them to religious life and in particular to our Congregation. When Geraldine returned to Zambia she asked two more sisters in formation the same question and here she shares all six responses.
Over 200 years ago, Mary Aikenhead had a dream. She left us a legacy of bringing the good news to the sick, the lonely, the sinners, the prisoners, the handicapped, the homeless, the trafficked, the abused, the ignorant etc in various ways whereever we are. She was impelled by the love of Christ to take risks and to trust in Divine Providence to realize her dream. Mary Aikenhead had a community in view of generous women who would continue to respond to God’s call and bring the Dives and Lazarus of our time to a new table. This same love that impelled Mary Aikenhead continues to draw young people today to share in the mission of Christ in religious life and in particular in our Congregation to continue furthering the dream that Mary Aikenhead had. On the 19th of January four postulants entered our Congregation in Nigeria and three weeks later, I had the privilege of meeting them and I asked them what attracted them to religious life and in particular to our Congregation.
This is what Rita Oduvie had to say, “The love of God attracted me to religious life. I needed a platform to devout my time to prayer and works of charity. I also felt the desire to share in Christ’s ministry of obedience to God and to take Christ’s message to all corners of the earth. I have been helping the poor for a long time on my own in small ways from my salary in works such as paying school fees, accommodation and feeding for students. But I realized that I cannot do this alone. I felt a longing to join a group that is already doing the work. The word charity was always coming to my mind and so I searched the internet and came across the Religious Sisters of Charity. I had never come across them before or heard of them. So I started making some enquiries. A friend of mine helped me to get in touch with them and I met Sr. Agatha Lucy Onye in Ozoro who helped me on how to go about applying.”
Another postulant Lucy Opara said, “My desire to become a religious sister started when I was young and it is something that has developed through my secondary education. In my parish, I belonged to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul where we did a lot for the poor. We called them ‘our Lord and Master’ and called ourselves ‘international beggers.’ We begged for the poor, visited them in their homes and fed them on the streets.” Afire with this desire to serve others, Lucy started searching for ways of living this dream for the rest of her life and she “talked to a friend about it and I was directed to the Religious Sisters of Charity. God showed me the way and that is how I am here now and I am happy.”
Scholastica Oguzie talked about being attracted to religious life by “the sisters themselves and what they do. Seeing them so happy gave me inner joy. I too derive joy in helping anyone in need and this attracted me to the Sisters of Charity. My desire at the moment is to draw more souls to Christ through my religious life”
Margaret Mary Idamarhare was attracted in a similar way by the way of life of the Sisters of Charity who happen to be in her parish in Okpara Inland. “It always gave me inner joy seeing their work of feeding the poor through meals on wheels.” She said.
I further talked to Patience Shinondo, our 1st year novice in Zambia who is still on her discernment journey on what attracted her to the Sisters of Charity and what is keeping her so far. “Desiring to serve God and His people, a desire to grow in intimacy with God, a deep-seated love for God and seeking His will are among the reasons I joined religious life. Having been led to the Religious Sisters of Charity through what I believe to be Divine Providence, the 4th vow of service to the poor is what appealed to me and still appeals to me. I feel the Congregation reaches out to the poor in a real way, with the focus on the poor and meeting them in their real needs. Mary Aikenhead’s achievement for a woman in her time, her love for the poor, her work, as well as her faith have been inspirations to me and have challenged me in many ways to trust in God and serve His people especially the poor.
The Sisters of Charity are women of prayer and I have truly found that strength, nourishment and comfort in prayer. I have seen and learnt that it’s only through prayer that the sisters are able to do what they do each and every day. Being in an environment such as this has been encouraging as well as a means to strive to be a better person in every possible way. I have drawn and continue to draw strength from prayer, community, ministry and especially the poor whose faith in God is unwavering and I learn from them.
My journey of formation has been both a time of spiritual growth and learning. Sharing myself with others in community, ministry, novitiate classes or inter-novitiate classes’ as well as my general interactions with people, have all strengthened my faith and solidified the aspirations in me and truly made me feel that there is something worthwhile that I can contribute to the service of the poor and make the Kingdom of God a reality.Being here has allowed me to give myself to God without reservations and develop my interior life, to be aware of others and have real concern for others.”
Talking to Namunji Silishebo, who will commit herself finally to Religious Life and to our Congregation in April, on her attractions and on what has kept her going, she had this to say, “My desire to be a sister started when I was young and developed when I was in secondary school. I used to spend my weekends at the church and going to outstations with Sr. Christina O’Brien, a Religious Sister of Charity in Maamba. It was through such programmes that I developed the desire to serve the poor, and my love and relationship with God increased. I have had my own challenges as a Religious Sister of Charity. The love of God and the desire to serve others have kept me even up to now. The very first day I left home to join sisterhood, for me was final and no looking back. I knew I had come to a place where I would find a lot of happiness and spend time with God. Happiness, prayer and wanting to serve God more and more has kept me going up to now. I have also been inspired and have learnt from different experiences.”
Our future as a Congregation is promising and we will continue praying and supporting such young women who have offered themselves and all those who are yet to offer themselves to further the mission of Mary Aikenhead.
From L-R: Rita Oduvie, Lucy Opara, Scholastica Oguzie and Margaret Mary Idamarhare who spoke to Sr Geraldine Hamukale in Nigeria