My trip to India by Sister Donisia
During this past year of preparation, before my perpetual profession, I was asked to go to India for some time for that preparation. Initially, the prospect of leaving the Gambia and Senegal my homeland that I was so familiar with, to travel to India thousands of kms away, really frightened me. For several months, almost every day, I was obsessed with the decision to accept this challenge while telling myself that after all it was for six months so only half a year!
Finally, the day of departure arrived. I left Dakar on Pentecost Sunday morning, with a heavy heart. As I was about to leave, Sister Émerence came out of her room to say au revoir and to encourage me: "Courage, she said, everything will be fine, do not miss your flight." Sisters Raymonde and Monique who were to accompany me to the airport, were waiting for me already in the car with my luggage. I hastened to go down and then we were on our way! At the airport, I picked up my luggage, and said goodbye. Now I was alone to face the formalities and wait for the departure at 8 a.m. However, the flight was half hour late.
The first stop was in Bamako, Mali, and the second stopover was in Addis Ababa where I waited for three hours to get my Delhi flight connection. The plane landed at 8: 30 am with time to get my next flight to Visakhapatnam which was due to arrive after 15 00 pm. After such a long journey it was a relief to see two sisters waiting for me and we set out immediately for the provincial house. On arrival the sisters gave me a warm welcome with songs and flowers. Then finally I could freshen up before dinner, what a comfort! I spent two weeks at Visakhapatnam. Then my course in preparation for my vows began with a retreat for a month and ended mid-September.
I spent the next two weeks visiting the communities of Bhubaneswar, our second Province in India. I returned to Senegal on October 3rd 2017. The irony is that I went to India with a heavy heart of anxiety, but now I leave India with a heavy heart, that is sad to leave all the new friends whom I will miss so much. Nonetheless I shall never forget the wonderful moments spent with them. I know much better now the richness of Indian culture and its diverse population. The Indian sisters have a saying: "Every 100 meters, the water changes" and this refers to the many languages spoken. Indian people are known for their attachment to their culture and their efforts to preserve it.
I will keep forever a wonderful memory of my stay in India. The retreat/course was excellent and spiritually nourishing. The whole experience was really beneficial for my preparation for my perpetual profession. My thanks to our Superior General, Sister Pauline, her Council, and the two Provincial Superiors of India who made my stay such a pleasant and successful experience.
My Life in Your Hands
It was Friday, December 3rd when the community on the Hill in Tambacounda welcomed many sisters from Basse, Lamin, and from different communities of the Senegambian Region to participate in the ceremony of thanksgiving for the Final Vows of Sister Donisia Gomez, Sister Raymonde's Golden Jubilee and Sister Germaine’s Silver Jubilee of profession. Some sisters arrived the day before to help in the preparations.
Friday night: a vigil of prayer for the Jubilee celebration brought together families, friends, associates and sisters into the chapel. We sang the psalms of worship and thanksgiving for the sisters’ lives of commitment and service to God and the dear neighbour. We then meet around the food bowls to share the couscous dinner.
Saturday morning: the families and the sisters gathered in the Chapel to pray morning lauds, followed by breakfast. At 9:30 the sisters and guests headed out to the Tamba Cathedral Mary Queen of the Universe where the spiritual celebration of the vows and the thanksgiving of our Jubilarians sisters was to take place. Fr.Théophile Bonang, was the main celebrant surrounded by fifteen priests from Tamba and its surrounding dioceses of Kolda, Dakar and the Gambia. The Jubilarians were to renew their vows during the celebration of the Eucharist.
At the end of the service our Jubilee Sisters were duly honoured in the African tradition of homage through the Senegalese custom of jubilation in song and dance. Then the guests themselves gathered at the Officers’ Club for lunch, music and dances which continued into the afternoon.
Saturday evening: that evening sister Germaine’s family welcomed delegations of the Gambia diocese and pastoral workers for the evening meal and the traditional dance of the masks. It was a great day of celebration for which we thank God for having given us these Sisters who have lived so faithfully, their commitment to God, the church/congregation in generosity, peace and joy.
News from Africa
Kedougou: the girls’ boarding house
Since 1962, the Sisters of St Joseph have been serving young people in the rural region in and around Kedougou. Thanks to their generous love for ethnic minorities, the work has expanded, and thousands of children have had schooling. Many boys and girls have become professionals, teachers and priests – thanks to the generosity of religious and benefactors.
Girls from the bush villages have been able to board and enjoy good educational conditions. Some have even passed their bac (A’levels), something that would have been impossible from home. Ten of them have gone on to study at Dakar University.
As well as spending time studying, the boarders learn house-keeping tasks such as cooking, washing and helping with meals on feast days. From time to time they spend their time-off making hibiscus juice with monkey bread with Sr. Sophie.
This year, the boarding took in 40 primary and secondary school girls. Three went in for the bac, but sadly only one passed. Another was successful at the intermediate exam for those completing four years of secondary schooling.
Feast day cooking with Sr.sophie Household work
Relaxation: Preparation of Bissap
DOSPENSORY AND MOBILE CLINIC:
Helped by a local health worker, Sister Michaella, a qualified nurse is responsible for healthcare in the dispensary and thanks to a ‘mobile clinic’, the surrounding villages. Here they carry out vaccination programmes, check the health of the children and share their knowledge with the mums.
Caritas provides important support for these activities, but currently Sister Michaella needs a car that can act as an ambulance and cope with the rocky roads leading to outlying villages.
Kédougou Church: ordination of Father Keita
On 7th July 2018, parishioners of St. Joseph’s gathered for the joyful celebration of the ordination of Fr Gerard Keita who comes from the village of Bandafassi. He is the second priest of Bedick origin and used to board in Kedougou in the days when the SSJAs looked after the boys.
The diaconal ordination celebrated by Bishop Bassène of Kolda
Bishop Bassene of Kolda
The parishes of the diocese had delegated representatives for the event
Gold mining(adapted from an article by FrArmel Duteil CSSp)
This relatively new activity has transformed the face of Kedougou, the most beautiful city in Senegal, bringing insecurity, HIV / AIDS, prostitution and a high cost of living, and luring people away from growing crops in the fields. Kedougou has become the meeting point for several nationalities which have come to try their luck hoping to find a little gold. Returning from the mines one day we saw 2 broken eggs at a crossroads, a sacrifice offered to the ancestors and spirits of the mines in the hope of good fortune and protection. Sadly, many young people in the villages have chosen to pursue gold rather than continue their studies.
In Senegal, several mining companies exploit gold in an industrial way. But in Bantako, near Kedougou, there is a whole sector of artisanal gold mines. People dig holes up to 25 metres deep in search of gold nuggets. It is exhausting work and the heat and lack of air make it very dangerous. Last week, 2 people died in a landslide. Young people, even children, are used because of their size. Women and girls are paid to bring up the buckets of earth and stones. Most of the nearby trees have been felled so you have to go further afield to look for wood for mine supports and cooking.
People from Mali started this work first because they did it at home. Then the Senegalese got into it, then people from other countries, especially Guinea. Many students left school to look for gold, thinking they would get rich quickly. This was the case for a few, rare lucky ones who came across a vein, but the vast majority have done nothing but spoil their future.
As everywhere, this search for gold has brought enormous problems and suffering: fights, widespread violence, theft, rape, drugs, alcohol and prostitution. Trafficking of women has been organized, particularly from poor villages in Nigeria. Once in Senegal, their papers are confiscated, and the women are forced into prostitution, supposedly to refund thei r trip – but there is no way out for them. Another problem is health: mercury is used to extract the gold from the stone, which is very bad for health, but on the site there is no dispensary, just a small health post for a constantly increasing population currently estimated at 10,000.
There is no mining on Fridays and Mondays. These are the days when the stones are broken to extract the gold. One gram is sold for 20,000 CFA francs. Then there is always the fear of theft. Last week, an armed group came to steal gold. They fired about 20 shots to scare the people, but fortunately nobody was hurt.
Little by little, a whole operational system has been put in place. Local authorities and security forces tax the people. The village chief has imported a machine that sprays the pebbles and washes them to release the gold. To be allowed to stay, miners now have to pay weekly "pebbles". Some of the gold is smuggled into Mali so brings no benefit to Senegal. However, the Senegalese government is setting up a permit system that allows its own citizens to employ foreigners, while people such as teachers who are salaried are buying small equipment such as buckets, rope and hammers to sell on at a profit.
Last month, a serious fire broke out. The ambassador of Mali came to speak to a large communityof his nationals. He advised them to return to normal living conditions in Mali and asked that children aged 5 to 18 should leave the mines and return to school. But will that change anything?
A group of German volunteers has recently built us a new social centre with four large meeting rooms. We now want to know how it can best serve the needs of the local people. We are thinking about adult literacy and numeracy classes, training for developing small businesses, helping people move on from the gold craze… but no decision will be made without the input of the village chief, the imams and other local leaders. In the meantime, we have built a water pump.
Praised be you, my Lord, for Sister Water
who is very useful and very humble,
precious and chaste.
Journeying Towards Wholeness
Finally Professed from 2013-2015 Bhubaneswar Province
The purpose of our journey was to restore ourselves to wholeness. Twenty young Sisters who had made Final Profession between the years 2013 and 2015, together with Sr. Lizy, gathered in Cuttack from 30th April to 5th May. It was a time of realization, rejuvenation and revitalization of our lives and missionary zeal.
We began our programme with an opening prayer in which we used the wheel as the symbol for wholeness. Just like the spoke is connected to the hub for its proper functioning, we realized that we need to be connected to God and to one another in our journey to wholeness. Our sessions began with Sr. Lizy’s explanation of the seven means given by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, regarding living the joy of the Gospel. According to him the joy increases manifold, when we have the openness to allow Jesus to encounter us. In the light of the Pope’s message, we were drawn towards our personal charism. We recalled it fondly in order to make it vivid and vivacious in the present context of our lives. We were challenged to move to something new and to walk an extra mile in order to be radical followers of Jesus. Each one realized that it was their responsibility to keep the fire of the charism alive by possessing the spirit of Christ in us. A deeper reflection on our personal charism enabled us to identify our own dominating type of personalities and behavior patterns. It also helped us to appreciate our own uniqueness and to embrace others as they are.
Reflecting on our lives, we realized that a valley of tears can become a mountain of glory and sunshine for us - as happened in the lives of Abraham, Jacob, and our Mother Mary. God meets us in our brokenness and we are invited into a healing and purifying relationship with the Lord through our life of consecration, commitment and connectivity. As a whole, the theme that was running throughout the classes, a voice that was re-echoing in our ears, a thought that was provoking and instilling in our hearts, was a wakeup call for us to be integrated into the present. These five days were like an invitation offered by Jesus to go to Him, to discover our gifts and charisms, to take part in the communion offered in order to live lives of service for others.
Some of us were meeting in a group after a long interval so this gathering was also a time of reviving bonds of love and friendship while we exchanged our pleasantries and experiences. It was a time for spiritual renewal and personal introspection. The sessions concluded with a day of recollection and ended on a happy note.