Sisters of Saint Joseph of Annecy

News   from   Africa 


New Mission in Kenya

The opening of the new Mission in Kenya is the fulfillment of a dream which began over ten years ago when the Congregation first explored the possibility of beginning a new project in East Africa. Sisters spent several months in Kenya and began to learn the language – but it was not to be, and they went to Tanzania instead.  

In 2014 the Sisters in the communities of Dumila and Tabora, (Mission Territory) again raised the question of venturing into Kenya as a new opportunity had arisen. Sr. Pauline was anxious to learn more, so Sisters Maria Goretti and Marietta were asked to go with Sr. Angelina to meet the Bishop and Vicar General of the Diocese of Kakamega and to visit some of the parishes there. Unfortunately, it was not possible to meet the Bishop who was called to deal with a local emergency, but we were able to visit two parishes where we were warmly welcomed by priests and parishioners alike.

On a previous visit, Sisters Angelina and Bernadette had visited the parish of St. Paul’s, Ejinja and had felt very much “at home” there. It was a large parish with sixteen sub stations and many parishioners. There was a large church, presbytery, dispensary, primary school and a purpose-built convent building. The Parish Priest, Fr. Benedict had great plans for building a Secondary School for Girls as he felt that this was an urgent need.

When we entered the “Convent” we were amazed to see that it was fully furnished and equipped – even the beds were made! However, there was no oratory or inside kitchen, but Fr. Benedict told us that if the Sisters were to come he would ensure that these would be built immediately. He promised too that he would give them a piece of land which they could use for cultivation.

We looked at the Dispensary -which was in the need of attention as it had been some time since it had been used - and then we went to see the site of the proposed Secondary School. It

had been explained to us that if the Sisters were to come, one Sister would be working in this School, one would be in the Dispensary and the other would be part of the pastoral team. Fr. Benedict’s enthusiasm was infectious and we felt very positive about the proposed project. So, on our return to Annecy and after prayer and discernment, it was decided to enter into a contract with the Diocese of Kakamega.

At the beginning of 2015 a new Bishop, Joseph Obanyi Sagwe was appointed and after his installation he had to spend several weeks in Rome. As he wanted to be back in his Diocese to welcome the Sisters, their departure from Tanzania was delayed until June when Sisters Anne Marie, Agnes and Mary set off with Sr. Angelina on a very eventful journey to Ejinja, Kenya.*

Having been warmly welcomed by Fr. Benedict and the whole local community, the Sisters have settled into their new surroundings. Sr. Anne Marie is working in the new Secondary School which at present has only two classrooms and fifty three students; Sr. Agnes and Sr. Mary have begun to look after “out patients” in the Dispensary and all are working hard in the Parish. Parishioners and school children have helped them to prepare their plot of ground and cultivation has begun. A big fund-raising event was held in August and work on the small oratory and kitchen is almost finished. Sr. Pauline was able to spend a little time with the Community in July when she missioned Sr. Anne- Marie as the Superior of the Community and gave the Sisters their copies of the revised Constitutions.

Sr. Angelina’s Account of the Journey from Tanzania to Kenya

On 2nd June 2015, Sr. Anne Marie and I started our journey from Tabora to Dumila where we were to meet Sisters Agnes and Mary and collect all that was needed to begin the new mission at St. Paul’s Parish, Ejinja. We were due to set out on 4th. On an earlier visit to the parish I had met a gentleman, called Mr. James who was a friend of Fr. Benedict. He and his wife, Teresita had been very kind to us and he promised to help us further by sending a vehicle and a driver to take us to Kenya. The car duly arrived at Dumila on the evening of the 3rd and we lost no time in loading all that had to be taken, as we wanted to make an early start the next morning.

As we set out, we asked God’s blessing on our journey and we were confident that we had the prayers and support of each Sister in the Congregation. All went well until we stopped for lunch. While we were eating, the driver told us that there was a problem with the front wheel. He said that we could continue but that we would need to get it fixed in Arusha -another three or four hours away. However, because the new road was still under construction, we had to

make a detour along side roads which were in a very poor condition. We reached a place called Moshi which is about one hour’s journey from Arusha and we hoped that the wheel could be repaired there- but it was not possible. Since the driver was also a mechanic we trusted his judgment and continued on our journey.

As it was now 7.30pm and, as we had been travelling since early morning, we suggested that we could stay at the MSFS’ Fathers house in Arusha while the car was being repaired and set off again next day. However, the driver was determined to press on and to reach Nairobi that night. We were very dismayed, however, when he began to have a severe nose bleed, but he continued driving and we reached the Tanzanian/Kenyan Border at about 9.15pm.

We asked him to take a rest and to have something to eat and drink while we went to have our passports stamped and to get our visas. We then thought that it would be better for him to move the car closer to the office, so Sisters Agnes and Mary went to look for him. However, he was in an even worse state than before and when Sr. Anne Marie and I reached them he was lying in the middle of the road, still bleeding profusely and surrounded by a group of very frightened people.

We too were very scared and wondered what to do for the best. Agnes went to look for medicine and was able to buy an injection which she gave him. This seemed to help him and he improved a little and was well enough to move the car. But, once again, disaster struck! Just as he drove forward, the front wheel on the left hand side broke completely and we were stuck in the middle of the road. We tried to get it repaired but, as it was very late, this proved to be impossible. There were lots of taxi drivers in the area and they kept pestering us –saying that they could drive us to Nairobi. Just as we were wondering what to do, I received a phone call from one of the MSFS Fathers who advised us to stay where we were as it was a relatively safe place, and it was now about midnight. So we got back into the car and locked the door and waited for morning.

At 5.30 am we began our search for even a second hand part to repair the car, but were unsuccessful. We made the decision to take a taxi to Mulolongo near Nairobi where we knew that the MSFS Fathers would make us welcome. They were pleased to see us, and after washing and eating, we waited for the car to come to collect us. However, by the time it arrived, it was 6.00pm so we decided to stay there for the night. We were advised that it should be serviced before we went further so we unloaded the luggage, thinking that we would be ready to restart our journey early in the morning.

Morning came but the car did not come until 2.00pm. It was now Saturday, 5th June. Although it was raining heavily and people thought we should stay until the next day, we said that we would set off on the last part of our journey. We rang Fr. Benedict and he told us that we should arrive in Ejinja by 10.00pm. However, our driver was not familiar with the area and he drove very slowly and by 11. 30pm we had only reached Bugungu. Fr. Benedict came to meet us there and guided us to Ejinja and so we arrived at the house at 12.30 am.

We were very relieved and happy to have reached our destination safely - in spite of all the

things that had happened to us on the way. Fr. Benedict had prepared some food and hot water for us and so, after having something to eat and having hot baths, we eventually got to bed at 2.00 am. We thanked God for bringing us safely to our new mission.

When we went to Mass at 7.00 am we found that the church was full of people who had travelled from the sub-stations to welcome us. Seeing their joy and excitement when they met us, and feeling the warmth of their greetings, we soon forgot all about the problems and difficulties we had encountered on the way. I am pleased to say that the Sisters feel very at home in Ejinja and are very happy here.

We thank you Sisters for your valuable prayers, interest and support. We know that we can rely on them for the success of the new mission

Sr. Angelina, Sr. Anne Marie, Sr. Agnes and Sr. Mary