An historic Golden Jubilee celebration took place in Zambia this year! Three sisters each celebrated 50 years of commitment to the congregation, amongst them Sr. Catherine Chileshe, the first Zambian sister. Here Sr. Catherine reflects on the celebration:
“At the very beginning of 2010, my heart was filled with gratitude realizing that the day of thanksgiving was very much close. The 3rd of July 2010, was chosen to be a memorable day, when Sisters Patricia McGraw, Christina and I would thank the Lord for this very many blessings over the last 50 years as Religious Sisters of Charity.
To prepare for this day Sr. Christina and I made a 30 days retreat in Kasisi. This was a perfect setting for counting our blessings. It was the middle of the rain season, everything was at its best, the fields green, the crops showing a rich harvest and the birds singing morning and evening provided a very good setting for reflection.
After the retreat I discovered that my family had planned for the day’s celebration. They had decided to give a real feast to the Sisters. The Mass was to be in Kabwata Good Shepherd Church and the reception after Mass in the grounds of the Religious Sisters of Charity Convent- Kabwata. Everything was organised in great detail to make sure everybody would enjoy the day.
The morning of the 3rd of July arrived. My family members had all gathered from different parts of Zambia. Friends that had worked with me at different times had come including past pupils and parents – some of them travelled 1000km to be present. This was an occasion that nearly never happened – in 2010 I had suffered a serious heart trouble that nearly cut my life short. So 3rd July was doubly a special day of thanksgiving and all my relatives and friends could not miss this wonderful occasion.
On the eve of this occasion, the reception grounds were prepared; tents went up, tables and chairs were dressed in white and yellow-gold, white and gold balloons decorated the pillars and the tent walls. Rose bouquets punctuated the green lawn and the whole atmosphere spoke of the impending celebration.
We processed into the church while the choir sang “Cry out with joy to the Lord all the earth”. The church was simply a feast for the eyes! – the Religious Sisters of Charity and Catholic Women’s League had manifestly arranged flowers in the colours of yellow, gold and white and placed our mottos in appropriate places on the walls inside the church. As my feet touched the floor of the church, I felt as if the whole of creation was with me, singing the “Alleluia” chorus to the entrance hymn.
At the beginning of the Mass, Zambian Regional Leader, Sister Margret Mary welcomed all those present, particularly our Congregational Leader Sr. Mary Christian to this special celebration. She also gave each of us special gifts from the Holy Father. The Mass was celebrated by some of the Priests/Religious congregations that have at one time or another worked with the RSC’s – The Jesuits, St Patrick Missionaries, Missionary of Africa and Diocesan clergy, including Rev Fr. C. Chansa (the main celebrant) who also was celebrating his 50th birthday and 25 years of priestly ordination and is an RSC Associate. Rev. Fr. Michael Kelly SJ. gave the homily.
After the homily the offertory procession was characterized by song dance and Bemba culture. Among the offertory gifts were a live goat symbolizing total giving and a calabash of homemade soft drink (Munkoyo) symbolizing joy and our ancestors blessing.
At the end of Mass we all processed to the Kabwata convent grounds for the reception. The temporary professed sisters led the Golden Jubilarians to their places. The joy, laughter and sheer happiness was everywhere and on every face.
At the end of the day, I could only praise thank and marvel at God’s goodness to me. Yes! He has been carrying me on eagles’ wings and for this I’ll always praise Him. I also thank my sisters who have walked with me and contributed towards this wonderful day, each in their own way.”
Below: Srs. Christina O’Brien, Catherine Chileshe & Patricia McGraw cutting their cake!
For more photographs visit the Photo Gallery page for Zambia