In this article Sr Pat Kenny gives a wonderful account of what life has been like in the first year and moving into the second year of the International Novitiate which is located in Lusaka, Zambia.
2018 arrived with the recent establishment of our international Formation Community comprising of Sr. Geraldine Hamukale (Zambia), Novice Director and Local Leader, Sr. Stella Adewole (Nigeria), Assistant to the Novice Director, Sr. Pat Kenny (England) and Sr. Patience Shinondo, our Zambian 2nd year novice. Our four Postulants, Oghenekevwe Eduvie, Lucy Opara, Scholastica Oguzie and Margaret Mary Idamarhare travelled from Nigeria in time for the New Year and to prepare for their reception into the Noviceship on 19th January 2019.
This has been a busy year with us all settling into our new home, community life, formation, new ministries etc. The first major occasion was the Official Opening of the Formation House and the Reception of the Novices on 19th January. We were fortunate to have representatives from most of the Provinces, Regions and the General Leadership Team as it coincided with the Extended Leadership Meeting to be held at Kasisi over the following week and the International Formation Team Meeting to be held at the Regional House in February. There was certainly a very international flavour to the ceremonies with the flags of each country represented displayed, meaningful gifts from each area and promises all round of prayerful support for the success of the new venture. The service ended with drumming and dancing and a celebratory meal.
Community life is seen as paramount to our lives as Religious Sisters of Charity and from the beginning we have considered ourselves as a working community, sharing in prayer, daily tasks and responsibilities. The novices have a full formation programme with classes. Their ministry takes them out visiting in a local compound, teaching catechism at Roma Parish Church, and Catholic Identity with pupils from Roma Girls School.
It has not been all work!! On 13th May, after our new minibus was delivered, we set off for Livingstone for the novices’ delayed Easter holiday. We called in to greet the Sisters at Nakambala before continuing south and seeing the sunset over the Zambezi River. Our accommodation was at the Jesuit house and proved very adequate. Victoria Falls was the highlight of our visit and very full. A lot of photographs were taken! Those of us with the most energy crossed the knife-edge bridge getting soaked by the spray! These then courageously faced the climb down to the Boiling Pot – and up again!! A visit to the ‘Big Five’ game park rounded off the trip and we left Livingstone the following day for Chikuni, the first RSC foundation in Zambia. Here we were able to appreciate all the development that has taken place over the years, especially in the hospital and schools. We were invited by Fr Kaliepe SJ to make the pilgrimage around the dam that follows in the footsteps of St. Ignatius (the Kardona Trail) after which he offered mass for us at the waterside and then we had a barbecue.
The novices, as part of their programme, have time for sports and share this with the FMDM postulants and some of the local children. We need more vocations to form our own basketball/football team! As a community, we have gone out for dinner on a variety of occasions – feastdays, International Women’s Day, as local communities, and these have helped us, as a community, to feel part of the Region.
On 21st July we celebrated the First Profession of Sr. Patience Shinondo in Roma chapel. Mass was celebrated by Fr. Leonard Namuhumba and Sr. Marianne Doherty, Regional Leader, represented Sr. Mary Christian, our Congregational Leader, in receiving Sr. Patience’s vows. This was a great joy to all but especially to those of us in the formation community. Sr. Patience was able to tell us afterwards that she had been missioned to the English/Scottish Province. She moved, later, to Roma community to prepare for her travel, visa etc. It was into the New Year before her visa was issued and Patience left for England on 10th January having been missioned to St. Joseph’s Convent, Hackney. Her leave-taking was marked the evening before by a commissioning service when a lighted candle was given to her with the instruction ‘Receive the Light of Christ and keep it burning’.
The year has passed by quickly and we celebrated with the novices in January their ‘crossing the threshold’ from Spiritual Year to 2nd Year with a very meaningful ceremony in the chapel. During this ritual, each novice spoke of what the year had meant for them. We were joined by the sisters from the local houses and those visiting for the Reception of our new novices and a double Silver Jubilee to be celebrated that same weekend. We don’t do things by halves here…!
The two postulants, Onyinye Okoye and Comfort Asibe, arrived from Nigeria early January to prepare for their reception into the novitiate. The ceremony, on 19th January, took place in the Roma convent chapel with Sr. Marianne Doherty, Regional Leader, describing the step they were taking as like to the idea of ‘crossing into the unknown, crossing over from a secure land to one whose road they have not walked’. Hence, there is bound to be fear. We all reassured them that we are here to support them and ask the Lord that He grant them ‘the grace to trust that the bridge will be strong and the risk worth taking.’ We completed the celebration with a meal at the formation house.
Farewells are never easy – even if for only three months pastoral experience. On 28th January we waved off our four 2nd year novices at the airport as they travelled back to Nigeria. Our prayers went with them as they began another phase of their formation. Back at the formation house, life has returned to ‘ordinary time’ but we can look forward to a few treats – International Women’s Day in March and Livingstone after Easter.
We ask for your prayers as we continue, as a community, to provide a necessary atmosphere for our future RSCs to develop.