Our voices echoed with the Psalmist, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”. This was our feelings on Saturday 7th September 2019 when Sr. Rosemary Nkechi Egbosi, Sr. Edidiong William Etim and Sr. Philomena Akubueze Nnaji pronounced their Perpetual Vows.
The occasion was graced by Most Rev. Dr. Donatus Ogun OSA, Catholic Bishop of Uromi Diocese and Most Rev. Dr. Anselm Umoren MSP, the Auxiliary Bishop of Abuja Archdiocese. Priests from different dioceses, Consecrated persons from different religious congregations as well as lay faithful from different parts of the country were in attendance. The occasion was unique because it brought the Zambia/Malawi and Nigerian Regions together. The Zambia/Malawi Regional Leader, Sr. Marianne Doherty, together with Sr. Mary Zimba and Sr. Helen Namutami joined us from Zambia to celebrate Sr. Philomena Nnaji who is currently missioned to Zambia.
The celebration started at 11am with Holy Mass at St. James Catholic Church Rainbow, Port Harcourt. In his homily, the Most Rev. Dr. Donatus Ogun, explained that Religious Life is a radical witness to Christ. In their response to God’s love, consecrated persons offer themselves totally as a living sacrifice through the expression of the Evangelical Counsels of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience. Bishop Donatus charged consecrated persons to be conscious of the fact that their identity is “who they are” and not “what they do.” Consecrated persons are defined by radical witnessing to the love of Christ poured into their hearts with their identity hidden in Christ whose food is to do his Father’s will. Called to follow Christ, the newly finally professed Sisters were advised to set their hearts on living out their Vows in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
At the end of the homily each of the three sisters came up to the altar to pronounce her Vows in the hands of Sr. Marianne Doherty who represented our Congregational Leader Sr. Patricia Lenihan. During the Holy Mass, the newly perpetually professed Sisters, in the company of other sisters, priests and lay faithful danced to the altar with gifts in thanksgiving to God.
The second part of the celebration took place in Compassion Centre Nkpogu. Photographs were taken, cultural dances from different groups entertained the guests followed by the cutting of the cake, toast of wine and refreshment. The celebration was colorful and God blessed us with good weather.
For Sr. Edidiong William Etim, it was a joyful day. Describing her formation journey Sr. Edidiong said, “My religious journey has offered me many opportunities to be with God’s people in a healing ministry in Bomadi. When I say I am happy, I am saying I feel fulfilled and alive in this way of life. It brings me true joy and peace at a very deeper level. But at the same time, there is no happiness without challenges and struggles and these have formed who I am today. Such that I feel a deep happiness at the very center of my being, regardless of what life throws at me daily. Choosing to be a Sister of Charity means that I am able to give myself in totality to Jesus in a way I feel I cannot in any vocation other than being a Religious Sister of Charity and in my daily prayers I can lift up all the needs of the world in sweet supplication to God, and try to help the poor in my own little ways even with the smallest thing as giving a beautiful smile.”
The celebration was an expression of joyful response to God in whose presence we find rest. With reference to Jeremiah 20:7 and saying of St. Augustine, Sr. Rosemary Egbosi shared her experience, “’You have seduced me Lord, and l have allowed myself to be seduced. Our souls are restless until they rest in you’. For me that summarized my sentiments on this day of my Perpetual Profession and afterwards. All l can say is that, God is always and forever faithful.”
Also Sr. Philomena Nnaji expressed her deepest feelings on this day, “From the beginning of my journey as a religious up until now, the Lord has been my Shepherd, leading me. Today is a day of great joy for me, a celebration of God’s faithfulness and unending love. With a sense of wonder and awe, I feel privileged to have made my Perpetual Vows. Relying on the grace of God and filled with gratitude I say a final “Yes” to sharing in the mission of Jesus Christ and His Church as a religious sister. I know the cost of discipleship is huge and the task ahead is enormous, but I rely on God’s unconditional love which is greater than any challenge to carry me through.”
The families of the three Sisters, communities and guests danced and presented gifts to the three Sisters followed by vote of thanks and final prayer.
With Mother Mary Aikenhead we pray for Sr. Rosemary Nkechi Egbosi, Sr. Edidiong William Etim and Sr. Philomena Akubueze Nnaji who through this solemn celebration have once more expressed their fiat to God as Sisters of Charity, “May you each day advance in the total dependence on and confidence in the faithful God who has called you to sanctify yourself in our dear Holy Institute.” (MMA 26th October 1840)