Our presence in Nigeria
The Religious Sisters of Charity were founded in 1815 by Mary Aikenhead where she laid the foundations for the work of our congregation, by founding a hospital, founding a school, and visiting poor people in their homes.
Our work today still falls into those same three categories of ministry, as our foundress, Mary Aikenhead’s work did:
- Education ministry
- Healthcare ministry
- Pastoral/social ministry
See the form our work takes in the Nigerian Province, detailed below.
Our Ministries in Nigeria
The involvement of the Religious Sisters of Charity in Education in Nigeria began when the first two sisters, Sr. Mary Paschal Gherin and Sr. Mary de Chantal Haran arrived on 10th January 1961. They opened a much-needed school for blind children in Lagos and named it Pacelli School for the Blind.
The management of this school was handed over to the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus and the sisters withdrew in 1982.
Today, the Sisters manage four Schools:
Nazareth Nursery/ Primary School FESTAC Town, Lagos (1983) Archdiocese of Lagos; Sancta Maria Nursery/ Primary School, Port Harcourt, Rivers State (1992) Diocese of Port Harcourt; Sacred Heart Nursery/Primary School, Ozoro, Delta State (2001), Diocese of Warri and Our Lady’s Nursery/Primary School, Bomadi (2010) Diocese of Bomadi.
The sisters in these schools have worked selflessly to raise the standards of education. The pupils have access to computers, good libraries and in some schools, music training, with the help of donors.
Every child has a fundamental right to education and the fourth of the UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to guarantee this right. In Nigeria, as a signatory to the UN declaration on human rights, the provision of education ought to be available and accessible to all Nigerian children. However, there are over 18.5 million out-of-school children, of which 60% are girls. UNICEF warns that if this continues to increase, Nigeria risks having an uneducated generation who would become a burden to its economy.
It is within this context that the Sisters of Charity strive to ensure that children have access to education. What is common in all the schools managed by the Sisters is that good quality education will be offered to those most in need at affordable cost.
Since 1965, Religious Sisters of Charity have continued to serve in health care. We provide healthcare services in:
- St. Mary’s Catholic Hospital, Ozoro, Delta State (outstation since 1993, managed since 2000) Diocese of Warri.
- St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital, Kiri-Kiri, Lagos, 2002, Archdiocese of Lagos.
- Our Lady of the Waters Primary Health Centre, Bomadi (2010) Diocese of Bomadi.
- Warrri Diocesan Health Commission: One Sister is working with the Diocese of Warri as the Programme Manager for hospitals in the Diocese of Warri.
We are working towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 3, especially in the following areas:
- Reduction of the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births
- End preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years, aiming to reduce neonatal mortality
- End the epidemics of AIDS, Tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
- Achieve access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all
Although we have a long way to go in achieving the SDG, some progress is being made. Continued advocacy for the allocation of resources and provision of basic health education for all people is a very important aspect of our work.
Each of the hospitals is in a poor location and they serve a great social need in providing good quality health services at an affordable cost.
Religious Sisters of Charity also provide care in Compassion Centre for Physically Challenged children in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. This is a residential facility for approximately 35 children who will require surgery to correct orthopaedic deformities. While awaiting surgery these children attend Sancta Maria N/P School and continue primary education afterwards if necessary.
In Compassion Centre, the total care of each child is important and so we commit ourselves to strive for excellence in meeting the holistic needs of each one in a caring and healing environment. Each child is encouraged to be independent, and have a good sense of self-worth and self-respect. To achieve this, our activities include the teaching of daily living skills.
Compassion Centre does not receive any financial aid from the government. Nigerians are very conscious of their obligation to assist those who are physically challenged and the Centre is maintained from donations.
Sisters are very involved in Catechetics at the parish level. In most of our communities, Sisters also assist in pastoral ministry at different levels.
One sister has published five books for use in parishes by catechists and students. These books are extremely well-written and illustrated, containing the most modern catechetical and theological information. They are now used in many Dioceses throughout the country.
The RCIA (Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults) is the preferred method of initiation of new members into the faith in Nigeria and much work goes into training the catechists who are involved in this programme.
Sisters are also engaged in other pastoral activities such as daily visitation of the poor and needy in their homes, youth ministry, development of Small Christian Communities in the parishes, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and taking Communion to the sick in their homes. Sisters work with the Missionary Childhood Association which is a very vibrant association for young people in parishes.
In all our pastoral activities, we aim at assisting the people in their faith journey as well as helping them to experience God’s love in the expression of their faith.
Another dimension of our ministry is social in nature. Social as well as pastoral aspects embody our Charism of Service to the Poor in unique and distinct ways.
RSCs have been at the forefront of the campaign to stop Trafficking in Persons for many years. Young women in Nigeria caught in the cycle of poverty are especially vulnerable to traffickers. Sisters have continued to intervene in the rescue and rehabilitation of quite a number of young people caught up in the web of human trafficking.
Awareness campaigns are ongoing in Lagos, Ibadan and Delta State throughout the year to educate young people and their parents. This is carried out in various ways such as the organization of marches, programmes in schools, radio interviews, collaboration and networking with others etc.
The Congregation of Religious Sisters of Charity in collaboration with the National Conference of Women Religious (NCWR) and other National bodies in Nigeria are working together at different levels to end human trafficking.
In the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan, a Religious Sister of Charity serves at the Caritas Desk of Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC). The tasks entrusted to Caritas Department include the following: Care of the environment, Prison welfare, fight against human trafficking, establishment and maintenance of JDPC in the parishes of Ibadan Archdiocese, peace education in schools and conflict reconciliation among people, especially at the family level.
The Peace Committee took place in 26 of the 53 parishes of the Archdiocese. In collaboration with the Ibadan Archdiocese, Religious Sisters of Charity are conducting a campaign against human trafficking in Oyo State which targets 11 Local government areas funded by Misean Cara.
As a Religious body that cares for the welfare and dignity of women, Religious Sisters of Charity continue to lend our voices in solidarity with other concerned people to call for an end to social injustices of our time.
The clarion call for care of creation across the States in Nigeria is becoming louder. We need collective efforts to deal with the urgent national and global ecological crisis. On our part, in Nigeria, we have continued to engage people at different levels and towards care of creation. Awareness and sensitization is ongoing in schools, communities, churches etc. Radio interview has become a powerful tool through which we continue to call the people to take action and end plastic pollution in our environment.
Kirikiri Custodial Centre, Lagos
Involvement in Prison Ministry, begun in the time of our foundress, Mary Aikenhead, continues today in the Nigerian Region. The sisters are involved in catechesis, adult literacy programs, counselling, provision of legal assistance, establishing contact with inmates’ families, provision of clothes and communion services on Sundays.
Agodi Custodial Centre, Ibadan
Sisters in Ibadan are also involved in prison visitation in Agodi Custodial Centre. The intervention at the Agodi Custodial Centre is very limited compared with the enormous needs of the inmates.
St. Anne’s Centre for Women and Youth Development, Lagos
Mary Aikenhead Centre for Skills Acquisition, Ibadan
It is globally held, through research, that Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with one of the largest populations of youths between 15-35 years of age. It is clear from research that youths constitute Nigeria’s only hope for a greater future. In contrast, 64% of unemployed Nigerians are youth and the unemployed rate for women is 35.2% compared with 31.8% for men. This situation leaves women vulnerable and at risk of domestic violence, rape etc. As a result, the country has witnessed increased rates of crime, poverty and insecurity. It is against this background that Religious Sisters of Charity established two Centres namely, St. Anne’s Centre for Women and Youth Development in Lagos and Mary Aikenhead Centre for Skills Acquisition in Ibadan. These Centres were established to train and empower women and youths who are willing and able to learn various skills. The aim is for poverty reduction, financial inclusion, reduction of inequality, reduced crime rate and to achieve financial independence. The training covers tailoring and fashion design, catering, event planning, bakery, ICT computer training, adult literacy programmes and production of antiseptics and soap.
Since its inception, over two thousand four hundred women and youth have graduated from the two Centres.
Concern for marriage and the family has always been central to the Mission of the Church. The future of humanity passes by way of the family (Saint Pope John Paul II). This ministry of Family Apostolate became necessary as in Nigeria there has been a gradual erosion of marriage and family values causing a high rate of unhappy marriages, separation and divorce leading to irreparable family breakdown.
Therefore, John Paul II apostolate in Nigeria focuses on training couples in areas of natural family planning, responsible parenthood, pre-marriage courses, counselling and journeying with families.