Watch: Pace Setters Arrive in Dublin to a Warm Welcome from the Holy Rosary Sisters

On April 26th, 2023, 21 past students from Our Lady of Lourdes College in Bamenda, Cameroon arrived in Dublin for a special visit. These women, the PaceSetters graduating class of 1986, traveled from countries around the world including the USA, UK, Switzerland, and Cameroon.

They were welcomed at the airport by many of the Holy Rosary sisters who educated them decades ago. The Pace Setters came to show gratitude for the values and lessons they learned from the sisters during their time in Dublin.

The next day, the group attended a thanksgiving mass and enjoyed reconnecting after so many years apart. It was a joyous reunion and celebration of the lifelong impact the Holy Rosary sisters had on these women as students. Though the years have passed, the care and teachings of the sisters remain dear to their hearts.

From Monze to Panama – trip of a lifetime!

Paradise Panama

God sent a gentle breeze from the four corners of the earth, steering hearts of young people to converge in a special “Paradise” Panama. This wonderful mingling of people from round the world was an amazing and joyful  experience for many of them, as Agnes, from Monze in Zambia, tells us:

 

“I, Agnes Nkhata, am glad to share with you my most wonderful experience of the World Youth Day in Panama. I was privileged to be one of the twenty eight pilgrims that form the Zambia group. I also represented my Mary Immaculate Parish at large. I want to tell you about  Saint Jose Chame Parish in Panama.  I chose this because the great love, generosity and hospitality I experienced there set the tone to the wonderful impact the World Youth Day made on me.

We arrived at Saint Jose Chame Parish Panama about 23.00, after our long journey. Late as it was, the Parishioners were waiting to welcome us.  The youth and their families all were present singing and dancing.  My tiredness disappeared as I watched the joy of being welcomed to a foreign country and people in such a pleasant manner. They had organized the families that would host the Zambian Contingent before our arrival. The parish Chairperson called out each pilgrim and assigned the host family to the person. Our oneness as a Zambian family gave way to an insertion to a new family.  For the next one week that was our home. They took every care of us from feeding, transportation, giving us treats, name it!!  All of us spoke only English and they only Spanish. Yet we communicated. They installed the Spanish – English translator apps to their phones and this made it easier to communicate.

Our activities

In our own parish of Saint Jose Chame there were over eleven countries. It was here at the Diocesan level that we had various activities, such as the daily celebration of Mass, praying the Rosary, having our lunch together, showcasing different cultural activities from various countries, faith walks through the forest, planting of trees and Painting. Each country painted her national flag on a very big canvas.

Young people are special

By now our new families have broadened. Every pilgrim stepped out of her or his own group and joined others in their dancing or other cultural activities. I came to understand that the young people are special. They can adapt easily and are very loving and lovable. It was a joy to see unity in diversity. In fact, it was a joy to be a Catholic and to be a youth. I have learnt and gained a lot and I hope to give what I have received.

Tears and hugs

Our parish families attended the last celebration of the Mass with us in their parish, distributed presents to us and we also gave them some presents we brought for home. They came as a body to see us off to Panama City in the morning of our departure. It was an emotional moment because we were leaving our “home out of home” for ever. Amidst tears, hugs and pecks we parted. Though I was, (as many of us were,) invited to come for a visit whenever….. I knew in my heart that it may never happen.
But part of me remains in my lovely host family, the parish and Panama as a whole. I cherish my time at Saint Joseph’s Parish Chama.

Abraham tells it:

I, Abraham Chisanga, from the diocese of Monze in Zambia, want to tell you about my new friends I met in Zambia
My trip to Panama for the World Youth Day was the first out of my country.  During the event I got exposed to many people and cultures. I made a lot of friends! Though I made a lot of friends but I was freer with the three of them. Their names are: Juan Vieney  Molan and Jessica Lodrigas from Central America and Alfredo from Germany. I met them at the church called  St Joseph. It was during the night when we were having the official introduction of the Participants.

After the introduction one of my new friends, by the name of Juan, took me to his family. He  introduced me to his family and the family welcomed me. They even gave me shelter, food and everything which was needed. I felt very happy.  I can’t even explain how pleased I was because it was the first time in my life to have such experience. To live in a different family and a different country and find that ok is a memory I cherish.

During my stay with my friends in Panama these were my experiences: We taught one another about our different cultures and how we worship.  The only challenges I had with my friends were about the language, different accents and different types of food. The food in particular was very different from the food I’m used to eating here in Zambia. But because I had made up my mind before travelling for the World Youth Day to follow the saying, “when you go to Rome, do like the Romans” I tried my best to understand the language and enjoy the meals.

​I’m still communicating with my friends. We are still encouraging one another about Christianity and worship via social media.

After their “family” experience in their parish the participants moved to Panama City, for the General Assembly, where they took part in workshops, prayer and reflection on the theme: “I am the  handmaid of the Lord.”  They also had the opportunity to see Pope Francis and  and meet still more friends from round the world.

Accompanying young people

Sister Mercy Ani, who travelled with the youth to Panama, reflects:

“Young people are the future generation. They are a well of vibrancy when motivated. They love God deep in them and long to be understood and valued as full members of the church who have talents to share.
The poor economic situation in many African Countries is reflected in the lives of most young people in Zambia too. The worst hit being the female youth. Early marriages, teenage pregnancies with its twin sister, teenage mothers,  abortions, school drop outs, drink among the young men, and even cases of suicides are areas that cry for concerted efforts. Since the focus is on “Accompaniment” we collaborate with Family and Education ministries in education for effective  parenting, inspirational teaching and leadership formation across the board.” 

Holy Rosary Sisters thank you for your support and prayers for our youth ministry in all our Regions .  May  God bless you all.

Embracing Peace in North East Nigeria

By Sister Franca Onyibor mshr  

Franca describes efforts to sow seeds of peace using the skills of Non-Violent Communication in North East Nigeria, where the Boko Haram conflict has been tearing communities apart.  She and her colleague, Duke, meet and listen to people on both sides:

   “ We are having amazing experiences with stories of pain and some joy too. So far we have worked with four different groups.  We have also been engaged with the initial work for restorative dialogue with a group of local Farmers and Fulani herdsmen – two groups that have been in conflict for many years. The local security guards (called vigilantes) have also been part of this initial dialogue. People have been killed on both sides and properties lost. As is unfortunately so common in these types of conflict, one side sees the other side as impossible – “they will not come, they will not talk”. And yet when we went to the other side we had barely finished explaining why we had come when they started to say, “whatever it is we will do it, we want peace!”  We expected ten for this gathering and over thirty turned up including young Fulani herdsmen. Even though I am the only woman present, the group desired peace so much that they were enthusiastically open to receive from me and to share with openness.

As we together explored ways forward for peace, many of the Fulani elders also expressed their deep desire that their children from henceforth would learn to read and write. I feel sad for many of the young men present who could neither read nor write. Though this place is located in the middle of nowhere, I have started praying  to Bishop Shanahan for nomadic school for these Fulani children and for many other Fulani children in Nigeria.  I believe with our dear Founder that this dream will one day come true.  Thank you for joining me in this dream and prayer for these precious children.

     “Nonviolence is a chosen, mindful approach to life that emerges from standing for love, courage, and truth”- Miki Kashtan, Little book of Courageous Living

” I am a member of a worldwide network for peace called, ‘Non Violent Communication’ (NVC). It was founded by Marshall Rosenberg; website is www.nvc.org.  I feel drawn to this path because it offers me concrete tools for transforming my own anger and hurt to grow towards an open hearted kindness and love towards myself and others. Today, NVC continues to nourish me as I try to respond to the call to contribute to sowing seeds of peace by bringing NVC to Nigeria. The unanimous response of those who have participated in my training programmes  is one of deep appreciation for NVC.

Fatima, a participant whose aunt was killed in a conflict, put it this way:
I came to this workshop with huge emotional pain. I leave with a lighter heart due to the deep listening I experienced. I am also learning how I can begin to create peace and harmony within myself and in my relationships. In fact, I see the potential NVC has to bring peace to Nigeria.”

The writer of this article, Sister Franca Onyibor, is a Missionary Sister of the Holy Rosary from Nigeria.

Trauma healing for people displaced by Boko Haram attacks in North East Nigeria

Sister Franca Onyibor, Missionary Sister of the Holy Rosary, writes about the healing work she and her colleague, Duke, are doing in some of the camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs)

There are 700 people at this camp and they all wished to participate. Sadly, for a start, we are choosing to work with the number we can manage (35) and choosing from those most in need.

I am gradually coming to accept my human limitations regarding the number of IDPs still longing for healing. We hope and pray that whatever healing comes to those who do some work with their trauma will somehow impact the larger community in a meaningful way.
As we sat there on benches under the shade of the trees in the middle of their camp, listening to their stories was shocking, horrifying, heart breaking, and awe-inspiring for me. In addition, listening to the stories of how they came to the camp was very difficult for all – and the pain of those experiences was very evident on many of the faces. One woman still does not know the fate of 3 of her children taken by Boko Haram. Can you imagine the kind of courage it requires to face that pain? All of them face this kind of pain in one way or another; and yet all still have room for great gratitude also……. it is very humbling for me. Simultaneously they  began to get more connected with how their enormous pain lives in their bodies and to explore some ways to calm that. We focused on somatic or body-based activities to help them to reconnect with their physical being-ness.

Over the first couple of days most of the IDPs showed limited emotional expression and although they said that it was good what we were doing together, it was difficult to discern any impact. It was not until the third day when one of the women, who had lost more than 50 members of her family, reported that last night was the first time she slept all the way through the night without awaking, that we began to notice subtle but definite changes.  After this, slowly others reported improved sleeping, with another woman exclaiming still in some surprise “I was sleeping so deeply that someone actually had to come and wake me up because they were wondering where I was!”  Others began to report feeling lighter in their bodies, one woman stating, “It is as if my shoulders are not carrying so much weight.” In general the mood lightened and more emotion seemed to be present, and occasionally laughter.

Haunted by the memories

Many reported the horror of watching their loved ones die in front of them; and this was compounded by not being able to do anything to help save them, or even to be able to offer the dead the dignity of burying the body.  This was haunting many of the participants. So on the last day we had a ceremony where they were able to symbolically bury their dead and/or turn their loved one who had disappeared and their status was unknown over to God. During the ritual ceremony participants brought symbols of their deceased or missing loved ones. Not one, but four different people, brought a tree branch with many, many leaves as a symbol for the more than 50 people they lost in their families – it was more than I could take in; to imagine that this woman or this man in front of me has endured such a level of loss and is still able to be standing and functioning… it is a strength I am not sure I possess. Nonetheless, the ritual was a solemn and powerful experience as each person came up to the ceremonial ‘altar’, spoke their loved ones’ names and shared briefly how this person had touched their lives. One of the IDPs expressed her huge relief in these words: “I no longer see bodies of my loved ones eaten by pigs and dogs. With this ‘burial’ ceremony, I see them in their full humanity and beauty and I am relieved.” The pain of loss was there, but so too was the deep love that those who passed had brought into their lives.

Gratitude

At the close of the 4 days many reported that this ritual was the most empowering thing that they had done, and that they felt a huge amount of relief having finally buried their dead with the care, love and dignity befitting a loved one. These IDPs were so grateful for the work – just even for the fact that someone cared for them enough to spend 4 days together; it was very humbling. They expressed their deep appreciation to those whose financial support made our work possible, requesting that we carry to you all bags and bags of gratitude from their hearts to yours….

We are indeed immensely grateful to you whose prayers and donations are making all this possible. For example it is because of your donations that we are able to provide lunch to the IDPs who come for the workshop, pay the airfare for Duke to come to Nigeria and to travel to these risky places (to name a few). Had we not provided lunch for the participants, they would need to endure a 20 minute walk each way in blistering heat without shade to return to their camp, make their own food, and then walk back. This would have significantly impacted their ability to participate. So thank you from all of them to you for this gift.

In a recent letter Franca adds to her thanks.  “There is so much good news which I long to share. Since the peace project in North East Nigeria, some of those we encountered have caught the passion for peace. For example, one of our Fulani collaborators has taken the message of non-violence to mosques – and his message is being received. Many more are asking him to come to them. Here in Nigeria there is huge tension between Igbos and the Muslim North, fueled by hate messages to each other. In response, our team is in the process of meeting Igbo chiefs and Imams for a forum on non-violence, with groups in Northern states as well as Kogi and Enugu…. Please keep us in your powerful prayers.”

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Franca belongs to an international organisation committed to Non Violence.  See also her article Passion for Peace in North East Nigeriaposted September 2017

The tragedies of trafficking

Anti trafficking initiatives in Cameroon  

By Sister Mercy Muthoni

Can the sun really rise again for women who have been trafficked?  Sister Mercy, with plenty of experience, believes that these women can build their lives anew, with assistance. That’s why she continues in her work, where she sees great tragedies, and extraordinary courage too. 

Mercy writes:

Human trafficking as we know is our modern slavery. It is the third biggest organized crime in the world. As Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary here in Cameroon we are engaged in the following initiatives:
Prevention: Under prevention we carry out the following activities:

We carry out educational talks in churches, social groups, in schools, and we use the local media. Here we emphasize the dangers of human trafficking and the consequences. We have a lot of deaths mainly from the young people who died outside the community and many families do not know how or when they died, they receive their bodies and bury them and the story ends there. We use this as a tangible example as it is affecting so many families:

1.  We carry out sensitization to the young people in schools and in the youth groups in villages.
2. We educate communities about the Cameroon law even though this is a challenge, as prosecution is yet a dream to be realized, thus we prefer to use community heads to challenge this ill from the grassroots.
3. We work with the drivers unions and the motor bike riders as they are the cheapest means of transport to help us to identify the movement. This has worked well despite a few instances of corruption.
4. When we get in touch with some young women who are tempted to travel to the Middle East, precisely Kuwait and Dubai, we discourage them through counseling and providing support like skills training;  many want to go out because they have no means to go to school.
5.We encourage formation of micro scale initiatives through women’s groups. Women are wonder educators and a great force in fighting such ill in the society, all they need is follow up, education and encouragement.
6. Behavior change programs among the youths have also helped because the lessons of HIV/AIDS, and on the abuse and exploitation, help the young people to think twice before making a decision to move out.

Protection and repatriation

1. This has been a very huge challenge. Between 2014 and now, we have experienced a mass exodus to the Middle East. We have tried to work with the embassy of Central Africa Republic in Kuwait, unfortunately it was closed down last year. We have worked with Talitha Kum Network, Rome and IOM and religious organizations within. Many of the cases that have been deported came back traumatized due to the amount of abuse and exploitation they encountered. They had so many debts, as they had to get huge sums to enable their travel and back at home, and they have not cleared the debts. So they come back more miserable than they left. Some are now mentally disturbed. Some come back and hide as they are not able to bear the stigma and shame.

2.We try to do family counseling, trauma healing for the affected women and men. Right now we do not have a shelter or a place where  young men and girls who are rescued locally can be protected for some time but we look forward to initiating one.”

Mercy is a Kenyan Holy Rosary Sister on mission in Cameroon.  Her article was first published in Vivat International in May 2018. Talitha Kum is a Rome-based organisation dedicated to combatting trafficking. 

The home of the Queen of Sheba!

From our Sisters in the Ethiopia Region:

“Two words ring bells in our minds as we face into the new year of 2019: hope and gratitude. Our world throughout the past year has tempted and tried us with its miseries: news of war, conflict, poverty and despair. Yet with eyes of faith we can also see hope all around, count  the blessings we have received, and name the accomplishments-both small and great- that we have attained as a region and as a congregation.

“First, from the home of the Queen of Sheba, Lalibela, we the sisters in Ethiopia region welcome and glorify the Lord for the person of Sister Workinesh Admasu, newly professed and newly assigned to our  Region.

“The Sisters working  in Wonji Catholic Medium Clinic have recently uplifted the face of the clinic, answering the ardent need of the patients with the provision of a new ULTRA SOUND MACHINE which will be affordable for all their patients. We say   ›Ó²=›wQ` ÃeƒM” !  Thank you to them.

“In Addis, Sr Celestina  Nnadi continues her work at the Blessed Mother Teresa Friendship Center for the poor and marginalized of the area. She is seen here with some young people whose schooling was cut short for one reason or another,who are learning hair dressing. They are delighted to get the opportunity and so wish all Holy Rosary sisters and friends a happy and grace-filled new year.”

Saint Bakhita

February 8th Feast of Saint Bakhita.  Born in Sudan, captured as a slave, cruelly treated.  Freed in Italy, baptised…
a life of love born of suffering. see Blog

Rome January 18 – 22

Pope Francis has summoned heads of Episcopal Conferences from 180 countries to Rome for a Conference on the burning issue of historic child sexual abuse in the church.      We pray for great honesty, courage, compassion  and resolution among all those taking part.

Saint Patrick’s Day

When Saint Patrick came back to Ireland, did he realise what he was doing?  The whole of Ireland celebrates this day, and half the world celebrates with us! Let us unite in bringing peace to the world, respecting every human person whatever their beliefs, for all are made in the image of our Father, God.

Young people in the Church

Sister Mercy Ani, Youth co-ordinator in Monze Diocese, writes from her experience: Young people are the future generation. They are a well of vibrancy. They love God deep in them and long to be valued as full members of the church who have talents to share.