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Regional headquarters: Holy Rosary Convent, Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa
Regional Leader: Sister Bernadette Ezeabasili
Holy Rosary Sisters, PO Box 1296, Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa
Telephone: 00232 7685 9282
Vocation Directress: Sister Antonia Ezeibekwe. Telephone: 00232 7858 5450
also: Sister Ngozi Nnabuo 00232 7637 6015 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Holy Rosary Sisters in Sierra Leone
Your are not our first visitor! In the latter part of 2019 Sister Franca Onyibor visited three of our West African Regions, including Sierra Leone. She describes her time in Sierra Leone with appreciation for the country, the people and the sisters, while we in turn were encouraged and energised by her visit.
Franca tells her story:
“I bade goodbye to Liberia on the 11th of November. Sister Felicitas brought me to the Sierra Leone border where I was warmly met by Sisters Bernadette Ezeabasili and Mary Eriken. It was a long journey from the Liberian border to Bo where we had a brief stop-over for lunch and then onwards to Freetown arriving at 9pm that same day.
From God to Man
“On the way we stopped to buy some bananas. I chuckled when Hassan, our able driver, asked the lady selling whether the bananas were ‘from God to man’. The lady said, ‘no’ and then proceeded to show him the real bananas ‘from God to Man’. These are the ones that are left to ripen naturally without using artificial means!
“In our community in Freetown, I witnessed the devastating impact of this year’s flood on the house and other surrounding houses. Another challenge the sisters face is air pollution from the nearby factory and the electricity plant. I went to visit the nearby rubbish dump which was also part of the air pollution the Sisters and their neighbours were experiencing. I saw to my surprise that people were actually living at the site of the rubbish dump; buying and selling. Many of them were trying make a living going through raking every dumped rubbish to isolate recyclable materials like plastics, broken gadgets, etc. I am told that they sell these to the trucks taking them to Guinea where these materials are exported and recycled. While the recycling is noteworthy, I was pained seeing these men and women raking rubbish dumps to eke out a living, oblivious to the fact that they are daily inhaling the poisonous gas emanating from the decomposed rubbish which is a health hazard. To this day, that sight still haunts me.
“However I was also met by the good news of the impact of the “Fullness of Life Program”, targeted at teenage girls to empower and encourage them to complete secondary education and resist early pregnancy and child marriage. In the postwar, post-ebola situation girls have been very vulnerable both to child-marriage and teen-age pregnancy, instead of being allowed to grow up and finish their education and be prepared for life.”
In Freetown also is St Monica’s Women’s Bakery, where top-class bread and cakes are produced!
Franca continues her journey
“My next visit was to Bo, to Qeen of the Rosary Secondary School. This school has been in the forefront of Girls’ education for over 60 years and the Old Girls society have been active in helping bringing it back to its original glory.
“I was happy to hear the good news of QRS in Bo which set an example for the whole country by successfully stamping out exam malpractice. And in 2019 they were also the best performing girls’ school in the School Certificate exam in the whole country. I learnt from Sister Ngozi Nnabuo, the principal, that this was made possible due to the school’s commitment to capacity building among the staff so that they stood together to withstand the pressure and stop exam malpractice. They also motivate the students to tap into their highest potential.
Next stop Kenema!
“At Holy Rosary Secondary School, Kenema, I watched with amazement two short plays presented by the students in preparation for the First Lady’s visit to inaugurate the ‘Hands off our Girls’ program. This program is aimed at prosecuting adult men who lure teenage girls in secondary schools and end up sexually assaulting them. The plays evoked in-depth discussion on this topical issue. In general, I am touched that in most of the ministries in the region, reaching out to vulnerable girls remains paramount. “
While in Kenema Sr Franca also visited St Mary’s Technical and Vocational School where young women learn practical skills that will enable them to earn a living. She was also welcomed to Our Lady’s Girls’ Hostel where there is decent and secure accommodation for them.
Women’s empowerment is best illustrated in Kpatema in the six community- based women’s groups, working for sustainable agriculture and self-reliance. Starting with 20 acres the women are growing the best quality cassava, which is used for making garri and starch, and is even being exported to the UK and US. A mobile grater and mobile drier, adapting to local conditions, visits the villages to help with the work.
Holy Rosary Peace and Counselling Centre, Bo
Our aim is to empower vulnerable girls and women to realize their human dignity and facilitate change, self-reliance and sustainability in families and communities. This year, 2015, 113 girls are receiving training in tailoring, hair-dressing, catering, auto-mechanics and welding, as well as counselling, and several have returned to formal education. We maintain links with their families while they are training. We also conduct workshops and counselling in communities, and provide support for 43 girls towards their accommodation and medical needs.
We also work to provide opportunities for healing and reconciliation for war-affected young men and women and restore personal integrity and mutual trust. We offer on-going youth development training to 94 youth at week-ends, and have held 10 workshops in communities since the Ebola outbreak was contained. Mediation, advocacy, home visitation and regular monitoring are built into our service. We work in close co-operation with out Donors, BZM and Missio, whose support is highly appreciated.
The Pastoral Centre in Bo has also opened its radio station “Sermon on the Mount Radio” which is extremely helpful for the purpose of evangelisation and also spreading the news about girls’ education.
Sister Bernadette Ezeabasili recounts how she attended a conference on catachetics and pastoral outreach attended by pastoral workers from 26 countries. Only 6 of these gave their reports verbally; the rest used media to give their messages. From that she saw the value of radio and determined to start it in Sierra Leone. It is a popular medium for reaching out to people with programmes on Bible Week, Catechists Week, Lives of the Saints, as well as broadcasting Mass and religious services.
Sisster Franca rounded up her visit to our region, summing up her impressions as follows:
“The depth of cooperation and mutuality that I witnessed between Christians and Muslims in Sierra Leone is for me, Sierra Leone’s gift to the world. The Bishops that I met, some of the priests and religious have Muslims in their families. They all live in peace and mutual respect. Here, Religion is a source of unity, not division. I am hopeful that our sisters serving in Sierra Leone will continue to harness this precious gift and to nurture it. “
Thank you, Sister Franca, for your visit!
In 2019 Holy Rosary Secondary School, Kenema, celebrated the golden jubilee of it foundation, while Holy Rosary School, Bo, celebrated Diamond! These were great occasions for the coming together of many, many past students, and rejoicing of the present students as they vie to imitate and surpass the achievements of their mothers and grandmothers.
Students also prepared for the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist and we rejoice with them as they grow in faith.
We thank all our supporters, here in Sierra Leone and overseas, and pray for God’s continued blessing on all of you. You are, as always, part of our Mission.
This report seeks to give an account of the responses implemented by the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary (MSHR) in Sierra Leone to the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, based on qualitative data from interviews with survivors and extensive focus group discussions with the Sisters who led their organisation’s response.
As the crisis unfolded during 2014 and 2015, the Sisters took action in the various settings in which they worked: their two girls’ secondary schools in Bo and Kenema, their counselling centre and pastoral centre, and additional outreach work carried out in rural communities and in liaison with other agencies such as local hospitals and health centres. Much of this work was concerned with countering false rumours and beliefs about Ebola with correct information and guidance on how to limit its spread and look after those affected. Another part of the work was the giving of practical help, such as cleaning and hygiene materials, and also food to those most in need. Finally an important element was psychosocial counselling to help people who had lost family members overcome fear and desperation and rebuild hope for the future. The findings suggest that the various strategies used by the Sisters were effective because of the way they all contributed to an integrated approach. Their work to change attitudes and question false rumours linked with their work to provide correct information and practical advice. Both of these contributed to changes in behaviour and practices, which were in turn helped by the provision of hygiene equipment and cleaning materials. Meanwhile early detection led to increased chances of survival for those suffering from Ebola. Practical material support to families while in quarantine, and psychosocial support and counselling, helped them and their families find ways through the ordeal.
The Missionary Sisters’ approach thus embodies many of the key characteristic of the Missionary Approach to development as understood by Misean Cara, particularly the long-term commitment of the Missionary Sisters to the communities in which they lived and worked, leading to sensitive and effective interventions; the holistic approach that valued the whole person and their intrinsic human dignity; and the cultivation of spiritual and psychosocial resilience to help people overcome crises in their communities. Although this study considered just one context-specific response to the Ebola crisis, many of the lessons learnt can be effectively put to use in other emergency or humanitarian crisis situations.
The full report can be read on www.mshr.org under DEVELOPMMENT.
Copyright Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary
AWARD TO HOLY ROSARY SISTERS FREETOWN (RE – EBOLA WORK)
By Sr. Elizabeth (Liz) N. Onwuama
In Sierra Leone, since Ebola epidemic ended, the 8th of June each year is celebrated as the commemoration of the Ebola Survivors’ Day. This is because it was the date in 2015 the first Ebola survivor person was recorded. On the 8th of June this year (2017), it was celebrated in Prot Loko, in the Northern Province and Certificates were awarded to individuals and organizations who helped in various ways during the Ebola crisis. I was also there to receive a certificate of merit on behalf of the Holy Rosary Sisters, Freetown, which read: “Certificate of Merit presented by; The Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors To Holy Rosary Sisters Freetown In Recognition of your Excellent Support in the Fight Against Ebola and Reintegrating Ebola Survivors into their Communities”.
Among those distributing the Certificates were:
I thank God for the award. For me, I will say I received the award not only on behalf of the Holy Rosary Sisters in Freetown. But, firstly for all our Sisters in Sierra Leone then. It was a very difficult time for us to take such challenging risk to remain in the country to help our people but we did so at the expense of our lives. Secondly, for the Holy Rosary Sisters in the Congregation for their tremendous Spiritual and Financial support. The candles you lighted praying for us and your family, community and Parish fund raising for, as well as individual donations to our Region did not go in vain. Tanki yu! (Thank You).
It is true that, Ebola is now a History of the past but the survivors still need to be taken care of especially medical wise and other aspects that will help them rebuild their lives. …………………………………………………………….
Holy Rosary Sisters first came to Sierra Leone in 1948 at the invitation of Bishop Ambrose Kelly CSSp, then bishop of Freetown and Bo. Their mission was, in the light of the gospel, to bring education especially to women, and to provide health care, to mothers and children and the population in general. They did this in Freetown, Kenema, Bo, Pujehun and further afield, living and working peacefully with both Christians and Muslims.
Between 1991 and 2002 the country was engulfed in civil war. The hospitals and schools became targets of attack and some had to be vacated. Thousands of people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes and became refugees in Guinea. Holy Rosary sisters moved with the refugees. (See mshr.org page on Liberia, under Regions)
When the war came to an end and the sisters returned with the people, there began the long task of building life anew. Schools and hospitals were reopened and slowly rebuilt. There was great need for Counselling, Trauma Release and Healing Management, and for skills training for young women who had lost out on education, to help them earn their living.
In 2014 another calamity befell the country with the outbreak of Ebola.
“This laid a very heavy toll on us,” the sisters report, “with so many precious lives lost. For safety reasons all burials are now done in the Ebola way. Whether one dies of Ebola or not, one is buried by the Ebola Team. This can be very traumatic, as we all like to give our dear ones a befitting burial. The government declared a state of emergency and quarantined the whole country to help check the spread of the disease. As a result, prices of food and commodities soared. We were able to help by supplying food to communities that were cut off. The death of many medical personnel left us more shattered as the hospitals became understaffed. The international community responded by sending medical volunteers: we thank them, and also our sisters, friends and supporters, for their unwavering prayer, care and support. This had helped a great deal to make easy our option to stay with the people in difficult times, and to bring relief and comfort to those affected by the disease.”
“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts of all those who encounter Christ, a joy ever new, a joy that is shared.” Pope Francis
A new book on Interculturality and the Religious life has just been written by Sr Chinyeaka C Ezeani, published by Pauline Publications Africa.
“Taking seriously the prayer of Jesus that all may be one (John 17:21), Sister Chinyeaka tries in this book to articulate clearly the challenges as well as the beauty of living as people from different cultures in religious life. The underlying assumption in her work is that it is possible and necessary to appreciate the beauty that each culture brings. This requires continuous to conversion to the heart of Christ, and prayerful attentiveness to biases and complexes that tend to support mischaracterization of other cultures. ” (From the