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“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of those who encounter Jesus. A joy ever new. A joy that is shared.” Pope Francis.
Holy Rosary Sisters in Sierra Leone
Regional headquarters: Holy Rosary Convent, Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa
Regional Leader: Sister Elizabeth Onwuama. Telephone: 00232 7664 1577 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vocation Directress: Sister Anthonia Ezebekwe Telephone: 00232 7858 5450
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 Provence 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.”
Trauma Release and Healing Management and Counselling. Sister Rita Ogbusu works with fellow-counsellors in Trauma Release and Healing Management. She also works in close collaboration with staff and local people to fight child abuse, child marriage and domestic violence, even taking to the streets in public campaigns.
The initial idea to start a small scale financial activities was initiated by the Archbishop of Freetown, Most Rev. Dr. Edward Tamba Charles in November 2010 with the support of Sr. Elizabeth N. Onwuama, their Spiritual Adviser. The expectation was that with the success of such a project the Catholic women will be able to financially empower themselves and their children. The membership of ACWA is over 1,100 spread across twelve Parishes in the Freetown environment.
Sister Bernadette Ezebasili with the Kpatema Community in Bo. The sign-board says it all.
Young women who have missed out on education learn skills in dress-making and design, bead-work, catering and more, with Sister Secunda Ebang and her staff. This enables them to earn their living.
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.
Sisters also teach at secondary and university levels in Freetown, Bo and Kenema. In Holy Rosary Senior Secondary School, Kenema, rehabilitation of the school buildings has been carried out with help from Tawainese volunteers who come yearly to work with the students.
In Queen of the Rosary Secondary School in Bo repair and rebuilding has also been going on, and even more importantly, students have been enabled to sit state examinations with good results.
The Pastoral Centre in Bo has also been rehabilitated, and has taken a new step forward by opening a radio station, “Sermon on the Mount Radio” which is extremely helpful for the purpose of evangelisation and also sensitising people about Ebola. Sister Bernadette Ezebasili has also started a huge agricultural programme for women. They have planted rice, groundnuts, potatoes, cassava, okra, soyabeans, garden eggs and vegetables. The crops have been harvested, dried and stored and can be ordered at www.reapwhereyouhavenotsown.co.sl . Sister Anthonia Ezeibekwe is busy training catechists in Kenema Pastoral Centre.
The Sierra Leone flag, green, white and blue,
(see above) was officially adopted on April 27
1961. The green is symbolic of agriculture and
natural resources, the white represents justice,
and the blue is symbolic of Freetown Harbour.
Bishop Shanahan, founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, continues to be our inspiration and support as he holds us in his prayers. We recall his words:
“Trust Jesus with unlimited trust, and let there be no love like unto yours for Him