Catholic Sisters in Africa Urged to Remain True to Calling Despite Disappointments

From left; Sr. Pasilisa Namukoye, ÀOSK Executive Secretary, Sr. Mary Cecilia Njeri, ACWECA President, Sr. Hellen Badhiho ACWECA General Secretary. Credit: AMECEA

Members of the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) have been urged to remain true to their role models especially when Religious Life does not turn out the way they expected it to be.

In his Monday, August 23 homily during the Eucharistic celebration to mark the beginning of ACWECA’s 18th Plenary Assembly, Fr. Stephen Omondi noted that many people join Religious Life with pure intentions but change as time goes by.

“Initially, when joining sisterhood, the intention is usually perfect. I call it original innocence... Then slowly, we are corrupted by the system,” Fr. Omondi said.

Fr. Stephen Omondi, the Parish Priest of Regina Caeli Karen Parish of Nairobi Archdiocese. Credit: AMECEA

He added, “You come so good and holy and then you discover these other people are not good and holy. And so, you remodify all your good intentions and slowly you start becoming selfish; slowly, your motto becomes survival; slowly, your motto becomes comfort; I have rights and privileges; slowly, your motto is becoming rich. Where you are proclaiming poverty, you become a donor. And finally, you develop an ‘I don’t care’ attitude.”


The Kenyan-born Priest encouraged the Catholic Sisters in Eastern and Central Africa to offer themselves wholeheartedly to the Church, adhering to the voice of Jesus Christ, the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the inspiration of their respective foundresses.

“Let everything we do be led by a true spirit of sacrifice, love, endurance and faithfulness to the words of our foundresses but also in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, our perfect role model and our Mother Mary,” the Parish Priest of Regina Caeli Karen Parish of Nairobi Archdiocese said.

He added, “And this year, we also celebrate St. Joseph. He is a good role model. He keeps quiet but he is a good, active man; doesn’t talk but achieves much.”

In a Facebook post Monday, August 23, the leadership of ACWECA noted that unlike other past Plenary Assemblies where all the council of delegates together with all the invited guests would assemble for the opening Holy Mass, only organizing committees from the Sisters’ association and the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) were to take part in the Eucharistic celebration in person.

In an interview with Nairobi-based Capuchin TV, the President of ACWECA, Sr. Cecilia Njeri, noted that the ongoing five-day plenary, which was postponed last year owing to the stringent COVID-19 restrictions, is aimed at re-awakening the Sisters’ prophetic role as Christians and also as Religious, a gift she said the Religious received in the Sacrament of Baptism.

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Banner announcing the 18th Plenary Assembly of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA). Credit: AMECEA

“We will be able to ask ourselves where we have come from, where we are and where we are going. In that we shall be able to continue strengthening our initial and ongoing formation for holistic transformation of members in the ACWECA region for deeper evangelization in this contemporary world,” Sr. Njeri said during the August 23 interview.

She added, “We shall also be renewed in the authentic living of our consecrated life so that we become truly witnesses of Jesus Christ and the good news.”

As the world continues to battle the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sr. Njeri’s message is, “Do not lose hope.”

“We are people of hope and we shouldn’t give up and we shouldn’t be filled with fear. We should continue growing in the conviction that God loves us unconditionally,” the Kenyan-born Nun who is the Superior General of the Little Sisters of St. Francis said in the interview just before the celebration of Holy Mass.


A section of ACWECA members who participated in the Eucharistic celebration to mark the start of the 18th Plenary Assembly hosted by AOSK on 23 August 2021. Credit: ACWECA

She added, “Secondly, we need to look back in our past with gratitude as Pope Francis told us in our year of consecrated life, to be able to embrace the present with passion, doing all we can to protect ourselves and to protect others and also to anticipate the future with great hope; and be people who give hope to the world that is very anxious about COVID-19.”

The ACWECA President further called on the Sisters in the 10-member Association to be their sisters’ keepers and to continue reaching out with compassion to one another and to the people of God.

“Knowing that this is the year of St. Joseph, we should pray to him that he may help us and pray for us that this COVID-19 that has devastated the world may come to the end,” Sr. Njeri said.

ACWECA brings together a Council of delegates from 10 National Association of Sisterhoods from the English-speaking countries of Eastern and Central Africa, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, the latter an associate member.

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Since its inception in 1974, ACWECA has held 17 Plenary Assemblies. This year, the regional Association of Catholic Sisters is holding its 18th Plenary Assembly, a virtual event being hosted by AOSK.

Sr. Njeri has confirmed that the Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Joáo Cardinal Braz de Aviz, will give the keynote address at the Plenary Assembly.

The Cardinal’s address, Sr. Njeri says, will help to re-awaken the prophetic role of consecrated women in the ACWECA region.

This year’s Plenary Assembly, which runs from August 23 to 28 has drawn participants from all the member countries, observers, donors, partners and members of Religious Orders of Sisters from outside the ACWECA region.

The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) has estimated that over one hundred ninety-eight (198) delegates will attend the 18th Plenary Assembly, and key among these is the Council of delegates who have voting powers. This delegation is comprised of Superiors General, country delegates, Provincial Superiors and Regional Superiors.

Postulants and Novices of Dimesse Sisters who animated the Eucharistic celebration that marked the start of ACWECA's 18th Plenary Assembly hosted by AOSK on 23 August 2021. Credit: ACWECA

Also expected at the Plenary Assembly are a team of observers representing the International Union of Superiors Generals, Religious women from outside the ACWECA region and partners.

The Plenary Assembly is bringing together representatives of the over 30,000 Religious women serving in the Eastern and Central African region and other invited guests, according to AMECEA Online News.

Fr. Andrew Kaufa, the Social Communications Coordinator of AMECEA, has lauded the leadership of ACWECA for the “courage” in proceeding with the Plenary Assembly, the COVID-19 challenges notwithstanding.

Fr. Andrew Kaufa in an interview session with Fr. Vincent Shumila of Capuchin TV with a section of ACWECA leadership on 23 August 2021. Credit: AMECEA

“It took courage to organize such an important plenary online. I am aware that last year they had postponed the assembly but this year they decided to proceed and that is quite courageous and they set a good example not only to other sisters in the region but also to Bishops conferences that have been postponing meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fr. Kaufa said.

The theme for the 18th ACWECA Plenary Assembly is, “Re-awaken the Prophetic Role: A call for Reformation towards Holistic Transformation in the ACWECA region today.”

The theme, Fr. Kaufa says, is in line with what Pope Francis advocates for concerning consecrated life.

“The theme focuses on a prophetic role that Sisters in the AMECEA region ought to play. This has been a very important role that even Pope Francis has been emphasizing, including when he met the Religious Superiors in Rome in 2013,” the AMECEA Social Communications Coordinator said in an interview on August 23.

He added, “Pope Francis’ passion is to see Religious congregations standing out as a prophetic voice in this world, which is characterized by secularism and sometimes people don’t see the meaning of religious life at all. And for him (Pope Francis) it is not so much what we do, the way we live at the level of the being. I think this is how I understand Pope Francis.”

“For the Sisters to choose this topic and say can we sit down for five good days and discuss how we can play this prophetic role in the Eastern and Central African region, I think we need to pray for them and wish them all success because this is in line with what Pope Francis is looking for,” Fr. Kaufa said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.