Five Gaps Catholic Sisters Ministering among Youth in Eastern, Central Africa Face

A pie chart presentation of how skilled Catholic nuns in Central and Eastern Africa are in guiding young people in entrepreneurship.

A study in Eastern and Central Africa has established some five limitations, which Catholic Sisters ministering among young people face, a Sister has indicated in her presentation at the ongoing ten-day virtual International Consultative Research (ICR) conference.

Training in entrepreneurship is one of the five limitations, Sr. Hellen Bandiho told participants during the Monday, September 28 session, explaining that majority of women Religious in the region lack appropriate skills in guiding young people keen on becoming entrepreneurs.

Based on her research findings, the member of Tanzania-based Congregation of the Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (STH) reported that only 4 percent of the 262 research respondents indicated that they were “very skilled” in entrepreneurship.

Almost half of the respondents drawn from five African countries (47 percent) indicated they were “somewhat skilled”; 44 percent said they were “a little skilled”; and 5 percent indicated that they were “not at all skilled” in entrepreneurship, Sr. Hellen who serves as the Secretary General of the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) reported.

Titled “Women Religious in ACWECA Region: Effective Evangelization in Modern Society,” Sr. Hellen’s research sought to explore the preparedness of Catholic Sisters for youth apostolate in the region of Eastern and Central Africa alongside four other study objectives.


The other research objectives that the Tanzanian-born nun has examined include Catholic Sisters’ preparedness in tackling cases of abuse, their competency in technology and its use, their skills in counselling and their handling of social justice issues.

“Only between 43%-59% are aware of any resources available to assist young people to overcome their abuse,” Sr. Hellen, a holder of a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, reported during her presentation at the virtual forum organized by two U.S.-based entities – the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University and the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC).

Eight in ten respondents indicated that having training in the areas of physical abuse and violence, drug abuse, sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, and mental health and recovery from trauma would be “very helpful to them,” Sr. Hellen who is one of the 2019 visiting ASEC-CARA scholar reported during the ten-day conference that started on September 21.

“Ninety-seven percent (97%) of respondents report using smart phones at least once a week and 60% use a computer as often,” she also reported during her September 28 presentation and added, “The most popular social media application among respondents is WhatsApp.”

Her study found that sampled Sisters were using the Internet for educational/academic purposes (49 percent), socializing (40 percent), and for spiritual purposes (35 percent).

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The Kenya-based nun also reported that her research had established that the majority of the sampled Sisters would find it “very” helpful to have more knowledge in all areas related to “counselling and social justice.”

With 73 percent to 94 percent of respondents in each of the five areas examined in the study saying training in counselling and social justice would be “very” helpful, Sr. Hellen interpreted this as an indicator of “an extreme need for more training in those areas.”

On the implications of the research findings, the long-time educator and administrator at St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) told participants, “Sisters’ ministries require competency in many areas, including those related to social justice, counseling, abuse, technology and social skills-entrepreneurship.”

“Results of this survey is a call to all Superiors General, National Associations and their supporters to listen to the voices of their Sisters,” Sr. Hellen, one of the ASEC-CARA visiting scholars who presented their research studies September 28, the fourth day of the virtual International Research Conference (IRC), said in conclusion.


On the same day, Nigerian-born Sr. Florence Emurayeveya whose research examined the apostolate of Religious Sisters in her native country highlighted the various ministries of the Sisters in the West African nation.

Sr. Florence’s study established that majority (41 percent) of the Sisters in Nigeria are engaged in education apostolate, 25 percent in Parish and pastoral activities, 10 percent in healthcare activities and the rest in other ministries such as institute leadership, social services, among others, the member of the Institute of the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus (EHJ) in Nigeria reported.

In her study, leaders across 35 Religious Institutes who responded to the research listed 574 different apostolates in which their members are currently engaged, serving an average of 200-500 people, Sr. Florence told participants in the virtual conference September 28.

The former ASEC-CARA visiting scholar also reported that her study had established that the majority of the Catholic nuns in Nigeria (95 percent) are natives, 4 percent of them born in other African countries, and only one percent of them born outside Africa.

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“14% of women religious are ages 30 and younger and 60% are ages 31 to 50. That means that a combined 74% are age 50 and younger,” she reported and added, “Some of those sisters who are older are retired, semi-retired, or engaged in full-time prayer.”

The September 21-30 research conference that brings together Lay and Religious researchers from six regions among them Africa aims at creating a global network of researchers who will have the task of examining the apostolate of Catholic Sisters across the globe.