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In Africa, “families can be obstacle to vocations”, Kenyan Bishop Cautions at Profession

Bishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba, with (from right) Sr. Jackyne, Nancy, Norah and Gladys who professed their final vows Saturday, December 5 in Kenya's Nakuru Diocese.

In Africa, family ties can hinder those who have devoted their entire lives to the service of God’s people as Religious and Clergy from this commitment, a Kenyan Bishop has cautioned.

Presiding over the Eucharistic celebration during which four Kenyan Sisters took their perpetual vows, Bishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba of Kenya’s Nakuru Diocese recommended that parents in Africa be “inducted” into the lifestyle of consecrated persons as servants who are not expected to “bring home a salary.”

“Sometimes, our families can be an obstacle to our vocations if we are not careful especially on the continent of Africa,” Bishop Muhatia said during the Friday, December 4 event, adding, “I have repeated this over and over again and I am going to say it at this profession.”

According to the Kenyan Prelate who is also the Chairman of the Commission for Seminaries of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (KCCB), some parents in Africa look at vocations to Religious Life as “a job”, expecting their children who embrace such life to support them financially.

“Sometimes, the parents must be inducted even before the sisters are taken through their first profession. They must understand that their children are not going to take a job to bring home a salary,” Bishop Muhatia said.

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He reiterated and explained the gravity of his concern, “There is need for induction. We cannot take things for granted because tomorrow, the family is going to become an obstacle to the life of a Religious person.”

Some congregations have started preparing parents to enable them understand what Religious Life is all about and the fact that they should not expect any material gain from their children who choose to live the vowed life, the 52-year-old Kenyan Bishop said December 4 during the final profession of four members of the Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph (FMSJ).

The Bishop advised the four Kenyan Sisters to disengage themselves from family relationships in order to experience their call to Religious Life more deeply.

The Sisters who took their perpetual vows are Sr. Nancy Mong’ina, Sr. Gladys Bonareri and Sr. Jacqlyne Ngoge all three from Kenya’s Kisii Diocese, and Sr. Norah Nyausi who comes from Kakamega Diocese in Kenya.

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Making reference to the immediate and unconditional response of four apostles, Peter, Andrew, James and John at the calling of Jesus in the gospel reading chosen for the day, the four FMSJ members were told, “This is what is expected of you not only during your first profession, not only during your perpetual profession, but every day of your lives.”

The four newly professed sisters were Christened the names of the four apostles and told to live by the example of these apostles who left behind all their respective families and possessions to follow Jesus Christ.

The Prelate said that though honoring one’s father and mother was among the supreme laws of the Jews, the two disciples, James and John “scandalously leave their father when Jesus calls them.”

“This response to the call of Jesus must be practiced in Religious Life today… You have to leave behind destructive relationships and all that is not going to be of help to your vocation,” Bishop Muhatia said, addressing himself to the four members of FMSJ, whose Order is also known as Mill Hill Missionary Sisters.

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Addressing the parents and guardians of the four Mill Hill Missionary Sisters, the Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Nakuru Diocese said that their selfless act of giving their children to the Church would be rewarded “in a different way.”

“Beloved parents, your children are given today totally to the Church. From today, their husband is Jesus Christ. You should therefore not expect dowry in form of cows and goats the African culture allows. The wealth will come in a different way,” the Bishop said.

He continued in reference to the four Sisters who were making their perpetual profession, “They are not taking on a job that will give them a salary, which they can share with you. Those with jobs will give everything they earn to their congregations.”

The Kenyan Prelate cheered the parents up saying, “God never takes anything from anyone unless he has plans to replace it with an even bigger thing. You will receive greater blessings for giving your children wholeheartedly to the Church.”

He reminded the Religious Sisters to maintain “an honorable distance” between their families and Religious vocations explaining, “It is a necessary distance if we are going to live our vocations fruitfully. God is going to give you fresh energy.”

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“Today, your parents are handing you over to an even greater family and there you will find parents who will play the role of your natural parents,” Bishop Muhatia said, and added, “You don’t belong in Luanda (Sr. Norah’s Parish) anymore; you don’t belong to the Diocese of Kisii anymore. You now belong to a larger community of the people of God.”

The four Sisters were also reminded to be obedient to the leadership of their Religious Order and to go wherever they would be sent without frowning.

“Go wherever you are sent even if you don’t like the place. Just go first and raise the complains later. Go and complain later even when you feel that you have been sent to a particular place because your Superior hates you,” he urged the four Kenyan Sisters.

“My dear four sisters, I don’t think there is any greater promise for your commitment to Christ than this promise of this Prophet Isaiah. Sr. Norah, Sr. Nancy, Sr. Gladys, and Sr. Jacqlyne, the Lord Jesus Christ is promising you today justice, patience and righteousness. For your commitment, for having left your homes, God is promising you salvation and righteousness,” he said.

The Bishop implored, “May the salvation of Christs and the righteousness, which he is bestowing on you today be your guide so that one day you may rejoice around the table of salvation in heaven together with all the saints and all the angels.”

FMSJ leadership thanked the four members for choosing to serve Jesus Christ in a move seen as a sign of brevity in the contemporary world.

 “Today is a great day in the history of the Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph because here in Nakuru, four young women have committed their lives to God for life in vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In the eyes of the world, what they have done is madness but they are not concerned with what the world thinks. They are only seeking to serve Christ and his people,” the leader of the Mill Hill Sisters, Sr. Maureen Murphy said in a speech that was read by Sr. Margaret Nyabongoye, a member of the Sisters’ Council.

In a world which values richness and wealth, the Sisters were congratulated for making the vow of poverty to strive to serve Christ in the poor.

“In a world where love has become synonymous with sexual exploitation and prostitution, they have made a vow of chastity and will reach out in love to the most vulnerable, loving freely as Jesus did, without counting the cost,” Sr. Maureen said.

She added, “In a world where personal autonomy, freedom of choice and personal rights lead people to a lack of personal responsibility and respect for others, these sisters have made a vow of obedience seeking always to know and follow the will of God and fulfill the needs of the congregation and the Church.”

The Mill Hill Sisters were urged to strengthen their relationship with God through daily Prayer and the Sacraments during the December 4 event that took place at Christ the King Cathedral of Kenya’s Nakuru Diocese.

“For these sisters, what is more important is their relationship with God, a relationship which grows only with daily prayer and the nourishment we receive in the Sacraments,” the FMSJ leader said.

She added, “Whatever the demands of our ministry or community life nothing must become more important than our time with the Lord in silent prayer. It is in the Lord that we find the strength and joy and strength to live as our Foundress, Alice Ingham did, and to follow, like Francis, in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ.”