African Nuns Encouraged to Engage in Empirical Studies Examining their Lifestyle, Ministry

Group photo of African nuns who are members of Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) at CUEA on October 23, 2019 ahead of October 25 graduation
Credit: CUEA communications

In a move that seems to further a previous call for collaboration with African-based scholars in view of enhancing empirical research on Catholic education in Africa, Catholic nuns in Africa have been encouraged to engage in studies that seek to examine issues affecting the lives of consecrated women in a bid to fill a scholarship gap that currently exists.

“I am encouraging you as women religious to carry out research on issues affecting your own lives as religious,” Dr. Ann Rita Njageh told hundreds of nuns who are members of Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA), a program sponsored by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, an American non-profit charitable foundation.

“If you (religious women) do not carry out this research yourselves, nobody else is really going to be interested in doing (it), not even the lay people,” Dr. Njageh, a lecturer based at the office of academic linkages under the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Kenya explained.

She was addressing nuns from some 10 African countries belonging to different religious congregations who are beneficiaries of HESA program and set to graduate at CUEA on Friday, October 25.

In an exclusive interview with ACI Africa at CUEA, the venue of the October 23 HESA meeting, Dr. Njangeh provided further justification for her call for empirical research on Catholic nuns in Africa saying, “For a very long time religious women have been sidelined in decision making, in platforms of policy making even when it comes to practice.”

“Many people have the notion that a religious woman is just a person on the side in the Church,” Dr. Njangeh said and added, “We have to know that religious women have emerged to be professionals in their own respective fields.”

Referencing Catholic nuns in Africa, Dr. Njangeh who is also HESA students’ advisor at CUEA said, “They need to carry out research in regard to what they are doing, and in regard to their own lives so that they bring this knowledge to the rest of the other members in the society.”

Drawing from her seven-year engagement in empirical studies at CUEA, she explained, “Research is the backbone of scholarship and for us to have sound policies or initiatives that respond to the needs of the people in the society, we need research to inform what we do.”

“We can only achieve this if we are carrying out sound and ethical research that has taken into consideration all the aspects that go into the planning of a research.” She told ACI Africa.  

She went on to acknowledge the various roles of nuns and expressed the view that empirical research would go a long way in improving livelihoods.

“There is so much beauty if the religious women do research in the various ministries they are involved in,” Dr. Njangeh told ACI Africa and continued, “these ministries are responding to the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) and we need to know from the religious women what is working and what is not working and others can learn from them.”

She further encouraged the culture of collaboration between the laity and the religious in conducting empirical research saying, “The religious should also think of partnering with the laity since the Church is not one person or one category.”

She emphasized, “We need all these people together when we do collaborative research so that as religious look at issues with a religious lens, the lay will look at it with the lens of the laity and when this is worked on together, we end up with a more informed product, a more holistic project.”

Speaking to ACI Africa on the same subject matter, the president of Marywood University, Scranton Sr. Mary Persico said, “African sisters have the perfect opportunity to do research because there are young sisters who can venture into research work.”

“the young sisters in Africa still have many years, unlike in the western world where there is a decline in religious life so there are no young people who can do research now,” Sr. Persico who is a member of the congregation of Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) said.

She added, “Research is good for the sisters to help them understand what they are doing. The results from the research will help both the sisters and the society.”


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]iafrica.org