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Missionaries in Ethiopia Giving Women in Complicated Relationships Second Chance in Life

A volunteer working with children at the Gode Catholic Mission in Ethiopia's Apostolic Prefecture of Robe. Credit: Agenzia Fides

A Catholic Missionary Nun in Ethiopia’s Apostolic Prefecture of Robe is helping women in abusive relationships, those who have had children with several men, and others in various complicated relationships to become self-reliant.

In a report shared by the information service of the Vatican's Propaganda Fide, Agenzia Fides Friday, April 30, Apostolic Prefect of Robe, Msgr. Angelo Antolini says that Sr. Joachim is working on the project alongside other lay missionaries who have, until May, to serve women in difficult situations.

“In the mission… she (Sr. Joachim) serves women in difficulty, who have had children by several men, some in half marriages, others only in sporadic relationships in very violent contexts,” Msgr. Antolini tells Agenzia Fides.

The Catholic Nun’s project is run in Gode, a town in the Somali Regional State of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia where Christians account for a small percentage of the population.

Agenzia Fides reports that Gode mission was founded in 2007 by Fr. Christopher Hartley, a missionary from the Diocese of Toledo in Northwest Ohio currently working in South Sudan.

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Msgr. Antolini tells Agenzia Fides that Sr. Joachim arrived in Gode seven years ago, but for two years, until November, she was in England for medical treatment.

There are eight ladies and twelve children of all ages that Sr. Joachim and other volunteers are taking care of at the mission.

Sharing about the day-to-day activities at the mission, the Apostolic Prefect says that every morning, those who want to go to pray in the chapel where Joachim lives are allowed to go.

“At half past seven the bus driven by a Catholic boy from the mission leaves to pick up the ladies and their children in the city,” Msgr. Antolini tells Agenzia Fides, and adds, “In fact, the mission is more than five kilometers from the city and is located on the banks of the great Wabi Shebeli River.”

The women prepare breakfast for themselves and the children and then the tasks are distributed, some in the kitchen and others in the different jobs indicated by Joachim, the member of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM Capuchin) says, adding, “In this way, with the salary we give them, we try to make them financially self-sufficient.”

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At lunchtime, Msgr. Antolini, Sr. Joachim and the other volunteers at the project share a meal with the children and their mothers after which they are given a ride back to their homes in the city.

The Apostolic Prefect refers to the homes of the women as “a real Babel”, in reference to the deprivation that surrounds the women and their children back in their homes.

“In the afternoon, the volunteers continue working on what needs to be done in the mission, until we celebrate the Eucharist all together and have dinner exhausted by the high local temperatures,” Msgr. Antolini shares with Agenzia Fides.

He says that life in Gode is very simple but also very intense, and explains, “we are always prepared for unforeseen events of all kinds.”

The Somalis of the city live off various commercial activities and the population of the herding countryside. Agenzia Fides reports that only recently are agricultural projects being attempted, exploiting the high potential of the great river.

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Gode's mission is located on the Northeast bank of the Wabi Shebeli River, in the Harar Vicariate. Sixty meters away, on the Southwestern shore, is the Prefecture of Robe.

In December, the two Ordinaries signed a joint document entrusting the pastoral care of the entire area along the river to the Apostolic Prefecture of Robe, according to the information service of the Vatican's Propaganda Fide.

The Somali population is Muslim, Agenzia Fides reports, adding that the town of Gode, founded in the 1960s by Emperor Haile Selassie for military strategies, also has a small Christian Amara community.