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Catholic Charity Mourns Missionary Nun Who Served the Poor in Muslim Dominated Niger

Marie-Catherine Persévérance Kingbo. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

The Pontifical charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, is mourning the passing on of a Catholic missionary Nun who dedicated her life to the service of the poor in Niger, a country with a tiny percentage of Christians.

In Niger, Sr. Marie-Catherine Persévérance established a charity organization that was the link between the Catholic aid agency and the people in one of the poorest countries in the world.

In a Friday, May 28 communiqué, the Pontifical aid organization bemoans the death of the Senegalese-born Nun who “gave her life for the poor of the poorest.”

“With great sadness the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation has received news of the passing of Sr. Marie-Catherine Persévérance… in Dakar Senegal. She dedicated her life to the care and concern for the poor in Niger, especially through service to women,” the leadership of ACN says, adding that the Nun passed on Monday, May 24.

Sr. Marie-Catherine was born in 1953 in Guinguinéo in Senegal and spent almost 15 years in Niger, an Islamic country and one of the poorest in the world, ACN has reported.

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The leadership of the charity organization recalls a past interview it had with the Religious Sister in which she said, “I heard God’s call to leave everything and serve the poor.”

In Maradi, in the South of Niger, Sr. Marie-Catherine founded the “Fraternité des Servantes du Christ,” an order that does social and charitable work.

ACN says that through education and training, members of the Religious community open up prospects of a new life for children, young people, and their respective parents.

“ACN had the privilege of working for many years with the Religious Sister,” the leadership of the organization says in the May 28 tribute, adding, “Sr. Marie-Catherine visited the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need several times and she was invited by the national sections of ACN to give testimony in many countries, like Fatima in Portugal and Paris in France.”

Until the founding of “Fraternité des Servantes du Christ,” Sr. Marie-Catherine belonged to one of the first African female Religious Congregations, the “Filles du Saint Coeur de Marie” (Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary).

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The charity organization shares that it was in this Congregation that the late Nun heard the call to dedicate her life to the poor and notes that the Bishop of Maradi, Ambroise Ouédraogo, asked Sr. Marie-Catherine to help the then still young Diocese. 

“The community has been working there since October 2006,” ACN reports, adding, “Together with another Nun, Sr. Marie-Catherine initially looked after six or seven villages.”

The Catholic charity reports that the community has grown since then and now the Nuns regularly visit up to 120 villages. They run a school in the community of Tibiri and also a nutrition centre in the community of Dan Bako within Niger’s Diocese of Maradi. 

“Weekly 500 to 600 mothers come with their children; many are malnourished. Every year we feed about 23,000 people,” Sr. Marie-Catherine explained to ACN during one of her numerous visits to the headquarters.

Niger is dominated by Islam, the way of life is extremely traditional, and at a meagre 0.5 percent, the number of Christians is small population.

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According to the Pontifical organization, the locals, the village elders, the Imams and the rural population show trust in the Catholic Sisters and often thank them with phrases like, “We see God in what you are doing” or “You show us love.”

The organization reports that the biggest problem in the Diocese of Maradi, alongside malnutrition, is the widespread custom of marrying off girls as young as ten years of age.

The Nuns, supported by ACN since 2010 in their diverse apostolate, speak to the parents about the consequences of marrying off their daughters at a tender age.

The “Fraternité des Servantes du Christ” also tries to persuade parents to send their daughters to school, ACN reports, and adds, “Because classes are mostly taught in simple straw huts, village elders have also already asked the Sisters for schools.”

Last year, Sr. Marie-Catherine wrote ACN to explain the dramatic impact of the health crisis on their apostolate.

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The leadership of the charity organization says the late Nun closed the message with the prayer, “May the power of the Risen Lord eradicate this pandemic that is disturbing all humanity and may the Holy Spirit direct hearts to more humanity, justice and peace.”

“Since her arrival in Maradi in 2006, she (Sr. Marie-Catherine) did not take any rest and revealed the love of the Lord through her work. Now the Lord asks her to stop her work on earth,” ACN leadership notes in the May 28 tribute to the Nun, adding, “She will fulfil the work guiding the community from heaven. May her soul rest in peace.”