, 14 January, 2020 / 10:30 PM
A congregation of women religious of the order of St. Francis headquartered in Kenya’s Kisumu Archdiocese has extended its apostolate to the East African country of Tanzania in addition to its presence in Ethiopia, responding to the needs of the people at the grassroots who require “pastoral care, education and medical care.”
Last week, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Anna (FSSA) opened a convent in Tanzania’s Archdiocese of Dodoma where three sisters have been assigned to respond to the needs of the people of God, the Superior General, Sr. Mary Benigna Aoko told ACI Africa Monday, January 13.
“We needed to find a place out of our country where the apostolates required matches our charism and so Dodoma Archdiocese in Tanzania was indeed the right place for us since the people are very much in need of pastoral care, education and medical care,” Sr. Aoko said.
She added, “Before we settled for Tanzania, we asked the local people their needs and their interest were having (a) school and (a) dispensary; we are ready to extend our services to them.”
Emphasizing the health and education gaps in the place where the convent has been established, Sr. Aoko said, “The people really don’t have health facilities” and that “the schools are also very far apart and some children have to walk long distances to get to school.”
FSSA is a religious and missionary congregation of pontifical right guided by the charism of promoting “purity of heart, poverty of spirit, mutual love and mortification of the body after the spirit of Mother Johanna of Jesus.”
“Being a pontifical congregation, we also thought it wise to spread to other countries since we cannot only concentrate on some dioceses in Kenya yet other people need our services,” the first African Superior General of FSSA said.
For six years, the Kenya-based Congregation had members serving the people of God in Tanzania’s Musoma Diocese but had to withdraw them in 2013, Sr. Aoko disclosed during the Monday interview.
“We had earlier gone to Tanzania and opened a community in Musoma diocese,” Sr. Aoko recalled. She explained circumstances leading to the closure of the convent saying, “It was very difficult to get work permit, the cost of living was quite high and there was no accommodation for the street children whom we were looking after.”
Some of these challenges have been surmounted, the Kenyan-born Superior General said and confirmed, “Right now the sisters have already gotten the work permit and this gives us hope.”
She expressed appreciation for the Local Ordinary saying, “Archbishop Beatus Kinyaiya of Dodoma Archdiocese is very welcoming; he invited us so warmly after we wrote to him.”
In another interview, Sr. Hyacinth Opondo who is one of FSSA’s Regional Councilors identified the growth in membership as a factor in the extension to other countries saying, “Having experienced a constant gradual growth since our foundation, and after seeing the availability of members and possibility of meeting the needs of the people we serve both in Kenya and beyond, it was possible to extend … beyond the boundaries of Kenya.”
Three FSSA sisters commissioned for the mission in Dodoma last May and are already ministering in the Archdiocese include Sr. Janet Ombima assigned to teach, Sr. Everlyne Awich, a nurse, and Sr. Vincent Wanjiku carrying out pastoral work.
“The work in Dodoma has been inspiring; the majority of the students at St. Peter Claver come from urban areas and therefore need both intellectual, moral and spiritual formation,” Sr. Ombima who has taught for six months at St. Peter Claver High School, a Jesuit institution, told ACI Africa Monday, January 13.
The Kenyan-born nun added, “The students take much time at school and a shorter time during school holidays; therefore, we the sisters have the task of forming the learners to become better citizens (for) the future of the Church in Tanzania.”
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