Sr. Pélagie Kilosa, SNDdeN, Province Moderator cuts the cake for the Triple Jubilee.
Sr. Evelyn McKenna, SNDdeN
On Saturday, August 10, 2019, a memorable and festive “Threefold Jubilee” took place in the Province of Congo-Kinshasa. The festive Mass in Sainte Marie parish church at Kimwenza, attended by numerous Sisters, Associates, Alumnae, family members and friends, was celebrated in typical African fashion with an enthusiastic and talented choir, accompanied by drums and other musical instruments. Dancers enhanced the prayer of all from their beautiful participation in the entrance procession, the Gloria and throughout the Liturgy – praising the Good God for the blessings of so many years. The Mass was followed by a delicious meal shared by all.
125 Years of SNDdeN Mission
The first event to celebrate was the arrival of the first missionaries from Belgium; the second event was the entrance of the first Congolese Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and the third was the 50th Anniversary of the Canonization of St. Julie.
The Sisters in the Province commemorated the arrival of the first seven Sisters on July 2, 1894 in Matadi, Congo, 125 years ago. They had sailed from Anvers, Belgium on June 6, 1894. Accompanied by a Jesuit priest and seventy baggage carriers, they left their encampment each day at 6 a.m., walked along the rough route through high grass, woods, and streams of water. After eight days, the Sisters had three days of rest and then, after another week of travel. On foot, and carried by “tipoy,” and by railroad, they finally reached their destination, after an additional fifteen days, in reaching Kimwenza after mid-July. Following this dangerous journey but filled with zeal, they began their work, nurturing the seeds of faith which continue to produce fruit to this day through the ministries of the Sisters currently serving in this country. Today, in the Congo-Kinshasa Province, there are currently 131 professed Sisters and 10 postulants and 3 novices in training to become Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The median age of province members is 50 and their oldest member is 91 years old.
In the Congo, the Sisters serve in a many ministries, including education of small
children, adolescents and college age, in health care in clinics, maternity wards and hospitals, in religious education and pastoral work in parishes, as well as in social services, justice and peace ministry, and formation into religious life. A strong system of education for life and vital health care for the people have been at the heart of this Province. Sisters are teachers, administrators and staff in schools; they are nurses, midwives and nursing assistants in clinics and hospitals. One Sister is a medical doctor with several others who work in the SND Hospital Rene de Haes on the grounds of the Provincial House at Kimwenza. Our schools, clinics, dispensaries and communities are located in numerous towns and villages in the Province, and our communities include Sisters in the varying ministries.
Sisters, families, alumni/alumnae, and friends rejoice in the Triple Jubilee
The second event commemorated was the acceptance of the first indigenous Congolese woman into the Sisters of Notre Dame. Sister Marie-Gonzague Mbala entered the Congregation in 1959, paving the way for the dedicated Congolese Sisters who have followed in the footsteps of their foremothers over these past 60 years. Since the beginnings of the “Congolese Branch” of Notre Dame de Namur, the lives and ministries of the Sisters have expanded and Sisters have assumed roles of leadership in local and international ministries, including leadership service. Eight Congolese Sisters have ministered in leadership as Provincials and three Sisters have served in Rome, in leadership of Notre Dame worldwide. In response to calls from the Congregation, some Sisters are now in cross-cultural service, outside their own country, in Belgium, France, Kenya and South Africa.
The third celebratory event marked the 50th Anniversary of the Canonization of St. Julie Billiart by Pope Paul VI on June 22, 1969. This wonderful celebration was an appropriate reminder of God’s ongoing presence with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, past, present and well into the future! Similar celebrations of our Foundress were held in settings throughout the Notre Dame world. The entire Congregation congratulates the Congo-Kinshasa Province for 125 years of service and commitment to the people in difficult times of poverty, political turmoil and unrest. Our Congolese Sisters live out daily the words of St. Julie, (Letter #57)
“Now that we have set out on this road let us walk with courage.”
Our SNDdeN Congregation thanks all who contribute to this ongoing life of Mission in the Congo, and support our Congolese Sisters into a new era in this twenty-first century.
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