Category Archives: Networking for Mission

PRIORITE AUX ENFANTS

English

par Sœur Jacinta Ojilimmobe

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Sr. Jacinta Ojilimmobe, SNDdeN, apprend à lire aux enfants de l’école maternelle.

Laissez les enfants venir à Moi

En 2004, les sœurs ont fait retentir la première cloche d’école à Awkunanaw, dans l’Etat d’Enugu au Nigéria. L’école maternelle et primaire Notre-Dame a débuté avec très peu d’élèves, mais leur nombre a augmenté comme une graine de moutarde qui est devenue un grand arbre. Pour la joie des parents, nous éduquons maintenant 1.130 élèves dans notre école. Comme les SND de Namur (SNDdeN) à travers le monde, la province du Nigéria donne priorité à l’éducation des petits enfants et des élèves au niveau élémentaire. Nous visons les enfants qui vivent en pauvreté. Avec nos collaborateurs, cinq sœurs servent dans cette école : sœurs Francisca Aneke (directrice de l’école primaire), Saratu Barko (professeur de religion), Maria Umeh (économe), Lucy Anaele (assistante économe) et Jacinta Ojilimmobe (directrice de l’école maternelle).

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Les élèves sont attentifs à Sr. Saratu Bako, SNDdeN, dans les classes d’éducation religieuse.

En 2008, les sœurs, ayant reconnu la nécessité d’éduquer les filles, ont élargi l’école pour inclure un niveau secondaire, connu maintenant comme Notre Dame Academy, Awkunanaw. En tout, dix sœurs sont au service des deux écoles.

Art-Project

Notre école maternelle et primaire vise la qualité de l’éducation, des bébés aux enfants de 11 ans. Nous formons la personne entière pour la vie : aux niveaux spirituel, scolaire et social. Les parents, appréciant cette éducation complète et l’excellente instruction, envoient leurs enfants à notre école, pour la première éducation et la formation continue. Ces petits enfants grandissent et se développent comme personnes, dans leurs relations entre eux et avec leurs enseignant.e.s, car nous nourrissons leurs qualités, talents et attitudes. Avec joie, ces petits identifient les lettres, nombres et objets, ils s’amusent avec des jouets, récitent des poésies, colorient des dessins, regardent des vidéos éducatives, jouent dans le parc, mangent leur nourriture et ils font même la sieste.

Etudes et formation religieuse

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Dans les classes spéciales de musique, Sr. Anthonia Damissah, SNDdeN, apprend aux élèves à jouer différents instruments de musique, à chanter et à composer des hymnes. Certains élèves ont été reconnus pour leurs chants.

Dans les classes primaires (niveau élémentaire), en plus du programme régulier d’études en langues (anglais, igbo et français), histoire et mathématiques, les sujets incluent : connaissance de la religion chrétienne, musique, arts culturels et créatifs, études sociales, économie domestique, sciences fondamentales, géographie, agriculture, informatique. Les parents espèrent le succès à l’examen d’admission à l’école secondaire. Nous donnons la catéchèse préparatoire à la première communion et à la confirmation. Au rassemblement du matin, les enfants lisent et méditent l’Ecriture du jour. Les jours de fête, les élèves réfléchissent aux leçons qu’ils apprennent des récits de l’Ecriture pour leur formation spirituelle et morale. Pendant l’Avent, les enfants de primaire ont un jour de retraite. Au début et à la fin du trimestre, le chœur d’enfants chante à la messe. Certains enfants ont aussi fait preuve de talents artistiques dans des projets artistiques spéciaux. Au cours d’économie domestique, les enfants apprennent à préparer différentes sortes de nourriture : un autre talent pour la vie. Une société informatique fournit une instruction en technologie pour enfants. Sans avoir beaucoup de livres, les enfants peuvent avoir accès à beaucoup de sujets sur internet !

Souci de la création et personne entière

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Sr. Lucy Anaele, SNDdeN, prend le temps d’aider des élèves qui ont besoin d’assistance.

Nos élèves apprennent à s’occuper de la terre en évitant toute sorte de pollution environnementale, en traitant convenablement tout déchet. Ils sont conscients de protéger et nourrir notre environnement. Notre école découvre et encourage les enfants doués pour l’athlétisme, la danse et la prise de parole en public. L’école organise des compétitions sportives bisannuelles dans l’école et aussi des compétitions entre écoles. Les élèves ont gagné beaucoup de trophées dans des matches pour toute la cité métropolitaine à Enugu. Parfois, le groupe de danse anime certains événements scolaires. Les élèves jouissent d’excursions éducatives et en tirent profit. Les élèves apprennent à s’affirmer et à se faire confiance. La plupart sont capables de parler ou de lire en public sans anxiété. Nous voyons le beau développement de nos enfants.

Défis

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Les diplômés montrent qu’ils sont prêts pour l’école secondaire.

Aujourd’hui, nous sommes affrontées à de nombreux défis en essayant de répondre aux demandes d’inscription de plus en plus nombreuses. Nous enseignons aussi quelques enfants qui ont des besoins particuliers, car il n’y a aucune école pour eux dans notre région. Une autre difficulté est celle des familles qui vivent avec des ressources limitées, même pour la nourriture et l’abri. Nous ne refusons pas l’éducation à des enfants vivant dans la pauvreté qui n’ont pas d’autres options. Nous remercions notre congrégation religieuse et les donateurs qui contribuent au soutien à la mission des SNDdeN et qui nous permettent d’accorder la priorité aux enfants dans le besoin.

COLLABORATION POUR LES FUTURES LEADERS

Par Sœur Mary Donohue, SNDdeN

Sisters-Academy1---450px-webL’Académie des sœurs de Baltimore est une histoire à succès en cours, pour les filles de l’école moyenne, de la 5e à la 8e année. En 2002, Sr Suzanne Hall, SNDdeN et Sr. Delia Dowling, des School Sisters of Notre Dame, SSND, directrice acutelle de l’école, ont présenté à quatre congrégations religieuses le besoin d’une école moyenne pour les filles de Baltimore sud-ouest, Maryland. Dès le début, les Sœurs du Bon Secours, les Sœurs de la Miséricorde, les School Sisters of Notre Dame et les Sœurs de Notre Dame de Namur ont donné de l’énergie et un fort engagement à l’Académie des Sœurs.

Le charisme particulier de chaque congrégation contribue à la richesse dans cette collaboration pour les enfants. Nous nous unissons en tant que religieuses pour faire ensemble ce que nous ne pourrions pas faire seules. En tant qu’éducatrices dans une grande ville aux États-Unis, nous reflétons et faisons connaître la bonté de Dieu à une nouvelle génération de jeunes femmes.

En 2004, l’école s’est ouverte pour offrir une excellente éducation à des filles talentueuses et motivées, afin que chaque personne atteigne son plein potentiel. Au sein de cette communauté nourricière, les élèves apprennent des techniques d’étude, se fixent des objectifs, et développent des compétences en leadership. Pour l’année académique en cours, l’Académie des Sœurs a inscrit 71 étudiantes: 51 afro-américaines, 15 hispaniques, 1 asiatique, 1 amérindienne et 3 étudiantes de races mixtes. Les étudiantes viennent de certains des quartiers les plus pauvres et les plus déprimés de la ville de Baltimore, de communautés en proie à un chômage élevé, à la toxicomanie, au crime et au manque d’opportunités. Des religieuses gouvernent et parrainent l’Académie des Soeurs, tandis que des personnes, des fondations, des sociétés et des partenaires généreux offrent un financement pour les familles afin d’assurer une école catholique gratuite au cœur de la ville.

Histoire de succès

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Deux fois l’an et lors de la remise des diplômes, l’école donne des prix à 4 filles qui donnent l’exemple de l’esprit de chaque congrégation religieuse. Sr Mary Donohue, SNDdeN, félicite l’étudiante récompensée pour son effort et son succès scolaire.

La vision pour les diplômées de l’ Académie des Sœurs est qu’elles deviennent des jeunes femmes bien éduquées, assurées, spirituelles et engagées et des leaders qui font une différence positive dans leur communauté, dans notre nation et notre monde. Notre fort programme de soutien aux diplômées suit chaque fille tout au long des années de lycée et d’école supérieure. Depuis la première promotion en 2008, 100% ont terminé l’école secondaire, 93% font des études supérieures ou servent dans l’armée. En mai 2017, les anciennes des deux premières classes ont obtenu leur diplôme d’école supérieure et commencent leur cheminement de carrière, une étape importante pour elles et pour l’Académie des Sœurs.

DSC_0570Dès l’ouverture de l’école, de nombreuses Sœurs de Notre-Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) ont servi comme enseignantes, secrétaires, bénévoles et comme membres et directrices. Actuellement, Sr. Mary Donohue, SNDdeN, siège au conseil des membres et Sr Rosemary Donohue, SNDdeN (elles ne sont pas de la même famille!) sert au conseil d’administration. Annuellement, chaque congrégation religieuse célèbre une journée spéciale. Les élèves se souviennent de Ste Julie Billiart le 8 avril, l’anniversaire de sa mort en 1816. Les SNDdeN partagent des histoires de Julie et de la congrégation avec les filles ce jour-là.

Avec Sainte Julie, je vois que l’Académie apprend aux enfants ce qu’elles doivent savoir pour la vie.”

C’est une joie de servir cette école, à travers tous ses jalons: choisir un nom pour l’école, acheter le bâtiment, accueillir la première classe de cinquième, se réjouir avec les premières diplômées, et les classes successives, et voir des anciennes élèves terminer leurs études supérieures pour se lancer dans une carrière réussie.

Une élève de cinquième a bien exprimé le point de vue des étudiantes: «La première fois que je suis venue ici j’avais peur. Alors tout le monde m’a accueillie comme un membre de la famille. »

Les SNDdeN donnent notre ferme engagement à cette mission pour les jeunes femmes; nous apprécions de créer une famille durable de bienvenue et de succès, en collaboration avec des congrégations qui partagent cette Mission.

 

 

LA MISSION S’ELARGIT EN AFRIQUE DU SUD

En notre 102e année, la croissance et le développement de l’école St Pierre Claver en Afrique du Sud sont tout à fait extraordinaires. La mission de nos sœurs s’élargit avec des administrateurs-trices, membres du personnel et enseignant.e.s engagés pour une éducation complète avec la conviction inébranlable que Dieu est bon. Le rêve caressé depuis longtemps d’établir une école secondaire sur le site de l’ancien couvent Notre-Dame à Kroonstad, qui a été fermé en 1972, est devenu réalité.

Note de la traductrice : Le couvent de Kroonstad avait un pensionnat pour des Sud-Africaines blanches. Dans un souci de justice, les soeurs l’ont fermé en 1972 pour se consacrer à l’éducation des noir.e.s et des métis. Vendu, ce couvent avait été délabré. Un groupe de 4 congrégations, dont les SND, l’a racheté. Pendant plusieurs années, il a été remis en état par des personnes qui se formaient à divers métiers : construction, menuiserie, électricité, etc.

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Les petits enfants aiment lire des histoires dans des livres spéciaux à l’école St Peter Claver dans le bidonville de Maokeng.

En janvier 2018, la nouvelle année scolaire a commencé avec 320 élèves inscrits de la 7e à la 12e, et avec 32 membres du personnel enseignant ou auxiliaire dans ce bâtiment de l’école secondaire. Il y a 150 élèves inscrits dans la section intermédiaire, aussi logés dans le bâtiment rénové. Cette expansion de l’école répond aux attentes des parents pour que l’éducation de leurs enfants continue. A Maokeng, un bidonville près de Kroonstad, il y a 190 enfants à l’école maternelle et dans les 3 premières années primaires. Servant avec nos collaborateurs et collaboratrices, les sœurs de Notre-Dame de Namur sont impliquées dans les activités quotidiennes des diverses sections de l’école : Sr. Marie McLoughlin est aumônière et conseillère pour le secondaire ; Sr Gertrude Izuchukwu est professeur de religion dans la section intermédiaire ; Sr Chantal Kisimbila s’occupe de la gestion financière de l’école fondamentale; Sr Brigid Rose Tiernan représente les SND propriétaires au conseil d’administration.

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Nouvelle école

En 2016, deux membres du CLT, Sr Teresita Weind et Sr Patricia O’Brien sont venues de Rome, en Italie, pour participer à la bénédiction des locaux scolaires récemment rénovés. Avec l’addition de nouvelles classes, les élèves de 7e ont déménagé au début de 2017 de l’école primaire du bidonville de Maokeng au campus de l’école secondaire, sur le site de l’ancien couvent. Comme espéré, ce déménagement a eu des conséquences

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Dans la section intermédiaire, Sr Gertrude Izuchukwu, SNDdeN, donne une fondation solide en éducation religieuse aux élèves.

positives, et donne déjà aux apprenants la solide base nécessaire pour répondre aux exigences de l’examen indépendant de fin d’études qu’ils présenteront à la fin de leur 12e année. St. Peter Claver est la seule école de Kroonstad, et une des 4 écoles de la province ‘Free State’ à présenter les élèves à l’examen de fin d’études. Au lieu de préparer ceux et celles qui quitteront l’école à l’examen d’état, nous avons choisi l’examen de la province ‘Free State’ parce que les valeurs sur lesquelles il se base sont plus en accord avec notre tradition d’éducation de Notre-Dame. L’examen par le conseil indépendant d’examens demande une pensée indépendante et créative de la part de ceux qui passent l’examen, et il est plus exigeant pour les enseignants. Les élèves écrivent leur examen en anglais, et ils écrivent aussi leur langue locale, le sesotho, au même niveau de ‘langue maternelle’.

Au cours de 2017, nous avons exploré un développement ultérieur et nous avons consulté les parents et les tuteurs des élèves de la 4e à la 6e au sujet d’un plan pour déménager les apprenants de ces trois classes aussi vers le site de l’ancien couvent.

Leur réponse était extrêmement positive. En janvier 2018, l’ouverture de l’année scolaire a vu presque 500 élèves de 9 à 17 ans installés dans la phase intermédiaire et l’école secondaire de l’école St Peter Claver à Kroonstad. Sept classes de l’école fondamentale, de l’école maternelle à la 3e, restent dans le bâtiment à Maokeng, avec des installations spécialement adaptées à leurs besoins.

Croissance et développement

Au crédit de toutes les personnes impliquées dans la croissance qui survient à St Peter Claver, se trouve la valeur qui sous-tend toutes les décisions et actions : la mission de Ste Julie et l’appel de la congrégation à servir les pauvres. Les frais scolaires varient de 300 $ par an pour les plus jeunes à 650 $ par an pour les 3 années supérieures. L’école reçoit un soutien de l’Etat sous forme d’un subside payé irrégulièrement pour les frais de fonctionnement. Tous les autres frais (équipement, manuels, excursions) dépendent de collectes de fonds. Malgré ce défi, 40 à 80 élèves de familles nécessiteuses reçoivent des bourses d’études complètes ou partielles. Le soutien pour cette assistance des élèves provient d’un fonds de bourses qui a été établi par des ancien.ne.s élèves. La générosité d’ami.e.s et de familles des sœurs qui font des versements mensuel réguliers assure que des enfants dans le besoin puissent avoir l’occasion d’une éducation à l’école St Peter Claver.

Ste Julie a dit un jour : « Enseigner, c’est la plus grande œuvre sur la terre »

Les sœurs et les collaborateurs-collaboratrices de notre école croient fortement à l’impact de ce ministère ! La coordination et l’expansion de l’école St Peter Claver est une réalité – un rêve vivant, sans fin dans l’éducation chaque jour ;

Notre-Dame en mission

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Seize membres de la communauté de l’école St Peter Claver : directrices, enseignant.e.s, membres du conseil d’administration et nos sœurs sont devenus les pèlerins de l’héritage.

Vers la fin de l’année du centenaire de la fondation de l’école e, 2016, une célébration finale a étendu notre mission aux collaborateurs-collaboratrices de manière significative. Le pèlerinage aux lieux d’héritage de nos fondatrices en Belgique et en France est devenu un voyage spécial. L’objectif du pèlerinage était double : conclure ensemble l’année du centenaire et rendre grâce à Dieu pour ces 100 ans. Les participants se sont préparés soigneusement par des réunions mensuelles de groupe, focalisés sur la signification du pèlerinage, l’histoire de nos fondatrices, les valeurs et l’histoire de la congrégation des SND deN. Des collaborateurs et collaboratrices, des associées et des membres du conseil d’administration ont vu ce pèlerinage comme une occasion d’approfondir leur connaissance des racines, de l’esprit et de l’ethos de Notre-Dame et de renforcer leur engagement à porter le message de la bonté de Dieu à l’avenir. Un événement particulièrement émouvant a eu lieu dans l’oratoire Ste Julie à Cuvilly, en France, lorsque deux administratrices de l’école St Peter Claver, Zunelle De Ru (directrice de l’école) et Veronica Phadi (directrice de l’école fondamentale) ont fait leur premier engagement comme associées de Notre-Dame.

Les sœurs, collaborateurs et partenaires qui vivent la mission à St Pierre Claver appartiennent à la famille Notre-Dame et s’exclament continuellement :

« Dieu est bon. » Et le cheminement continue.

 Sr Marie McLoughlin

SNDdeN Priority for Children

French

By Sister Jacinta Ojilimmobe, SNDdeN

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Sr. Jacinta Ojilimmobe, SNDdeN teaches
reading to the children in the Nursery school.

In 2004, the Sisters rang the first school bell in Awkunanaw, Enugu State, Nigeria. Opening with only a few pupils, Notre Dame Nursery and Primary School has grown in numbers, like a mustard seed grows into the biggest shrub. To the joy of parents, we educate now 1,130 pupils in our school. As Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) around the world, the Nigeria Province gives priority to educating little children and students on the elementary level. We focus on children living in poverty. With our Co-workers, five Sisters serve in this school: Sisters Francisca Aneke (Head Teacher), Saratu Barko (Religion Teacher), Maria Umeh (Bursar), Lucy Anaele (Assistant Bursar), and Jacinta Ojilimmobe (Head of Nursery).

 

In 2008, the Sisters, recognizing the necessity of teaching girls, expanded the school to include a Secondary Level, now known as Notre Dame Academy, Awkunanaw. A total of ten Sisters serve in both schools.

Our Nursery and Primary School aims at quality education to children, from babies to 11 years-old. We form the whole person for life: spiritually, academically and socially. Parents, valuing this full education and excellent teaching, send their children to our school, for early and ongoing formation. These little children grow and develop as persons, in relating with each other and their teachers, as we nurture their different qualities, talents and attitudes. With joy, these little ones identify letters, numbers, objects, play with toys, recite rhymes, colour art works, watch some educative videos, play in the recreation park, eat their food and even take a siesta.

Studies and Religious Formation

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Students are attentive to Sr. Saratu Barko, SNDdeN, in religious
education classes.

In Primary classes (elementary level), besides the regular program of studies in languages (English, Igbo, and French), history and mathematics, subjects include: Christian Religious Knowledge, Music, Cultural and Creative Arts, Social Studies, Home Economics, Basic Science, Geography, Agricultural Science, Computer Instruction. Parents expect success in examinations for admission into secondary schools. We teach catechesis to prepare the children for First Holy Communion and Confirmation. At the morning assembly, the pupils read and meditate on the Scripture of the day. On feasts, the children reflect on lessons they learn from the stories in Scripture for their spiritual and moral formation. During the Advent season, elementary students have a retreat day. At the beginning and close of the term, the children’s choir sings at Eucharistic liturgies. Some children have also demonstrated artistic talent in special art projects. In practical Home Economics, children learn to cook and bake different kinds of food, as another skill for life. A computer company provides instruction in technology for the children. Without many books, children are able to access varied subjects on the Internet!

Care of Creation and Whole Person

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In special music classes, Sr. Anthonia Damissah, SNDdeN, teaches students to play different musical instruments, to sing and to compose hymns. Some students have received reconition
for their songs.

Our pupils learn to care for the earth by avoiding any kind of environmental pollution, by disposing properly of any waste materials. They are conscious of protecting and nurturing our environment. Our school discovers and encourages children who are gifted in athletics, dancing and public speaking. The school organizes biannual inter-house sports competitions and also inter-school sports competitions. They have won many trophies in past matches for the whole metropolitan city of Enugu. At times the dancing group entertains at school functions. Students enjoy and benefit from educational excursions. Students learn assertiveness and self-confidence. Most pupils are able to stand up in the public arena and deliver messages or read without anxiety. We see the beautiful development of our children.

 

Challenges
Many challenges face us today in attempting to accommodate the increased number of children requesting entrance to our school. We teach also a few children with special needs, since there is not any education for them in the area. Another challenge springs from families, living with limited resources, even food and shelter. We do not deny an education to children living in poverty who have no other options. We thank our Religious Congregation and donors who contribute to SNDdeN Mission Support and enable us to reach out to give priority to children in need.

“Let the children come to ME…” Matthew 19:14


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Donate now to assist the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur minister to the children living in poverty who have no other options.

Reprinted from Good Works, Volume 14, No. 1, March 2018.

Published in print two times a year and on-line monthly (snddengw.org).

To subscribe to a printed edition, send your name and a mailing address to Sr. Anne Stevenson, SNDdeN by mail: 30 Jeffreys Neck Road, Ipswich, MA 01938 or by email: anne.stevenson@sndden.org. (International subscribers are encouraged to subscribe to this online edition through the WordPress App.)

 

Mobilizing African Sisters for Advocacy

Sister Eucharia Madueke, SNDdeN

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Sr. Eucharia Madueke, SNDdeN (center) leads a group of Sisters to the National Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur work with other religious communities and organizations to foster awareness and response to socio-economic and cultural realities which impact negatively the common good. In this spirit of collaboration, my province leadership missioned me early last year to serve the Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), in order to mobilize and enhance the capacity of African Sisters for engaging in advocacy, in serving the people. AFJN is a Washington DC faith-based advocacy organization founded in 1983 as a response to issues of justice that Catholic missionary congregations witness on the ground in Africa. Inspired by the Gospel and informed by Catholic Social Teaching, AFJN seeks to educate and advocate for just relations and to work in partnership with the African people as they engage in the struggle for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

euchairaTesting the Waters
I hold a common belief in the African proverb that a single bracelet does not jingle.”  In this ministry at AFJN, I am working to engage the enormous potential of African Sisters for creating change through education, training in advocacy, and strengthening associational relationships. African women are formidable agents of change. African Catholic Sisters have the potential to create change through leadership in providing those critical and essential services: education, healthcare, pastoral and social services for families, mostly women and children.

In April and May 2016, I tested the willingness of the Sisters in various parts of Nigeria to confront the structures of injustice.  In conversations with members of the Nigerian Conference of Women Religious and with other Sisters, I engaged individuals and groups in discussions to  expand ministries of service for changing the structures of injustice that impoverish our people. I also invited them to attend at Abuja the AFJN conference on Just Governance: The Nigerian Bio-Safety Law, GMOs, and Implications for Nigeria and Africa, followed by a one day Sisters’ Forum on Just Governance and the Common Good: Religious Vocation and Faithful Citizenship.  Sisters do not usually attend gatherings with political undertones but attendance at both gatherings was remarkable.  The Minister of State, giving the keynote address, remarked that the conference was special, noting the number of “women of God” in attendance.

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At the Sisters’ Forum, with over 60 Sisters from 23 religious communities, speakers encouraged the Sisters to see the issues of injustice as Nigerian Catholic Sisters, and not as individual Congregations.  Sisters reflected passionately on the issue of poor governance and the situation of women and children in Nigeria, and then committed themselves as a group to challenge those structures that harm women and children in the nation. They recognized their limited knowledge and capacity for justice ministry by requesting assistance to develop needed skills. Their eagerness to work together for change, even with an expressed fear of incapability, and their boldness to step into the future with courage showed their readiness to engage in advocacy and to effect change together as women religious.

Educating for Social Action
AFJN conducted 5 days of advocacy training from November 22-27, 2016.  Convinced of the power of education and their personal and collective responsibility to advance the common good, over 86 Sisters from 27 Congregations took the opportunity to reflect on their role in nation building, to explore the structures of injustice in Nigeria, to practice talking with authorities, and to build a network of Sisters for collaborative action.

Seeking Conversations with Authorities
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The Sisters attempted to hold an advocacy meeting with selected law-makers: the Senate President and his deputy and the Speaker of the House and the Federal Director of Police.  Despite many vain attempts to obtain permission from any of the law-makers, the Sisters were not deterred from making a visit. Unfortunately, security personnel at the National Assembly complex that housed the law-makers’ offices barred the Sisters from entering. With courage, the sisters refused to be intimidated by the security personnel; rather they positioned themselves beside the entrance to the National Assembly and peacefully and prayerfully delivered their message in public.  They asked that the law-makers protect women and children, promote sound development strategies, protect Nigerian land and water, as well as small farm holdings, stop excessive and irrational spending, and be accountable and accessible to the people they represent.  Speaking to the Police Director, who at very short notice, welcomed the sisters and thanked them for their visit to his office, the Sisters demanded that the police, in discharging their duty protect the vulnerable and respect the dignity of each person.

Movement Unfolding
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At the conclusion of the Conference, Sisters realized the importance of education to confront structures of injustice and the power of associational relationships which may enable them to speak the truth to the authorities, without fear of being targeted. Thirteen sisters representing different Congregations formed a steering committee to keep up the momentum of the Conference.  The movement is now legalized and its by-laws approved by the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission under the name Africa Faith & Justice Network Nigeria. AFJN will continue to journey with the group in their efforts to effect necessary change.

Seeds Grow in Southern California

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Kindergarten give a group hug to Sister Judith Flahavan, SNDdeN.

Over the course of her last thirty-one years as an active ministry educator, Sister Judith Flahavan, SNDdeN was a principal in three Catholic elementary schools in South Los Angeles, CA. In June 2012, she retired from full-time ministry. Then, during a six-month sabbatical, Sister Judith learned that Notre Dame School (NDS) in Santa Barbara, CA, the last existing Catholic school among the original four Catholic schools there, did not have a full-time principal. She made a decision to use her gifts as an educator in this city!

 

Reflections: Sister Judith Flahavan, SNDdeN

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8th Grade students at Notre Dame School in Santa Barbara, CA.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) have a long history at Notre Dame. In 1906,
Fr. Stockman, OFM invited SNDdeN to begin a school for children at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Santa Barbara. In an old Armory Hall belonging to the parish, four Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) opened Dolores Catholic School with 150 students in 1906. Through the efforts of those first Sisters and the many who followed them, the school grew and flourished. In 1911, the Jesuits assumed responsibility for the parish. In 1974, the school was renamed Notre Dame School. Over the years, people recognized the school’s strong education, academic excellence and dedicated alumni/alumnae. When the number of Sisters diminished, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur withdrew from NDS in 1990.

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Primary students learn with iPads at NDS in Santa Barbara.

Common Realities
In January 2013, Sister Judith was happy to assume the leadership role as Principal at Notre Dame School. Moving to peaceful Santa Barbara after her many years in South Los Angeles was a bit of an adjustment. She received an amazing welcome by the many people thrilled that an SNDdeN was back, and she immediately felt “at home.” Also, as Sister became more and more involved as an administrator, she realized that among the families at NDS there are common realities shared also with the families in South Los Angeles. She learned that at this school many children (166 students out of 260 students) qualified for the federal breakfast/lunch program, which is considered the benchmark for persons living in poverty in the United States. She came to realize that the income of many families was comparable to that of families she knew in South Los Angeles.

She rejoiced in the beautiful goodness of the families:
• the respect for all persons which was evident among them,
• the way they helped each other when possible,
• their commitment to Notre Dame School,
• their reverence toward God, and
• their ethic for hard work.

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Transitional Kindergarten children learn about St. Francis and Pope Francis from Notre Dame Associate, Jackie Gonzalez.

She appreciated the dedicated faculty, two of whom were Notre Dame Associates. She saw that at NDS, St. Julie’s vision of educating those living in poverty is alive and well. She was overwhelmed by the number of alumni/alumnae living in Santa Barbara and remembering with gratitude and happiness the Sisters who gave them a strong educational foundation. Mainly, Sister Judith realized that the seeds of education planted by those Sisters were in full bloom. Even though the Sisters had not been in the school for about 20 years, their spirit and St. Julie Billiart’s charism of proclaiming the goodness of God by educating children for life still inspires and permeates with energy the daily experiences within the Notre Dame community.

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Since June 2016, a competent educator, Ms. Christina Stefanec is replacing Sr. Judith as Principal. Grateful for the opportunity of serving for 31/2 years at Notre Dame School, Sister Judith is confident that the mission of St. Julie will continue to be integrated and grow in the school, and in making known God’s goodness and love in Southern California.


“Truly, I tell you that just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”

Matthew 25: 45
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Santa Barbara School students say “Thank you.”

On the Margins of Society

“I was hungry and you gave me food…thirsty and you gave me something to drink… a stranger and you welcomed me…” Matthew 25:35

st-margaret-logoSister Elizabeth Smoyer, SNDdeN finds energy and passion in her ministry in South Bend, Indiana at St. Margaret’s House (SMH), a day center committed to the Gospel value of hospitality. Opened 26 years ago, St. Margaret’s House helps women and children who live in poverty, as they struggle on the margins of society. The mission, central to SMH, is to empower women for improving the quality of life for themselves and their children. Staff and volunteers respond to immediate needs and open a pathway for women to make long-term changes leading to a new life. They offer programs to these women for acquiring skills to face the future with hope.

An Interview: Sister Elizabeth Smoyer describes her ministry at SMH.

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Sister Elizabeth Smoyer, SNDdeN coaches participants in the seminar, Creating My Future.

Since 2010, I have been serving as guest services caseworker, kitchen manager and assistant to the volunteer coordinator. The community at SMH helps women face life with dignity and take responsibility for improving their lives. I would describe the core of our mission as building and strengthening relationships, accomplished by “the mutual transformation of guests, staff, volunteers and donors,” in a supportive community. Poverty as well as wealth can be isolating. Addictions diminish health and the self-worth of individuals. At SMH, the hospitality shared provides acceptance, guidance in a non-judgmental way, safety and a good meal. The staff guides, respects and gives direct attention to each woman for a movement forward. Volunteers welcome guests, assist them in the clothes closet, and cook the daily meal. clothes-closet-webSome accompany the women in the art studio as they uncover talents and learn skills of artistic expression in a communal atmosphere. Volunteers have hearts and minds open to listen and support the guests and the staff. They offer help and speak of how they “receive so much more than they give;” they find how their own suffering connects them to our guests. Day by day, this communal experience opens deepening wells of compassion and silkcreations32014commitment. This community is open, honest and caring for one another. I believe this is transforming action: “By what happens in the community, everybody is changed.”

Concrete Steps
Our long-range goal is helping these women trapped in generational poverty to create their own paths for a stable and secure life for themselves and their families. With concrete steps, we assist the women to improve their lives with skills essential for competing in the workplace. The program Bridges Out of Poverty, Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World offers a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by different economic classes. Women learn the causes of poverty and the hidden rules of the middle class. Each woman examines her own reality and circumstances for creating her own action plan. She names her personal resources to make concrete changes in her life.

Another seminar, Steps for Success, offers additional lessons for these women by giving them practical skills to find and sustain employment. My responsibility is to present this seminar and to coach participants through the entire process. I accompany participants who step out of “the tyranny of the moment,” of just “doing the next thing,” to reflect on where they have been and where they want to go. The women discover a spirituality of wholeness where their gifts and talents manifest themselves. They find financial literacy with a credit review, basic budgeting and banking and learn the basics of resume writing and interviewing skills.

Providing Meals for Homeless
daily-hot-lunch-webAbout 80 persons come each day to St. Margaret’s; 23% of our guests are homeless or precariously housed. We serve a continental breakfast and an afternoon snack, nutritious food meant for some to be their main meal of the day. Before the noon meal, everyone gathers to welcome by name and applaud newcomers. This meal fosters support and inclusion in our community. We share announcements, victories as well as burdens and gather in prayer led by our guests. These women set the tables, deliver meals to the children and also wash the dishes.

St. Margaret’s House supports the varying strengths and vulnerabilities of guests, staff and volunteers. Our participation in community transforms us as we stand “with people made poor in a world marked by increasing divisions and inequalities” (Calls General Chapter 2014, p. 5). When it may seem that the “work is worthless,” we remember the words of Thomas Merton: “In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”

Learn more at St. Margaret’s House website or follow St. Margaret’s  on Facebook.

Children in Nicaragua Find Hope

By Sister Rebecca Trujillo, SNDdeN

GWNov2015-cover-300-pxThe Mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) extends to Matagalpa, a small rural town in northern Nicaragua, in a diocesan ministry to families who have children with handicapped conditions. At Special Families of Saint Julie Billiart (Familias Especiales de  Santa Julia Billiart), opened in 1996, families discover that they are not alone in their struggles. Mothers and their children find hope in a different  process for healing. Horses help to heal children. This world-wide treatment is an exclusive rehabilitation therapy, receiving recognition across the globe. Special Families (FE) has advanced this method of healing, without cost, begun in 2002 in a program for more than 500 children from the most deprived neighborhoods. This special therapy gives children with any disability a greater opportunity for physical improvement and social integration.

The family of Don Alvares Reyes,  who owns a horse ranch, supports St. Julie’s Mission of reaching out to vulnerable little ones, “the poor in the most abandoned places.” (SNDdeN Constitutions, #5, and Rule of 1818) Each week, this family reserves for Special Families two GWNov2015-4-600-pxhorses and the use of their property. Gustavo Vallejos and Suhey Meza Vallejos, staff at FE, four days a week, bring mothers and their children with disabilities to this ranch where the children meet Jacaranda and Encantada, two horses which work wonders.

These are no ordinary horses; they belong to an award-winning Spanish breed, treated like professional athletes. In the beginning, Asombrada was the first horse to be a part of the therapy sessions. When retired, she was quickly replaced by Jacaranda and Encantada (almost 30 years old).

Through this therapy,  children who are paralyzed:

  • Begin to develop their muscles 
  • Strengthen control of functioning muscles
  • Lift their heads Start to walk
  • Move arms and legs with less pain

GWNov2015-3b-300-pxDouglas is a paralyzed young boy, who experiences many involuntary body movements. Most of the time, his mother wheels her son, buckled in his chair around the ranch. He becomes a different individual when he is riding his friend, Encantada, a large white horse. But how can a person who is paralyzed ride a horse? Douglas shows such delight on horseback. Now he has some control of his involuntary movements, through this horse therapy because this scientific method uses the muscles of the horse  to develop the corresponding muscles in the human body.

Children begin horse therapy at two years of age. The therapist places the child, lying down on a blanket on the horse’s back. As the horse moves along, she stimulates the child’s outer muscles as well as massages the child’s inner organ muscles. As the muscles get strengthened through movement, the child becomes stronger and develops balance. In this relationship with the horse, children gain confidence knowing  that another living being, a friend, is able to reduce the pain and bring healing.

Autistic children capable of relating to the horses also receive this therapy. The staff at FE has witnessed miracles, when, after several sessions, autistic children hug their fathers for the first time. The horse motivates the child to improve, and being in a farm setting helps both the child and the mothers to relax, an opportunity not often available in their lives.

GWNov2015-3-300pxThis program is part of integrated therapy using a community rehabilitation model in which  groups of mothers with their children join together for sharing sessions. Each child has a specific plan for his/her therapy. FE works with the most vulnerable families who cannot afford to pay. Since having children with disabilities entails much responsibility, Special Families considers active participation and cooperation of the mothers as a form of payment for these families who have just minimal resources. The only titled horse-therapist in Nicaragua, Gustavo Vallejos, studied at Gimbernat University in Barcelona, Spain in an education program funded by Special Families. Then, he trained Suhey Meza Vallejos, another physical therapist. Each year, the University sends groups of  at least 12 graduates in physical therapy to work at FE, as interns learning and experiencing this healing through horse therapy.

Douglas’ mother thanks God each day for Jacaranda and Encantada because they have changed her son’s life by giving him better health and more opportunities for social integration. Mothers in this small rural town in Nicaragua experience the bonding relationship between their children and the two horses, and recognize that “Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other and in service of each other.” (Pope Francis in his Encyclical, Laudato Sí, (#86), from the Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxW3Jm-9Hug

Reprinted with permission from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, “Children in Nicaragua Find Hope,” Good Works, pp. 4-7, November 2015.

Networks Link Schools and Colleges in Britain

By Sister Anne Marie Niblock, SNDdeN

Anne-Marie-Niblock,-SNDdeNIn different ways from former years, Notre Dame Schools and Colleges in Britain bring St. Julie Billiart into 21st Century Education! Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, these schools, colleges and the university share Julie’s educational vision. Formerly, many Sister administrators, teachers and staff integrated her educational ideals and principles in these institutions. Now only one school, Notre Dame Southwark in London, has a Sister as headteacher. Yet, with strong networks, these academic institutions continue the Notre Dame Educational Mission in Britain. For over ten years, headteachers and staff from Notre Dame secondary schools, colleges and from Liverpool Hope University have participated each year in educational gatherings. The yearly conference has led to educational partnerships. Some educators have extended special links with ND schools across the world to Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa and the United States (USA). This international network uses and contributes to the resources of Notre Dame Virtual School and the congregational educational Website, Notre Dame Online.

Within Britain, a Global Citizenship Conference takes place every year either in Liverpool or London for students, aged 13/14. Some high achieving students, 15/16 year olds, have shared opportunities in joint revision courses at Oxford University. Students across the schools have linked with one another in a variety of ways: leadership conferences, student exchanges, visits to other Notre Dame schools, e-mails and Social Media links on Twitter and Facebook.

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The schools and colleges have also developed excellent curriculum links, a photo competition and communications with postcards for a 7th year. Meetings for teachers of Science, Mathematics, Information Technology and Religious Education, held in different schools, have had amazing success. Participants have returned to their own schools with new ideas, resources and ways for taking Julie’s vision into today’s classrooms.

Students from Kyoto, Japan visit Notre Dame High School in Norwich, England.
Students from Kyoto, Japan visit Notre Dame High School in Norwich, England.

The headteachers and senior staff are committed to partnership in the Notre Dame tradition. Future plans include the development of a Notre Dame app, a video on how each school celebrates St. Julie’s Day and a National Certificate for Volunteering.

A recent project includes the production of a video showing that the memory of Sr. Dorothy Stang is alive for students today in the school settings. (Notre Dame Schools Remember…) In Britain, Notre Dame schools remember Sr. Dorothy in specific places named for her:

  • Notre Dame, Southwark, London has a room dedicated to the education of students who learn English as a second language;
  • Notre Dame, Plymouth has a building with a suite of classrooms for the teaching of English, Geography and Modern Foreign Languages;
  • Notre Dame, Liverpool has a central performing space at the heart of the school;
  • St. Julie’s, Liverpool has a theatre with seating for 230;
  • Notre Dame, Sheffield has an Environmental Learning Centre.

Camilla-Burns-ND-Schools-and-Colleges-ConferenceMany Sisters from the United Kingdom (UK) and USA have given keynote lectures at our yearly conferences. Themes include Pilgrimage, Rivers of Notre Dame, Roots and Wings, Leadership, Online Education, St. Julie and Young People, A Global Perspective and Our Notre Dame Tradition. Several British schools participated in the international Network for Mission Conferences in Kentucky/Cincinnati and Boston, USA. Such conferences inspire administrators and faculty to a stronger commitment to education and collaboration with other Notre Dame educational ministries. One quotation lingers from the 2006 Network for Mission Conference and encourages Notre Dame educators when the times are difficult. “Suppose the best work of St. Julie is yet to come.” In the schools in Britain, Julie’s vision and mission still shape young people for the future.


From Good Works, June 2015. pp. 8-9. Reprinted with permission. GWJune2015