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Democratic Republic of Congo

50 years of renewal

The rhythmic clapping of their hands, accompanied harmoniously by the deep sound of percussion, gently introduced the welcome song which was dedicated to me.  I felt a great joy fill me immediately, and a desire to follow in their footsteps.  This first contact with the Sisters of the Resurrection had convinced me of their power to renew life!

By Robert Lalonde, Artisan of Peace, with special collaboration from ACN Canada*

Adapted and translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin

The birth of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Resurrection is the result of Mother Hadewych’s (as she is called in her circle) long meditation. Mother Hadewych is the Sister from Belgium who inspired its founding.

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Mother Hadewych, co-founder of the Daughters of the Resurrection in the DRC.

 

 

 

At that time, misery had surrounded the Saint Sepulcher convent in Walungu – Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – following tragic events on the heels of independence and the Muléliste rebellion (1960-1964).  These events had created an extreme situation of poverty and a famine which extended out the length of the Walungu territory provoking a pressing desire in the heart of a religious Sister to respond to a passage in the Gospel:  “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Mother Hadewych suffered as she witnessed the scenes of great poverty – malnutrition in children within almost every family; women delivering babies in extreme and deplorable conditions; as well as illiteracy within the population.  From this Gospel verse flows  part of this prioress’ charism; “At the service of the poor,” and , “to serve and not to be served.”

The congregation was founded in Walungu in the Archdiocese of Bukavu, in 1966, thanks to material assistance provided by Father Werenfried, founder of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

 

The Golden Jubilee

Last November during my visit, the Mother Prioress, Sister Pétronelle Nkaza, recalled how the founders of her congregation believed that even without a diploma the workers recruited could, with their simplicity, give themselves to be of service to the Lord.  “They had deep faith that love for the other is not achieved solely through studies, but in a life given to the Lord, through the poverty of his children,”  she said on November 5th during the announcement of the Golden Jubilee of the Mirhi congregation, the Mother House, in the Archdiocese of Bukavu.

 

The Sisters of the Resurrection - 50 years of renewal!
The Sisters of the Resurrection – 50 years of renewal!

Mother Hadewych always said:  “help with development is needed for consecrated women in the incessant search of the wailing of their people.”  In her vision, these women “did not need a long formation, but good common-sense, solid arms, love and rootedness at the heart of their people, as well as a pragmatic knowledge-base.”  She imagined them in small teams, serving at posts faraway from parishes and becoming indispensable support to priests.

Long-term support

The work of Mother Hadewych was quickly appreciated as there are today 279 members, 50 of whom are from the Priory in Rwanda, and 229 from the Priory in Mirhi and divided as such:  199 professed 13 novices, and 17 postulants.  The Sisters of the Priory in Rwanda are autonomous.

”In Brazil,” explains Sister Pétronelle, to us, “the presence of our Sisters is quite efficient and also appreciated by the population and by the bishop.  They take care of children in particular, the elderly who have been abandoned, but they also kept watch of the promotion of women by teaching them knitting, sewing, and cooking so that they might better contribute to the family.”

Of course, the fifty year of existence were also marked by tough challenges.  It suffices to recall the martyring of 6 Sisters in Busasamana, Rwanda, in the night of the 8th of January, 1988 and that of 3 more in Kasiska in DRC on August 24th of the same year.

Lake Kivu: a pure marvel in a region where the people suffer a multitude of conflicts and abuses created by the dishonest exploitation of natural resources. The Daughters of the Resurrection are ready to serve the population. (Photo: Robert Lalonde)
Lake Kivu: a pure marvel in a region where the people suffer a multitude of conflicts and abuses created by the dishonest exploitation of natural resources. The Daughters of the Resurrection are ready to serve the population. (Photo: Robert Lalonde)

Sister Petronella concluded all the same on a positive note by specifying that in those 50 years, “the Hand of God had endured.  The Priory of the Resurrection is growing through her members and her works.  It will begin its second fiftieth, certain that God’s Graces will continue to inspire works in favour of the smallest to whom the Resurrected Christ sends His Daughters and His Sons.”

 In conclusion, she wishes to sincerely thank all the benefactors and asking them to “hold the Priory of the Resurrection of Mirhi in their prayers during this Jubilee year so that they are showered all the more with Christ’s benedictions.

 

Since of the birth of this Priory, thanks to the generous donations of our benefactors, ACN is supporting various projects for these Religious Sisters dedicated to the poorest of the poor.  Last year, ACN gave $19,150 for the formation of 13 novices and 19 postulants, $156,000 for subsistence aid in favour of 211 Religious Sisters in DRC and $10,000 in support of their chaplain in various travels.

The majestic Nyiragongo volcano seen from Lake Kivu. (Robert Lalonde)
The majestic Nyiragongo volcano seen from Lake Kivu. (Robert Lalonde)

 

 

 

 

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