Project of the Week: Support for Sisters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Support for the Apostolate of 18 Contemplative Sisters in DRC

In 1934 six Belgian religious Sisters set out on a great adventure. Boarding a ship in Lisbon, they set sail on the long voyage to Africa in order to found the first ever Carmelite convent in central Africa, in what was then the Belgian Congo. Their convent, dedicated to the Infant Jesus, was to be the “cradle” of the contemplative life in this region. Many local vocations followed and several other convents have since been established.

This first Carmelite convent was founded in the Kasai Region and was moved 50 years later to Malole in the Kananga region, at the very centre of what is today the Democratic of the Congo. The convent has now become home to 18 African women, ranging in age from 21 to 88. The average age of the sisters is about 40 years.

Although the Carmelites live physically apart from the world, through their ceaseless prayer they bring the needs of the entire world before God. Saint Therese of Lisieux (1873–1897) expressed the vocation to the contemplative life perfectly with these words, “In the heart of the church I will be love.” (Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus from the Office of Readings)

The Tragic Regularity of Violent Attacks

The convent is not far from the local seminary which is altogether fitting because in the silence of the enclosure allows the Sisters to devote themselves especially to praying for priestly vocations and for the sanctification of priestly life. Sadly, though, in 2017 there were outbreaks of violence during which not only the Carmelite convent, but the seminary of Christ the King was attacked and looted. In fact, a section of the seminary was even burned down. Thankfully, no one was killed or injured. But in this strife-torn land, tormented for decades by civil war and violence, this was not the first time that the sisters had suffered such attacks. Even churches and religious buildings have fallen victim to them with tragic regularity.

Nevertheless, the people of the city of Malole are very happy to have the convent and the Sisters present among them. Every day, Holy Mass is celebrated here. But the faithful themselves are very poor and can do little to support the Sisters.

So ACN is stepping up with a promise of $8,100 for the support of the Sisters’ life and ministry, very important to us all.

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