Sisters Maris Simon and Mara Frundt were in the first group of School Sisters of Notre Dame to minister in Kenya. They share some of their remembrances from that experience.
Sister Maris Simon still ministers in Kenya and she writes:
My personal remembrances of the early days in Kenya are still very fresh in my mind and I think the overwhelming one was gratitude to God for all that was happening around and inside of me. I can remember waking up in the morning and wondering if it was really true that I was in Africa. I think the transition was made much easier for us because of our close relationship with the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph. Over the years we had educated ten of their Sisters at Good Counsel and other colleges near by. Our original call to Kenya was to staff an Upgrading School for 40 of their Sisters who had been released from their ministries. These Sisters were so understanding of our needs and lack of experience in the African culture. We continue to see each other and relate with them even after 40 years. The changes that happened to me because of my experiences in Kenya will always be some of my most profound.
Sister Mary Frundt is currently one of the Novice Directors in Ghana. She writes:
We had had a lovely ritual of sendoff in the Mankato Province shortly before to which our families were invited. Being the first sisters to go to Africa from Mankato was significant and so we really had a special send off. We arrived in Rome on August 23rd. Who would have thought I would be here today, 40 years later, still ministering in Africa. We spent five days in the Generalate and again had a very lovely Mass in the Generalate Chapel and blessing from Mother Georgianne Segner before we left for Kenya. We arrived in Kenya August 28th which was significant to us being the feast of St. Augustine.<br />
We were met at the airport by Mother Stephen Nkoitoi FSJ and her sister driver Sr. Catherine and taken to Flora Hostel where we would rest until the next day. Mother Stephen was the first Superior General of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, a diocesan congregation with their motherhouse in Asumbi. She was not a stranger to us as she had been in Mankato for my Final Profession August 3rd. Two of her sisters also made Final vows in the same ceremony. She even attended the home Mass in Blue Earth, my home, the day after and spent time in with my family. It was a grand reunion to be met by her in Nairobi.<br />
The following day as I recall Sr. Mary Martin was not well so she remained behind at the Hostel and Mara and Maris went with Mother Stephen and Sr. Catherine the long journey of about eight or more hours to Asumbi. I don’t remember well if we met the bishop then but we did meet many sisters, many of whom would be our students. After two days we returned to Nairobi to begin our study of the Swahili language and continued to stay for three months at the Flora Hostel which was run by the Consolata Sisters. We loved it there as the sisters were very good to us and we met many other missionaries who came through Nairobi and, not having houses in Nairobi, stayed for short periods at the hostel.<br />
Thus began our sojourn in Africa which still continues. Many chapters could fill a book about these past 40 years. I am in Rome now with Mary Kerber originally from Mankato, Provincial leader of Africa, Julie Lattner of Canada who is Director of Temporary Professed sisters in Africa, Grace Okon, Provincial Councillor from Nigeria, Masicha Carolyne and Petronella Muteshi, Postulant Directors from Kenya and forty plus other SSND leaders and formators from around the world to work on our programs for Initial Formation of our new members. Having three African Sisters here speaks of the fruits of our presence and ministry in Africa these past forty years.<br />
I can only say I am one very grateful SSND for being called to mission in Africa when I was young and having been able to serve here 30 of the past 40 years in Kenya and now Ghana. It has been blessing upon blessing and I thank God and SSND for the call and my family for their faithful support.
Sister Mary Martin, one of the original group, is now retired in Chicago. Later that fall, three more sisters joined the first group in Kenya. Here are a few more pictures from those “early days”.