School Sisters of Notre Dame – Africa

Transforming the World through Education


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Vocation Directors in Africa

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Here are the sisters to contact in each country in which we serve.

Ghana
Irene B Arthur irenebarthur@yahoo.com
Nigeria
Theodorah Ihiro  ihirotheodorah@yahoo.com
Janet Odey janetssnd@yahoo.com
Kenya
Magdalene Akpan magpoly84@yahoo.com
Mary Goretti Aboge mary_aboge@yahoo.com
The Gambia
Mary J Mendy mendy.mariej@yahoo.com
Sierra Leone
Eleanor Ewerts eleanorewerts@yahoo.com

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40th Anniversary Remembrances

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 Maris is introduced to Bishop Otunga of Nairobi.

Sister Maris is introduced to Bishop Otunga of Nairobi.

Sister Maris is a part of the Postulant Formation Community today.

Sister Maris is a part of the Postulant Formation Community today.

Sisters Maris, Mara and Mary Martin were the first SSNDs to go to Kenya

Sisters Maris, Mara and Mary Martin were the first SSNDs to go to Kenya

Sister Mara, kneeling, second from right) is now one of the Novice Directors.

Sister Mara, kneeling second from right, is currently one of the Novice Directors.

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”.

Sister Kathryn Berger and little friend.

Sister Kathryn Berger and little friend.

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Sister Dianne Perry

Sister Dianne Perry teaches Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph.

Sister Dianne Perry teaches Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph.


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Celebrating the Life of Sister Mary Mamwacha

 

Sister Mary Mamwacha
Sister Mary Mamwacha

“In hope and peace we enter into the joy of the Lord!”
(You Are Sent C 47)

For the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Province of Africa, July 15 was a sad and historic day. Our beloved Sister Mary Mamwacha is our first native African sister to enter into eternal life. Sister Mary Kemunto Mamwacha died of cancer at the Nairobi Hospital, Kenya at the age of 46, in her 17th year as a professed School Sister of Notre Dame.

Mary Kemunto Mamwacha was born on June 22, 1968, the fifth born of twelve children of Alexander Mamwacha and Elizabeth Omwenga. She completed her secondary education at Gekano Girls Secondary School in 1989. After Form 4 at Gekano Girls, Mary left home for Nairobi where she worked as a nursery teacher before she joined St. Augustine Teacher Training College which she completed September 1992. During her teaching ministry Mary earned her B. Ed (Primary) in 2009 and went on to study for her M.Ed. (Guidance and Counseling) in 2011.

Mary claimed that her vocation developed in Standard 6 after watching Sisters during Mass. It was then that she joined a parish Vocation group and started attending meetings every Saturday and Sunday. While at Gekano Girls, Mary and her friends shared a lot about their futures and she became interested in the School Sisters of Notre Dame. She was influenced by the work of the SSND’s at Gekano and started communicating with the SSND vocation director, S. Roxanne Schares. Mary became an affiliate while she was at St. Augustine’s, joined the Postulancy January 22, 1994, was received as a Novice on May 29, 1995, made her first profession on the 19th April 1997 and her perpetual profession on December 30, 2002.

S. Mary and Students

Sister Mary with her choir students from Bar Ogwal School who competed and won prizes

Sister Mary Mamwacha spent the first 2 years of her ministry as a teacher at Gekano Primary School from 1997-1999. From there she taught at St. Mary’s Primary Boarding School, Nyabururu, Kisii for 8 years. Then from August 2008 to June 2009 Sister Mary participated in the SSND International Program studying German in Germany followed by some months in Rome. From 2010 until January 2013 Mary taught at Bar-Ogwal Primary School in Kisumu, became the Deputy Head and then the Head of the school. Due to her health needs, in January 2013 Mary was transferred to Jamhuri Primary, Nairobi to be closer to her doctor.

One of Sister Mary’s greatest gifts was her ability to make and nurture friendships. She was a person of “connections” and had the amazing quality of reaching out to so many. Of note was her deep care for disadvantaged girls. She reached out to them in love and helped them to find the support they needed. She also had a great love of photography and cooking. While she struggled with cancer for over three years, she did not become self-focused. Through her deep faith in God she continued to reach out, particularly to those in need to offer them her presence, her comfort and her prayers.

May she rest in peace and intercede for all of us with our loving God!


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Sisters from the Kiptere Community in Kenya sent this picture and information.

Sister Jacinta

Sister Jacinta is welcomed home to Kiptere.

The larger community of St Francis comprising the Parish Church and schools celebrated Sr Jacinta Kanini’s homecoming after her perpetual vows celebration. She was dressed in the cultural way as a woman in Kalenjin* community. This shows the love and oneness that these people have with SSND. Many young girls were encouraged to follow in the footsteps of Sr Kanini who was celebrated. This event strengthened our sense of solidarity with the people we serve and promoted unity among the Christians. There was lots of dancing, singing, jubilation and speeches by different groups.

*Kalenjins are one of the major tribes in Kenya


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A Special Gift

Beatrice at the Orphanage

Beatrice at the Orphanage

Novice Beatrice Mwalimu writes of her ministry.

I minister in an orphanage; Hanukkah Children’s Home. The children are of different ages, schooling from kindergarten to Junior Secondary(freshman). A few among them are challenged both physically and mentally. The boy Lucas attracted me.

Lucas a small boy aged ten, is in Kindergarten. He is physically challenged by paralyzed legs. He uses his two hands to move. He can move as fast as the rest of the young ones. The first time I went to Hanukkah, I was struck to see this boy crawling to reach us as others walked. I asked one of the boys to help, but he said, “Have no worry, he will come.” I was surprised to see him crawl to the small hut where we were.

At first he was resistant when I invited him to come and play with us. He later came and sat on the ground, under the bench, and he started playing with our legs. Watching him keenly I responded by moving my legs up and down and that is how we started communicating. First play, then talk. I was so happy to see him laugh when I yelled as he touched my legs. It was a motivation to him to play more. At some point he climbed on the bench and played with my hair. He told us the experiences of the school he attends. This boy can tell stories not only in words but in actions, too. He acted as the teacher and we became his students. He brought out all the characteristics of his teacher and he said the common words used in a school setup, for instance, “class, Keep quiet; behave like your brother; run to the assembly; spell the words correctly” and many more.

 

Beatrice and Lucas

Beatrice and Lucas

Lucas’ way of relating is unique. He invites a relationship using words such as, “leave me alone, I will not come to you; run before I catch you” and this leads us to play by chasing one another. Eventually we come together to sing songs he learns in church like “God loves me, oh yes he loves me.” We also share the bible verses and act the teacher-student game.

Lucas is jovial, intelligent, relational, and always lively. He does not feel less; he laughs and plays a lot. He is a disciplined boy and he feels proud to act as a teacher. Lucas is a gift to me. I am always filled with joy when I am with him. I also get inspired to thank God for Lucas’ special gifts which have given me another way of re-imaging God in every person.

Beatrice and friends

Beatrice and friends


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LIFE OF A STREET CHILD

This post comes from two of our Postulants, Beatrice and Edna. Postulants are in their first two years of formation to become sisters. Our African Postulate is in Kisumu, Kenya.

We minister in a rehabilitation Centre located in Pandipierri, a section of Kisumu, Kenya. It rehabilitates children from the street who after three months are integrated back into their families. The center provides an informal education and the children from impoverished families in the community around are also invited to attend. It provides food, security, clothing, counseling and it helps the children trace their families.

Being an informal education centre, we have many different activities to engage the children. For instance during the weekdays we have lessons in the mornings e.g. the computer classes library reading, discussions on topics affecting them such as human trafficking, health education and sometimes even debates. In the afternoons we have social activities like spotting activities and drama. On some occasions we show them films on educational issues. A recent one was about the post-election violence since some of the children were victims of 2007/08 violence in Kenya.

Apart from teaching we do “street walk”. This is the walking to and in the street in search of children. In our walk we need to dress simply and humbly in order to be accepted by them. We have also learned some slang Swahili (sheng). This is their language and a certain way of greeting. There are different categories of people living in the street i.e. street parents with their children, youth age 20 years and above, those around 14-19 years and the younger ones from 3-14 years of age. They group themselves according to the ages above and form their small homes whereby they come together in the evening. Each home has a name and they take care of themselves. These homes are located in certain places for example, behind the bars and the bus stations. Just an example, we have a place called Fanana with many small buildings. Between these buildings there are corridors which provide small living spaces for them and this is where many live. They even have fireplaces to cook their food.

As a centre we target children age 3-14 that can listen, change and are ready to go back to school. In meeting them, we greet and then have an interview to get to know them. Most of them lived in extremely difficult economic situations and so find the street a better home. Eventually many get involved in drugs either alcohol consumption or glue sniffing. After the interview, if they choose to join us, we invite them to come to the centre.

In our interaction we have found that there are circumstances which force the youth to the street. For example:
1. Orphans who are left to uncaring relatives.
2. Children born in the street of street parents.
3. Children kidnapped and later dumped in the street.
4. Those who receive mistreatment from parents/foster parents.
5. Those rejected by parents who fail to take their responsibilities.
6. Undisciplined children who run away from home because they don’t want to help their parents or they don’t want to go to school.

Postulants Beatrice and Edna

Postulants Beatrice and Edna