Editoriale Giornalino n8

Editoriale Giornalino n8


Visiting the Sisters in our Tanzanian mission in June – July 2015, accompanied by Sr Carla, gave us the opportunity to stay awhile in each place, where it was possible to meet the Sisters and savour the goodness and generosity of the different communities along with the beauty of the area in which they live.

It is not my intention nor is it possible to describe this experience, no more than it was to describe that of India. However, I wish to and therefore will endeavour to share something of this time.

One of the immediate impressions – the innate spontaneity in Tanzanian culture to ‘sing’ was obvious in abundance on every possible occasion:  from the warm welcome in song and entertainment we experienced in every community, to the reverent participation in the Liturgy of the Day and in particular on 1 July. (foto1, 2, 3, 4) And the people of Tanzania don’t simply give lip-service when they sing; they sing with their whole being – soul and body and we could not be spectators only, we were immediately drawn into this rich and wonderful harmony! 

There have been significant changes in the world of ‘Rosminian Tanzania’ since my first visit in 2008/9, bringing to mind the words ‘nature and nurture’. Clearly, across each of the different areas, new signs of growth abound, ranging from joyful interactive groups of aspirants, postulants, novices, to junior professed, together with their respective inspirational ‘guides’, less-young alongside the young!  And the corresponding parts of the earth on which they live are no less active; here likewise, the young Sisters are learning from the older members how to plant, cultivate and harvest their goods – be it animal, vegetable, fruit or fowl. We witnessed this to a greater or less extent in every community. These are ‘hives of industry’ where the produce is brought to the community table in various forms and some of it sold and the money ploughed back into these activities. (foto 5, 6, 7)

There is great ease among the Sisters when it comes to travelling from one community house to another: no distance is too long and no road impassable even if the land-rover becomes stuck, as was the case in making our way to Fr Ricardo’s mission. The Sisters are indebted to Fr Ricardo, (Franciscan) who from the beginning of the setting up of Novitiate in Morogoro, has accompanied the novices with input and lessons on various topics.

Morogoro is now on the map with its electricity and water supply… It is certainly the ‘cradle’ of the District where the novices are learning to live and love the Rosminian charism and where they continue what they already began as postulants, to live in community – there are nine novices at present plus junior student-sisters. The joy they share is contagious, whether they are working in the vegetable garden, tending to the chickens of various breeds or celebrating the liturgy in song.  The next good news for this location would be the creation of a space for a chapel!

In the earlier days ‘Kwediboma’ equalled ‘Hospital’ and ‘Maternity’ – today this ‘Kwediboma Health Centre’ continues to extend its service to those near and far. Foundations are underway for a large hospital ward and a newly built room is set to become an operating theatre, where patients can be treated without being referred elsewhere which could be hours away.  The gift of an Ultrasound machine means that one of the Sisters is following a course so that this machine can be used effectively – giving great opportunity to Mothers and Babies! There was a sense of calm in the midst of building activity, as numerous people awaited their turn, either to see a doctor or receive medicine. (foto 10)

Close by, another ‘Kwediboma’ has sprung up!  In December 2008, some rough ground was pointed out to me, with the words of hope: ‘we want to build here’!  And now this spot is home to the Antonio Rosmini Children’s Centre, where children are lovingly nurtured at various ages and levels and where they come running with arms outstretched to meet any visitor who crosses the threshold. I can’t imagine the alternative and what would happen to these children had it not been for the inspirational leap of faith of the Sisters in providing a ‘family’ for them and the generosity of many donors. In addition to the Centre, other buildings are in progress to become classrooms, accommodation and a milking parlour. (11, 12, 13,14, 15)

Of course these communities of Sisters are also involved in the local church opening their hearts to the needs of people as well growing fruit and vegetables and caring for the animals. 

The complex in Muheza, as well as being ‘home’ to aspirants, postulants, community and school is also ‘home’ to a developing farm. This is not a place for the timid! These young Sisters know not only how milk but how to handle way-ward cows, manage pigs of different sizes, and look after different breeds of chickens, to mention but a few things. And it is no surprise that one Sister has completed her training as a vet! Other flourishing activities are also obvious: Holy Family School has grown in number and as a result since 2008 has extended its buildings. It is fascinating to see here in this educational centre the life-learning that takes place – within the quadrangle of classrooms there is a garden and the Children are involved in growing vegetables which will later appear on their dinner-plate! (foto 16,17, 18,19)

Visiting St Joseph’s Commercial School, Tanga – the oldest establishment continues its history and is a place of learning and excellence. It is rewarding to know that many of the Students receive ‘best student’ and Achievement Awards from the National Board of Accountants and Auditors; significantly rewarding is the fact that the ex-students also come back to the School to say ‘thank-you’ to the Sisters! The Tanga community is involved in school; at the same time it provides a space for ‘community-experience’ for individual novices who take part in the ‘rotation of tasks’ alongside the Sisters.

One highlight of the visit was the celebration of the Professions on 1 July … the Day in memory of Bl Antonio Rosmini, celebrated the ‘yes’ of these young members – some whose First Profession I witnessed in 2009. This occasion also sums up what it means to be part of this particular District. During the preceding weeks all eyes were focused on this event and Muheza was a hive of joyful hectic activity: those making final commitment had time to ‘BE’, to reflect and pray in the quietness of retreat – during which I was happy to spend time with them – while others were busy about many things. Collaboration was evident at many levels: preparing the freshly cut meat for freezing – reminiscent of the ‘fattened calf’; decorating the church, the three-fold cake, clearing any weeds and above all, hymn and song practicing into the night, and finally erecting a grand blue canopy in the fore-court. A great number of Family and Friends joined the gathering of Sisters on this Day, giving thanks to God for these new fully fledged young members of the Congregation! One special moment during the Mass, after the pronunciation of the formula of Profession, was their moving and prayerful interpretation of ‘Jesu tibi vivo’.

It is always uplifting to learn something of another way of life.  We spent some time with the Masai, friends of the Sisters who as we approached emerged, in an array of rich colour from their chapel – built within recent years – having been to Mass, celebrated by a Masai priest.  (foto 20)

Visiting the museum in Bagamoyo gave us some idea of the background and what the slave trade must have been like in the nineteenth century. The mission dates from the 1868 establishment of Freedom Village and is the oldest in Tanzania. It was possible also to visit the chapel in the compound where the body of David Livingstone was laid before being taken to Zanzibar Town en-route to Westminster Abbey.  (foto 21)

Walking on this soil filled us with a sense of gratitude for all who have gone ahead: the pioneering Sisters and Fathers in Tanga and Kwediboma. This was particularly poignant as we entered the Church built by the Fathers – maybe one day it will return to Rosminian hands! This attitude was clearly visible in Bishop Anthony Banzi who rescheduled his appointments in order to be present for the Professions. At Bishop Anthony’s invitation, a group of us enjoyed tea at Bishop’s House, during which he expressed his appreciation of the Sisters’ presence in his diocese. We also had the opportunity at the invitation of Fr Enhart Mpete, provincial, to visit the Rosminian House in Mwambani, where we saw photos of the many brethren who during the years helped to build the Tanzania of today. (foto 22)

Sr Felistas, coordinator for the District Tanzania, was asked recently, at a Conference for Religious Leaders, what she did for Vocation Promotion, who was responsible etc. Her answer:  “Nothing, we don’t advertise”, surprised the gathering and they were more surprised by her next words, “we don’t need to!” The witness of lives lived in joy is the best advert for any way of life, let alone for religious. In answer to my question to each one in ‘formation’: ‘how did you come to know about Rosminian Sisters?’ those ranging from junior professed to aspirants invariably said ‘I met (or) I saw Sr X home on holiday’ who inspired them to take the next step. (foto 23)

The signs of life in Rosminian-Tanzania are numerous and ‘care for the land’ is evident everywhere accompanied by dependence on God to send the rain and the sun in his time! Certain words re-echo: “look, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Yes, we do see it and appreciate it. And we give thanks to God for this experience; to Sr Felistas for making it possible to do so and for the feeling of being ‘at home’ among Sisters. Always bearing in mind those who have gone before us in recent years: young and older – Sr Rosemary  and Sr M Monica – their presence lives on.